Date of Award

Fall 11-23-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Page Anderson

Second Advisor

Kelly Lewis

Third Advisor

Erin Tone


Few studies have looked at the experience of exposure therapy (ET) amongst underrepresented populations. African-American (AA) women may be at higher risk for anxiety and experience treatment differently than their Caucasian counterparts. Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRE) is suited to examine differences in treatment experiences because a measure of “presence” exists to quantify the experience of standardized VRE. Qualitative methods provide an opportunity to explore the experience of underrepresented populations and individual differences. The current study employed a mixed-method design to compare self-reported levels of presence during VRE across a sample of 24 AA and Caucasian women diagnosed with social phobia. The study also examined how AA women discussed their experiences of VRE (N=4). Results revealed that AA women reported greater presence than their Caucasian counterparts. Qualitative results highlighted benefits and areas of improvement in the experience of exposure therapy. These findings have important implications for differential experiences of treatment.