University of South Florida (USF) researchers report that brief treatments with Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) substantially reduces symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
ART is a form of talk therapy that uses back-and-forth eye movements as an individual fluctuates between talking about a traumatic scene, and using the eye movements to help process that information.
In ART, the eye movements are thought to be conducive to sorting out problems quickly through increasing the integration of activities in the left and right sides of the brain. The eye movements also seem to help an individual process information by producing a deep feeling of relaxation.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), PTSD has become an epidemic in the United States. Recent NIH statistics show more than 7.7 million American adults and as many as 31 percent of war veterans suffer from PTSD. They experience mild to extreme symptoms, often with greatly impaired quality of life and physical and psychological functioning.
The findings of this first study of ART appear online in the journal Behavioral Sciences.
Researchers say ART may be an alternative to traditional PTSD treatments that use drugs or lengthy psychotherapy sessions.
The two major components of ART include minimizing or eliminating physiological response associated traumatic memories, and re-envisioning painful or disturbing experiences with a technique known as Voluntary Image Replacement.
For the initial study, USF researchers recruited 80 adult veterans and civilians, ages 21 to 60, in the Tampa Bay area.
Before receiving ART, patients were tested for symptoms of PTSD and depression, with the vast majority testing positive, 80 percent for PTSD and 90 percent for depression.
After the patients received ART-based psychotherapy, the research team reported a dramatic reversal in symptoms. In as few as one to four sessions, those showing symptoms had decreased to only 17 percent for PTSD and 28 percent for depression.
Improvements were also seen in trauma-related growth and self-compassion in just one to four treatments.
“From this initial assessment, ART appears to be a brief, safe, and effective treatment for symptoms of PTSD,” the report concluded.
“Early results are very promising,” said principal investigator Kevin E. Kip, Ph.D., professor and executive director of the USF College of Nursing Research Center. “Most people who came in to be treated had very high scores for PTSD, and after treatment, the majority had very large reductions. The treatment also reduced other symptoms, like depression, as well as improved sleep.”
Researchers believe ART is a promising alternative to traditional PTSD treatments, because it uses no drugs, has no serious adverse effects, and can improve symptoms in -few therapy sessions.
The success of the intervention among a study population of principally civilians has prompted the USF College of Nursing to seek and facilitate expansion of a second ongoing ART study funded by the U.S. Army.
This expanded study encompasses active duty service members, veterans, and reservists across all branches of service at sites around the country.
“”We are energized that the Department of Defense has agreed to extend the scope of the current study funded by the U.S. Army. The results that the ART studies have shown so far are truly amazing, and offers new hope to those suffering from PTSD, ” said Dianne Morrison-Beedy, Ph.D., senior associate vice president of USF Health and dean of the College of Nursing.
Source: University of South Florida