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Accelerated Resolution Therapy: A Revolutionary Treatment for PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression

In this post, we look into "Accelerated Resolution Therapy" (ART), a type of therapy that's showing promise in treating a variety of mental health conditions.

Summary: Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is a type of therapy that uses eye movements and other bilateral stimulation to help people process and resolve memories of traumatic events.

ART has been shown to be an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and can help people reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress. It can also be helpful for those suffering from trauma, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, self-esteem problems, and more.

Below, we take a look at what this new form of therapy can mean for you.

What is Accelerated Resolution Therapy?

Developed in 2008 by Laney Rosenzweig, a marriage and family therapist, ART came out of Rosenzweig’s experience with different types of treatment. In particular, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

Rosenzweig created standardized guidelines based on different therapies, along with modified EMDR practices. 

It was officially recognized as an evidence-based therapy in 2015 by the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices.

EMDR, Gestalt, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and brief psychodynamic therapy (BPP) are all incorporated into ART. 

By using techniques such as rapid eye-movement, exposure, imagery rescripting, and guided imagery, ART practitioners are able to change how stress-inducing images are stored in the brain.

ART works by asking an individual to recall a memory, which the therapist then helps them to shift to something more positive. They do this by employing imagery rescripting

Research has shown that individuals using ART tend to have a faster recovery. In fact, the goal is to be able to either decrease or eliminate the client’s symptoms in one to four sessions.

Memory Reconsolidation

Using elements of cognitive therapy, such as imaginal exposure and image rescripting, individuals are able to work through unprocessed traumatic memories, and lessen the physiological sensations of those events. 

This is known as memory reconsolidation, and is used to treat stress and anxiety related disorders.

As emotionally-based memories are fluid and change constantly, ART is able to take advantage of this in order to recode fear-based memories. 

In other words, ART can change the way your brain perceives the memory, moving it from a place of trauma to a positive—or at least neutral—position.

Research has shown that the new positive feelings attached to the memory are still present, even 4 months after treatment has ended, and up to a year later.

Smooth-Pursuit Eye-Movements

Smooth-pursuit eye-movements are repetitive, gentle movements of the eyes, back and forth. This kind of eye movement triggers a relaxation response in the brain.

The way ART therapists employ these movements are by gently and smoothly moving their hand back and forth in front of the client. 

By keeping their head still and only tracking the movement with their eyes, this engages smooth-pursuit eye movements.

Hypothesis About Eye-Movements

There is no solid research yet which has definitely proven why these eye-movements are successful, other than triggering a relaxation response. 

One theory is that it replicates rapid eye movement (REM), which you experience when dreaming.

Other hypotheses have suggested that during ART, the brain is actively participating in the voluntary process of image replacement. This is thought to trigger peaceful or positive feelings automatically.

The Benefits of Accelerated Resolution: What Can it Help With and Who is it For?

ART can be particularly beneficial for clients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain, depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. Other disorders ART has been shown to be helpful with include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Panic attacks
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Addiction and substance abuse
  • Performance anxiety
  • Family issues
  • Relationship issues and infidelity
  • Codependency
  • Grief
  • Job-related stress
  • Memory enhancement
  • Dyslexia

Some small studies have also been done, which show that there have also been improvements in depression and neuropathic pain after ART. However, more thorough research is needed.

Not all individuals are good candidates for ART. ART therapists will typically look for individuals who:

  1. Can hold onto a thought or theme throughout a 1-hour therapy session
  2. Can frequently move their eyes smoothly back and forth throughout the session
  3. Are completely ready to let go of the symptom, or symptoms, that led them to pursue therapy

How is Accelerated Resolution Therapy Different from Other Therapies?

ART is known as a “manualized” protocol. This means that therapists proceed through ART sessions following a step-by-step procedure.

While the therapist guides the client through the steps, ART clients are always in control and set the pace of their sessions.

The client can also choose not to tell the therapist both what they are working on and their recalled memory image replacements. 

While they are able to talk to the therapist, usually the therapist will try to keep it to a minimum to allow the client to focus on their visualizations.

As a result, clients who are more introverted, may like ART. However, if they do want to talk about their experiences, they are able to briefly in that session, and in follow-up sessions.

Is Accelerated Therapy Like Hypnosis?

While clients may feel very relaxed and sleepy during their ART session, ART is not the same as hypnosis. 

During a session the client remains consciously aware of both their external surroundings and internal procedures.

During hypnotherapy, a therapist guides clients into a deep state of focus and relaxation. This allows them to focus more deeply, and make changes according to guided suggestions from the therapist.

The main difference between hypnotherapy and ART, is that the client is entirely in control of their own visualizations and memories in ART. 

While the use of REM mimics eye movements while dreaming, it’s important to note that this is not the same as with hypnotherapy.

Who is Qualified to Practice Accelerated Resolution Therapy?

Any licensed therapist or clinician with training in mental health intervention for clients who have experienced trauma can be trained in ART. The official ART website has a list of all of the professional licenses who qualify for training.

In order to become an ART therapist, the therapist needs to undergo at least Basic Accelerated Resolution Therapy training. This is delivered over three 8-hour days, and includes a variety of training methods.

There are two further levels of training—Advanced and Enhanced—but neither of these are mandatory. 

Therapists can also choose to join the International Society of Accelerated Resolution Therapy, but this is also not necessary in order to practice ART.

In addition, ART therapists can become certified trainers and training assistants. This means that they are then qualified to train others in ART.

How to Find An Accelerated Resolution Therapy-Trained Therapist

If you’re looking for an ART-trained therapist, check therapist listings, as they’ll usually tell you what practices they utilize.

As ART is relatively new, the two main websites that list ART-trained therapists are:

Cost & Insurance Coverage For ART Therapy 

As ART is an approved treatment, listed by the American Psychological Association, you can cover treatment with insurance

The cost will usually be about $100–$200 per session, though some therapists will use a sliding scale for payment, depending on the client’s financial situation.

Use Cases And Examples Of Accelerated Resolution Therapy 

ART can be helpful in a variety of situations, particularly where there has been a singularly traumatic event. However, current case studies are fairly limited.

A paper published in 2018 reflected on the ethical implications of clinicians recommending ART to patients, considering how new the therapy is. 

However, they concluded that in the interests of helping patients and respecting their autonomy, they should inform them of the treatment and allow them to make their own decision.

Accelerated Resolution Therapy For PTSD

A study held in 2018 took 202 US veterans or service members, including those with traumatic brain injuries, and tested them with ART. 

The result was that those who took part were relieved of symptoms in an average of four sessions.

The study stated that ART was “an emerging trauma-focused psychotherapy with a solid theoretical base, and a treatment protocol that is clinically consistent with current PTSD treatment guidelines”.

Accelerated Resolution Therapy For Test Anxiety

Based on the results for PTSD treatment and complicated grief in adults, then, we can assume that anxiety may also be treated effectively using ART.

For test anxiety, the client would be instructed to find a memory illustrating their test anxiety: either the first, worst, or last memory. 

They would then use ART techniques to change any aspect of the experience into something that brings positive and peaceful feelings, rather than anxiety.

Accelerated Resolution Therapy For Eating Issues

While there are not yet any case studies for eating issues, there have been case studies for OCD, which have demonstrated a “dramatic and sustained response” after 3–4 sessions of ART.

We can therefore conclude that eating disorders, compulsive by nature, would be similarly positively affected through ART

However, ART should not be the only treatment for eating disorders, as it is an adjunct therapy, and the same goes for substance abuse issues.

Telehealth Delivery Of ART

While ART can be delivered through telehealth, it is strongly advised that the client have a support person during the session. This support person then conducts the hand movements for the client, while the ART therapist guides the session.

Key Takeaways  

Accelerated resolution therapy (ART) can be a highly effective form of evidence-based therapy, particularly for those suffering from conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, pain, depression, and self-esteem issues.

While the cost and availability of ART therapists may seem to be a deterrent, it is a treatment covered by therapy, and some therapists will offer a sliding scale payment system.

Though the supporting studies are currently low, those who have benefited from ART have reported positive results in just a few sessions. 

The effects of these have then lasted for at least 4 months, showing that ART is not only effective, but long-lasting as well.

Thanks for reading!

And please check out some other recent articles about psychology and therapy below:

Sources used in this article:

  1. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/accelerated-resolution-therapy
  2. https://acceleratedresolutiontherapy.com/accelerated-resolution-therapy-re-coding-fear-memories-safe
  3. https://academic.oup.com/milmed/article/178/12/1298/4267504
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3625935
  5. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/accelerated-resolution-therapy
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/000579169190031Y
  7. https://psychcentral.com/health/accelerated-resolution-therapy
  8. http://acceleratedresolutiontherapy.com/how-art-works
  9. http://acceleratedresolutiontherapy.com/what-is-art
  10. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/accelerated-resolution-therapy
  11. https://acceleratedresolutiontherapy.com/ce-credits
  12. https://psychcentral.com/health/accelerated-resolution-therapy
  13. https://arisealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Emergence-of-ART-to-Treat-PTSD_KIP-2018.pdf
  14. https://www.verywellmind.com/accelerated-resolution-therapy-overview-4588053
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6145606
  16. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11920-017-0765-y
  17. https://academic.oup.com/milmed/article/184/5-6/e470/5122761
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Douglas Heingartner

Douglas Heingartner

Douglas Heingartner, the editor of PsychNewsDaily, is a journalist based in Amsterdam. He has written about science, technology, and more for publications including The New York Times, The Economist, Wired, the BBC, The Washington Post, New Scientist, The Associated Press, IEEE Spectrum, Quartz, The Village Voice, The Los Angeles Times, Frieze, and others. His Google Scholar profile is here, his LinkedIn profile is here, and his Muck Rack profile is here.