Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Thanks to pop culture, most people are familiar with the term post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Those words are used a lot in movies, TV shows, and other media – though not always properly – and often, dramatic stories hinge on a character’s ability to overcome some deep-seated negative event from their past.
What isn’t shown as much are the methods that treat such memories, aside from the usual trope of sitting in a chaise longue and talking about them. The truth is, the field of psychological treatment never stops developing, and many of the “traditional” methods that people might recognize are now just one of a whole suite of treatment options.
One therapy that has emerged in the last few decades is eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Based on the idea that rapid eye movements, even while awake, can mimic the memory-processing effects of REM sleep, awareness of this treatment has started to grow and many people – especially those suffering from PTSD – are looking to it for relief.
But fewer people still have heard about another offshoot therapy also utilizing eye movements, called Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). Built on the same idea as the practice it was developed from, ART is a quick, efficient, and effective approach to traumatic memory treatment – and in some cases, it can work so well and so fast that some find it nearly unbelievable. Results can be seen after as little as 1-2 sessions, while EMDR can take 10 to 25 or more.
EMDR allows clients to “go with the flow” to a large extent, and can thus take much longer to see results, but ART is systematically guided by the therapist towards the ultimate goal of symptom reduction. In addition, ART’s process is useful for people who may have trouble explicitly talking about their trauma, and can be done with no discussions of the memories back and forth, preventing a loss in “translation” from memory to words. For this reason, many people report that the therapy is calming, and that they feel better immediately during and when the session is over.
Another bonus of eye-movement therapies like ART. They are non-exclusionary, meaning if you can move your eyes, then you can participate in the intervention. For example, we once used ART techniques to help a 9-year-old, who was unaware of her own bullying tendencies toward her classmates. After a few sessions – during which we targeted the underlying cause of the behaviour, without explicitly making it known to her – her parents and teachers said she had been transformed, and the negative actions were gone.
That is just one instance to show how broad the therapy can be, but we find that people get the most benefits of ART to treat nightmares, traumatic memories, and other symptoms of PTSD. We have had extraordinary results with first responders (EMS, Police and Fire), those with extreme phobia’s (insects, fear of heights or flights), as well as process addictions, and chronic pain. The eye-movement techniques help “rewrite” traumatic memories to lose their negative association, giving clients full remission and a relief that they often thought they would never achieve. Most leave their sessions – even their first one – feeling like they have accomplished something, and that they are taking steps toward a healthier and more productive future.
If you’re suffering from PTSD, negative behaviour or memories, or other mental illnesses that affect your quality of life, come talk to our team of psychologists in Calgary about EMDR and ART. You could be improving by your next session – and nothing would make us happier than to help you achieve that goal!