What might peace of mind be like? Veterans like Dennis Parker who have had to fight for PTSD treatment (Bjornstad, 2015) have waited many long years for an opportunity to find out. What would it be like for them to experience relief from trauma symptoms after 3-5 treatment sessions? It sounds too good to be true, yet that is what most clients receiving Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) are experiencing. So, what is Accelerated Resolution Therapy?
Accelerated Resolution Therapy
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is a relatively newcomer to psychotherapy. It is an eye movement therapy developed in 2008 by Laney Rosenzweig, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (Rosenzweig Center for Rapid Recovery, 2015). Clients treated with Accelerated Resolution Therapy report they appreciate relief from negative symptomology quickly, and not having to miss work weekly for the ten to twelve weeks other trauma therapies require. Most cases of simple trauma respond with one to three treatment sessions of ART, and most cases of complex trauma require additional sessions commensurate with the number of layers needing to be addressed (Kip, 2015).
Independent ART-trained therapists have successfully used Accelerated Resolution Therapy to treat adults and older adolescents, although information about ART’s use and efficacy with children younger than 13 is scant (but favorable). In her presentation at the 2015 IS-ART Conference, Dr. Marumoto reported on her successful treatment outcomes using ART with children. When younger children experience difficulties with eye movements, they may be receptive to bilateral tapping. Bilateral tapping produces favorable results in EMDR which suggests the use of other types of bilateral stimulation, such as bilateral tapping or bilateral sounds, in conjunction with ART would likewise produce similar results. However, bilateral alternatives with Accelerated Resolution Therapy have not been studied. A benefit of exploring bilateral adaptations with ART is that it would permit those with impaired vision and those who experience difficulty with visual tracking an opportunity to participate in a similar treatment as that available to sighted people.
The full scope of issues amenable to treatment with Accelerated Resolution Therapy is, at present, unknown as it is a therapy with limited outcome research available. Therapeutic results appear long lasting per client reports on follow up. Longitudinal post treatment follow up will provide additional information. Nonetheless, among those reporting favorable outcomes after Accelerated Resolution Therapy are first responders, surviving family members of completed suicide, and those experiencing other life stresses such as medical trauma, phobias, adult survivors of childhood abuse, bereavement, and relationship problems. Master ART practitioners are also trained in the use of Accelerated Resolution Therapy with addictions, depression, smoking cessation, and other complex behavioral issues.
Currently, Accelerated Resolution Therapy is undergoing clinical research to assess its effectiveness, and to determine whether to classify it as an evidence-based therapy. The classification process is usually initiated after several large scale studies but application for inclusion was tendered on the basis of ART’s foundations in other evidence-based therapies and outcome studies. Proponents of ART are seeking research opportunities that will support the evidence-based process. Researchers involved in the smaller scale studies have utilized brain imaging technology to document neurological improvement in subjects following Accelerated Resolution Therapy. It is hoped this physical evidence along with prior research outcomes will generate the interest of those who fund research proposals. ART therapists are witnessing the efficacy of Accelerated Resolution Therapy daily as their clients’ symptoms abate. Clients report amazement and disbelief over the relief they experience often after one or two treatments. ART has gained favor with some psychiatrists because it provides drug free relief of symptoms correlated with PTSD, depression, or anxiety for their patients who are forgetful, reluctant, or otherwise unable to take prescribed psychotropic medications (Waits, W., 2015).
As a therapist directed protocol, but a client driven process, Accelerated Resolution Therapy allows clients to process sensations and emotions after each set of eye movements. Clients are always in control of the therapy (Rosenzweig Center for Rapid Recovery, 2015) and decide when to move on to the next step of the protocol. Essentially, clients are able to self soothe after each sequence of recalling their distressful memory, similar to the process of one step forward then pause and self-soothe, one step forward and pause and soothe, etc. until the disturbing memory has been fully processed. As the protocol proceeds, clients have the opportunity to give themselves what they needed, but did not receive or could not do for themselves, at the time. Speaking simplistically, the brain knows and remembers the facts of what happened but is willing to accept another narrative or perspective that resolves the unmet emotional need.
Positive Outcomes and Closure
Accelerated Resolution Therapy’s voluntary image replacement appears to relieve psychic pain and to provide the desired closure, via memory reconsolidation (Kip et al, 2013), that was missing prior to treatment thereby allowing clients to experience relief. Additional techniques in the Accelerated Resolution Therapy protocol help clients strengthen the positive outcomes and sensations already generated during earlier stages of the treatment. Like other eye movement therapies, Accelerated Resolution Therapy does not require clients to disclose the details of their problem. As long as clients can access their disturbing memories along with the associated uncomfortable sensations, the therapeutic protocol will produce results. As an aside, it is helpful for therapists to know what their clients are processing should clients need assistance or suggestions at some point during the protocol. This information is usually requested during the initial appointment when a thorough history is acquired.
Like any therapeutic treatment, not everyone is a suitable candidate for Accelerated Resolution Therapy. For example, people who have been advised by their physician to avoid excitement, strong emotions, or stressful encounters likely would not be a good candidate for ART. Accelerated Resolution Therapy is also contraindicated for women who are pregnant, for people who have epilepsy or seizures, for people who have disorders of the eye, and conditions associated with dizziness. Clients involved in legal actions need to consult their attorneys regarding potential repercussions to their legal case. While Accelerated Resolution Therapy is not considered hypnosis (Rosenzweig Center for Rapid Recovery, 2015), there is the possibility that successful treatment could affect the litigant’s appearance of having been adversely affected or emotionally harmed. Conversely, successful treatment may clarify details of an event by reducing negative emotional effect that initially obscured them. The bottom line is to check with your physician and, if relevant, your attorney prior to initiating treatment with Accelerated Resolution Therapy.
Although Accelerated Resolution Therapy has not yet been formally recognized as an evidence-based therapy, research with veterans diagnosed with PTSD has produced positive results in relieving their PTSD symptoms (Kip et al, 2012). Aside from combat-related PTSD research is a small study utilizing ART to treat military sexual trauma victims, and the results suggest ART is an effective treatment model for sexual assault but larger scale research is needed to replicate the study (Rossiter, 2015). The prospect of a brief therapy that allows clients to restore a sense of self efficacy to victims’ lives is reason enough to invest in continued investigation and research especially considering the burgeoning cost of PTSD treatment and the numbers of veterans awaiting mental health treatment. Accelerated Resolution Therapy appears to be making a case for itself gathering momentum with research and technology indicating it is effective, is easily administered, and by clients’ reports of satisfaction with results they obtained.
Brief, effective, cost effective, drug free, and no expensive special equipment required - what more could one ask for in a treatment protocol?
Bjornstad, R. (Aug 10, 2015). The Register Guard. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
Kip, K. E. (2015). The Current Empirical Basis of ART as an Evidence-Based Therapy and Future Planned Research Studies. Presentation at 2015 IS-ART Conference, Tampa, FL.
Kip KE, Elk CA, Sullivan KL, Kadel R, Lengacher CA, Long CJ, Rosenzweig L, Shuman A, Hernandez DF, Street JD, Girling SA, Diamond DM. Brief treatment of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by use of Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). Behavioral Sciences 2012; 2(2): 115-134.
Kip KE, Sullivan KL, Lengacher CA, Rosenzweig L, Hernandez DF, Kadel R, Kozel FA, Shuman A, Girling SA, Hardwick MJ, Diamond DM. Brief treatment of co-occurring post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms by use of accelerated resolution therapy. Frontiers in Psychiatry 2013; 4(article 11):1-12. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00011
Marumoto, M. (2015). ART and Kids: Accelerated Resolution Therapy in the Pediatric Population. Presentation at 2015 IS-ART Conference, Tampa, FL.
Rosenzweig Center for Rapid Recovery. Retrieved August 8, 2015 from http://acceleratedresolutiontherapy.com.
Rossiter, A. G. ART for Female Military Sexual Trauma (MST): Review of the Literature and Initial Results. Presentation at 2015 IS-ART Conference, Tampa, FL.
Waits, W. (2015). The Value of ART from a Psychiatrist’s Perspective. Presentation at 2015 IS-ART Conference, Tampa, FL.