The Current

New virtual reality exposure therapy treats soldiers with PTSD

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a promising new treatment for soldiers suffering from PTSD has them reliving their battlefield experiences. Today, we look at how virtual reality can help treat troops with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Virtual Reality is being touted as a promising way of treating PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for those returning from war. (

The Canadian Forces mission in Afghanistan may have come to an end but many soldiers still face a daily battle, in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It's estimated that as many as one-in-five combat soldiers suffer from PTSD. And now a promising new form of therapy actually has them returning to the battlefield, by way of virtual reality.

It's called virtual reality exposure therapy, and it's coming soon to Canadian soldiers with PTSD.   

Skip Rizzo is the director of medical virtual-reality research at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies. He is one of the researchers behind that virtual reality ambush scene. He's also behind a project to get virtual reality treatment into the hands of Canada's armed forces. We reached Skip Rizzo in Kauai, Hawaii.

For more of a sense of just how promising Virtual Reality treatment may be for PTSD, we were joined by Dr. Greg Passey. He is a veteran himself and a psychiatrist at the British Columbia Operational Stress Injury Clinic, where he treats Canadian Armed Forces personel veterans for PTSD.  He was in Vancouver.  

While Canada's armed forces has done research and experimentation with virtual reality therapy, it has yet to widely deploy the technology. In the US, however, things are a little farther ahead. 

Sergeant Chris Merkle is a verteran of the United States Marines.  He has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He suffers from PTSD, and has recieved virtual reality therapy. We reached Sergeant Chris Merkle at home in Orange County, California.

Col.  Pat Stogran also served in well as in Bosnia.  He too suffers from  PTSD. We reached him at his home in Ottawa.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Marc Apollonio.