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Sep 29, 2023

ART Therapy & EMDR Therapy: How Are They Similar?

Experiencing trauma is scary and can lead to the development of mental health conditions if not processed in a healthy manner. These conditions can further impact the quality of life you have following the traumatic incident. 

Choosing a treatment option may seem overwhelming as there are many options. Two of these options are Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. While similar in nature, both these therapies offer unique manners of working with traumatic memories to your benefit.

History & Development of Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) 

ART was initially developed by a licensed family and marriage therapist, Laney Rosenzweig, in 2008. She created this approach through her work with trauma and a variety of approaches, including EMDR.

Once she had standardized the ART approach, it was ratified as an evidence-based approach by the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices in 2015. ART is rooted in elements of previously used evidence-based practices with the intent to optimize the treatment of trauma-related mental conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and addiction.

Principles of Accelerated Resolution Therapy

ART therapy uses a protocol of 40 eye movements in a standardized manner, along with reprocessing the traumatic memory by incorporating more positive thoughts and emotions. This allows for the memory to be recalled without you experiencing the physical stress reactions and negative emotions that are usually linked with the memory.

ART practice is based on the following principles:

  • The aim is to replace the negative or traumatic memory with a more positive version. This is achieved not by changing the facts regarding the memory but by the thoughts and perceptions around it.
  • The aim of providing rapid and effective relief from the traumatic memories is gained through approximately five sessions of an hour in length within a two-to-three-week period. 
  • Using a sequence of 40 eye movements placed in a well-structured protocol with a trained professional when recalling traumatic memories. This protocol ensures the safety of the client.
  • The trained professional will continually check in with you regarding how you are feeling regarding each traumatic memory. This will help gauge any symptom reduction and your sense of safety.
  • Each scene or memory is treated separately, and the treatment is seen as complete when a scene is no longer activating distressing symptoms.

ART uses rescripting and reframing to adjust the traumatic memories into more positive understandings of the event. This increases personal resilience and post-traumatic growth. ART sessions are held in a contained manner, and although they are more rapid in nature, the therapist will always ensure the safety of the client during any recalling of traumatic memories.

Principles of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR therapy is an approach that uses a protocol of 8 phases or steps that are facilitated by a trained professional. The aim is to shift the way the traumatic memory has been processed to ensure a more tolerable experience of the memory. This is achieved through the use of coping strategies, bilateral stimulation through eye movements, sounds, or physical sensations such as tapping, and reprocessing the memory with more adaptive information.

EMDR follows the following 6 principles:

  • EMDR focuses on the concept of memory storage. When a traumatic memory is stored, there are high emotional and sensory elements linked with the memory. Working through an EMDR process, the therapist will assist you in reprocessing these memories to remove the distressing sensations from them.
  • A therapist will ensure that before processing traumatic memories, you have gone through a preparation stage to help you map your resources and build coping skills to help you during the time of reprocessing. This foundational work is vitally important.
  • When you recall the memories, your therapist will be monitoring you to ensure that you are managing and not moving into a space where you are feeling unsafe and ungrounded. 
  • EMDR encompasses the memory’s cognitions and physical sensations when you are reprocessing. This means that you are engaged with all aspects of the memory to ensure that it is fully reprocessed, and that you feel safe and grounded.
  • Bilateral stimulation is a key ingredient for EMDR. The therapist will use slow or fast movements depending on the phase that you are in and what your needs are.
  • EMDR is considered a full treatment approach rather than only a trauma response treatment. 

When working with a trained therapist, you will provide a full history of your background and work together to the conclusion of the treatment. The length of treatment will depend on your needs; however, EMDR is usually a short-term therapy approach.

Key Differences Between EMDR & ART

While there are many similarities between EMDR and ART, there are some key differences that you might want to take into consideration when deciding which approach you would like to engage with.

  • EMDR focuses on reframing the images and cognitions of the memory to desensitize them. ART focuses on replacing the memories with a more positive version of the memory.
  • EMDR works with a combination of bilateral stimulation and eye movements that are focused on the client’s needs and reactions. ART will work with 40 eye movements per set and follow the outlined protocol.
  • EMDR notes the physical sensations during the recalling but will not address them specifically if they are within your window of tolerance. ART will use eye movements to address each physical sensation as it occurs.
  • EMDR allows the therapist to use their judgement to work with what a client brings and helps them follow their own trajectory. ART follows strict guidelines and does not deviate from the structure.
  • EMDR therapists will consider treatment concluded when all the memories or reasons for therapy have been processed. ART will consider treatment at a point where it may conclude when one scene or memory has been reprocessed.

ART Vs. EMDR for Treating Specific Conditions

When you are looking at choosing a treatment option, you need to look at the whole context to find the best option for you. Some of the factors you may want to consider are time constraints, financial constraints, personal preferences, etc.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

While both approaches are good options for a trauma-related disorder, the context must be taken into consideration. When there is a time constraint, ART would be a better option as this is a shorter treatment option. EMDR therapy would be appropriate for a traumatic experience as well.


Due to the nature of EMDR, this would be the better approach for symptoms of depression as it is more flexible to the individual’s experience and can cover more that the individual may need in this situation.


Both EMDR and ART are good options for working with grief-related experiences. Both approaches will allow you to explore the experience and memories of grief to find a more helpful experience or understanding of the loss.


There is research that ART definitely assists with anxiety-related disorders. Similarly to depression, EMDR can offer slightly more flexibility and adaptation to what you specifically need. Choosing an approach with regard to anxiety will be your personal choice, looking at your specific context.

Issues Related to Abuse

When working with abuse, EMDR would be better suited as an approach; however, you may wish to look further than EMDR to treat abuse-related difficulties, as these difficulties can be complex and require a longer-term support intervention.

Limitations & General Concerns

As with all different therapeutic approaches, ART therapy and EMDR therapy do have limitations; working with trauma is a delicate process, and experiencing the trauma may increase the symptoms in the short term before you find relief. 

Both EMDR and ART are short-term therapy interventions; some experiences will require a longer-term intervention to provide the most benefit for you.

Finding a Therapist Who Practices ART or EMDR

If you decide to follow an ART or EMDR therapeutic process, it will be important to ensure that you work with a fully trained therapist. Not only do you need to ensure that your therapist is licensed, but also that they are trained in the ART or EMDR technique.

Using both these approaches requires specialized training before they can practice the approach. Ask your therapist if they are trained in the approach you would like to use.

To Wrap Up

If you are experiencing any of the above and are interested in engaging in a process using ART or EMDR, you can contact us at One Life Counselling and Coaching. When you’re ready, we’re here to support you through your therapeutic journey.

I am the founder of One Life Counselling and Coaching LTD and I am honored to lead a team of professional psychologists, psychotherapist’s and life coaches who dedicate their professional lives to helping people to elevate their mindsets, evolve their beliefs and learn to thrive in the present moment.
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