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Local therapists learn new technique to treat PTSD

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – It’s a reality that thousands of veterans face everyday – post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

For some, the simplest aspects of every day life can cause roadblocks and the path for finding help can take weeks, months or even years – if at all.

A group of local mental health professionals hope that a new approach will assist them in helping their current and future clients work through those roadblocks and live a fulfilling life.

Cue Accelerated Resolution Therapy or ART – a psychotherapy treatment that has been proven to quickly and effectively resolve the symptoms of PTSD, trauma and other mental health challenges.

Four local therapists participated in a three-day (July 26-28), hands-on ART training session lead by Diego Hernandez, a licensed clinical psychologist from south Florida.

Hernandez has been training other mental health professionals on the ART techniques for the past six years, and has more than 20 years of experience in the psychology field.

“The community can now refer individuals, veterans, current military, first responders and their family members to us at any time, so now we are four people locally that will be able to fill that need,” said therapist and training participant Abby Baumgart.

ART was created about a dozen years ago by a psychotherapist from Connecticut.

From there, the nonprofit ART International was created to increase access to the treatment.

Today, it’s used by hundreds of mental health professionals around the country.

Bringing the training to Titletown was a team effort by 4th HOOAH (Helping Out Our American Heroes), a nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans, service members overseas and their families, and Innovative Services Inc. in Green Bay.

Attendees were surprised by the speed and effectiveness of the ART techniques.

“Something that you are used to working through for a long time, session after session, is worked on and focused on in the average of three to five sessions with ART,” said mental health therapist and participant Elizabeth Maes.

The intense, 72-hour training highlighted on techniques that show therapists how to focus on whatever the individual identifies as a priority and work them through those memories and experiences.

ART differs from other forms of therapies because it doesn’t require patients to extensively talk about their experiences and is entirely patient-driven.

“We don’t have to have the entire details, because it is all based on them visualizing it and then sharing with us little pieces about how they are feeling about it,” Baumgart said. “I also think it makes us more of a tool for them verses us doing all the work.”

ART helps people reframe and edit trauma-inducing memories to take out the painful parts setting off that fight-or-flight response, enabling them to reflect on those times without experiencing the physical and/or emotional symptoms of trauma.

Through ART, a therapist uses a combination of eye movements and visualization.

Hernandez said ART techniques help a person’s brain focus on something else while bringing up a traumatic memory.

“People have a relationship with their trauma,” he said. “Then they have a relationship with the outcome of it – sometimes we have to separate those things out.”

Therapists that participated in the training are hopeful of ART’s faster approach.

“Watching all the examples (during the training) and seeing how quickly you get to those ‘ah-ah’ moments, as clinicians we live for those ‘ah-ah’ moments, when a client understands, makes those connections, sometimes it happens within 10 or 20 minutes (using ART techniques),” Baumgart said.

Attendees are confident that these new techniques can help anyone from first responders, to war veterans, to the regular citizen.

“This is definitely something we can all use in our daily practice,” Baumgart said.

The work with ART in the area doesn’t stop there.

Organizers with 4th HOOAH are working with the newly trained local therapists to host a retreat before the end of the year focusing on the new therapy techniques.

As far as further trainings, they are part of the bigger plan as well.

“I would imagine we would see how this plays out, but I can see adding more every year,” Baumgart said.

For more on ART International, visit artherapyinternational.org. More information about 4th HOOAH can be found at hooahwi.org.

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