Archive for June, 2019

Using Virtual Reality as Therapy for PTSD

virtual reality exposure therapy for ptsdJune is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month and Emory Healthcare Veterans Program would like to share how it uses Prolonged Exposure therapy and Virtual Reality Exposure therapy to heal invisible wounds. Our highly skilled team of professionals is led by world-renowned Emory clinical psychologist Barbara Rothbaum, Ph.D., who has been working in the PTSD field since 1986 and pioneered Virtual Reality Exposure therapy as a treatment for PTSD in veterans and service members. In exposure therapy, we help people confront reminders of the traumatic event, but in a therapeutic manner so that their distress decreases.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

There are many approaches to treating PTSD, and after several decades of research, our program has determined Prolonged Exposure therapy to be the most successful in healing invisible wounds. This process treats PTSD by asking the patient to recall the memory repeatedly, and in a therapeutic manner, so that he/she will feel more comfortable with the memory and gain a sense of mastery over the experience, rather than experiencing anxiety and avoidance. Avoidance is a common behavior for those suffering from PTSD, and although facing the memory head-on appears intimidating, revisiting the wound is the only way to heal it.

“This form of treatment is successful because the trauma needs to be emotionally processed so it can become less painful. The process is similar to the grief process. When a loved one dies, it is extremely distressing, but by expressing that hurt (say, through crying), it gradually becomes less upsetting. Eventually, we can think about that person without crying, although the loss will always be sad. Those with PTSD devote much effort to avoiding thinking about the trauma because they mistakenly view the process of remembering as too agonizing to tolerate,” said Dr. Rothbaum.

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

Sometimes recalling the memory is difficult because it has been locked away for so long. Virtual Reality Exposure therapy is an extension of Prolonged Exposure therapy, which immerses the patient in a virtual world that is reminiscent of his or her traumatic memory. As the patient describes the memory to the therapist, the therapist is able to recreate scenes of the memory, complete with smells, vibrations, and landscapes.

“VR is a tool that helps to extend what we already do effectively, which is exposure therapy for PTSD and anxiety disorders. It helps to resolve some of the barriers we can sometimes encounter, like if a person is unable to connect fully with their traumatic memory, we can use VR to help strengthen that connection,” said Dr. Liza Zwiebach, a clinical psychologist with Emory Healthcare Veterans Program.

Dr. Rothbaum first used Virtual Reality Exposure therapy to help people overcome their fear of heights, then in helping her patients gain control over their fear of flying in airplanes. This innovative process proved just as effective as the standard practice of using an actual airport and airplane in treatment. In follow-ups months after therapy ended, 93 percent of treated patients reported flying in real airplanes. She then used Virtual Reality Exposure therapy to treat Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD and developed the program Braveheart, which later became the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program.

“We wanted to see if the Virtual Reality Exposure therapy would have anything to offer them—as another treatment alternative. And it did. They got better,” said Dr. Rothbaum. “They’ve reported that it didn’t bother them anymore, these experiences that have been haunting them for decades.”

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Dementia Resources We Trust

Dementia patient and physicianAt Emory’s Integrated Memory Care Clinic (IMCC), we often field questions from family members and caregivers who’ve been doing their own research. While we encourage you to educate yourself, it can be difficult to separate facts from theories and to make sure your resources are reputable. We’ve set out to provide a list of reliable and trustworthy resources. This isn’t intended to be an all-encompassing list, but these are almost always our first recommendations.

Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association offers information about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, including Lewy Body and Vascular dementias. You’ll find information on everything from legislation related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to local resources, such as caregiver training and support groups, programs such as SafeReturn®, and stage-specific information.
View Alzheimer’s Association >>

National Institute on Aging

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) works to understand the nature of aging and the aging process. The institute’s mission includes supporting and conducting aging-related research and sharing information related to this research with the general public, health care professionals, and research scientists. The site has information on healthy aging, caregiving, and end-of-life planning. You’ll also find information on the latest in aging-related research. 
View National Institute on Aging >>

Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR)

1-800-438-4380 (toll-free), adear@nia.nih.gov

The National Institute on Aging’s ADEAR Center offers free information about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias for families, caregivers and health professionals. Visit the site to find information on such topics as disease basics, causes, symptoms, treatment, caregiving, and research and trials. ADEAR Center staff answers telephone, email and written requests, and makes referrals to local and national resources. You can contact ADEAR for answers to specific questions about Alzheimer’s disease, referrals to local support services and research centers, and information about clinical trials as well as Spanish-language resources and training materials.
View Alzheimer’s Disease Education & Referral (ADEAR) >>

Books

The 36 hour day: A Family Guide to Caring for People who have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss – Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins – Offers a great deal of useful information, including practical and legal advice, but can feel a little clinical.

Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s: A Groundbreaking Approach for Everyone Dealing with the Disease – Joanne Koenig Coste – Focuses on the emotional well-being of both patients and caregivers.

Creating Moments of Joy Along the Alzheimer’s Journey: A Guide for Families and Caregivers – Jolene Brackey – This best-seller focuses on the idea that while caregivers cannot create perfect days for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they can create moments of joy that linger on as a positive feeling long after the moment has passed. Includes practical advice along with encouragement and humor.

The Alzheimer’s Action Plan: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Diagnosis and Treatment for Memory Problems – P. Murali Doraiswamy M.D. and Gwyther, Lisa P., M.S.W. – Combines the insights of a physician and social worker and includes information on diagnosis, treatments, and guidance for coping with changes in early and middle stages.

Living Your Best with Early-Stage Alzheimer’s: An Essential Guide – Lisa Snyder – Intended as a working guide to help the person with Alzheimer’s move forward once diagnosed.

What If It’s Not Alzheimer’s?: A Caregiver’s Guide to DementiaGary Radin, Lisa Radin, and Murray Grossman   A comprehensive guide to dealing with Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), one of the largest groups of non-Alzheimer’s dementias.

Coach Broyles’ Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers – Frank BroylesWritten with the hope that others could benefit from his family’s experience caring for his wife, Coach Frank Broyles offers relevant tips and strategies for caring for a loved one with dementia.

Use the link below or call 404-712-6929 to learn more about how the Integrated Memory Care Clinic can help.

Learn more about the Integrated Memory Care Clinic


Emory Integrated Memory Care Clinic

The Integrated Memory Care Clinic (IMCC) is a nationally recognized patient-centered medical home that provides primary care individualized for someone living with dementia and is designed to replace your current primary care provider. Our goal is to provide the best dementia-sensitive primary care. If you’d like to learn more about the IMCC, or think one of your patients or family members could benefit from our services, please contact our patient services coordinator at 404-712-6929.

To learn more, please visit Integrated Memory Care Clinic.