Accelerated resolution therapy (ART) is a type of psychotherapy for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions. Although research into ART is ongoing, evidence shows it may rapidly treat trauma symptoms.

Accelerated resolution therapy (ART) is a new form of psychotherapy. Clinical research into ART is still ongoing. However, it may offer fast and effective treatment for trauma, depression, and other stress-related conditions.

Therapists can typically deliver ART in less time and in fewer sessions than other psychotherapies.

ART involves rapidly addressing a person’s distressing or troubling memories using several techniques. ART aims to positively rescript these memories, providing relief from trauma symptoms.

This article discusses accelerated resolution therapy, how it works, its effectiveness, and who may benefit from it.

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ART is a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions.

ART borrows from eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, which is an older PTSD treatment method. EMDR aims to reprocess traumatic events, while ART focuses on replacing disturbing images with positive ones.

ART assists people by helping them create new images of their past trauma. A key element of ART is rescripting distressing events. It differs from some other forms of psychotherapy by not requiring people to express traumatic memories aloud.

ART takes less time than other types of psychotherapies. Therapists generally deliver between one to five 1-hour sessions over approximately 2 weeks. People receiving ART also do not need additional medication or therapeutic homework.

ART is an evidence-based practice (EBP). However, it is still a relatively new treatment method. Experts are still investigating and discussing the benefits and best use of ART.

ART focuses on a person’s present experience and story. During ART, therapists aim to create new images of past trauma people have experienced.

ART involves the use of eye movements to help relieve symptoms and promote relaxation. These horizontal eye movements aim to modify traumatic memories and how their brain stores them.

According to one 2018 review, horizontal eye movements can:

  • help promote relaxation
  • enhance parasympathetic nervous system activity
  • improve memory recall, which may help a person to better remember traumatic memories

Researchers have also found that if a person performs these eye movements while recalling their trauma, their working memory has less capacity. Working memory involves a person’s ability to keep information active in their mind for a short time.

Having less working memory capacity may reduce the impact of traumatic memories, particularly with faster eye movements.

During ART, therapists follow a series of steps to treat people:

  • Relaxation and orientation: Therapists ask the person to identify one specific traumatic experience to process and report any uncomfortable sensations. The therapist then directs the person to focus on the sensations while moving their hand smoothly from side to side near the person’s face. As the person focuses on the therapist’s hand, their horizontal smooth eye movements help with relaxation.
  • Desensitization through imaginal exposure: The therapist directs the person to visualize the traumatic experience in their mind from the beginning, while still making horizontal eye movements. The therapist directs their attention to physical and emotional sensations from the experience. They use more eye movements until the sensations diminish. They then repeat the process until the person can complete the entire experience in their mind with fewer sensations.
  • Memory reconsolidation through imagery rescripting: The person imagines a new and preferred way to visualize their traumatic experience. The therapist helps them to do so with horizontal eye movements. As the person recalls their memories, the memories change, providing relief from symptoms.
  • Assessment and closeout: The therapist checks that the person can access their original memory without major distress and is able to shift to their rescripted version. The therapist may use several other techniques to further change the original memory, such as visualization.

Many scientific studies have investigated the benefits of ART for people with PTSD.

A 2018 review of ART research suggests it may also help people with the following conditions:

As of 2020, the American Psychological Association (APA) does not list ART as a treatment for PTSD. However, experts are continuing to research and investigate the effectiveness of ART.

A 2017 review of research into ART concluded that it may be effective in treating trauma and other psychiatric conditions. However, the reviewers recommended more research.

In 2020, researchers reported on clinical trials that examined whether ART is effective in treating PTSD, depression, and complicated grief (CG). The results suggested that ART is effective and less time-intensive than other therapies.

However, the trials relied on reported symptoms instead of a formal diagnosis. The researchers recommended larger, more diverse trials that might better explain how ART works before introducing it into clinical practice.

It is important to diagnose and get help for mental health conditions. A person’s mental health affects:

  • how they think, feel, and act
  • their physical health
  • their risk for many physical health problems, such as chronic conditions that include:
    • diabetes
    • heart disease
    • stroke
  • how they:
    • handle stress
    • relate to others
    • make healthy choices

Many treatments and help are available for people with mental health conditions, such as PTSD.

If a person is in immediate danger or knows someone who is, they should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room for emergency medical attention.

For people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides 24-hour confidential support. Call or text 988 to speak to a trained crisis counselor.

Mental health resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and resources on mental health and well-being.

Was this helpful?

Accelerated resolution therapy (ART) is a new treatment that may offer fast and effective treatment for trauma, depression, and other stress-related conditions.

ART involves the use of horizontal eye movements and other techniques to help people rescript traumatic memories.

Scientists are still investigating how ART works and how effective it is. Some studies have shown promising results in fewer sessions than other types of psychotherapy.