Accelerated resolution therapy (ART) is a relatively new therapy option that has shown promise in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues. The most intriguing part of ART is that it can begin to show results in as little as a single session. But is this new therapy effective, and how does it work? You can learn more here about accelerated resolution therapy and how it could treat your anxiety and past trauma.
What Is Accelerated Resolution Therapy?
Accelerated resolution therapy (ART) is a therapy that intends to change mental images associated with traumatic memories. By reprocessing these images, the traumatic memory is essentially edited so that it no longer causes distressing triggers.
Laney Rosenzweig, a licensed marriage and family therapist, developed the therapy.
ART is rooted in several evidence-based options, including cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR), and exposure therapy. It bears the most resemblance to EMDR. Both involve a focus that draws the client’s attention. Typically, the therapist will have the client follow their finger back and forth.
Rosenzweig developed ART after being trained in EMDR. As she realized her method was distinct, she began to create a new therapy by building off EMDR. The treatment is popular among veterans affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. ART is primarily used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, but it may also be applied to anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and phobias.
One of the most significant draws of ART is that it’s claimed to offer results in as little as a single session. While it can be used in multiple sessions, some clients only need one to see significant changes.
How Does Accelerated Resolution Therapy Work?
Accelerated resolution therapy is a form of talk therapy that uses elements from EMDR. The eye movement part of EMDR refers to the practice of simulating rapid eye movement sleep by having the client follow an object as it moves back and forth. Since rapid eye movement sleep is thought to be a phase of sleep that facilitates physical and psychological healing, therapies like EMDR and ART attempt to simulate that healing in talk therapy sessions.
Still, it may be that eye movements are unnecessary or that they serve as a focus that allows clients to think about traumatic memories with less discomfort. Still, some studies suggest eye movements are essential in these therapies. Like many effective therapies, ART starts by outlining your treatment goals. Your therapist may even ask you about goals you have for the session you’re in. Goals may be oriented around your feelings and perceptions of certain memories and images.
You may be asked about your emotions when thinking about a traumatic event. As you bring to mind mental images associated with the event, you can start to change them. ART involves a simulation of rapid eye movement (REM) but following an object with your eyes, usually a wave of the therapist’s hand.
ART involves elements of Gestalt therapy, which is a school of therapy that emphasizes the present. If a past trauma or issue is causing you present distress, your therapist may have you act it out to resolve it. ART would allow you to change things about your memory as you act it out. ART may also involve outprocessing, which is a term used to describe removing an emotionally charged mental image. Instead of editing a memory or mental image, the mental image is pushed out of your mind entirely. In some cases, clients can’t conjure the image in their mind, even when they try.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t alter your memory of the facts of the event. You will still have a complete memory of the past events in your life, but they will not have the emotional weight they did before therapy.
What Can Accelerated Resolution Therapy Treat?
Accelerated Resolution Therapy can be used to treat many different disorders, although it started as a treatment option for post-traumatic stress. Some common mental health issues that ART may be used to treat are:
PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Accelerated resolution therapy has been used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health disorder that occurs after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. The disorder can cause flashbacks, anxiety, agitation, irritability, hostility, mistrust, depression, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and emotional detachment. In many cases, symptoms are triggered by memories of the traumatic event or people, places, activities, or objects that remind you of the traumatic event.
ART can treat PTSD by examining mental images related to the traumatic event and changing them in your mind. Flashes of disturbing images are a common source of anxiety for people with PTSD. If those images can be altered in your mind, it could lead to relief.
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health issues that involve feelings of fear, agitation, or panic. PTSD falls under the category of panic disorders along with social anxiety, phobias, and generalized anxiety. Like PTSD, other anxiety disorders can be rooted in images and painful memories. ART can address memories that cause anxious thoughts and uncomfortable symptoms.
Depression is often rooted in uncomfortable thoughts and memories. Depression is a low mood, and anxiety is a state of agitation, so they are often thought of as opposites. But they are usually related, and similar treatment options can help overcome both disorders. As with other disorders, ART can help you edit painful images and change uncomfortable memories in a way that makes them more manageable.
Is Accelerated Resolution Therapy Effective?
The National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) has recognized accelerated resolution therapy as an evidence-based treatment. Evidence-based practice is any form of treatment that has been tested in scientific research and found to be effective in treating specific diseases or disorders. The NREPP found that ART was effective in treating PTSD, depression, and stress, and it could increase personal resilience. ART is still being researched, but it is also a promising therapy for phobia, panic disorders, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, antisocial behavior, and general well-being.
However, even though it’s an evidence-based therapy, that doesn’t mean accelerated resolution therapy will be effective for everyone who uses it. Mental health and behavioral health disorders are complex and may require trial and error. In some cases, disorders are best treated with a combination of pharmacological and talk therapy options. Plus, ART is said to be able to work in a single session, but it may take longer than that for you to experience relief from mental health problems. If you don’t see immediate results, you may still find effective treatment options.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy vs. Exposure Therapy
One of the points that have been investigated concerning ART’s effectiveness has been its effectiveness compared to exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is one of the most common therapeutic options in dealing with trauma and phobias. It usually involves exposing a client to the point of anxiety. This may be done through talking, role play, or actual exposure to a situation or item that causes fear. The idea is to desensitize you to the source of fear and to break patterns of avoidance.
Exposure therapy can be uncomfortable, even though it proves to be an effective way to deal with trauma and anxiety. However, accelerated resolution therapy doesn’t require the client to talk about or experience traumatic triggers, so it’s attractive to many people who are nervous about therapy. However, is ART more effective than exposure therapy?
ART takes around one to five one-hour sessions, while other options like exposure therapy and EMDR can take as much as 15 sessions. According to research, ART is as effective or more effective than exposure therapy and other types of trauma-based therapies.
Is Accelerated Resolution Therapy Safe?
Accelerated resolution therapy is safe, even when compared to similar types of therapies. ART is a form of talk therapy that usually involves sitting in an office with a therapist. Therapy can be challenging, especially therapy that’s designed to address trauma. When thinking and talking about a traumatic event, you may experience anxiety or PTSD symptoms. However, ART may be less intense than similar therapies like EMDR.
Unlike other trauma therapies, ART doesn’t necessarily require you to talk about traumatic events in great detail. Your therapist may ask you questions about how you are feeling and other general questions. They will also ask you to think about certain images and memories that are associated with the traumatic event, but you may not have to give a full account of the event if you are uncomfortable with that.