At the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program, the newest clinical offering is virtual reality exposure (VRE) therapy, a state-of-the-art treatment option for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Now available at the Home Base clinic, VRE therapy is another example of the Home Base commitment to advancing care for post traumatic stress (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury, the invisible wounds of war.
VRE therapy is available for veterans receiving prolonged exposure (PE) therapy, a well-established, evidence-based therapy that has been proven to be effective for the treatment of PTSD. Home Base is pleased to be at the cutting edge of integrating VRE therapy directly into clinical care options for veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
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 while decreasing distress linked to the 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 more effectively reduce the power of the memory of traumatic events in the course of treatment.
Avoidance is a core symptom of PTSD and, as a result, some veterans may not recall painful or emotional memories.
Adjusting the Experience for Each Individual
Home Base has a designated VRE therapy room at the program’s clinic. 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, IEDs, a cityscape with narrow streets and alleys, and the inside of a humvee. The veteran may also carry a plastic, life-like military rifle that is connected to the computer.
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 and treatment needs. The clinician works with the veteran throughout the treatment, with sensitivity to the veteran’s reactions and adjusts the experience for each individual 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.