Elizabeth Wilkins, LMFT-S, LPC, BCN, BCB
Amber came to me with a very specific issue. She wanted to be able to experience intimacy with her husband without the feeling of disgust which often appeared for no discernable reason. “It’s like I am repulsed when he’s not doing anything inherently off-putting. I want to be present and engaged, but I can’t stop these feelings from interrupting and pulling me away.” I led Amber through the Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) protocol where we were able to identify an incident that happened 25 years earlier that she hadn’t thought about in almost as long. Her feelings of disgust were rooted in this unresolved childhood experience of forced intimate contact from what should have been a trusted, harmless adult. Once we found the source of the issue, we continued on with the protocol, which uses a series of relaxing eye movements and a technique called Voluntary Image Replacement. Within a one-hour session, we were able to resolve this issue completely. I followed up with Amber a few weeks later, and the results were not only profound, but lasting. “The feeling is completely gone. I feel like I can receive affection as loving instead of threatening,” she reported. Amber’s experience is not unique–in fact she is just one of the many individuals in my practice who has experienced the power of ART. So many of my patients have experienced lasting, meaningful change, that I believe nearly anyone can benefit from this form of therapeutic intervention.
Simple and Effective
The beauty of ART lies in its simplicity. If you can move your eyes back and forth without pain, and if you can hold a thought, you are a good candidate for ART. Unlike other forms of talk therapy, the protocol does not require the client to recount the trauma or memory in excruciating detail. All the therapist needs is a snippet of information in case the client gets stuck. Otherwise, the client can move through the protocol with the therapist knowing little to nothing about the traumatic or uncomfortable details. Clients may experience some initial discomfort when visualizing the memory, but we move through it fairly quickly. The first time is the hardest, and everything gets easier from there. Once we walk a client through the protocol, the original scene or memory will still be there, but the emotional impact or trigger loosens its hold immediately, allowing the client to find much needed relief. While some situations will require an extended series of sessions, most issues are resolved in as few as 1-5 sessions. To many people who experience ART for the first time, it feels too good to be true. But it’s not. It’s actually simple neuroscience: The brain works in a way that is not dissimilar to a filing cabinet. During ART, we pull the problematic memory out of the brain’s “Fight/Flight/Freeze” filing cabinet. The therapy allows the brain to fully process the memory, which then allows us to re-file it in long-term storage where it holds less power over your day-to-day life. Once there, these memories will feel less intense or even get fuzzier. The brain holds onto detail that it views as dangerous. Once you have pulled out the intensity, it can be like any other memory.
While Root Issues Vary, the Results Do Not
“Hot damn. Where were you three wives ago?!” Vietnam Veteran after experiencing ART ART assists in navigating complex trauma and PTSD, while also serving as an impactful tool for other issues ranging from annoying to debilitating. For example, a patient of mine was struggling to manage an airplane phobia. The panic attacks she experienced made the cross country flights debilitating. After two sessions of ART, she was able to not only navigate the flights without anxiety, but she was able to use public transportation and experience crowded, enclosed spaces with much greater ease. The benefits of ART feel no less satisfying to someone with an airplane or hospital phobia than to someone who is finally able to hold down a job after years of struggling with PTSD. What’s more, clients can experience relief after just one session. The reason this works so effectively comes from a combination of two dynamics happening simultaneously–consistency and creativity. At its core, ART follows a protocol, but during the session, a good therapist’s creativity and intuition can make the process sing. In other words, the process is static but the therapy experience is dynamic. This ability to customize elements of ART to fit the unique needs of my clients goes a long way to ensuring lasting impact.
Nearly Universally Beneficial