MIDDLETOWN — A female postal carrier who was mauled by a dog along her route suffered such significant post-traumatic stress that the attack left her physically and emotionally incapacitated for more than two years.
She had three operations to repair her stomach and nearly died from her injuries.
The woman tried cognitive and exposure therapy to no avail. It wasn’t until she learned about Accelerated Resolution Therapy, an evidenced-based process that can treat individuals with PTSD, that she was freed from her trauma, said founder and family therapist Laney Rosenzweig, who has practiced in West Hartford for three decades with a focus on mental health.
The treatment works in as few as one to five sessions. The average number needed is four, Rosenzweig said.
The client’s recovery took just one hour-long session and involved innovative and rapid-treating talk and rapid eye movement therapies, Rosenzweig told the four clinicians who were taking day one of her certification course recently at The Connection, 100 Roscommon Drive. After completing the three-day program, therapists become certified to use ART in their own practice.
The therapy, which Rosenzweig created in 2008, is used at the U.S. Army’s Ft. Bragg in North Carolina to help veterans. The lead psychologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Charles Hoge, became certified in ART during one of the six times Rosenzweig taught sessions there.
She has also helped veterans at Fort Belvoir who suffer from compassion fatigue.
“Just desensitizing isn’t enough. You get somebody who’s been in 9/11, and they’re seeing body parts in their brain” and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing has not worked for them. After the treatment, “they moved from a 10 down to a four on my subjective units of distress scale. They can go by the building, however they’re still having nightmares and seeing the body parts,” Rosenzweig told the therapists Friday.
After her session, the patient suffered no more distress, she said.
Rosenzweig’s SUD scale is a chart with two sliding scales for the patient to self-assess the repercussions they are experiencing from their traumatic event on a scale of one to 10. They’re also asked to compare the level of distress they routinely suffer.
The letter carrier pushed the indicator past 10 in a video taken of her treatment session. Footage shows the woman arriving nervous, uptight and in obvious distress.
During each eye movement session, Rosenzwieg rapidly moved her hand from left to right 40 times in front of the patient’s face and asked her to follow it with her eyes.
In the video, the woman ends her treatment feeling as though a huge weight had been lifted from her. She was also able to smile and laugh — and said her memory of the event had been transformed into one in which she’s an observer, not a victim.
A patient must be cooperative to undergo treatment. “We’re not mind control. So if they don’t want to change something,” it won’t work, Rosenzweig told her students Friday, then referenced a 12-year-old boy patient who had a fear of fire.
“He can’t stay in his room without someone being with him and he sleeps with mom and dad,” Rosenzweig told the group.
“I’m going to work on his issues, not yours,” she told the father, “so if he doesn’t want to do something, I won’t do it.”
A week later, the father returned to say his son was no longer afraid of fire or being alone in his room. However, he was still sleeping in his parents’ bed.
“So I said, ‘Why are you still sleeping with your mom?’
“He said, ‘That’s your problem, not mine.’”
June Keniston, a licensed clinical professional counselor who works for an agency in Maine, learned about the therapy from a colleague. “She was raving about how effective it was, and how much success she had been having with her clients using this type of therapy,” said Keniston, who has first-hand experience, having used ART to help her own trauma.
It worked within a single, one-hour session.
Another student at Friday’s training suffers from a fear of flying.
“The first time I flew was in high school, and I thought it was exciting,” the woman said. Later as an adult, on a trip cross country, she began experiencing panic attacks, and now won’t fly.
“They come to me, I do one session of ART, I get rid of the images, and they go to a zero. We’re very complete and thorough — we don’t leave anything in the body when we do an operation,” Rosenzweig said.
She has helped patients from suffering depression, a fear of public speaking, arachnophobia, agoraphobia, elevators or driving, as well as those traumatized by war and other events.
“I’m afraid of picking up a dead mouse,” one student said.
“I don’t even like talking about them,” said another woman.
In Florida one time, Rosenzweig helped a woman who had a fear of Palmetto bugs. To negate the insect’s “threat” to her, “she made it Willie Nelson. Whenever you make something funny, it breaks the trauma up,” Rosenzweig told her students.
ART therapy can erase negative images using eye movements, said Rosenzweig, who added the therapy helps patients process negative images associated with PTSD stored in their brain, replacing them with positive ones.
“Hellish nightmares, intrusive images — they replay over and over again, all day long: anxiety, panic attacks, constant tension in your body as it remains in high alert, ready to fight, even when that adrenaline is not needed,” Rosenzweig said in her 17-minute, 2015 TedX talk on “The ART of Rapid Recovery.”
Laney collaborates with ART International, a foundation committed to increasing the number of clinicians certified in this treatment, to host more than 160 training sessions nationwide in 2018.
She has been gaining more and more support for ART. Last year, Outback Steakhouse co-founder Chris T. Sullivan made a $1 million pledge from his Chris T. Sullivan Foundation to fund ART research at the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute.
ART is entirely patient-driven, Rosenzweig told the therapists. “Do not force anyone to do it. Everyone gets excited and they say, ‘I want to talk this person into it. I really don’t want it forced.”
One of last weekend’s training participants had a major phobia involving rodents before she received therapy, Rosenzweig said. “After I did the therapy, the two visited to the pet store. The woman held a mouse there by the tail and allowed her picture to be taken to mark the occasion.
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