Eye-movement therapy helping woman overcome PTSD 9 years after Somali pirates held her captive

By October 16, 2020 News
Source: FOX 13 News

TAMPA, Fla. – The kidnapping of an American woman by Somali pirates made international headlines and now she’s sharing her struggles with PTSD to help others in the Bay Area.

Jessica Buchanan was taken by Somali pirates and held captive for months until she was rescued by a team of Navy SEALs.

She says she’s finding relief from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder through Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) with the help of the Tampa-based non-profit ART International, which helps trauma survivors.

Buchanan is scheduled to speak at ART International’s yearly gala, the Brave B.A.S.H. on Saturday, October 24 in Tampa.

Nine years ago this month, Jessica Buchanan was a humanitarian aid worker on a mission with a Danish charity to help kids in Somalia when her car was ambushed and she was taken.

“We were apprehended at gunpoint. Our car was taken over, driven out into the desert, basically forced into a mock execution-style event and subsequently, we were held for 93 days,” Buchanan described.

A proof-of-life video recorded by the pirates shows Buchanan and her co-worker, Paul Thisted, during their captivity.

Photos from after their rescue show Buchanan reuniting with her family in the United States. She was happy to be home but traumatized by what she went through.

“It’s been nine years since my traumatic event but I have spent all of those nine years searching for the perfect recovery tool,” Buchanan said.

She says she’s tried nearly every therapy, from counseling to psychologists to hypnotherapists, and then she found ART. It stands for accelerated resolution therapy and it uses hand-eye movements to reprogram the brain.

Buchanan’s friend, Rebekah Gregory, is also a trauma survivor who lost her leg in the Boston Marathon bombing and introduced her to ART.

“It was something I had never even heard of before, but it has completely changed the trajectory of my recovery even this many years later,” Buchanan said.

As Buchanan explains, the therapy is fast-paced and ultimately helps your brain better understand traumatic memories.

“It doesn’t change your memory of your traumatic event. It helps your brain make sense and kind of re-align itself so you can get yourself into what they call the director’s chair where you can change the narrative of the traumatic event,” Buchanan said.

She’s now sharing her success with other survivors like her. She’s set to be the keynote speaker at Brave B.A.S.H., which is a yearly gala for ART International.

“This is part of my tapestry that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I’ll continue talking about it because it’s really important to get rid of the stereotypes and stigma around mental health,” Buchanan said.

Brave B.A.S.H is scheduled for next Saturday, October 24 at Tabella’s in Tampa. A limited number of tickets are available for the outdoor gathering. The event will also be streamed online although participants must register online at artherapyinternational.org.