WASHINGTON—Mental health providers at Miami’s VA Healthcare System are putting VR headsets onto some of their veteran patients in attempt to help them deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. This VR treatment option is combined with traditional treatments, like prolonged exposure therapy, to try and help vets change how they perceive and respond to the symptoms of PTSD.
Prolonged exposure therapy attempts to gradually expose patients to events they avoid because of trauma with providers controlling the stimuli. With VR technology, the providers are able to control the virtual landscape, sounds and smells.
Patients that participate in the VR sessions are given a headset with video goggles, a plastic M-4 rifle, a remote to control a virtual Humvee and a chair. Patients then describe their experiences while the providers try to simulate elements of what the veterans are describing. The patients describe their feelings while recounting their memories. Sessions can run between 30 and 60 minutes. A post session allows the patients to describe what they felt during the VR session.
“By using a recovery model approach, prolonged exposure therapy and virtual reality, most of our patients who complete this treatment don’t experience the same level of stress and intensity when faced with painful memories,” said Dr. Pamela Slone-Fama, Miami VA post-traumatic stress clinical team staff psychologist.