Could ART Therapy Help PTSD Sufferers?

With its combination of therapeutic techniques involving eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), accelerated resolution therapy (ART) is quickly gaining traction among a large subset of mental health professionals as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. With an estimated 7-8% of people in the United States alone suffering from PTSD, that could be very good news for sufferers indeed.

So what exactly is ART therapy, and why is it proving so effective in helping individuals to cope with traumatic experiences?

According to, theories behind the therapy are based around the centrality of traumatic images in the experience of PTSD. By enabling individuals with PTSD to confront traumatic images during rapid eye movement exercises and CBT sessions, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other therapists hope that sufferers may become desensitized to the traumatic images that they hold within their memories. If that desensitization can happen, the thinking goes, the images will no longer cause sufferers to relive traumatic events to such a debilitating degree.

Moreover, ART therapy may be effective in enabling PTSD sufferers to process their trauma. Avoidance of traumatic memories tends to keep faulty beliefs around traumatic memories intact, and because they avoid processing emotions around traumatic events, a vast majority of sufferers of PTSD end up blaming themselves for the trauma that they have experienced.

Theories around the efficacy of eye movement therapy on PTSD have been used in EMDR therapy for years, however, so what is the difference between ART therapy and EMDR? The answer may lie in the degree to which therapists control the context of the therapy to bring about a solution for patients.

In contrast to EMDR therapy, for example, ART patients tend to be given a specific number of eye movement exercises to perform; mental health professionals also direct patients to bring up specific memories and images into their mind rather than free associate about traumatic memories. This is a different approach to EMDR therapy, wherein patients have no set limit on the amount of rapid eye movement exercises they can complete and tend to determine for themselves which traumatic memories to engage with.

For these reasons, ART therapy may gain a serious foothold as a treatment option for PTSD in the years to come. The jury is still out on the efficacy of ART therapy as a treatment for traumatic memories, but for many PTSD sufferers, the wider availability of ART treatments may be cause for hope and celebration.

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