If you’re finding it difficult to move past a trauma, accelerated resolution therapy may help. The therapeutic methods involve eye movement and visualization.
Accelerated resolution therapy (ART) is a relatively new evidence-based therapy. It may be an effective intervention for trauma, depression, and other mental health concerns.
ART uses eye movements aimed to help quickly alleviate symptoms, which are often related to past trauma.
Research is ongoing, but this therapy has the potential to help people with trauma and other mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.
Laney Rosenzweig, LMFT, developed ART in 2008. The goal of this therapy is to help people find relief from past trauma through the use of eye movements, in just a few sessions.
ART is most similar to eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy (EMDR). It also draws from other types of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic approaches.
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During an ART therapy session, a mental health professional will guide you through a directive. You will visualize either an event that causes you distress or a metaphor for that event.
The therapist then moves their hand from side to side while you think of or describe the traumatic event, and you follow their hand with your eyes. (Narration is not required, though, so you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.)
The bilateral eye movements used in ART may help move those traumatic memories into long-term memory.
You then imagine what you wish would have happened in the traumatic situation, rather than what actually happened. As the therapist continues to move their hand back and forth, imagery that invokes negative emotion may be replaced by visualizations that inspire positive emotion.
Some benefits of ART for trauma are:
- You don’t have to visualize distressing images related to trauma outside the session.
- The treatment is generally very brief.
- Most people find relief quickly.
ART helps alleviate post-traumatic stress symptoms. Although how it works is unclear, it’s thought that ART can alter how the brain stores and recalls traumatic images and memories.
This therapy aims to help alleviate symptoms, including anxiety from emotional and physical reactions, and reminders of the trauma.
Unlike other forms of trauma therapy, ART does not require you to make a written or verbal description of the traumatic experience. This may limit feelings of distress.
Research suggests that ART can be an effective for post-traumatic stress. The Accelerated Resolution Therapy Training & Research International (ART International) considers post-traumatic stress to be a result of trauma, but not a disorder.
One 2018 study tested ART with 202 veterans or service members, including those with traumatic brain injuries, in the United States. The researchers found that ART offered significant relief from psychological symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress.
A 2017 review concluded that ART may be an effective and efficient therapy, particularly for trauma.
The researchers note, however, that there are very few research studies looking into ART. That’s why more studies — particularly randomized controlled trials — are needed before experts can understand this therapy.
It’s important to note that these studies were performed by the same research group, and they will need to be replicated by other research groups to demonstrate a lack of bias.
ART may not be limited to the treatment of post-traumatic stress. According to ART International, this therapy could have benefits in treating:
Although there is a limited amount of research into the benefits and uses of ART, small studies (one uncontrolled) have shown some improvement in depression as well as neuropathic pain.
In a small 2013 study on 28 people with both PTSD and depression, participants reported improved psychological symptoms after ART.
However, this study is limited because it included only a small number of people and didn’t include a control group. The creator of ART was also one of the researchers conducting the study.
Another small uncontrolled 2016 study on 10 people suggested that ART might help with:
- reducing chronic neuropathic pain
- reducing pain
- improving sleep
- improving mobility
In both of these studies, the creator of ART was one of the researchers involved.
Overall, more research is still needed to determine the effects of ART on mental health conditions and issues.
The current research around ART therapy suggests that it is well tolerated, with few side effects. That said, side effects are possible for ART, as with other therapies.
For example, one randomized controlled study from 2013 on combat-related PTSD found that ART side effects might include nightmares and heightened anxiety.
However, it is a newer therapy and the research about its benefits and side effects is limited. This means that researchers don’t yet know the true side effects.
If you think ART may be right for you, consider speaking with a mental health professional trained in this therapy. You can find an ART-trained therapist through the ART International search tool.
To find more information about ART, you can check out this helpful client video from ART International that shows you what you may experience if you try the therapy.
You can also check out this video from PBS, which breaks down exactly how ART is done and what to expect from therapy.
If you are experiencing post-traumatic stress, depression, or anxiety related to trauma, it can help to discuss your options with a doctor or mental health professional.