CSCNT now offers Accelerated Resolution Therapy

Are you looking for a quick way to do therapy without having to talk for several months? Have you ever thought therapy could be fun?

These are not the things that come to mind for most cancer patients or people in general when they think about therapy. But they are exactly how licensed therapist Laney Rosenzweig describes Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), an evidence-based process she developed. ART assists patients in creating new images of past trauma they have experienced using eye movements to enhance this process and increase relaxation.

Cancer Support Community North Texas is now offering this innovative therapy that helps resolve client’s problems quickly without them having to share many details. This is appealing to people who have experienced or are experiencing trauma, like in the case of loss or an ongoing serious illness. People often go from feeling overwhelmed with fear and hopelessness to feeling a sense of calm and even joy in just one session. How is this possible?

According to Laney, who has spent over three decades in the mental health field, ART uses eye movements like those we experience during sleep to tap into your mind, so you can create your own solutions, “like dreams where we get to choose a good ending.” The eye movements help access the creative part of our brain to reprocess painful images using new images that the client creates. Clients get to change the scene in their minds in the way that they want. The client does all the work, and the therapist is there as a creative guide.

To talk with someone at Cancer Support Community North Texas about doing Accelerated Resolution Therapy with us, please call our main number, 214-345-8230, or fill out a new participant contact form. All of our services are provided free of charge to cancer patients and their loved ones.

ART is highly effective and has gotten attention from some prestigious health organizations and universities. The Mayo Clinic has a five-year grant from the National Institute of Health to do a study directly with Laney on the use of ART with caregivers to get them ready for whatever happens with their loved ones and prevent posttraumatic stress. It’s one of the first studies of its kind. Mayo Clinic is also currently conducting a study to evaluate ART for treatment of cancer distress and psychological trauma.

ART has been studied since its inception 11 years ago. The first study was done at University of South Florida with veterans. It found that the PTSD a client had could be eliminated in an average of 3.5 sessions, and it wasn’t just one thing they worked on. It included abuse in the family, or any kind of trauma they experienced. One of the people Laney worked with at USF is now at Yale and invited Laney’s team to come train people there in ART. She is also guiding a study with the Canadian military.

How ART works

Laney has used ART with cancer patients to help them with the pain and keep them in the moment and not worried about the future. She shared a story about a friend who passed away from cancer several years ago. One night, the friend called her up and said, “I’m scared. I know I’m dying,” and Laney said, “but you’re not dying tonight. Let’s see if we can keep you in the moment, so you can enjoy what you have.”

Laney adds, “The whole key to life is to stay in the moment, not project or go backwards, and that’s the key to not being anxious.” She has a saying she uses with clients in ART where she will ask them, “Can you do anything about it right now? If no, let it go,” and she’ll process that with them metaphorically.

She might have them see the “what-ifs” as butterflies and give them a butterfly net in their mind to pull the butterflies back to the present moment. If someone loses their confidence, she’ll say, “I think it’s under the bed or in the closet. Go find it.” This type of suggestion helps empower the client to find their own solution in a creative way. She then does a set of eye movements with the client, and afterward, Laney shares that they often say, “Thank you. I feel much better and more confident.”

The increased confidence has to do with the way ART works. It uses a lot of metaphors and word play. Laney says the brain loves this because you dream in metaphor. If you’re afraid of something, for example, you might see a monster in your dream. To explain how this relates to ART, she says, “We dream in metaphor. Why? The brain knows it’s quick, and it’s not the real thing, so it may feel safer.”

Laney describes the process of the client changing a traumatic scene to a positive one as “this lucid dream we are working on where you are totally in control.”

For someone who feels excessive anxiety about what people think about them, she’ll say, “You think people are looking at you? Take a pair of binoculars, turn them around and look at them.” She does a set of eye movements with the client while they picture this, and afterward they often say, “Oh thank you. I don’t feel so bad anymore.” Or she’ll say, “You think you have a spotlight on you? Turn it off!”

One of the wonderful things about ART is that it not only helps clients reprocess traumatic memories and images, but it also creates resilience because part of the therapy process is to see yourself in the future doing something. If there are negative sensations or emotions that come up while you’re seeing the scene, you process them afterward with more eye movements and just focus on the sensations. You don’t have to try to change them – only notice them and do the eye movements.

It’s the eye movements that create the change by helping the mind and body to drop into a relaxed state. Then you see the scene again. Every time the client sees it with the eye movements, the brain thinks they’ve already done it. So, it gets better and more confident about the situation as you take away the negative sensations.

Laney says that in ART, you don’t just desensitize, you do something she calls “positization.” This is the creative part where clients replace the negative images with positive ones using their own imagination and metaphorical suggestions from the therapist. She says that desensitization happens at the beginning of the session, and it happens very quickly. Once they see the scene and you remove the sensations, they’re already desensitized.

“We find out what the negative pictures are that are your triggers,” Laney says. “All triggers come from images, not facts. Facts don’t hold emotion.”

Attend an introduction

Laney was originally trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), but she found it to be too slow and uncontrolled. She discovered that if she applied the eye movements directly to the client’s presenting problem, she got much faster and lasting results. Laney was having tremendous success with her clients doing therapy this way, getting resolution of trauma in just one session, but was told by her EMDR supervisor that what she was doing was not EMDR and was asked to either do it their way or change the name of what she was doing. She decided to call it Accelerated Resolution Therapy because it’s fast and it spells ART, which she liked because her therapy is creative.

Laney will do ART with “anyone who comes through my door” as long as they can hold onto a thought, they’re motivated to change and they can move their eyes comfortably. She tries it on everything and is continually developing new processes for various issues, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Laney says if a client is crying at the beginning of her session, one of her tests is to ask them at the end if they can cry about what they did in the session, and they can’t, so she says that’s a good test. She does it to have them recognize the change. Laney says it’s such a natural process that people don’t always recognize they did ART. Instead, they think something happened and they’re better because with ART, their thinking changes.

Along with her private practice, Laney trains licensed mental health professionals in the use of ART and says that “the most difficult aspect of discussing ART is the fact that it sounds too good to be true.” She wrote a book about it called Too Good to be True? Accelerated Resolution Therapy.

To get a better understanding of ART and how it works, Laney does a free virtual introduction on the fourth Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m. Eastern time. Sign-up for an introduction.

During these intros, she shows video clips of people after a session. One of the most powerful clips is of a person she worked with who had obsessive compulsive disorder. After the session, the person says, “I’ve never felt normal in my whole life,” because she had to do counting rituals all the time. “I finally feel normal for the first time.”