Development and Clinical Results from the Virtual Iraq Exposure Therapy Application for PTSD
2009 Virtual Rehabilitation International Conference
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is reported to be caused by exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of (or witnessing/learning about) an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one's physical integrity including (but not limited to) military combat, violent personal assault, being kidnapped or taken hostage and terrorist attacks. Such incidents would be distressing to almost anyone, and are usually
... ced with intense fear, horror, and helplessness. Initial data suggests that at least 1 out of 5 Iraq War veterans are exhibiting symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD. Virtual Reality (VR) delivered exposure therapy for PTSD has been previously used with reports of positive outcomes. The current paper will present the rationale and description of a VR PTSD therapy application (Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan) and present initial findings from a number of early studies of its use with active duty service members. Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan consists of a series of customizable virtual scenarios designed to represent relevant Middle Eastern VR contexts for exposure therapy, including a city and desert road convoy environment. User-centered design feedback needed to iteratively evolve the system was gathered from returning Iraq War veterans in the USA and from a system deployed in Iraq and tested by an Army Combat Stress Control Team. Results from an open clinical trial using Virtual Iraq with 20 treatment completers indicated that 16 no longer met PTSD diagnostic criteria at post-treatment, with only one not maintaining treatment gains at 3 month follow-up.