New therapy helps victims of post-traumatic stress

New therapy helps victims of post-traumatic stress
Accelerated Resolution Therapy involves using eye movements to desensitize a person to a memory. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) - 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 seems like magic, but there is science behind it. It’s going to be level,” said Marsha Mandel, an ART trainer.

ART requires little to no reliving of potentially painful life events. A person visualizes their memory and the emotions linked to it, then follows the instructions of the therapist by following their hand movements with their eyes and mimicking rapid eye movement or REM sleep.

Mandel is a trainer with ART International Training and Research.

“The eye movements access a person’s natural problem solving ability,” she said. “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.”

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,” she 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 said.

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 said.

She connected with the nonprofit Helping Out Our American Heroes, or HOOAH, where she learned about ART therapy.

“It was like being enlightened,” Stephenson said. “It’s like someone pulled the shade up in your bedroom and it’s like oh my goodness it is light out here.”

Which she says helps her focus on the positive.

“A selfless human - a selfless humanitarian,” Stephenson said. “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 this link.

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