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Imaginal Exposure Therapy and Virtual Reality Yield Same Results at Camp Fallujah

05 Apr

Researchers from the Department of Mental Health at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego compared the effectiveness of Exposure Therapy (ET) to Virtual Reality (VR) in the treatment of combat-related posttraumatic stress in theater at Camp Fallujah in Iraq.

This case series documents the first use of VR-based therapy in the treatment of PTSD in a combat theater.  Results of therapy are being reported from a mental health clinic in Camp Fallujah, Iraq.

Combat PTSD constituted a relatively small percentage of overall mental health patients seen. Those who did present with PTSD were offered either VR-based ET or traditional ET.  

Patients who received either treatment modality showed significant gains, and no service member in treatment had to be medically evacuated because of ongoing PTSD symptoms.

This study concludes that ET, with or without the use of VR, can be an effective means of helping service members with combat stress symptoms while they serve in theater.

Citation:  McLay RN, McBrien C, Wiederhold M, Wiederhold B.  Exposure Therapy with and without Virtual Reality to Treat PTSD while in the Combat Theater: A Parallel Case Series. Cyberpsychology and Behavior. 2009 Dec 20. [Epub ahead of print]

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award