Accelerated resolution therapy (ART) is an evidenced-based psychotherapy that helps clients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) finish processing past trauma. It’s built upon the framework of other familiar evidence-based cognitive therapies and uses techniques, such as imaginal exposure, perceptual reframing and other relaxation methods, to help clients positively or neutrally re-frame and re-file past traumatic events.
Re-Modify Trauma During the Window of Opportunity
Though, memories tied to traumatic events can only be re-modified after triggering recollection of the event, during a window of opportunity. This re-consolidation window exists briefly, while the client voluntarily recalls the troublesome memory. The practitioner helps the client finish processing leftover emotions by using a defined set of lateral goal directed-eye movements. These hand movements assist in re-filing only memories that the client is re-imagining and focusing positive or neutral energy towards for memory modification.
Hand Movements Help Re-File Traumatic Memories
Research shows that goal-directed hand movements can trigger neural circuits tied to the limbic system and help re-file traumatic memories. In a way, different parts of your brain read pages of code to perform different functions; however, every now and again your brain may come across some bad code. Well, for that part of your brain to continue working, it must delete the bad code and input new code. In the case of ART, the client is voluntarily re-imagining the trauma (or the bad code) and creating a new script (inputting the new code), ultimately cognitively reframing past perceptions. In other words, ART can help clients re-code targeted traumatic memories to change their perceptual form.
A Few Things to Consider Before Beginning Therapy
There are no absolute contraindications to ART, but like most therapies it’s a good rule of thumb to perform a comprehensive clinical intake before initiating therapy. There are a few medical conditions and other key factors to possibly consider before beginning sessions with your client. The most notable condition to think about is an ocular disorder because this may impair eye movement and affect your client’s ability to participate in therapy. Some psychotropic medications, such as anxiolytics or benzodiazepines, may blunt your client’s response during the re-consolidation process and impact their therapy.
Other factors to consider before beginning treatment:
- Dissociative disorders
- Poor ego boundaries
- Ongoing substance abuse
- Cardiac disease
- Respiratory disease (*asthma)
- Traumatic brain injury
- Ocular disorder
If your client has asthma or uses an inhaler, you may want to inform them that ART can resurface some painful emotions with strong physical sensations, such as rapid breathing and pulse rate. Try to remind clients with a history of respiratory conditions to bring their inhaler with them to sessions. For clients who take psychotropic medications, perhaps talk with their provider. Check to see, if during sessions, your client’s medication schedule can temporarily be modified to accommodate treatment. ART is an accelerated therapy, so, generally sessions do not extend past one month and shouldn’t disrupt their medication regimen. Further, interdisciplinary collaboration may even help some of your clients reduce or stop taking specific medications, like anxiolytics.
Re-Code Traumatic Memories
Each individual has the power to change the modality and sub-modality of their memories and through ART can choose to re-code them as neutrally or as positively as possible. Like beginning any therapy, performing a clinical assessment is important to make sure your clients can participate and will benefit from therapy. Some medical conditions may limit your clients’ ability to successfully participate in ART and may require an interdisciplinary approach before beginning sessions. Inter-disciplinary collaboration can facilitate your clients’ success through opening the channels of communication between different healthcare providers. Accelerated resolution therapy can help clients finish processing past traumas and build new cognitive connections for better coping in future situations. If you desire to help some of your clients learn how to better handle past traumas, get in touch and learn more today.