Retelling traumatic stories in virtual reality

Virtual Reality (VR) shapes modern life, including entertainment and digital health. In medicine, VR could be used to teach skills, alleviate challenging psychological conditions and bring relaxation. VR is also a common treatment tool for psychological trauma with its capability to immerse the patient in exposure scenarios as it recreates life events in a realistic way. This storytelling feature of VR, combined with the strong sense of presence elicited in the people who are immersed in VR, promises a great potential in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In her recent article published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Dr. Iva Georgieva proposes novel designs that utilize experience in VR in order to achieve treatment results for conditions connected with psychological trauma. She borrows the storytelling accounts from philosophy and narrative psychology to support the claim that there are many levels of retelling a story, which bring about cathartic results and build resilience. She suggests that reconstructing a traumatic event through several layers that include gradually added explanation of traumatic events, together with internalizing of meaning or different in charge content, can improve therapeutic effects. Dr. Georgieva explores different scenarios of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) therapy by building onto the traditional treatment approach of exposure therapy with storytelling experiences aimed at reconciliation, quest for meaning amidst adversities, and personal growth. This lays the foundation for further clinical research on the therapeutic value of reconstructing traumatic life events through sophisticated narrative experience in VR.