Some veterans and current active service women and men may have experienced a traumatic event as the result of combat. The trauma may be re-lived in nightmares and through flashbacks.
Veterans may find themselves avoiding certain people, places, smells, textures and sounds to prevent an increase in anxiety and memories of the trauma. They may avoid stores because having people behind them in line makes them feel uncomfortable, or they may avoid fireworks because they remind them of a bomb or gun going off.
One form of evidenced-based treatment for individuals who have experienced a traumatic event is virtual reality therapy (VRET). VRET is often used in the course of treatment to specifically treat symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). VRET can be used alone as a treatment for anxiety and other related fears.
While VRET can be used to treat a variety of fears - including public speaking, heights, storms and flying - it can also be used to treat PTSD. Bravemind, is offered at Ozark Center. It is available specifically for veterans or active duty service women and men who have PTSD and served in Afghanistan or Iraq. It includes scenarios like foot patrol, convoys and medical evacuations via helicopters. Therapists can customize the VRET environment to include explosions, firefights, insurgent attacks and roadside bombs with visuals and sound effects.
The virtual environment helps individuals feel as if they are really in the situation they fear, teaching them how to cope with that fear and anxiety by allowing them to interact with harmless virtual representations of traumatic stimuli to reduce their fear response. They can then learn how to decrease their negative response to the traumatic memory by being in the virtual environment while retelling their traumatic memories to a therapist who is guiding them through the process. After repeatedly doing this, the stress response, fear and anxiety will decrease or disappear due to the individual learning they are in a safe place.
About the Author
Dr. Stephanie Terrell, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, practices at the Ozark Center. Dr. Terrell specializes in the treatment of PTSD using prolonged exposure and virtual reality therapy. She also has extensive experience in psychological evaluations and is trained in smoking cessation and biofeedback. Additionally, Dr. Terrell provides treatment for a variety of other outpatient and inpatient clinical concerns. She has over eight years’ experience in the mental health field.