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  • Writer's picturemary paterson

Is it true that it's easy to reverse trauma?

Just because it's difficult to believe, doesn't make it not true...

In an earlier blog I wrote about how a rewind exercise can take the trauma out of past traumatic events. This intervention is used in many settings, for example, in some midwifery departments in the NHS for birth traumas, in the third sector and private practice, and thousands of people have benefited from the therapy.

The treatment has many benefits. It is fast, and can be effective in as little as one session for traumatic events. It doesn’t require a reliving and retelling of events, which can be painful, if not re-traumatising. And it is a simple process. Practitioners (who are already skilled therapists) can easily learn the technique to teach to clients, and most clients can understand and follow the guidance with a high degree of success. In fact, anecdotally, the success rate is in the high 90s (percentage-wise). However, until now, there has been little academic research into its effectiveness.

A recent (2022) randomised-control trial (RCT), the “gold standard” of research, found that the rewind technique (actually delivered remotely in this case), had a large effect size treating symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the trial sample. This effect was maintained in follow-up after 16 weeks. (The research is by Astill Wright et al.)

This is in line with experienced practitioners’ expectations. Relief from the symptoms arising from a traumatic event are usually immediate and long-lasting. It is hypothesised that traumatic memories, unlike other memories, are stored in a part of the brain that easily reactivates the memory by the slightest reminder of the event. The rewind technique seems to decrease the emotional salience of the memory, and consolidates it as just another memory; significant, but not life-threatening. This means that the memory no longer reappears unbidden. It is not forgotten, but revisiting the memory is now a choice.

The rewind technique has the participant imagining that they are in a cinema watching a film of the traumatic event. The participant then enters the screen as they are really there, and then rapidly relives the trauma memory in reverse. There’s some more to it than that for it to work successfully, but in essence, it’s a simple technique.

In contrast, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, which is recommended by NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) is typically delivered once or twice a week for a total of six to 12 sessions, although some people benefit from fewer sessions. Practitioner training in EMDR is also much more onerous than for the Rewind exercise.

Other NICE recommended therapies, such as trauma-focused CBT, are typically provided over 8 to 12 sessions. Again, Rewind offers a simple, fast and highly cost-effective solution.

Although the research still needs to be published (at the time of writing it had been submitted for peer review), the highly promising results hold out the hope that Rewind could be adopted more widely in the future, potentially alleviating the symptoms of PTSD for many more people, and at a reduced cost to the currently more widely accepted therapies.

Contact me, to find out more and how Rewind might benefit you.

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