If you think you are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, a new form of help is available at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, or LRMC, where they can recreate the look, sounds and smell of a deployed environment to help you revisit and cope with events that have affected you so profoundly.
Approximately 30 patients have been treated with positive results through the Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy, or VRET, program since it was donated to LRMC in October 2014 by the Wounded Warrior Project. Results have been good, said Maj. (Dr.) Michael Valdovinos, chief of outpatient behavioral health there.
“It’s an extremely effective treatment because it is a patient’s personalized reality that they learn to process, control and regulate,” Valdovinos said. “Visual memory is powerful, and if I can use that to help patients create their own movie scene, then they can move into it to rewrite their own script.”
The outpatient behavioral health team uses VRET to help patients with a specific part of their trauma they might not have successfully resolved through other forms of treatment. For example, Valdovinos said he had a patient who felt like he emotionally just couldn’t get past losing his best friend during a firefight in a building where they were ambushed.
Valdovinos said they were able to recreate the scenario of the building, and when the Soldier “walked” into the building for the first time since the incident, he was very anxious at first but was able to remain in the virtual doorway of the building for about 15 minutes.
The Soldier experienced the scenario over and over again until he could enter the building and move around with mortars going off and insurgents attacking in the streets below. Valdovinos said this repetition of virtually recreating the anxiety-proving event helps decrease the anxiety symptoms and fear surrounding the event while helping Service members learn to process the negative thoughts surrounding the trauma.
LRMC has the Army’s largest outpatient behavioral health clinic in Europe and is the only Army installation in Europe to offer VRET. The Landstuhl Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic also offers the capability using this innovative therapy to teach mindfulness and other relaxation techniques. Dr. Kendra Jorgensen-Wagers, a clinician in the clinic who, in addition to using VRET to treat PTSD, also offers VRET to treat chronic pain.