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Unformatted text preview: Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for World Trade Center Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report JOANN DIFEDE, Ph.D., 1,2 and HUNTER G. HOFFMAN Ph.D. 3,4 ABSTRACT Done properly by experienced therapists, re-exposure to memories of traumatic events via imaginal exposure therapy can lead to a reduction of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Exposure helps the patient process and habituate to memories and strong emotions associated with the traumatic event: memories and emotions they have been carefully avoid- ing. But many patients are unwilling or unable to self-generate and re-experience painful emotional images. The present case study describes the treatment of a survivor of the World Trade Center (WTC) attack of 9-11-01 who had developed acute PTSD. After she failed to im- prove with traditional imaginal exposure therapy, we sought to increase emotional engage- ment and treatment success using virtual reality (VR) exposure therapy. Over the course of six 1-h VR exposure therapy sessions, we gradually and systematically exposed the PTSD patient to virtual planes flying over the World Trade Center, jets crashing into the World Trade Center with animated explosions and sound effects, virtual people jumping to their deaths from the burning buildings, towers collapsing, and dust clouds. VR graded exposure therapy was suc- cessful for reducing acute PTSD symptoms. Depression and PTSD symptoms as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory and the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale indicated a large (83%) reduction in depression, and large (90%) reduction in PTSD symptoms after completing VR exposure therapy. Although case reports are scientifically inconclusive by nature, these strong preliminary results suggest that VR exposure therapy is a promising new medium for treating acute PTSD. This study may be examined in more detail at www.vrpain.com. 529 C YBERPSYCHOLOGY & BEHAVIOR Volume 5, Number 6, 2002 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. INTRODUCTION T HE CURRENT STANDARD OF CARE FOR Post- traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is imagi- nal exposure therapy. The efficacy of imaginal exposure has been established in multiple studies with diverse trauma populations. 1,2 However, imaginal exposure presents an un- solvable dilemma for some patients. Effective imaginal exposure requires patients to retell their trauma in the present tense to their thera- pist, over and over again. Avoidance of re- minders of the trauma is inherent in PTSD, and is a defining symptoms of the disorder. Some patients refuse to engage in the treatment, and others, though they express willingness, are 1 Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York. 2 The New York Presbyterian Hospital, New York, New York....
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This note was uploaded on 06/01/2011 for the course PSYCH 3250 taught by Professor Segal, h during the Spring '08 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).
- Spring '08
- SEGAL, H