VR trauma therapy experiment poised to help veterans to get over their trauma. When a Veterans Affairs therapist initially suggested that a Chris Merkle try a virtual reality simulation that would be able to mimic parts of his combat days. Merkle then questioned why he would have to relive his worst days or his worst nightmares.
VR Trauma Therapy Experiment
According to The New York Times, it was in 2013, after three hours in Iraq and four over in Afghanistan, Mr. Merkle had struggled with PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. He also felt constantly on edge while bracing for an attack.
Mr. Markle got angry easily and wanted to avoid talking or thinking about his time as a marine. He also tried talk therapy but he did not want to discuss his past. A couple of months later, after his own symptoms started to intensify and he actually felt desperate for a salve, he then decided to give virtual reality exposure therapy a try at the official Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Long Beach, California.
How Mr. Merkle Uses VR for Therapy
The treatment uses VR technology in order to immerse a patient in a 3D environment which would mimic a traumatic memory. He eventually strapped into a headset and even sank into the past. The details within the simulation were, according to Mr. Merkle, quite precise.
Mr. Merkle noted that he saw people shooting at him which was something he hadn’t thought of in over 10 years. He also noted that his muscles tensed, his heart raced, and he was also very terrified. He noted that his body was physically reacting due to his mind saying “this is happening to us.”
VR Simulation for Trauma
When he finally took his glasses off, Mr. Merkle shared that he felt a sense of accomplishment which then became his own form of comfort. For years, his memories had finally terrified him. He then noted that confronting the part in VR proved to him that he could actually survive revisiting his own memories.
After seven whole runs through the VR simulation, Mr. Merkle then started uncovering fragments of memory that his mind had actually blacked out. He started remembering the name of the soldier who was next to him in a truck during his time in combat.
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VR Trauma Therapy for PTSD
He also remembers the clear feeling that he would actually die. Mr. Merkle walked out in the hall after he was finally done, grappling with what his brain had revealed to him. He felt that he was in a fantasy novel and that he left the session imagining there was black smoke pouring out of his mouth.
Mr. Merkle noted that he got to the parking lot and simply sat in his car for about an hour. The treatment was working for him. He said he was less scared of his memories and himself and that he was getting better. VeryWellMind covers how VR trauma therapy could help people get over PTSD.
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Written by Urian B.
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