Accelerated Resolution Therapy

What is Accelerated Resolution Therapy (and how can it help PTSD)?

PTSD can feel like you’re stuck in a loop of distressing thoughts, memories and feelings that seem like they’ll never stop. But treatment is available and it’s never too late to get help. It may be reassuring to hear that some treatments can start to work in just a few sessions.

In fact, there’s an innovative new approach to treating PTSD that seems to reduce symptoms quicker than many traditional psychotherapies: accelerated resolution therapy (ART). Although there have only been a handful of studies on ART and PTSD, the results have been encouraging, and more therapists are starting to offer it. Here, we investigate how ART can help with the symptoms of PTSD, and whether it might be suitable for you.

What is Accelerated Resolution Therapy?

Accelerated resolution therapy, sometimes known as rapid resolution therapy, was developed by Laney Rosenzweig in 2008, in her marriage and family therapy practice. She found that by combining elements of other exposure-based psychotherapies, such as eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), patients could see results much more quickly – often in just four or five sessions.

During an ART session, patients are asked to follow the therapist’s hand as it moves from side to side in front of them. This rapid eye movement helps relax the patient, so they can access their traumatic memory and start to replace it with a more positive image. According to Laney’s team at the Rosenzweig Center for Rapid Resolution, this works to “reprogram the way in which distressing memories and images are stored in the brain, so they no longer trigger strong physical and emotional reactions.”

The goal is to replace the distressing memory with something more positive.

Because ART focuses on ‘reprogramming’ one image at a time, it’s often possible to find relief from a single unpleasant memory in just one session. Once you feel that you’ve dealt with that memory, you can move on to another if you need to. Unlike some other therapies, there’s no intense discussion of the traumatic event: you will need to hold the memory in your mind, but you won’t need to talk about it in detail with the therapist.

How does Accelerated Resolution Therapy help PTSD?

ART is used to help people overcome all sorts of issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, phobias, grief and substance abuse. Because of its focus on helping individuals get past difficult memories, it’s thought to be particularly effective for common for people with PTSD to suffer from recurring images.

Jennifer Street, a practitioner with ART International, says ART “allows the client to stop experiencing those images in their mind and we do that through a process of desensitizing them to the images, working on the sensations and the effect that the sensations have on the body and then re-scripting that image.”

The memory doesn’t disappear entirely, but many clients say it feels like a [distant dream], and no longer triggers negative emotions.

ART is thought to be a very safe treatment, though may not be suitable for people with vision impairment. As with any treatment, it’s best to consult a trained professional to decide whether it’s suitable for you.

How is ART different from EMDR?

You may be familiar with EMDR, which is a common treatment for PTSD. While both EMDR and ART use rapid eye movement, there are some differences, and some people find one therapy works better for them than the other.

ART follows a stricter set of guidelines, with a set number of eye movements, while EMDR is more flexible and left to the practitioner’s discretion. EMDR tends to focus on the detail of a distressing memory, while ART turns attention to the associated emotions and feelings instead.

And EMDR usually requires between 5 to 15 sessions, but thanks to ART’s more direct approach, people often find relief in fewer sessions.

Finding an ART therapist

Although both ART and EMDR are designed to help process trauma, revisiting traumatic events can be difficult, so it’s important to work with a trained practitioner. Your therapist should create an environment that feels safe and comfortable.

While ART isn’t currently available on the NHS, your GP or mental health professional may be able to refer you to a private therapist.

You can also search for therapists that offer accelerated resolution therapy (or rapid resolution therapy) through the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

NICE guidance updated in 2018 recommends the use of trauma focused psychological treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in adults, specifically the use of Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Please remember, these aren’t meant to be medical recommendations, but they’re tactics that have worked for others and might work for you, too. Be sure to work with a professional to find the best methods for you.

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Treatments for PTSD

It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.