The proliferation of trauma seen daily in the media is a forceful reminder that mental health services and therapy need to be prioritized, accessible services in our communities. Whether you are a youth witnessing fatal gun violence, a first responder suffering depression or a mother experiencing a traumatic loss after being separated from her child, we have all seen how traumatic events can affect a person’s ability to enjoy a healthy, happy life.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR therapy incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches.
When a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes "frozen in time," and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and relate to other people.
Following a successful EMDR session, normal information processing may resume so a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings related to the trauma event. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. EMDR is similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
One or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR is an appropriate treatment. The therapist will also discuss EMDR more fully and provide an opportunity to answer questions about the method. Once therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate, the actual EMDR therapy may begin.
The type of problem, life circumstances, and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many treatment sessions are necessary.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy, or ART, focuses on reducing the effect of trauma and other psychological stressors. ART uses eye movements to sort out problems quickly through increasing the integration of activities in the left and right sides of the brain. These movements can help trauma sufferers process information by producing a deep feeling of relaxation. ART is a fast and efficient way to reduce the negative effects of traumatic experiences.
ART works to recondition traumatic memories to improve overall mental health. By changing the traumatic memories to non-traumatic outcomes, people seeking therapy can experience reduced anxiety and mental health issues trigged by traumatic events. ART has proven to be effective in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Phobias and other trauma-related mental health issues.
The methods applied in ART have been shown to produce a faster recovery. Accelerated Resolution Therapy is designed to be delivered in one to five sessions, each around 60 to 75 minutes long, over the course of a 2-week period. Research has indicated that many people experience positive results within this time frame. The techniques incorporated during sessions are structured to provide quick relief of symptoms as they arise
In 2015, the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) officially recognized ART as an evidence-based practice, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) named ART an effective psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress (PTSD), depression, and personal resilience.
USF Public Health Awarded Army Contract to Train Military Clinicians in Treatment of PTSD
Tampa, FLA (July 6, 2016) – The University of South Florida College of Public Health has been awarded a contract with the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, Department of Behavioral Health (AMEDDC&S), to train military mental health clinicians in Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), an emerging evidence-based treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related conditions.
A person who begins accelerated resolution therapy is often informed that they are in control of what happens. To begin a typical ART session, a therapist may start by asking the person to do a full body scan. After establishing a baseline for their physical status, the therapist could ask them to recall the distressing memory or image. Individuals are told to visualize the traumatic event in its entirety, not worrying about any gaps in memory. Rapid eye movement can be utilized at this stage, not only to facilitate visualizing the event, but also to help with any strong emotional or physical sensations that occur during this part of the process. The memory recall segment of the session can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes.
As the physical and emotional stressors emerge, ART therapists may use a desensitization procedure to reduce the physical and emotional impact of the memories. They may pause the visualization and ask the individual they are working with to do another body scan to slow the stress response. For example, if a woman reports shortness of breath and chest tightness while visualizing an experience of childhood sexual abuse, the therapist may instruct her to forget the scene and focus on her breathing until she is relaxed again. Bringing attention to bodily sensation can provide relief from any intense emotional responses that occur during visualization. Once the person is calm, the process will continue and may repeat, alternating between memory processing and bodily awareness. In this way, the stress response can be reduced gradually.
Throughout the visualization process, the therapist can also encourage the person they are working with to think of solutions for their targeted images or memories. This process, referred to in ART as voluntary image replacement, happens through rapid eye movement, use of metaphors, gestalt techniques, and other interventions that can promote positive sensation. The image rescripting process is similar to EMDR and other methods that treat issues like depression, nightmares, or insomnia and is an element of the ART session crucial to the treatment’s effectiveness. Research indicates that when trauma-related memories are integrated with positive experiences, distressing memories become less intrusive.