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Therapist Keith Smith demonstrates virtual reality equipment at the University of Central Florida. Smith uses virtual reality to help treat veterans’ post traumatic stress disorder.

Stephanie Colombini/American Homefront

Imagine walking through a village in a war zone in Iraq.

Suddenly a bomb explodes. Guns are firing. Children are crying. The distinct smells of diesel fuel and burning flesh waft through the air as the ground rumbles.

It’s all very disturbing.

Except this isn’t an Iraqi village. It’s a therapist’s office at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

A program called UCF Restores has been using virtual reality since 2010 as part of an exposure therapy program to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans. Clinic Director Deborah Beidel said many of the program’s patients struggle with everyday tasks like shopping or going to the gas station.

“We never think people’s traumatic memories are going to go away,” Beidel said. “But what we want to …read more