Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is an evidenced-based, rapid-eye-movement therapy for treating trauma, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, self-esteem problems, and other issues. Research shows that the course of treatment averages between three and four sessions. The gains made from ART therapy were still in effect 4 months after its conclusion. The cost of this therapy is comparable to most other mental health therapies.
- What Is Accelerated Resolution Therapy?
- Who Is Accelerated Resolution Therapy Right For?
- How Is Accelerated Resolution Therapy Different From Other Therapies?
- What can Accelerated Resolution Therapy Help With?
- What’s the Goal of Accelerated Resolution Therapy?
- Who Is Qualified to Practice Accelerated Resolution Therapy?
What Is Accelerated Resolution Therapy?
The key concepts of Accelerated Resolution Therapy include memory reconsolidation and smooth-pursuit eye movements. Together, these techniques help patients deal with issues like trauma, anxiety, depression, or sleep problems.
When we remember an emotionally-based memory, one of the natural processes that occur in our brains is the “unfixing” or malleability of the memory. Scientists refer to this natural phenomenon as “Memory Reconsolidation.” Science has shown that the memory remains “malleable” in a period called the Reconsolidation Window for about 6 hours after recalling it.
During this period, under the therapist’s direction, the client would imaginatively create new images that are peaceful or evoke pleasant feelings and replace the old troubling images that were previously paired with fear, anger, or other distressing emotions.
Research shows that the new images and the accompanying positive feelings are still attached to the memory at follow-up 4 months after the treatment has ended. There are other published studies that show that the replacement images and positive feelings are still present as long as one year later. These improvements suggest that the therapy can be long-lasting.
Smooth-Pursuit Eye Movements
Another effective ingredient of ART is using smooth-pursuit eye movements. Imagine an audience watching a tennis match, their eyes gliding back and forth as they follow the ball from one side of the court to the other; This example demonstrates smooth-pursuit eye movements. There is evidence that this kind of eye movement, over a period of time, relates to a relaxation response in the brain.
The ART therapist would use their hand, moving it smoothly back and forth at a comfortable distance from the client, and ask the client to keep their head still while tracking the hand with their eyes. This exercise results in the engagement of smooth-pursuit eye movements.
Hypothesis About Eye Movements
While eye movements have been extensively studied, there is still no definitive “proof” of how they work beyond creating the relaxation response. One popular hypothesis is that when clients engage in smooth-pursuit eye movements, they roughly replicate Rapid Eye Movements (REMs), which occur while we are dreaming. It’s intuitive that dream simulation could somehow be used to solve problems and feel better about them, as indicated by expressions such as “sleep on it, you will feel better in the morning.”
However, when we are asleep and dreaming, much of the rational/thinking portion of our brain is asleep. Perhaps this is why our problem-solving capacity while sleeping is limited. Some suggest that while we do ART, the whole brain is awake and participating in the voluntary process of image replacement. The image replacement is thought to automatically cause us to have peaceful or positive feelings that arise with the new images selected.
Who Is Accelerated Resolution Therapy Right For?
During the initial visit, an ART-trained therapist would determine whether ART suits that individual.
The three criteria that the therapist would initially consider are:
- Can the individual hold on to a thought (or the theme of the problem) throughout a typical 1-hour therapy session?
- Can the individual frequently move their eyes smoothly from right to left and back again throughout the session?
- Is the individual truly ready to let go of the symptom or symptoms that motivated them to seek therapy?
How Is Accelerated Resolution Therapy Different From Other Therapies?
ART therapy is a “Manualized” protocol, meaning each therapist is taught how to proceed through an ART therapy session following a step-by-step procedure. The therapist controls which step the client is working on and the order of the steps. However, the client is always in complete control of the content of their experience. In other words, when the client is recalling a memory that illustrates the problem they are working on, they have complete control over the details of what they are imagining. In the same way, the client has total control over what new images they select to replace the old ones they do not want to see or experience anymore.
Another important distinction is that a client can choose not to tell the therapist parts or all of the problem that they are working on, as well as the imaginative replacements that they think up and use in the recalled memory. If the client wishes, they can speak with the therapist outside of the explanations about the next step in the protocol. The therapist, however, will try and hold the talking to a minimum so that the client has plenty of time in the session to complete the changes they wish to make in their mind’s eye.
Reticent clients may prefer ART. Moreover, talking and sharing about the session can briefly occur in that session and at greater length in a subsequent session if that is what the client wishes.
Is ART Like Hypnosis?
ART is different from hypnosis. The client retains their ability to be consciously aware of their surroundings (externally) and what they are working on (internally). Sometimes clients do report that they feel very relaxed or even a little sleepy during an ART session. It is thought that this may be the natural result of the relaxation of the brain that coincides with smooth-pursuit eye movements.
Sometimes people feel uncomfortable with the idea of changing images, as well as corresponding feelings, attached to troubling memories in a purposeful way. However, the client is given the information about Memory Reconsolidation to explain the scientific understanding that this is a natural process we all engage in whenever we recall an emotionally based memory. With ART, we are taking advantage of this natural process and purposefully and consciously selecting replacement images to replace the formerly upsetting ones.
What can Accelerated Resolution Therapy Help With?
As stated above, ART has been found to help decrease or resolve symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), pain, depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues.
The Rosenzweig Center for Rapid Recovery reports encouraging results when therapists use ART for disorders and problems, including:
- Panic attack
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Addiction/Substance Abuse
- Performance Anxiety
- Family Issues
- Victimization/poor Self Image
- Relationship Issues/Infidelity
- Job-Related Stress
- Pain Management
- Memory Enhancement
What’s the Goal of Accelerated Resolution Therapy?
The goal of ART therapy is that, in an average of one to four sessions, the client will experience decreased or eliminated symptoms associated with the problem or disorder they came to therapy to treat. A randomized study of ART for PTSD demonstrated that 70% of the participants experienced a substantial reduction in their PTSD symptoms. Clients report similar outcomes to problems connected to other issues as listed above.
ART therapists are taught to co-create a goal for the client to reach by the end of each ART therapy session. A typical goal will be that the client will show improvement in a measure called subjective units of distress (SUDs) that they experience from their issue.
Who Is Qualified to Practice Accelerated Resolution Therapy?
Any licensed mental health therapist or medically licensed clinician can be trained to use ART as long as their educational degree has included mental health intervention training for clients and patients who experience trauma. This distinction is made to ensure that the clinician using ART has the right skill set to ensure the individual’s safety and comfort during an ART session. A listing of all of the different kinds of professional licenses that can receive Continuing Education Credits for the training can be found on the official ART website.
The ART protocol training is offered at three levels. The first level, “Basic Accelerated Resolution Therapy,” provides all of the learning and practice necessary for a therapist to competently deliver ART to a client. The Basic Level training is delivered in three 8-hour days. The training includes instructive and experiential components and video examples of an ART session. A certificate of attendance is awarded to therapists who have successfully concluded the three-day training.
If a therapist wishes, they can join the International Society of Accelerated Resolution Therapy and take a quiz to be certified as an ART therapist, but this is not necessary to practice ART. The organization also presents the newest advances and practice skills in Accelerated Resolution Therapy at an annual conference.
The next two levels of ART training are called Advanced ART Training and Enhanced ART Training. These levels are not mandatory for ART therapists, but they teach them how to broaden and deepen their capacity to deliver ART to their clients. The additional 2-day training sessions can be taken together or separately. Finally, for interested therapists, training is offered to those who have completed all the training and certification and wish to learn how to train other clinicians to include ART in their practice.
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