Researchers in Wales are leading the way to find a new first line therapy for veterans around the world affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
In a UK first, the ‘3MDR: Modular Motion-assisted Memory Desensitisation and Reconsolidation’ trial is investigating the use of virtual reality techniques in treatment.
The trial is being led by the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH), which is funded by Health and Care Research Wales.
“We know that very few people with mental health problems seek professional help,” said Kali Barawi, research assistant at the NCMH, “and even those that do, continue to experience distressing symptoms after receiving treatment.
“We’re looking to find out whether 3MDR therapy is effective for veterans who have not responded to, or are unable to engage with, current PTSD treatments.”
Participants in the trial walk on a treadmill towards a large video screen – showing pre-selected pictures – surrounded by speakers playing music that is both related and unrelated to their traumatic military experience. As they walk towards each image they are asked to describe their memories and feelings.
They are guided through the process by an experienced psychological trauma therapist who finishes the session by asking participants about their immediate experiences and thoughts. The sessions are delivered weekly over a nine week period.
The trial is recruiting 42 British veterans with military-related PTSD and past experience of other talking therapies.
Lieutenant Colonel (retd) John Skipper is taking part in the trial and described the therapy as a “potential life saver”. He said:
“I’ve been on the treadmill and was quick to compare the potential of 3MDR to my own CBT treatment – 38, two hour sessions over about two years.
“Reaching the traumatic event is a journey. 3MDR replicates that, along with the reality of images and music.
“It’s powerful and I think it will be very effective, but it is vital that a trained therapist closely supports patients throughout sessions.”
3MDR therapy is being used for the first time in the UK after a small study in the Netherlands.
The results of the trial are expected in a couple of years and if shown to reduce PTSD symptoms, 3MDR could impact the way veterans affected by this mental illness are treated around the world.
3MDR is funded by the Forces in Mind Trust.