PLAINVILLE – Clinicians joined at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Plainville for a workshop training session hosted by ART International Training and Research in a relatively new psychotherapy technique meant to treat clients grappling with trauma and anxiety.
The technique, called accelerated resolution therapy, was developed in 2008 by Laney Rosenzweig, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in West Hartford. ART International Training and Research is a nonprofit organization that seeks to support the training, research and education of accelerated resolution therapy and its accessibility for individuals suffering trauma. The group is chaired by Chris Sullivan, Outback Steakhouse founder.
“It works for anxiety, OCD, depression and PTSD,” said Laurel Wiers, workshop trainer and licensed marriage and family therapist who has utilized the technique for five years, Friday. “It’s basically an eye movement therapy and uses smooth pursuit eye movements. A therapist sits and puts their hand in front of the client’s face and has their eyes go back and forth. What that does is it changes the way that the brain stores distressing images and sensations.”
When individuals are presented with things that would previously trigger them, the therapy aims to eliminate emotional and physical responses to those triggers. A similar therapy technique is called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), however, accelerated resolution therapy, Wiers said, is a more direct technique that yields faster relief and resolution for clients.
“Memories that are stored in the brain are not fixed like we once thought they were,” Wiers said. “You don’t remember something, put it away and every time you remember it, that same memory comes up. Any time you recall a memory, it’s open to change. Therefore, when we recall a traumatic memory, what we’re doing is changing the way it’s remembered.”
The trainer said while a client will remember the narrative of a traumatic incident, they would lose the distressing images and sensations associated with the memory and replace them with positive images and sensations through “the process of voluntary image replacement.”
On any given weekend, workshops for the technique are put on all over the country. The Plainville workshop will last a total of three days and after that, participants will be certified to make use of the therapy.
“You have to be a trained therapist to use ART (accelerated resolution therapy). So whatever settings you’re going to find a therapist working in, if they’ve decided to use the tool, they can use that in their practice as well,” the trainer said.
Three participants were present for the Friday workshop, Alison Kinsey, Kim Vohden and Gianna Giannini.
Vohden said she was interested in the technique because as a school psychologist she knows the pandemic has been rough on a lot of families.
“I’m excited to bring it back to use it with my students to help them feel better so they can engage with their education more and process everything that’s happened in their lives,” she said.
Giannini said she works at a hospital as well as in private practice in Rhode Island and traveled for the workshop.
“What really sparks my interest was being able to give back to the first responder community because I run into a lot of clients like that and you can only help them to a certain degree,” she said. “This can help take that to the next level.”
Wait lists are unmanageable in community health and private practice, said workshop participant and outpatient clinician in community mental health Kinsey.
“People are not able to see a therapist and we’re in a crisis,” she said. “I think having something that’s quickly effective is part of my attraction to it.”
Workshop participants engage in a basic training of three days and can also take part in advanced classes after logging 30 sessions with the basic training.
Wiers said clients being treated with ART could see improvements in their life in as soon as one to three sessions.