Cutting-edge treatment helping those who suffer from PTSD in east Idaho
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REXBURG — Imagine living daily with the emotional torment that comes from a traumatic life event months or decades after it happened.
“For some, it’s debilitating,” licensed master social worker Holly Christensen says. “They just stop, and they’re stuck.”
Thanks to a new form of therapy that treats post-traumatic stress disorder, clinicians throughout the Gem State are becoming certified in accelerated resolution therapy (ART).
“It truly is incredible at how effective and how fast this is,” Christensen says.
Christensen works at Integrated Counseling and Wellness in Rexburg and is certified in ART. She’s is now working on becoming a clinician and an ART trainer. Since going through intensive 72-hour training, she’s helped PTSD clients recover rapidly.
One of Christensen’s clients, Lindsay Moncur, was willing to share her experience on this swift treatment.
“One thing I love about it is that I just don’t have to sit and suffer through these traumatic, difficult experiences,” Moncur says. “I was so excited to hear that there was something like this out there and that I could get through my trauma in a way that wouldn’t take years and years.”
She was recommended to try ART during a personal counseling session about her trauma. Although she’s still undergoing traditional talk therapy, she continues to see Christensen. She says she’s had about seven sessions and has worked through three events.
“Anytime a trigger would come up, I would just panic and shut down, and now if a trigger does come up I feel like I’m able to work through it,” Moncur says.
Typically ART can resolve post-traumatic stress symptoms for a single event within four sessions, but Christensen says she’s able to do it in two. Each session can last up to two hours.
“Even with complex cases, I can clear those very quickly too,” Christensen says.
She says this therapy can help anyone from first responders to war veterans to an average citizen.
“First responders are long overdue for what they have to deal with, for what they see,” Christensen says. “It’s nice that more resources are becoming available for them to be able to recover.”
During the ART process, she invites clients to picture their scene again. Through eye movements, she helps the client engage both sides of the brain.
“Similar to what happens during eye movement while you sleep,” Christensen says.
Moncur adds, “When your eyes are going back and forth you’re activating the left side and the right side of your brain, so once you get that activation, you’re able to process through things quicker because your brain is hyper-focused on getting rid of these things that are holding you back.”
Christensen says during the process, talk therapy or verbal recollection is not required.
“I have helped people through their scenes (to) find resolution, and I have no idea what it is they’re dealing with,” she says.
During the process, and there is a portion of the time where the client mentally replaces the negative images with new ones.
“We’re starting to lay down a new neurochemical trail between the memory of the event and the emotional response,” Christensen says.
At the beginning, clients gauge the level of distress on a 0 to 10 scale. Christensen has never had anyone stay at high levels during the treatment and says everything has always dropped.
“I have had a 10, which is the most intense, drop to zero,” Christensen says. “We give the mind permission, and it knows what it needs to do to heal.”
Christensen says when people encounter something in their present that triggers feelings of nervousness and avoidance, as well as symptoms such as shakiness, or sweating, because of their past, those could be signs of post-traumatic stress.
“We don’t get to choose what gets coded in our brain as trauma, and we don’t necessarily get to control the resulting responding symptoms,” Christensen says.