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What Is Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)?

Accelerated Resolution Therapy is a form of psychotherapy with roots in existing evidence-based therapies but shown to achieve benefits much more rapidly (usually within 1-5 sessions). Clients with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, sexual abuse and many other mental and physical conditions can experience remarkable benefits starting in the first session. ART is not hypnosis.

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

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The client is always in control of the entire ART session, with the therapist guiding the process. Although some traumatic experiences such as rape, combat experiences, or loss of a loved one can be very painful to think about or visualize, the therapy rapidly moves clients beyond the place where they are stuck in these experiences toward growth and positive changes. The process is very straightforward, using relaxing eye movements and a technique called Voluntary Memory/Image Replacement to change the way in which the negative images are stored in the brain. The treatment is grounded in well-established psychotherapy techniques, and the end result is that traumas and difficult life experiences will no longer trigger strong emotions or physical reactions. Importantly, clients do not even have talk about their traumas or difficult life experiences with the therapist to achieve recovery.

Memory Reconsolidation

When we remember an emotionally-based memory, one of the natural processes that occurs in our brains is the “unfixing” or malleability of the memory. Scientists refer to this natural phenomenon as “Memory Reconsolidation” Science has shown that the memory remains “malleable” in a period called the Reconsolidation Window for about 6 hours after recalling it.

During this period, under the direction of the therapist, the client would imaginatively create new images that are peaceful or evoke pleasant feelings and replace the old troubling images that were previously paired with fear, anger, or other distressing emotions.

Research shows that the new images and the accompanying positive feelings are still attached to the memory at follow-up 4 months after the treatment has ended. There are other published studies that show that the replacement images and positive feelings are still present as long as one year later. These improvements suggest that the therapy can be long-lasting.

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Another effective ingredient of ART is the use of “smooth pursuit” eye movements. Imagine an audience watching a tennis match, their eyes, gliding back and forth as they follow the ball from one side of the court to the other, This example demonstrates smooth pursuit eye movements. There is evidence that this kind of eye movement, over a period of time, relates to a relaxation response in the brain.

The ART therapist would use their hand, moving it smoothly back and forth at a comfortable distance from the client, and ask the client to keep their head still and just track the hand. This exercise results in the engagement of smooth-pursuit eye movements.

During the initial visit an ART-trained therapist would determine whether ART is suitable for that individual.

The three criteria that the therapist would initially consider are:

1. Can the individual hold on to a thought (or the theme of the problem) throughout a typical 1-hour therapy session?

2. Can the individual frequently move their eyes smoothly from right to left and back again throughout the session?

3. Is the individual truly ready to let go of the symptom or symptoms that motivated them to seek therapy?

ART is different from hypnosis. The client retains their ability to be consciously aware of their surroundings (externally) and what they are working on (internally). Sometimes clients do report that they feel very relaxed or even a little sleepy during an ART session. It is thought that this may be the natural result of the relaxation of the brain found to coincide with smooth-pursuit eye movements.

Sometimes people feel uncomfortable with the idea of changing images, as well as corresponding feelings, attached to troubling memories in a purposeful way. However, the client is given the information about Memory Reconsolidation to explain the scientific understanding that this is a natural process that we all engage in whenever we recall an emotionally based memory. With ART, we are taking advantage of this natural process and purposefully and consciously selecting replacement images to replace the formerly upsetting ones.