By Michael Moore Jr. Staff Writer Posted Jan 31, 2020 at 4:47 PM
Around 70 percent of service members and veterans who completed Accelerated Resolution Therapy substantially reduced their symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in an average of four treatment sessions and with consistent evidence of safety, according to a randomized controlled trial conducted by University of South Florida.
A “groundbreaking therapy” for treating post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions could soon be coming to mental health facilities in Sarasota.
A group of local mental health professionals gathered around a table at Aloft Sarasota on Friday to undergo an intensive workshop where they will spend their weekend learning Accelerated Resolution Therapy, an evidence-based psychotherapy that experts are saying is a highly effective technique for treating PTSD, trauma, anxiety, phobias and other mental health conditions through a combination of eye movements, memory visualization and other procedures.
In addition to being highly effective at providing relief from the physical and emotional reactions associated with PTSD and similar conditions, it also works quickly. ART Therapy can provide relief from symptoms in as few as one to six sessions, according to Kelly Breeding, executive director for ART International Training & Research.
“It’s kind of unheard of in the mental health circles. It’s unbelievable, really. That’s what drove this whole thing. Everybody needs to have access to this kind of stuff,” said Breeding, who was a social worker before heading the nonprofit.
ART was created in 2008 by Laney Rosenzweig, who, through extensive testing and research, demonstrated the efficacy of ART in several patient populations with around a dozen papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and founded the Rosenzweig Center for Rapid Recovery in Orlando, which is one of two organizations that conducts ART training.
Since 2015, ART has been recognized as an evidence-based therapy by the SAMHSA National Registry of Evidenced-Based Programs and Practices.
Inspired by the results, entrepreneur Chris T. Sullivan, one of the founders of the Outback Restaurant Group, created Tampa-based nonprofit ART International in 2016, which seeks to expand access to the therapy by training clinicians and spreading the word of the treatment’s effectiveness.
The nonprofit has planned more than 100 training sessions around the country in 2020, with licensed clinicians including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors eligible to participate in the training.
Sullivan is also behind the first privately funded PTSD head-to-head clinical trial in the U.S., according to Breeding. The study is being conducted at the University of Cincinnati and will pit ART against the most widely used therapy for PTSD and trauma, Cognitive Processing Therapy, to see which is more effective.
The majority of studies conducted so far, which have found ART Therapy to be highly effective at treating PTSD in a short period of time, have been conducted at the University of South Florida with funding from the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health.
Kevin Kip, a tenured Distinguished USF Health Professor, epidemiologist and biostatistician with 16 years of experience on federal and industry-funded studies, said that a randomized controlled trial of ART showed that approximately 70 percent of service members and veterans who completed treatment with ART substantially reduced their symptoms of PTSD in an average of four treatment sessions and with consistent evidence of safety.
“I don’t want to oversell this thing, but I’d say a large percentage of people who undergo therapy begin to experience some sort of relief in the first session,” said Kip. “This is something that can help a lot of people and is not limited to PTSD. It can be used for many related applications, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and obsessive compulsive order.”
It doesn’t require homework or medication to be effective and doesn’t require patients to talk about the details of the trauma. It also doesn’t require a prior established relationship with a therapist to work, according to Kip.
During the session, the therapist guides the client through the process of coming up with a new ending to a troubling memory while also getting them to follow hand movements with their eyes, which can have a calming effect and, when combined with other procedures, can enable clients to recode their memories, according to mental health counselor Kathy Long, who is leading the training session.
While the clients will still be able to recall those memories, they will no longer experience the unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms when thinking of them, according to Long.
“We’re actually teaching the brain how to process the trauma the way a non-traumatized person would. We help them process that information differently,” said Long.
For more information on ART International’s upcoming training sessions, or to sign up for a session, visit artherapyinternational.org.