UCF therapy center developing new virtual reality treatment for PTSD

ORLANDO, Fla. — A team of therapists at the University of Central Florida has been developing a new way to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder using virtual reality.


UCF Psychology Professor Deborah Beidel is also the Executive Director of UCF Restores, a therapy center dedicated to changing the ways we diagnose and treat PTSD. Now, they’re using technology to develop a whole new method of treatment.

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“There’s no therapy that is going to erase that memory from them,” Beidel said. “What we can do is help them put that memory in a place in their long-term memory, like a filing cabinet, where it doesn’t dominate them every day.”

Dr. Beidel and her team have been using virtual reality to treat PTSD since 2011, responding to tragedies like the shooting at Pulse Nightclub, and the collapse of a condominium building in Surfside.

They’ve received multiple honors for their work, inspiring them to develop a new clinical trial, testing a system that allows Beidel’s team to build complex scenarios to focus their treatments for a variety of traumas, including assault victims and first responders.

“We have developed a bar. We have developed a car fire…we have developed something that looks like a school. And then what we can do is just go back into the system and change the details,” Beidel explained.

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It’s in those details that the patients can find a more direct path to recovery.

Senior Clinician Keith Smith says it only takes a couple of weeks to see measurable results.

“We work with them for two weeks. They walk out of here, their whole worldview changes,” Smith said. “It’s very effective.”

“We want people to feel that their lives have changed substantially, not just that their score changed on an instrument,” Dr. Beidel said. “They can point to life changes that are important.”

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Right now, UCF Restores is looking for new patients to help with their clinical trials. Once complete, they plan to publish the results and make the system available to other therapists.

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Joe Kepner

Joe Kepner, WFTV.com

I unloaded the U-Haul in Orlando in 2008, just in time to cover the Magic's run to the 2009 NBA Finals.