This past weekend I learned how to implement an efficient, effective and creative technique for treating trauma, chronic pain, stress and a variety of psychiatric conditions such as phobias, OCD and depression called Accelerated Resolution Therapy, which goes by the acronym ART. The woman in the picture is Laney Rosenzweig. the originator and founder of this method. It is being used successfully in the military to treat PTSD, but its applications are much broader than for treating only trauma, including some surprising successes for conditions like fibromyalgia.
There are several studies underway comparing this methodology to other common approaches, as well as published papers in The Journal of Military Medicine, and I expect that we are going to be hearing much more about it. The beauty and uniqueness of ART rests not only upon how remarkably quickly symptoms are resolved, usually in 1-5 sessions, but also upon the prominent role which the imagination and metaphor plays in the healing process.
Practitioners are instructed to carefully adhere to a standardized multi step script that has been precisely and thoughtfully crafted and the patient follows the directions. Attention is paid to bodily sensations in between privately imagining scenes. If the sensations are distressing they are removed, and if they are pleasant or positive they are amplified. At each step the patient follows the practitioner’s moving hand to stimulate smooth pursuit eye movements, which is one of the elements through which the magic of ART occurs. Ultimately the patient visualizes a wished for scene and outcome. This method of voluntary positive image replacement is one of the key features that distinguishes ART, and is at the heart of the success of the method. Laney has also drawn upon Gestalt therapy techniques, where a patient might recruit earlier selves or imagine wished for conversations with relatives as part of the healing process. A session can usually be completed in an hour.
The way that ART actually works is not yet well understood, but in a private communication to me Laney wrote, “People forget to focus on they wonderful Voluntary Image Replacement as a key element if ART’s success. Getting rid of images from view with the aid of the eye movements is the thing that definitely differentiates us from everyone else. Most therapies focus on cognitions while we focus on the images. We recognize that the images hold the key to getting rid of the symptoms.”
ART uses smooth pursuit eye movements, similar to the rapid eye movements that are present when we dream, which reconsolidate memories. ART is loosely related to EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization Response, in that both make use of eye movements, but differs from it in fundamental ways. Laney has said that ART goes way beyond desensitization and actually “POSITIVIZES” memory. The technique uses voluntary replacement imagery generated by the patient herself to change the affective relationship to memory.
ART is not hypnosis. The brain waves generated by the two methodologies are quite different. A patient does not lose the knowledge of what occurred, but the memory loses its negative adverse charge.
One of the unique features of ART is that it is not necessary for the patient to share much of their internal process with the practitioner. There is no need for the patient to “tell their story again”. The scenes can be played out privately. Similarly, practitioners are not as likely to experience “compassion fatigue” as they are accompanying and guiding the patient and facilitating the process, but not exposed to the painful material in the same way as with EMDR or other existing modalities.
There are three criteria that are essential for ART’s success. An individual needs to be able to hold onto thoughts for the duration of the session, needs to be able to move their eyes, and has to be motivated. This last caveat is the most complex. My training in psychoanalysis has sensitized me to unconscious factors such as unconscious guilt and other conflicts and inhibitions that create resistance to change. And of course there is always the possibility of secondary gain when it comes to illness.
That being said, I learned about ART from a fellow holistic adult and child psychiatrist, who was so thrilled with the results that she was getting in her practice, that I was inspired to take the training myself. Tomorrow I will try it for the first time with one of my patients. I am particularly intrigued about the potential of ART to help patients with mysterious chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia.
Below is a two part video of a woman who suffered with fibromyalgia for 20 years which resolved with one session of ART. Critics of ART say that the claims are “too good to be true”. The proof will be in the pudding. I will report back to you with my results.
Hi Judy I was in your training group in January and am interested to know how your sessions are going. I enjoy your blog and love what you are doing in your practice! I’ve used ART in my practice about 12 plus times at this point since being trained and find it does provide relief from symptoms in the group in which an event occurred. For those with more complex and recurring events I find that it provides some relief but that the therapeutic relationship still needs to be strong and the skill set for identifying scene matches and processing needs to be honed. I also find that the time set aside for these complex traumas needs to be longer than one hour in some cases. I’m enjoying using it and hope to take the enhanced training soon.
So nice to hear from you and to learn about your experience. I have done maybe 8 sessions, with 4 of them on the same 2 people. I have had good results with everyone except one person. With him it was not a matter of inability to move his eyes or for lack of motivation, it was just so hard for him to imagine and make things up and emotionally connect to them. So Lanie’s 2 conditions to be able to make use of ART did not apply. I am happy to have this new tool to offer my patients. I do feel like my skills are in need of refinement. Thanks for being in touch.
Laney Rosenzweig says
Accelerated Resolution Therapy focuses on images not cognitions and even EMDR has its focus on cognitions. Art is a procedure in which the clinician does not need a strong relationship with a client as they do with EMDR. On my website you can see all the differences between the two modalities. We are concerned with completing a session within the hour so we don’t have to contain it in any way. We are concerned with erasing images in the mind and that is our main focus because images keep the alarm bells of the amygdala turned on. If an EMDR therapist was to see our script they would not recognize it. I have trained many EMDR therapists who find that they enjoy the completion of the session with a smile from their clients which does not always happen with the EMDR approach. And EMDR free associates and we are much more contained. Those are just some of the differences along with the fact we do a certain amount of eye movements that are very effective continuously. Thank you, the Developer of Accelerated Resolution Therapy, Laney Rosenzweig
Steven O'Brien says
It is not absolute though as not every client is going to leave the office with a smile on their face, complete a session in an hour, and ART is not going to work for everyone. Everyone is different and healing trauma is very serious and complex and not some magical thing. I’m not saying you imply that but what you say does make it seem that way in emphasizing the speed of it – less time, less sessions, etc. which is a huge turnoff to someone who is educated and has common sense as none of that is certain as again everyone is different. There are very few if any absolutes in medicine as there are varying opinions. therapies, etc. and degrees of success. You have to have a good amount of humility because of the nature of what your talking about which I think your lacking in. Have a good one!
John Macgregor says
This may all be true & this may be an effectual new therapy – we’ll see.
But it is not true to say that:
“Getting rid of images from view with the aid of the eye movements is the thing that definitely differentiates us from everyone else.” – because EMDR does this.
“Most therapies focus on cognitions while we focus on the images.” EMDR focuses on both.
“ART is loosely related to EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization Response, in that both make use of eye movements, but differs from it in fundamental ways. Laney has said that ART goes way beyond desensitization and actually “POSITIVIZES” memory. ” No, this is exactly what EMDR also does.
I am not knowledgable about EMDR, so I cannot assess your response. But I very much appreciate you taking the time to write and perhaps others will weigh in.
As Laney’s lead trainer, and as someone who has been trained and EMDR in 1998, I can tell you that ART is “the next generation” from EMDR. Laney was trained in EMDR in about 2007 and when she began to use it with her clients, she changed it so much that she was asked to leave her EMDR supervision group. Two years later the supervisor came to learn ART! We have trained many many therapists that were using EMDR, and they all tell us by the time they’re done training in ART how much faster it is. Also you may find it interesting to read the paper written by Charles Hoge on the website where he compares EMDR to ART. Here is a link to the paper: http://acceleratedresolutiontherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ART-vs-EMDR_by-Hoge.pdf
Steven O'Brien says
I’m just trying to help here. I notice you put next generation in quotes. That’s good. ART is not next generation. That’s too much self promotion. I’ve done EMDR for years and it does use positive imagery as it changes the memory. All the things ART does or has been talked about in this blog I’ve done in EMDR and continue to do. I find it more inclusive and thorough. The truth is as I said above, everyone is different, there are lots of great therapies out there so try them and pick the one that works best for you. I think your comparing yourself to EMDR too much like it’s the big kid on the block you have to defeat to be successful. You don’t. It gives clients another option to try! The client can decide which one works best for them!
Dear Judy: This is a bit off topic as a comment to your latest post, however, I’m looking for suggestions for things to read, and I’m hoping you might have one. I am taking SSRIs for PTSD (which, in my view, I should never have started, but that’s another story…) prescribed by my primary care physician. My doctor says that this medication does not cause weight gain and the patients who do gain weight mostly do so because they did not feel like eating when they were depressed before the started on medication. I have been on the medication for five months (and am currently weaning myself off by 1.25 mg a week). I have steadily gained 25 pounds so far. I eat a high fat, moderate protein and low carb diet, but on these meds, the cravings for carbs, and specifically for sugar, are intense, even though I do not have a sweet tooth normally. I’m wondering if you might suggest references to read more about this phenomenon (although I will understand if you’re not comfortable providing general info on your blog.) I continue to be uplifted by your posts!
Hi Karen. Your experience is unfortunately very common in terms of weight gain and then denial on the part of your PCP about the side effects of SSRI’s, as well as your cravings. Its really hard and such a bummer to gain 25 pounds. I don’t really have anything to suggest to read. The diet that you are following is the one that I recommend to my patients. You might want to try to find a local Walsh trained practitioner to see if there are any nutrient protocols that would be helpful in supporting you weaning off the SSRI. Thank you for telling me that my posts uplift you. That means alot to me.
Thank you, Judy! “Bummer” is exactly the right word. In my limited experience as a patient, PCPs also confuse withdrawal symptoms with relapse symptoms. I have been told that weaning off would mean dropping from 50mg to 25, staying there for a month and then coming off. In Canada, we only have generic brand sertraline in capsules, so at first that seems like the only option. I did my own research and spoke to several pharmacists. I’m now using divided dose tubes to finely control the changes. Even so, it’s really hard. There is a UK protocol that recommends starting with a 10% reduction of current dose per month. At that rate, it would take 18 months to come off 50mg, but that said, it is meant to be a universally safe approach. No one told me any of these things when I first went on the medication. I think it’s all highly unethical. ANYWAY, I am glad to find your post about ART for PTS. I am going to try to find someone here who can teach me more about it.
Yes, 10 % reduction is the way that I do it in my practice. Often I get medications compounded in order to be able to titrate slowly enough. Let me know about your results with ART. There was a woman in my ART training group from the Toronto area. I am impressed with the results so far with my initial attempts with patients in my practice.
Janet Kessenich says
This sounds fascinating and I thank you for making me aware of this work. I look forward to hearing of your experiences with it with your clients. As always, you are informing us of important and potentially helpful practices. Thank you.
You are welcome. I curious about the results. I will write again when I have more experience with this method.