“Some people’s lives seem to flow in a narrative; mine had many stops and starts. That’s what trauma does. It interrupts the plot… It just happens, and then life goes on. No one prepares you for it.” – Jessica Stern, Daniel: A Memoir of Terror
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be excruciating, and millions of individuals across the globe experience it. PTSD can happen to people of any age and gender, including children exposed to abuse, war veterans, and people who have suffered physical or sexual abuse, an accident, or a severe event.
People with PTSD experience various often debilitating symptoms, including hypervigilance, anxiety, intense feelings of guilt and shame, depression, substance abuse, low self-esteem, and codependency.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is a recently established evidenced-based therapy offering specific benefits to decrease a range of negative symptoms associated with PTSD. In addition, this promising therapy can offer lasting relief after a short treatment period and can be easily mastered and implemented by trained therapists and trained healthcare practitioners.
What Is Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)?
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is an effective psychotherapy modality combining elements from several therapy forms. It is an effective therapy that can create significant positive results for individuals struggling with various psychiatric disorders. It has been utilized to alleviate the impact of symptoms related to stress, trauma, and distressful memories and increase the capacity for resilience in a short treatment plan.
ART was developed in 2008 by Laney Rosenzweig, a licensed marriage and family therapist. Inspired by the basis of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), this therapy modality also adopts treatment methods from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Gestalt Therapy, and Brief Psychodynamic Therapy.
ART therapists use these methods to change the disturbing images stored in the brain, decreasing the harmful physical and emotional effects they create.
Benefits of ART:
ART offers unique benefits that make it an exceptional therapy.
The client does not have to speak about any of the content or can pick and choose what they want to share. That makes ART doable and less anxiety-provoking for clients who are resistant to processing trauma verbally.
ART includes standardized protocols that last one to five in-person therapy sessions (usually three) that are 60–70 minutes long throughout a 2-3-week period. The methods employed during sessions are designed to provide quick relief from symptoms as they arise.
Interactive and directive
This form of psychotherapy uses interactive methods from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, such as in vivo exposure, to guide imagery rescripting, triggered responses, and client-driven solutions to alleviate the impact of trauma.
The ART developer, Laney Rosenzweig, always says, “Keep the knowledge and lose the pain.” The client will feel better after receiving ART. However, they can still recall the facts of the event, but the disturbing images (and associated sensations) and the internal and environmental triggers, are gone. The ART protocol adopts image rescripting techniques involving voluntary memory replacement, where individuals are guided to replace traumatic images with more positive ones.
ART vs. EMDR
ART and EMDR have similar elements in that they are both effective treatment methods for anxiety, stress, and trauma; use body scans and eye movement; and allow clients to have a high level of autonomy.
However, EMDR uses open-ended and free-associative guidance, while ART gives clients specific, detailed guidance and uses an explicit protocol. It also gives the therapist more freedom for verbal direction, resulting in a sense of mastery more quickly than EMDR.
ART uses image rescripting to positively change traumatic images while empowering the client to keep factual knowledge of the event. Where ART concentrates on rescripting one traumatic event each session, EMDR revisits the same memory as many times as necessary.
How Does it Work?
The most crucial aspect of Accelerated Resolution Therapy is imagery rescripting, which helps change negative experiences of memories/trauma for the better.
First, the therapist has the client imagine a traumatic memory or a negative image of a phobia and change the scene by rewriting it. This transforms the impact of the images and how the brain processes them at a neurological level.
Then the therapist guides the client to use imagery rescripting techniques to create a new scene (the Director Scene). Imagery rescripting is a method of processing and laying a memory to rest rather than avoiding it or pretending that the bad thing/feeling did not happen. By rescripting, clients can obtain new perspectives and discover new meanings in the image, which changes the negative emotions attached to the image. During this process, therapists can utilize the Gestalt technique to assist the client in rescripting a new scene using different metaphors.
A sample script for bullying might look like this:
Imagine an experience of being bullied at the age of 10. Visualize the playground, the sights, the surrounding people, and the sounds. Look at your bully and the actions they are taking. Notice how it feels. Now visualize someone or your adult-self coming in to save your 10-year-old self. This person brings you to a safe place where you enjoy the company of friends. The positive new meaning would be, “I am loved” and “There are people who care about me.”
A example of rescripting nightmares might look like this:
If a client has a reoccurring nightmare about drowning, a therapist can help them recreate the scene and develop a new picture of someone saving them from drowning and finding safety. The new images convey the meaning of “The nightmare is just a picture, and the memory that brings me back to the past” and “I am safe and secure.”
ART Can Also Help with Anxiety and Other Mental Health Issues
Empirical evidence shows positive results of using ART for PTSD symptoms, and therapists have reported effectively using ART for obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder. SAMHSA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has considered ART to be a potential treatment for symptoms of phobia, panic, sleep disorder, and anxiety disorders based on clinical research trials.
ART is a valuable therapy modality for individuals struggling with PTSD or related symptoms. By allowing clients to process negative events emotionally and rescript them into more positive images, individuals can overcome obstacles and find new, positive meaning in their life. With a combination of EMDR, imagery rescripting, and talk therapy, this efficient and effective therapy is a promising treatment modality for trauma and anxiety disorders.