Behavioral Sciences (Aug 2018)

Action-Centered Exposure Therapy (ACET): A New Approach to the Use of Virtual Reality to the Care of People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Sorelle Audrey Kamkuimo Kengne,
  • Mathilde Fossaert,
  • Benoît Girard,
  • Bob-Antoine J. Menelas

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8, no. 8
p. 76


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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be seen as the result of dysfunctional beliefs that associate stimuli with a danger or a threat leading to anxious reactions. Exposure therapy is so far considered to be the most effective treatment, and research suggests that it is mainly based on a habituation process. Based on learning theories, it appears that a passive systemic exposure to traumatic stimuli should not be the best option for the treatment of PTSD. We hypothesis that an active learning of safer and healthier coping strategies combined with systematic exposure should be more effective in reducing the psychological distress associated with PTSD. In this paper, we describe the theoretical foundations of this approach that focuses on the action and activity of the patient in his or her exposure environment. In this approach, we take advantage of Virtual Reality technologies and learning mechanics of serious games to allow the patient to learn new safe associations while promoting the empowerment. We named this action-centered exposure therapy (ACET). This approach exploits behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism learning theories. With the different benefits of virtual reality technologies, this approach would easily integrate with in-virtuo exposure therapy and would allow us to exploit as much as possible the enormous potential of these technologies. As a first step toward validation, we present a case study that supports the ACET approach.