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Analysis and mapping of scientific literature on virtual and augmented reality technologies used in the context of mental health disorders (1980 – 2021)

Waleed Sweileh (Department of Physiology and Pharmacology/Toxicology, An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestinian Authority)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Article publication date: 8 May 2023

Issue publication date: 22 June 2023




The purpose of this study is to provide a bibliometric analysis of global research publications on virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies in the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.


The SciVerse Scopus database was used to retrieve relevant documents using a validated search strategy for the study period from 1980 to 2021.


In total, 1,233 research articles were found. Research in this field has experienced steep growth since 2017; was disseminated by journals in the fields of clinical psychology, neuroscience, psychiatry and computer sciences; was mainly carried out by scholars in high-income countries with advanced digital technology; has a relatively high number of authors per article but with a relatively poor cross-country research collaboration; was led by researchers and institutions mainly from the USA, Spain and Italy; and has received the highest number of citations for articles on anxiety and phobias.

Research limitations/implications

Bibliometric methodology is a useful tool for identifying evolution growth patterns and research hot topics in the use of emerging technologies in clinical practice. Research on implementing AR/VR technologies in medicine will be enhanced by strengthening international research collaboration. More research attention should be paid to new emerging technologies in the mental health field.

Practical implications

The use of VR/AR technologies became popular as an alternative to or adjunct to traditional therapy in mental health practice. The rapid increase in research publications in recent years suggested that AR and VR technologies were both acceptable and simple to use. A wide range of mental health disorders could be managed by AR/VR technologies. Training medical and nursing students on various new technologies is important to cope with the digital revolution.


Based on the volume and growth patterns of research publications, there is a promising future for the use of VR/AR technologies in the field of mental health. Teaching and training health-care professionals on the proper use of VR/AR are needed to support their potential future use.



The author would like to thank An-Najah National University for the technical support.


Ethics approval and consent to participate: No approval is needed for this study.

Consent for publication: Not applicable.

Availability of data and materials: All data presented in this manuscript are available on the Scopus database using the search query listed in the methodology section.

Competing interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Funding: None.

Authors' contributions: W.S started the idea, designed the methodology; did the data analysis, graphics and data interpretation; wrote and submitted the manuscript.


Sweileh, W. (2023), "Analysis and mapping of scientific literature on virtual and augmented reality technologies used in the context of mental health disorders (1980 – 2021)", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 288-305.



Emerald Publishing Limited

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