There’s a new type of therapy to help with post-traumatic stress as the suicide rate among veterans suffering from PTS continues to rise in the U.S.
The technique is called accelerated resolution therapy and it involves using eye movements to desensitize a person to a memory. It requires little to no reliving of potentially painful life events
A person visualizes the memory and the emotions linked to it, then follows the instructions of the therapist following their hand movements with their eyes mimicking rapid eye movement or REM sleep.
Marsha Mandel is a trainer with Art International Training and Research.
“The eye movements access a person’s natural problem-solving ability. The person thinks about their memory with the eye movements. The first time they see their scene, it feels real, then their brain starts to change it. So typically, a person is removed from the memory. It is further away,” Mandel explained.
Some therapists also say the treatment works beyond PTS, helping with phobias, anxiety, and grief. Jill Stephenson agrees.
“Prior to finding the art therapy, I thought that I could just cope with my grief on my own,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson lost her only son, Army Ranger Ben Kopp, when he was killed by a sniper halfway through his third tour in Afghanistan
“He was 17 when he signed up. it was the fall of his senior year of high school,” she recalled.
Inspired by his great-grandfather’s military service during World War II, after 9/11 Kopp was certain the Army was his path.
After his death, Stephenson found herself unable to move forward.
“I was sweeping my grief under the rug and I started to look for other means.”
She connected with the nonprofit Helping Out Our American Heroes or HOOAH where she learned about art therapy.
“It was like being enlightened. It’s like someone pulled the shade up in your bedroom and it’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness. it is light out here.'”
She says it helps her focus on the positive.
“A selfless human, a selfless humanitarian that’s what he was from a very young age. Ben championed the underdog. He was everybody’s best friend.
For more information on ART or to find a therapist or training near you, visit the website here.