Accelerated resolution therapy (ART) is a relatively new evidence-based psychotherapy. It is proving to be an effective intervention for trauma, depression, and many other mental health concerns. ART uses eye movements aimed to help quickly alleviate symptoms, which are often related to past trauma combined with voluntary memory replacement. Research is ongoing, but this therapy has the potential to help people with trauma and other mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression (1).

Defining Accelerated Resolution Therapy

Defining an emerging treatment protocol like accelerated resolution therapy is a dynamic process. Every day new people achieve success with ART. As data is collected about the processes that worked best for them, experts continue to refine and clarify that definition. Having a common language in the field of psychotherapy helps us to communicate better so that we can help people more quickly and with better success.

According to Psychiatric Times, Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is an emerging, efficient therapy for PTSD and other psychiatric conditions. It is derived from Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), but it has a tighter protocol, it is more directive, more procedural, and it is easier for clinicians and patients to learn (2).

ART was developed in 2008 by Laney Rosenzweig, LMFT (3). The goal of this therapy is to help people find relief from debilitating physical and psychological symptoms through the use of eye movements and image replacement strategies in just a few sessions.

ART is very similar to eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy (EMDR). It also draws from other types of therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic approaches (4).

For more detailed information about ART, contact us today by phone or email for a confidential conversation.

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How Does Accelerated Resolution Therapy Work?

One of the most attractive features of accelerated resolution therapy is how quickly it works and how easy it is for patients and caregivers to learn. The process is very straightforward, using guided eye movements and Voluntary Memory Replacement (VMR) and Voluntary Image Replacement (VIR) to change the ways that negative images are processed and stored in the brain. Clients do not have to talk about their trauma or difficult life experiences with the therapist to achieve recovery. Clients choose their preferred images and meditate silently about them. Therapists may choose to follow a scripted protocol for this part of the therapy if that is what works best for the client.

Accelerated resolution therapy combines several techniques used in traditional psychotherapies. How the eye movement specifically works is unknown, but the uses of rapid eye movements are similar to eye movements that occur during dreaming.

Some of the traditional therapies that inform ART include:

•         Exposure Therapy

•         Gestalt Therapy

•         Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

•         Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

•         Imagery Re-scripting (used in many cognitive therapies)

•         Guided Imagery

•         Brief Psychodynamic Therapy

Accelerated Resolution Therapy Step by Step

Accelerated Resolution Therapy involves a step-by-step process where the patient is on a journey to rediscover equilibrium and control as they work through the trauma that has caused lingering illness and dysfunction. Each step in the process is important and meant to aid in coping with the triggers that stem from trauma. The goal of each step is to lessen the shocking effects of triggers and give patients back control over their emotions, their physiological responses, and improve their quality of life.

The process and protocols for ART therapy are quick and easy to understand. The entire process typically takes between 1 and 6 sessions. Each session lasts approximately 10 minutes. It is important that sessions are led by a trained psychotherapist, as the client is required to access memories of the original traumatic event, which can be upsetting at first.

During‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌session,‌ ‌the‌ ‌therapist‌ ‌leads‌ ‌the‌ ‌client‌ ‌through‌ ‌a‌ ‌series‌ ‌of‌ ‌sets‌ ‌of‌ ‌controlled‌ ‌eye‌ ‌movements‌ ‌while‌ ‌asking‌ ‌the‌ ‌client‌ ‌to‌ ‌purposefully‌ ‌and‌ ‌silently‌ ‌recall‌ ‌the‌ ‌traumatic‌ ‌event,‌ ‌triggers,‌ ‌and‌ ‌even‌ ‌specific‌ ‌details‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌scene.‌ ‌This‌ ‌initial‌ ‌step‌ ‌can‌ ‌last‌ ‌from‌ ‌30‌ ‌seconds‌ ‌to‌ ‌10‌ ‌minutes.‌ ‌

Clients‌ ‌are‌ ‌directed‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌changes‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌original‌ ‌memory‌ ‌that‌ ‌they‌ ‌prefer‌ ‌to‌ ‌recall.‌ ‌The‌ ‌client‌ ‌does‌ ‌not‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌discuss‌ ‌the‌ ‌trauma‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌changes‌ ‌they‌ ‌choose‌ ‌with‌ ‌a therapist.‌ ‌The‌ ‌eye‌ ‌movement‌ ‌exercises‌ ‌activate‌ ‌parts‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌brain‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌similar‌ ‌way‌ ‌as‌ ‌the‌ ‌rapid‌ ‌eye‌ ‌movements‌ ‌of‌ ‌dreaming.‌ ‌This‌ ‌causes‌ ‌changes‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌way‌ ‌the‌ ‌brain‌ ‌stores,‌ ‌processes‌, and‌ ‌retrieves‌ ‌memories‌ ‌when‌ ‌the‌ ‌client‌ ‌experiences‌ ‌triggers‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌future.‌ ‌

In‌ ‌additional‌ ‌sessions,‌ ‌this‌ ‌process‌ ‌is‌ ‌repeated.‌ ‌Eye‌ ‌movement‌ ‌exercises‌ ‌are‌ ‌followed‌ ‌by‌ ‌silent‌ ‌recall‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌traumatic‌ ‌event,‌ ‌followed‌ ‌by‌ ‌voluntary‌ ‌image‌ ‌replacement.‌ ‌Clients‌ ‌have‌ ‌reported‌ ‌immediate‌ ‌improvement‌ ‌in‌ ‌anxiety‌ ‌after‌ ‌just‌ ‌one‌ ‌session.‌ ‌Usually,‌ ‌the‌ ‌therapy‌ ‌process‌ ‌is‌ ‌complete‌ ‌after‌ ‌5‌ ‌or‌ ‌6‌ ‌sessions.‌ ‌

Clients report that when faced with triggers, they recall the preferred imagery instead of the trauma, and that prevents them from feeling as though they are reliving the trauma. The symptoms become controlled and the therapy has proven to have long-lasting effects. The client retains the original memory, so this is not a memory erasure procedure, but they are no longer overwhelmed by negative emotions.

‌Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can affect anyone that experiences a traumatic event. It is characterized by specific emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms. It is possible to suffer from PTSD without knowing you have the condition (5).

PTSD can result from a wide variety of traumatic events. Military personnel and first responders are very susceptible due to the traumatic events they are exposed to on the job. Medical professionals can also experience on-the-job stresses that result in PTSD. Survivors of accidents, domestic abuse, violent attacks, war, and even those who witness extreme events are all more susceptible to developing symptoms of PTSD. All may benefit from therapies like accelerated resolution therapy.

It is important to have a health professional diagnosis before starting any type of psychotherapy. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following symptoms, accelerated resolution therapy may be helpful.

  • Rage
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Panic attacks
  • Memory issues
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Difficulties in thinking, concentrating, or learning

What Other Conditions Does Accelerated Resolution Therapy Treat?

The primary conditions that respond well to accelerated resolution therapy are stress-related mental health conditions, including PTSD. ART is also showing very promising results in treating other mental health conditions.

Based on the successful application of ART to date, it has also proven to be effective in treating the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Substance abuse
  • Addiction
  • OCD
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Other pain
  • Phobias
  • Sleep disorders
  • Mobility issues

To learn more about PTSD or other stress-related mental health crises, please see our blog here.

Voluntary Memory Replacement and Accelerated Resolution Therapy

Voluntary Memory Replacement (VMR) and Voluntary Image Replacement (VIR) are cornerstones of the success of accelerated resolution therapy. These techniques are useful when clients want to lessen the devastating impact of traumatic memories and images. When triggered by daily life events, these traumatic images can be very overpowering and the client can feel as though the trauma is happening in the immediate moment, effectively reliving the traumatic event.

VMR and VIR are used during accelerated resolution therapy sessions to process the original traumatic memory by replacing the images with more positive ones chosen by the client. It is important to note that this does not involve hypnosis, nor does it cause destructive amnesia. Patients report feeling less agitated when triggered as the preferred images come to mind to replace the traumatic memories. This can be achieved even after just one session of ART therapy.

If you or your loved one are showing symptoms of stress-related illness, including PTSD, please pick up the phone or contact us online today to discuss how we can help.

Transformation Treatment Center offer personalized plans for recovery that may include referral to a location near you. We truly offer unique treatment plans that may combine inpatient care, outpatient therapies, and referrals to the services that best suit your unique needs and your geographic location. We offer transportation assistance and we can often accommodate same-day requests for care. Our caring staff understands what you are going through and our help is only a phone call away.

(1) Kip Kevin E., Shuman A, Hernandez DF, et al. Case report and theoretical description of accelerated resolution therapy (ART) for military-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Military Medicine. 2014;179:31-37.

(2) Waits, Wendi, MD. Accelerated Resolution Therapy for PTSD. Psychiatric Times. Vol. 35, Issue. 8. August 30, 2018.

(3) Kip, Kevin E. et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) for Symptoms of Combat-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Military Medicine. Vol.178, Issue 12. December 2013.

(4) Waits, Wendi, et al. ART: A Review and Research to Date. Springer Science and Business Media. 2017.

(5) Lebow, Hilary. The Science Behind PTSD Symptoms: How Trauma Changes the Brain. Psych Central. July, 2021.

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