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USF Health Pilots New Therapy For PTSD Patients

Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) now have an innovative treatment option that offers promising results.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder experienced by combat military personnel and others who have been exposed to one or more life-threatening or traumatic events. According to PTSD Foundation of America, one in three combat veterans suffers from PTSD, yet less than 40 percent seek help.

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) combines evidence-based psychotherapies with eye movements, and offers promising results within an abbreviated period of time compared with traditional therapist. Patients are asked to think about the traumatic experience and walk through it in their head like a movie. This elicits typical physiological responses to stress, including increased heart rate and chest tightening. They then participate in eye movement therapy, which creates a calming feeling or desensitization.

In the second stage, the patient reimagines the way the event occurred in a way they would prefer to remember it. They then do additional eye movement therapy, which essentially replaces the negative images in the brain with positive ones.

"It sounds a little farfetched, but memories can be changed," says Kevin Kip, PhD, professor and executive director for the Research Center at te USF College of Nursing. "When you bring up a memory, you can actually change features of it."

With ART, results can be achieved in just two to five sessions, compared with 10--12 in traditional therapies. It’s also unique in that the patient doesn’t have to verbalize or write about the trauma.

The first randomized controlled trail of the therapy with 57 participants was recently conducted by the Restore Lives Center at the USF College of Nursing, yielding promising results.

Representative Castor provided support through Congressional funding in 2009 for this and four other similar studies.

Approximately 300 clinicians in the U.S. have been trained on the therapy so far. Next steps include a larger study, with 200 veterans and a six month follow-up.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kevin Kip, USF College of Nursing

Read more articles by Megan Hendricks.

Megan Hendricks is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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