Psychologists using virtual reality to help treat PTSD in veterans

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Virtual reality is no longer reserved for entertainment and gamers, its helping solve real-world problems. Some of the latest advancements are being demonstrated at South by Southwest.

Dr. Skip Rizzo directs the Medical Virtual Reality Lab at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. He’s helping veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He’s up teamed with Dell to develop and spread the technology to more people.

“This is a trauma-based methodology where basically you’re asking the patient to go back and confront and process the difficult emotional memories that surround the trauma,” said Dr. Rizzo.

The therapy isn’t easy, but Dr. Rizzo says it’s effective.

“There’s no doubt this is very challenging therapy, but as you go through that repeatedly, you start to see a decline in the activating anxiety. And all of a sudden patients are feeling empowered,” said Dr. Rizzo.

His team created 14 different worlds that can each be customized. They’re able to put patients in simulations similar to their real-life experiences. He says it’s effective because patients are facing their trauma, rather than trying to forget it or avoid it.

“Eventually as they do it more and more, a little bit more emotion comes out, a little bit more detail,” said Dr. Rizzo.

Rizzo says they’re also using virtual reality to help teenagers with autism improve their interview and communication skills.

Stay with WFLA News Channel 8’s Lila Gross for more viral and trending news. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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