Experiential cognitive therapy in the treatment of panic disorders with agoraphobia: A controlled study

Francesco Vincelli, L. Anolli, S. Bouchard, B. K. Wiederhold, V. Zurloni, G. Riva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of a multicomponent cognitive-behavioral treatment strategy for panic disorder with agoraphobia is actually one of the preferred therapeutic approaches for this disturbance. This method involves a mixture of cognitive and behavioral techniques that are intended to help patients identify and modify their dysfunctional anxiety-related thoughts, beliefs and behavior. The paper presents a new treatment protocol for Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia, named Experiential-Cognitive Therapy (ECT) that integrates the use of virtual reality (VR) in a multicomponent cognitive-behavioral treatment strategy. The VR software used for the trial is freely downloadable: www.cyberpsychology.info/try.htm. Moreover, the paper presents the result of a controlled study involving 12 consecutive patients aged 35-53. The selected subjects were randomly divided in three groups: ECT group, that experienced the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-Virtual Reality assisted treatment (eight sessions), a CBT group that experienced the traditional Cognitive Behavioral approach (12 sessions) and a waiting list control group. The data showed that both CBT and ECT could significantly reduce the number of panic attacks, the level of depression and both state and trait anxiety. However, ECT procured these results using 33% fewer sessions than CBT. This datum suggests that ECT could be better than CBT in relation to the "cost of administration," justifying the added use of VR equipment in the treatment of panic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-328
Number of pages8
JournalCyberpsychology and Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology


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