Everything you want to know about A.R.T
Updated: Nov 15
What is Accelerated Resolution Therapy?
It's a type of therapy that uses eye movements to re-wire the way bad memories are stored in your brain so they don’t hurt or trigger strong physical reactions anymore.
The motto is “Keep the Knowledge, Lose the Pain.”
You don’t really talk back-and-forth with your therapist like many people imagine therapy looking like. Instead, the therapist guides you to think about the memory in certain ways while your eyes follow something back and forth, back and forth.
It’s a very quick method that, depending on the memory and if you’re prepared to get started, can take the pain out of a memory in very few sessions. I hesitate to say it as to not raise expectations, but based on the format and many experiences, some memories can feel neutral in one 90-min session.
How does it work?
There’s actually a couple of things going on during this process that makes this so effective.
o It’s a ‘Take 2’ at processing a memory
I could go on for a while about this because it’s so interesting but I’ll keep it brief here and if you want to nerd out a little and learn more perhaps I'll write an additional blog with more details.
In general, traumatic memories are stored a bit differently in our brains than neutral ones. The painful moments get stored in an unhelpful way that leads our minds to get confused if the event is happening now or if it’s old. It also prompts us to feel the feels and body sensations of what it felt like at the time, and often has some faulty thoughts attached to it even if we don’t fully believe those thoughts anymore.
When we use ART or EMDR, we are giving the brain a second chance to process the memory in a more effective and helpful way.
It can store it as something that happened in the past, not every time you think about it.
It can put it in file folder that you can access if you choose, but not as likely to randomly pop up in your mind uninvited
It can take the body sensation or ick out of it
It can even make the memory look or feel different if you’d like (the image replacement part of the process, which I’ll talk about later).
Ok, that was me trying to keep it short
o Bi-Lateral Stimulation (BLS)
So, BLS is essentially when one side of your brain is activated and then the other, back-and-forth, left hemisphere-right hemisphere.
The left side of your brain is where the facts, logic, risk analysis, statistics, etc. are and the right side is more of the creative side- the side where abstract thoughts, images, emotional reactions and creativity take place.
In ART, we prompt your eyes to go back-and-forth while we guide you to briefly think about the memory in certain ways. This allows your mind to sort through the memory, re-organizing it, in a more effective way with access to both logic and emotion throughout.
o Frequent Grounding
I’m sure even thinking about thinking the memory you have in mind sucks. So, hopefully it eases your mind to know that you only think about it (during the Bi-lateral stimulation) for short moments and you don't even have to speak aloud about what happened. Then, we take a breather, tune into some body sensations, address those, and resume when you feel emotionally stable and ready to keep going.
During these breaks your brain gets to be reminded that you’re not actually in the memory, that you're actually sitting in your chair talking with Brittani right now (if we work together of course). This can be a powerful part of the process for helping this get refiled as something from the past as well as building trust in yourself that you can regulate emotions in the moment.
o Body sensations are at the core of memories
Believe it or not, memories are stored in the body, ART focuses on that and heals on the deepest of levels, the body level.
Talking about a memory can only go far, most times it still hurts pretty darn bad.
You can begin to think about a memory differently but still have that pit in your stomach, that instant nausea, or that racing heartbeat. This process doesn’t just work with the thoughts about a memory, not even just about the feelings, but releases how it shows up in your body. To me, that’s a huge key in this healing being permanent.
o Dual Attention
During an ART session, you’re brain goes into a bit of muli-tasking mode. You’re thinking about the memory in a certain way, while moving your eyes back and forth following something’s speed, while also realizing that your present in the now. Doing this exhausts the ‘working memory’ process of your brain and, in turn, makes it difficult for your mind to hold onto all of the details and gets stored differently once we stop.
o Unmet needs
Sometimes when we wish we…
- didn't see what we saw
- didn't go through what we did
- said something different
- did something different
- were saved
- were protected
- were empowered
- were heard
- knew what we knew now
- or have various other needs that went unmet after a trauma,
we can get stuck there, wishing. There is a step in this process where you can feel as those needs are being met. We obviously can’t change the past, but we can change how the past is stored and how it feels.
o Image replacement
This one a bit difficult to explain without going through it yourself, but if you have images stuck in your head and would love to never think about them again, we can help that.
We use BLS while working with unwanted images with options such as ‘erasing’, ‘painting over’, ‘dulling’, or ‘blurring’ them. This is optional.
What does a session look like?
o Before an ART session
1st Session:The Intake- We’d meet for an intake session so I can get to know you, understand what you’d like to work on, and decide together if this is the best fit technique for you and the issue.
2nd-3rd Sessions: Preparing- We build up your coping skill toolbox. As much as I’d love to get you in, out, and healed asap, your emotional safety is top priority so we have to take a beat to create a foundation of skills. This helps you to feel as ready as you can be and helps your brain allow you to ‘go there’ because it can trust that you have the tools in case it gets challenging.
* Depending on the skills you already have, how much you’d like to learn, how ready you feel, and maybe even if you dissociate often we will decide together how many sessions we’ll dedicate to preparing.
o During an ART session
We briefly check-in, maybe about 5 min, to let me know if you’re feeling ready and if there is anything I should know about your mental state before we start.
- If we’re meeting virtually, we’ll switch over to a site where your eyes follow a set of dots back and forth across the screen. Some therapists have you follow their hand back and forth over video and, if in person, you’d likely follow their hand back and forth as well.
- We set aside anything else in your mind that may be a distraction, take some deep breathes, stretch, and do what you need to feel emotionally regulated and ready.
The rest of the session you’d be following the dots back and forth with your eyes for about a minute while I guide you to either think about the memory in certain ways or body sensations that are brought up. We go through a set of steps that reduce and clear out body sensations, meet unmet needs, notice how the memory feels different, and more. Playing it through during this should be the last time it sucks that much to think about. At the end, when I ask people to rate the memory on how painful/disturbing it feels from 0-10, people often say “0”, “1”, “2”, “it just feels like something that happened and it’s over”, “I don’t really feel much when I think about it”, etc.
o After an ART session
What does it help with?
This can help with many issues but is particularly good at healing trauma
I primarily use this to treat trauma and any identified memory that continues to cause you distress
It works really well with memories that you have identified as the ones causing your symptoms, such as:
A sexual assault
A physical assault
A near death experience
Going through a medical emergency
Witnessing something awful
A difficult birth
Finding out bad news and imagining what happened
Being embarrassed in front of someone(s)
Getting yelled at by someone, a particular time that sticks with you
A bad experience on a holiday
Doing something that you regret
Made a mistake that you feel stuck on
Anything that you can play in your mind that impacts you still today
It’s really helpful at
Stopping images from popping up
Stopping smells from triggering you to a memory
Reducing the body sensations when you think about it
Reducing the emotional intensity of it
Taking out the 'ick' feeling
Taking the sting out of thinking about it
Letting a response be proportionate rather than igniting old experiences
Helping you to feel safer in your body
Stopping it from it replaying it
Letting you sleep instead of thinking about it
In my experience, there are other methods that may be helpful for working on things that were chronic, things that happened repeatedly that are hard to identify one single memory for (years of childhood abuse, years of domestic violence, etc). EMDR may be a better fit for those.
If you’re wondering if the thing you’d like to work on would work with ART, email me and ask, I’m happy to help (Brittani@NextChapterAZ.com)
How long is a session? How many?
I personally offer either 50-min or 90-min appointments. If you’d like to try and finish one memory in a session 90-minutes is often best.
As mentioned above, I meet for an intake session, and usually 2 prep sessions to learn coping skills and get set up for processing. Depending on whether you’ve done ART (or EMDR) before, how your mind works, how the memory is stored, how much you need to sort through/ re-evaluate about it, and how long the memory is will impact how may sessions of actual ART it will take. I’ve worked with some that neutralize an entire memory in one session, feeling a great deal of relief, while some others take 3 or more sessions to complete.
Can I do this virtually?
Some people have a preference to meet in person so that they’re in a different space than their home and are physically with the therapist while others enjoy being in their own home, comfortable, and without a commute.
Here are some tips for setting up your space before an ART session.
What qualifications does a therapist need to do this?
They must be a Licensed Mental Health Professional
- Therapists (Master’s degree in counseling, marriage family therapy, psychology, psychotherapy, or social work)
- Doctors/PhD’s with specialized training the mental health field
- Some Advanced practice registered nurses that have a Master of Science in Nursing w/ a specialization in psychiatric mental health
They must have completed the ART training
I am a therapist (Licensed Professional Counselor) with a Master’s degree in Counseling, undergraduate degree in Psychology
I completed training in 2019 and have used it very regularly since then
I am also certified in EMDR and have been using that as my primary approach since 2017 which has given me a much more in-depth understanding of eye-movement therapies, how the brain works, how to treat trauma, somatic work, and much more.
I also have history of treating addiction and severe mental health disorders which has helped me have a high level of empathy and a strong skill set for helping people get through big feelings.
What’s the research?
ART has been recognized as an evidence-based treatment for trauma
- Here is a link of recent publications
How do I get started?
If you would like to work with me, complete the Appointment Request Form and we’ll get our first session scheduled.