This is a type of interactive computer based therapy that requires that the patient (veteran) revisit and retell the story of the trauma over and over again so that the person is “immersed” into the memory. The idea is that the veteran will learn to disconnect the memory from the REACTIONS to the memory. So, although the memory of the traumatic event remains, the everyday things that can trigger fear and panic become insignificant. The trauma becomes an “event” and not a constant overwhelming condition.
This is also known as Exposure Therapy which is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The currently used therapy is Virtual Iraq developed by a clinical psychologist, Albert Rizzo at the University of Southern California.
Virtual Therapy includes the visuals of a war zone and introduce the other senses, sound, smell, touch that are experienced in a war zone…in a very systematic way so that the person taking the therapy is able to manage it, repeating it over and over until the memory is processed differently.
Who it may help:
Veterans who are suffering from chronic PTSD and who have nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive and uncontrollable thoughts as well as emotional detachment, numbness, jumpiness, anger and avoidance.
Who can perform Virtual Therapy:
It is the position of VFU that only HIGHLY TRAINED therapists who are experienced in exposure therapy and who understands the patient are most suited to perform Virtual Therapy. Most who have access to Virtual Iraq are at Military hospitals or VA Hospitals.
Where to find Virtual practitioners:
Virtual Iraq is offered at Walter Reed and the Naval Medical Center at San Diego and may be available at other Military and VA facilities. To find out, ask to speak someone in the behavioral health department or ask your OEF/OIF case manager to assist you in finding a practitioner. Wounded Warriors may also ask their case managers. If Virtual Therapy is offered in the civilian sector, it is strongly suggested that the therapist be highly trained and qualified and that you ask for those qualifications.
Will insurance cover Virtual Therapy:
Most of the war zone related virtual therapy is only available through military medical/behavioral health installations or the VA. As a result, this would not be a cost to the veteran in most cases.