Tampa, Fla - Army Green Beret Brian Anderson came back from deployment in Afghanistan with images that haunted him. Visions of eight-hour fire fights and the death of two friends left him with odd and overwhelming symptoms.
"I thought they were blood pressure issues, diabetes or something like that," he said. "When I went in to be checked out, they said 'No, you're having panic attacks. This is post-traumatic stress.'"
Anderson tried conventional therapy but his symptoms got worse.
"I'd wash dishes and imagine a bullet going through my head," he said. "I would drive down the road and I would look at the car next to me and one of my best friends Calvin, who was killed on one of our missions in Afghanistan, he'd be driving the car next to me."
A friend referred him to the USF College of Nursing and ART therapy. The acronym stands for "Accelerated Resolution Therapy," a new type of psychotherapy, said Kevin Kip, USF College of Nursing executive director of research.
The patient re-imagines a prior traumatic experience and the physical and psychological sensations that occur with that recollection are lessened using a series of left to right hand movements in sets of 40.
"To be honest, we don't know exactly what those eyes movements do," said Kip, adding that theories exist. "You are invoking both the left and right side of the brain. They do have a calming effect. But we're studying right now and hope to do some brain imaging to determine exactly what they do."
The therapy's second phase involves replacing those distressing images with positive ones. "As far as seeing images of friends, having flashes of violence coming through the door," Anderson said, "all of those went away after I went through ART therapy."
No medication is involved in the therapy. In fact, many vets end up getting off their medications. The Chris Sullivan Foundation is funding the new ART therapy study. It's currently enrolling 200 veterans. The therapy is free for vets.
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