Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Combat-Related PTSD

  • Judith Cukor
  • Maryrose Gerardi
  • Stephanie Alley
  • Christopher Reist
  • Michael Roy
  • Barbara O. Rothbaum
  • JoAnn Difede
  • Albert Rizzo


War is perhaps one of the most challenging situations that a human being can experience. The physical, emotional, cognitive, and psychological demands of a combat environment place enormous stress on even the best-prepared military personnel. Numerous reports indicate that the incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in returning Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) military personnel is significant. This has served to motivate research on how to better develop and disseminate evidence-based treatments for PTSD that leverage the unique features available with virtual reality (VR) technology. VR-delivered exposure therapy for PTSD is currently being used to treat combat- and terrorist attack-related PTSD with initial reports of positive outcomes. This chapter presents a brief overview and rationale for the use of VR exposure for combat-related PTSD and describes the Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan exposure therapy system. This includes a short review of the previous literature, a description of the system components and the treatment protocol, and a case presentation. VR offers an alternative format for delivering exposure-based therapies for PTSD that may appeal to certain service members and veterans who grew up “digital” and who might be inclined to seek treatment in this fashion.


Posttraumatic stress disorder Anxiety disorders Virtual reality in PTSD Prolonged exposure to combat stress 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judith Cukor
    • 1
  • Maryrose Gerardi
    • 2
  • Stephanie Alley
    • 3
  • Christopher Reist
    • 4
    • 5
  • Michael Roy
    • 6
  • Barbara O. Rothbaum
    • 2
  • JoAnn Difede
    • 1
  • Albert Rizzo
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryWeill Cornell Medical CollegeNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Southern California Institute for Research and EducationLong Beach VA Medical CenterLong BeachUSA
  4. 4.Department of ResearchLong Beach VA Medical CenterLong BeachUSA
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  6. 6.Division of Military Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineUniformed Services University of the Health SciencesBethesdaUSA
  7. 7.Medical Virtual Reality, Institute for Creative Technologies, Department of Psychiatry and School of GerontologyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaPlaya VistaUSA

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