Post-traumatic stress disorder ruins lives. The sound of a firecracker plunges a patient into a war-zone firefight. A hug is a replay of sexual abuse. A movie scene evokes all the pain of losing a loved one. Ordinary events are no longer ordinary. They are switches, flipping patients into an immersive memory that recreates every detail of their most devastating moments. However, there is a therapeutic path forward. Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) allows patients with PTSD and other emotional traumas to move through the healing process quickly, effectively, and without the troubling, prolonged recollections that can accompany other techniques.
It is easy to learn, easy to fit into your clinical practice, and, most importantly, quickly provides meaningful symptom relief.
What is Accelerated Resolution Therapy?
ART is a clinically proven therapy that combines horizontal rapid eye movements with an active recall of a traumatic situation. With therapist support, the patient works to replace the traumatic reaction with a more positive association.
The eye movements simulate the motions of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is associated with memory consolidation.
A typical session lasts one or two hours, usually once a week. Patients visually track a rapidly moving horizontal target, usually a light or the provider’s hand. They actively recall the traumatic event, focusing on physical and emotional responses. With therapist guidance and suggestions, they begin to replace that response with something less upsetting and more physically regulating.
Focusing on two processes at once – visual tracking and memory recall – stimulates both brain hemispheres. Researchers think this bilateral stimulation helps the brain reconsolidate the memory with less focus on the distressing aspects. Eventually, although patients still remember the event, they can recall it without intense physical and emotional sensations.
In addition, although often used for PTSD therapy, Accelerated Resolution Therapy helps patients suffering from depression, extreme grief, sexual trauma depression, anxiety, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorders, addiction, and even pain syndromes.
How effective is ART?
A review of four clinical trials found that 74% of PTSD patients had meaningful improvement in their symptoms, with changes experienced in an average of four sessions.
Several studies are looking at the technique in different disorders. One even seeks to uncover the physiologic mechanisms that make ART such an effective intervention, looking at treatment-associated changes in brain EEG activity, heart rate, and sleep patterns
Incorporating ART into your practice
ART can be a powerful addition to counseling practice. It’s not difficult for most clinicians to learn. It uses techniques most are already familiar with. It doesn’t require any medication changes and can be used in conjunction with other interventions.
There are three training levels.
- Basic training is a three-day intensive that provides a strong foundation of theory and skills.
- A subsequent two-day advanced training teaches additional interventions that enhance the core practice.
- Enhanced training equips the therapist to apply ART to disorders other than PTSD.
ART training is available to licensed health professionals or registered nurses with psychiatric training.
Training with Colleen Clark
Colleen, a licensed clinical social worker with expertise in trauma disorders, is Canada’s premier ART trainer. She is certified in both Advanced and Master Levels and has trained more than 100 practitioners in Canada. She conducts the basic training course at regular intervals in Calgary, Alberta.