Virtual reality therapy combats fear of public speaking

The fear of public speaking is often cited as the world's most common social phobia. A recent…

Georgia (Feb 18, 2003) — Virtual reality therapy combats fear of public speaking



The fear of public speaking is often cited as the world's most common social phobia. A recent study conducted in Kennesaw State University's Virtual Reality Technology Laboratory is producing far−reaching benefits for sufferers of this common malady.

Dr. Max M. North‚ a pioneer in virtual reality therapy‚ has produced an in−depth case study at Kennesaw State on the effectiveness of virtual reality therapy in the treatment of subjects who suffer from the fear of public speaking. The study discusses the use of new techniques‚ which combined with traditional treatments‚ are more efficient and effective for a longer period of time than traditional treatment alone. Traditional treatment has included behavior therapy such as systematic desensitization‚ cognitive restructuring and skill building.

Participants in the research were recruited from Kennesaw State computer science and information systems classes. Following an extensive two?stage screening process‚ subjects were placed in front of a virtual auditorium that was gradually filled with virtual people. Crowd noise‚ including laughter‚ commentary and applause‚ was simulated and experienced as part of the treatment sessions. The treatment schedule consisted of five weekly 15−to−25 minute sessions incorporating the traditional approach with the virtual reality therapy in the first known synthesis of these two powerful treatment techniques.

"This treatment technique resulted in a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms‚" said North. "These symptoms can include an increase in heart rate‚ lump in the throat‚ dry mouth‚ sweaty palms‚ loss of balance and weakness in the knees. Study participants report that they have gained the ability to speak with greater confidence in front of a crowd."

In addition‚ North continued‚ "This new technology provides a safe‚ effective‚ confidential and economical approach to the treatment of other psychological disorders as well."


Dr. Max M. North

Virtual Reality Technology Laboratory

Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw‚ GA 30144

Telephone: (770) 420−4442



Kennesaw State University is a comprehensive‚ residential institution with a growing student population of 15‚600 from 118 countries. The fifth largest out of 34 institutions in the University System of Georgia‚ KSU offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit