Virtual Worlds for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

June 23rd, 2011 by Kel Smith | Filed under Cognitive, Innovation, Virtual Reality

virtual world on mobile phoneThe National Center for Telehealth and Technology (also called the T2 Center) has been investigating the use of avatar-based virtual worlds to help thousands of veterans adjust to civilian life after combat. The T2 Center, located in Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, provides virtual demonstrations how post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) is acquired, including explanations of how cues and triggers can be managed.

Joe Jimenez, the T2 Center’s Public Affairs Officer, says the best part is that the program combines technological innovation and personal fellowship. Veterans and soldiers talk to each other and therapists through their avatars, allowing behaviors to be modified in a relatively anonymous setting. The virtual environment also provides some real-world experiences as practice:

“There are scenarios, both taking the people as you would see them in a combat environment, or back home such as walking through a mall and perhaps seeing some scenes that can trigger something in their mind relating to the combat experience, the affects of PTSD and the psychologist will be explaining what is happening.”

Virtual worlds have been used among people with cognitive disabilities since at least 2007. Speaking and acting through an avatar is being taken seriously as “cybertherapy,” demonstrating benefit in real-world behavior modification.


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