Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) for Treating Trauma
Unpleasant images, memories, and sensations… the kinds that disturb us and hold us captive. We’ve all experienced them. They make our stress levels rise. In addition, our thoughts become threatening as certain painful scenes are replayed in our minds.
The brain is insistent and even obsessive when it comes to producing these kinds of dysfunctional thoughts. In fact, they’re the root of many psychological disorders. The sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder knows this all too well. Those suffering from depression, phobias, or even heartbreak also experience these kinds of thoughts.
It’d be wonderful to have a mechanism that regulates the intensity of this internal negativity and replaces it with a more resilient approach. However, not all of us have the agility to handle emotional suffering. Fortunately, we do have tools that are offered by psychological therapy.
Among the many different therapeutic approaches currently available is one that’s only recently been developed. It’s extremely useful in treating trauma.
Therapeutic approaches that apply a brief and strategic methodology are currently the most requested by PTSD sufferers.
Accelerated resolution therapy
Accelerated resolution therapy (ART) is a type of brief psychotherapy that integrates certain psychological models that have been most successful in the treatment of emotional pain. Dr. Laney Rosenzweig, a marriage and family therapist, developed it in 2008. It’s currently one of the most interesting therapeutic resources.
In fact, research conducted by the Fort Belvoir Hospital, Virginia (USA) claims that ART is a technique with high potential that uses the reformulation of events and distressing metaphors as keys. Furthermore, the American Psychological Association (APA) endorses this evidence.
Accelerated resolution therapy offers a series of resources and tools. They’re applied during five sessions, each one lasting between 60 and 70 minutes.
The therapeutic modalities of accelerated resolution therapy
Recently, it’s become increasingly common to find therapies that integrate resources from other modalities that are, in themselves, effective and recognized. The objective is to have a wide range of efficient resources capable of responding to the needs of each patient. Accelerated resolution therapy includes techniques from a wide spectrum of well-known therapies:
- Gestalt therapy.
- Exposure therapy.
- Guided image techniques.
- Brief psychodynamic therapy.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
- EMDR or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.
The main objective of professionals using this approach is in changing the way in which the patient processes the stressful and painful images stored in their brain. This psychological journey between patient and specialist entails five or six sessions. Each session lasts just over an hour.
The goals of accelerated resolution therapy
The benefits of accelerated resolution therapy are vast. Although it’s usually associated with treating post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s now being applied in other areas. For example:
- For treating phobias and panic attacks.
- To guide the patient so they can handle pain in a healthier way.
- To reduce the intensity of thoughts in obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- For addressing addictive behaviors and freeing the sufferer from them.
- To offer strategies for addressing suffering in interpersonal relationships.
- To reformulate distorted ideas and painful images linked to trauma, anxiety, and depression.
The premise of accelerated resolution therapy is for the patient to change the way they process negative images around a traumatic event, their past, or a complicated experienced they’re going through.
The techniques of accelerated resolution therapy
Laney Rosenzweig, the doctor who developed this therapy, discovered the great effectiveness of EMDR, or rapid eye movement technique for the treatment of trauma. Given the potential of this tool, she wanted to modify it and integrate other techniques to amplify its benefits and respond to patients with additional needs and clinical characteristics.
Over time, she laid the foundations of the model that she also promoted in her book: Too Good to Be True?: Accelerated Resolution Therapy (2022). The techniques used in this therapy are as follows:
Managerial and interactive models
The therapist has a directing role. The sessions are highly structured so the patient can collaborate and meet the objectives.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques are used to expose the patient to stressful or painful situations.
- The therapist reduces this emotional charge by instructing the patient to process the events in another way.
- The therapist encourages the patient to think of solutions to address their problems.
Reprocessing emotional memory
One of the primary strategies of this model is the image rewriting technique. It consists of the patient changing the way they see, understand, and experience what’s troubling them through guided visualization and imagination. This reduces their anxiety and fears. In addition, they shape healthier thoughts and less painful memories.
A structure based on four components
We might doubt the effectiveness of a therapy that lasts for only five or six sessions. However, this is a highly structured model that considers the needs of each individual patient. Moreover, the work of the specialist is key in effectively designing each step and tool. These are the components of the therapy sessions.
- Facilitation. The therapist offers the patient tools and techniques in every session so that they’re active at all times during them.
- Learning. The therapist must ensure that the patient accepts certain knowledge that they’ll apply in their lives whenever fears, anxieties, or problems arise.
- Change. Without change, there’s no progress. Patients should achieve it in every session.
- Closure. The therapy concludes with a summary of what the patient has learned along with their acceptance of this empowering treatment.
ART is a relatively new type of therapy that’s promising and has aroused great interest. Its main attraction is that it’s short in duration and integrates extremely specific resources. But, we must bear in mind that, for the therapy to be helpful, therapists must be well-trained.
In fact, it’s a therapeutic approach that promises change in a few sessions. However, for this to be possible, the therapist must design each session precisely and strategically, based on an adequate prior evaluation.
As we mentioned earlier, this therapy is extremely useful for treating trauma. Interestingly, professionals are currently also using it to treat insomnia. We’re waiting to see its progress in this regard in the form of published studies.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Hernandez, D. F., Waits, W., Calvio, L., & Byrne, M. (2016). Practice comparisons between accelerated resolution therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing and cognitive processing therapy with case examples. Nurse Education Today, 47, 74–80.
- Hoge, C. W., Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, & Office of the Army Surgeon General. (2015). Accelerated resolution therapy (ART): Clinical considerations, cautions and informed consent for military mental health clinicians.
- Howe, E., Rosenzweig, L., & Shuman, A. (2018). Ethical reflections on offering patients accelerated resolution therapy (ART). Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 15(7–8), 32–35.
- Perky, C. W. (1910). An Experimental Study of Imagination. The American Journal of Psychology, 21(3), 422–452. https://doi.org/10.2307/1413350
- Waits, W., Marumoto, M., & Weaver, J. (2017). Accelerated resolution therapy (ART): A review and research to date. Current Psychiatry Report, 19(3), 7–18.