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Master Clinician Sessions

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for the Treatment of PTSD With Barbara Rothbaum, PhD, ABPP

PTSD has been estimated to affect up to 18% of returning OIF veterans. Most trauma victims show fear and other reactions immediately following the traumatic event but in general these symptoms decline over time. We believe this reflects the process of extinction and that the development of chronic PTSD in those who do not recover represents a failure of extinction. Extinction training in humans takes the form of exposure therapy. In the treatment of PTSD, exposure therapy usually involves prolonged, imaginal exposure to the patient's memory of the trauma and in vivo exposure to reminders of the trauma. Virtual Reality (VR) treatments may offer a viable alternative. VR offers a human-computer interaction paradigm in which users are no longer simply external observers of images on a computer screen but are active participants within a computer-generated three-dimensional virtual world. What distinguishes VR is a sense of presence, also essential to conducting exposure therapy. A growing body of literature supports the use of VR Exposure Therapy (VRE) as a tool for exposure therapy within a comprehensive treatment
program. In this presentation, participants will be introduced to the methods and protocols for treatment using the Virtual Iraq for treatment of PTSD in service members or veterans who served in Iraq. A live role-play will demonstrate introducing the patient to the virtual Iraq and matching what the patient is describing with the virtual environment.

Learning Objectives

1) Identify the background and rationale for virtual reality exposure therapy.
2) Summarize current research supporting the use of virtual reality exposure therapy for civilian and at-risk populations.
3) Summarize a training and supervision model for therapists new to virtual reality exposure therapy.

Dr. Barbara Olasov Rothbaum received her PhD in clinical psychology and is currently a professor in psychiatry at the Emory School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at Emory. Dr. Rothbaum specializes in research on the treatment of individuals with anxiety disorders, particularly focusing on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She has won both state and national awards for her research, is an invited speaker internationally, authors scientific papers and chapters, has published 4 books on the treatment of PTSD and edited 2 others on anxiety, and received the Diplomat in Behavioral Psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. She was on the Board of Directors of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), is past president of ISTSS, and was associate editor of The Journal of Traumatic Stress. Dr. Rothbaum is also a pioneer in the application of virtual reality to the treatment of psychological disorders.