Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy at Home Base
Home Base began offering Virtual Reality Exposure (VRE) therapy as a treatment option for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans at the Home Base outpatient clinic in Boston in May 2013. This tool is available for Veterans receiving Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy, a well established evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD. Home Base is at the cutting-edge of integrating VRE therapy directly into clinical care options for Military men and women diagnosed with PTSD. This is another effort to remove barriers to care for Veterans.
Avoidance is a core symptom of PTSD and, as a result, some Veterans may not recall painful or emotional memories. VRE therapy works by helping the Veteran call forth traumatic memories, a critical component of PE. The clinician programs the virtual environment (including sights, sounds, and smells) to resemble the context in which the trauma occurred in order to enhance memory of traumatic events in the course of treatment.
Home Base has a designated VRE therapy room at the outpatient clinic for Veteran patients and their doctor. Through a fitted head-mounted display (including view screen and headset), the Veteran can experience a 3D digital world capable of mimicking vehicle rumble sounds, the smell of burning trash and explosives, the concussion of IEDs, a cityscape with narrow streets and alleys, and the inside of a humvee. They may also carry a plastic, life-like military rifle that is connected to the computer.
VRE therapy is a treatment approach used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). VR technology for clinical use only and VRE therapy have been in existence since the 1990s. It’s been applied to a variety of anxiety disorders and shown to be successful in treating PTSD symptoms in some patients. VR therapy has become a standard accepted treatment by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Did you know?
- VRE therapy is safe. In VRE therapy, the clinician is always present for the full session, guiding the Veteran through different scenarios tailored to his or her personal trauma. The clinician has the ability to work with the Veteran throughout the treatment, with sensitivity to the his or her reactions and can adjust the experience to reduce or increase its intensity in a therapeutic manner.
- A team of Home Base clinicians is trained to offer VRE therapy. Home Base clinicians were trained by Barbara Rothbaum, PhD, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at Emory University School of Medicine.
- Not all Veterans treated at Home Base receive VRE therapy. Home Base clinicians decide who is appropriate based on careful assessment and patient preference.