Innovative Therapy Rescues First Responder with PTSD
(May 6, 2019) – After security guard Brian Burns experienced a traumatic event at work, he was haunted by disturbing thoughts.
“It stirred up a lot of emotion,” said Burns. “When I closed my eyes to try to rest, I would envision the scene, the individual, how they appeared. It was hard to rest or even go to sleep at night.”
Like many first responders, Burns routinely encounters troubling situations in his work. Many states are currently considering legislation would enable first responders to receive worker’s compensation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that they develop as a result of trauma on the job.
As a first responder, “you can’t really talk to anyone about what you’re experiencing, because you’re afraid they’re going to say, you’re weak or what is your problem,” said Burns.
Burns received treatment from Estefana Johnson, LMSW at Right of Way: Accelerated Resolution Therapy in Phoenix, Az. Johnson led Burns through a series of eye movements while talking him through the process of substituting positive images for painful memories. Unlike traditional talk therapies, ART does not require clients to rehash troubling events. Most clients who undergo ART report a substantial reduction in their PTSD symptoms in an average of four sessions.
After just one ART session, Burns felt dramatically better. “Those overwhelming emotions went away. I was able to sleep normally again. Even months later, I still feel so much better,” he said. “After ART there was real sense of closure.”
ART has been proven effective in numerous scientific studies, is classified as a preferred treatment by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSHA) and is employed by the Department of Defense. Restauranteur Chris T. Sullivan established the Tampa-based nonprofit ART International to expand the availability of this life-changing treatment.
ART has been studied extensively in both veterans and civilians. Developed more than a decade ago by Connecticut clinician Laney Rosenzweig, ART is similar to EMDR, another therapeutic technique that uses guided eye movements to help clients resolve traumatic experiences. Clinicians in more than 40 states currently employ ART with their clients.
What is ART International?
Background on Nonprofit
- Restauranteur and entrepreneur Chris T. Sullivan formed and is funding ART International Training and Research, Inc., an organization dedicated to making Accelerated Resolution Therapy, or ART,more widely available to individuals in need of professional help to ameliorate the devastating effects of post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and other psychological traumas.
- To expand the reach of ART, the foundation is specifically looking to increase the number of clinicians certified in this treatment. To accomplish this, the nonprofit is hosting more than 100 training sessions in different cities throughout the country in 2018 for community therapists who are interested in being trained in ART and becoming certified to use ART in their practice.
- Licensed clinicians including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors are eligible to participate in the training. Therapists who complete the session will earn 21.5 CEUs and are immediately certified to use ART in their practice.
- For more information on ART International’s upcoming training sessions, or to sign up for a session, individuals can visit https://artherapyinternational.org/.
What is Accelerated Resolution Therapy?
Process of Therapy
- ART is an evidenced-based psychotherapy that has demonstrated proven results in treating individuals with PTSD. The therapy, which continues to gain popularity nationwide, aims to resolve a traumatic memory through a combination of relaxation and memory visualization. This treatment provides effective relief from strong physical and emotional reactions associated with PTSD in as few as one to five sessions, with the average being four sessions.
- The therapy resolves how distressing memories and images are stored in the brain so that they no longer trigger strong physical and emotional reactions. The therapy’s distinct features include use of horizontal eye movements and memory reconsolidation, which is a way in which new information is incorporated into existing memories. The technique is used to reprogram traumatic memories and images that are currently triggering strong physical reactions like depression, isolation, crying, insomnia, fear, anger and troubling memories.
- Due to the physical desensitization and memory reconsolidation that occurs within a treatment session, the patient typically does not experience troubling memories and symptoms of the trauma thereafter. Verbally recalling or writing details of the traumatic experience is not required which may offer patients a greater sense of safety and control than in other trauma-focused therapies.
- This approach is delivered in a standardized way to be easier on both the client and the clinician as it quickly and quietly moves through recall of negative imaging to reprocess the memory with positive material, including new imagery.
- In an ART session, patients can expect to be seated across from the therapist and will be guided through a thought process involving a previous experience. The pace of the session is directed by the patient as they move through imagining the original experience and then adding positive material and imagery to the original memory. The therapist will often suggest metaphors to the patient to help create new images to be woven into and take precedence over the original memory and to guide the process to completion.
History of Therapy
- ART was developed by Laney Rosenzweig, MS LMFT, in 2008. Since then, there have been five research studies completed and several more are in progress. These studies have produced more than 10 published papers in scientific peer-reviewed journals on the therapy including by researchers at the University of South Florida and with federal funding from the Department of Defense and currently the National Institutes of Health. Since 2015, ART has been recognized as an evidence-based therapy by the SAMHSA National Registry of Evidenced-Based Programs and Practices.
- The ART studies that have been published represent treatment of hundreds of U.S. civilians and military personnel, as summarized in the journals Military Medicine, Frontiers in Psychiatry, and Nursing Outlook. 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. Results have been similar in civilians treated with ART. A large randomized controlled trial is underway at the University of Cincinnati to compare ART’s effectiveness with Cognitive Processing Therapy which is considered standard-of-care and is widely used in Veterans Administration facilities.
- Over the past five years, the Department of Defense has shown considerable interest in ART by contracting for the training of 80 mental health clinicians at Ft. Hood, Ft. Stewart, and Ft. Drum, as well as more than 100 clinical providers at Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital, the sister military hospital to Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, MD. Other clinician trainings have been conducted at the Betty Ford Clinic and with the Idaho National Guard.