The virtual Iraq programme aims to enable the soldiers to relive the sights, sounds and smells of warfare, allowing them to finally deal with the painful memories of warfare.
A general scenario would incorporate 3d vision of a war situation, but it would also include vibrations of war, for instance when a bomb was detonated and the smells of war, such as burning rub or foreign spices.
Commander Scott Johnston, a clinical psychologist, runs the programme at the Naval Medical Center San Diego. He explains that instead of allowing the troops to avoid these painful memories, they bring them out into the daylight and really face them. This way the negative effects on the individual can be eradicated.
The session run in thirty minute times slots on the computer and then the soldiers have an hour of talking therapy with a psychologist. The theory is that by repeating the same computer scenario, it allows the soldier with PTSD to unlock and then talk about the wartime experiences which they tried to bury away.
Commander Johnston says the preliminary results are very positive, as they found that 30 out of 40 of the subjects were able to return to fell duty.
“We are now starting to implement it across the different services for our returning warriors.”
The Ministry of Defence in London is still not completely convinced by the Virtual Iraq programme, stating that they have for some years been exploring the possible used of virtual reality in treating mental health conditions, but this is still very much “work-in-progress”.