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New therapy helps relieve PTSD through eye movement

The therapy method allows patients to feel relief from stress and anxiety without ever telling the therapist about the trauma.

ALCOA, Tenn. — Accelerated Resolution Therapy, also known as ART, is an eye movement therapy that allows people who have experienced trauma to feel relief without having to re-hash their traumatic experience verbally.

Therapists skilled in the ART method say the therapy works great for PTSD sufferers, people who've experienced trauma, depression, anxiety, phobias, grief and loss. 

Brenda Stuteler is a Master ART therapist visiting East Tennessee to train therapists at a workshop in Blount County. She says patients can start to feel relief relatively quickly.

"One of the most attractive things about ART is that it's very short," Stuteler noted. "It doesn't take six months to process something. What this does is, typically in three to five sessions, the person has resolved the trauma."

Stuteler says ART mimics the Rapid Eye Movement cycle while a patient is still awake. The ART therapist uses his or her hand in front of the patient's face and instructs the patient to follow the movement with his or her eyes while the hand moves back and forth.

Therapists also advise the patient to use the time during the therapy to think about the trauma they have experienced, but they never have to verbalize what they are thinking about to the therapist.

Stuteler also says the way the eyes move during the REM cycle is familiar to the brain, which helps patients cope with the trauma.

"It recreates the stimulus in the brain that it's used to," Stuteler explained. "It's a very familiar environment. One thing that happens during the REM cycle of sleep is that's when we process all kinds of things. What this does is it allows the brain to process the trauma."

The patient is completely conscious the entire time during the treatment and is in control of what's happening.

The workshop in Blount County teaches therapists this method and allows them to practice and learn in a secure environment. The workshop is not open to the public, and most therapists participating work in Maryville in private practice.