Albert “Skip” Rizzo: “Virtual Reality Goes to War: Clinical Applications for the Prevention and Treatment of the Psychological Wounds of War”

April 19, 2013 | Orlando, FL

Speaker: Albert "Skip" Rizzo
Host: Defense Game Tech Users' Conference

Abstract: War is perhaps one of the most challenging situations that a human being can experience. The physical, emotional, cognitive and psychological demands of a combat environment place enormous stress on even the best-prepared military personnel. Numerous reports indicate that the incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in returning OEF/OIF military personnel is creating a significant healthcare challenge. This situation has served to motivate research on how to better develop and disseminate evidence-based treatments for PTSD and other psychosocial conditions. In this regard, Virtual Reality delivered exposure therapy for PTSD is currently being used with initial reports of positive outcomes. This presentation will detail how virtual reality applications are being designed and implemented across various points in the military deployment cycle to prevent, identify and treat combat-related PTSD in OIF/OEF Service Members and Veterans. Recent work will also be presented that employs virtual human agents that serve in the role as “Virtual Patients” for clinical training of novice healthcare providers in both military and civilian settings and as online healthcare guides for breaking down barriers to care. The projects in these areas that will presented have been developed at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, a U.S. Army University Affiliated Research Center, and will provide a diverse overview of how virtual reality is being used to deliver exposure therapy, assess PTSD and cognitive function, provide stress resilience training prior to deployment and its use in breaking down barriers to care. Visit our website: and YouTube channel for more information on this work:

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe and define Virtual Reality (VR) and explain how it can generally be used for clinical and research applications.
  2. Describe and evaluate the rationale for the use of VR as a tool to deliver exposure therapy for anxiety disorders and PTSD.
  3. Describe, analyze and evaluate the clinical outcomes from the initial research using VR to deliver a prolonged exposure approach in the treatment of PTSD with OIF/OEF Service Members and Veterans.
  4. Describe and differentiate the use of Virtual Reality as a tool for psychological resilience training with Service Members prior to a combat deployment.
  5. Explain how the use of digital Virtual Humans could be applied to clinical training and health care outreach and support and be able to propose how this technology could be used to address the needs of the clinical population that you are most familiar with.