The rewind technique - fast phobia and trauma treatment
The rewind technique is a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, and anxiety. For many years, severe anxiety-based conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or phobias were considered only treatable through long, painful exposure therapy, and sometimes not at all. The rewind technique is a comfortable and effective treatment that can greatly reduce, and even remove, traumatic or phobic symptoms quickly through relaxation and guided imagery, all without even having to talk about the details of the traumatic incident(s) in question. This technique has originated from NLP and is also known as the visual/kinaesthetic dissociation technique. The rewind technique can help reduce, or in some cases remove, the following PTSD symptoms:
- intrusive thoughts or images
- intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma
- physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea, or trembling
How does the rewind technique work?
The key to understanding how the rewind technique works is to understand how both non-threatening memories and traumatic memories are processed.
Information from a non-traumatic event will normally be transferred from short-term memory (also known as working memory) to long-term memory through a very old part of the brain called the hippocampus. However, during a traumatic experience, because the body’s survival mechanism (fight, flight or freeze response) is activated, the presence of stress hormones within the body inhibits the hippocampus from processing the information in the usual way. Therefore, the memory of the traumatic event becomes trapped or stuck in short-term memory, and a person will feel like they are involuntarily re-living the traumatic event in the form of flashbacks, nightmares, repetitive and distressing images, or physical sensations.
Since the rewind technique is performed whilst in a state of deep relaxation, the body is not in a state of high alert, and therefore will not produce the same hormones which inhibit the hippocampus from working normally. Therefore, the brain can process the memory of the trauma calmly, transferring it from short-term memory to long term memory.
What happens during the rewind technique?
The rewind technique is completed when someone is in a deep state of relaxation.
To achieve this level of relaxation, the client is taken through a guided visualisation into their 'safe place', which is a place where they feel totally peaceful and at ease. From this imagined safe place, the client is asked by the practitioner to visualise a TV screen which has a video recorder near it, accompanied by a remote control.
They are then asked to imagine floating out of their body (in their visualisation), and watch themselves watching the screen, without seeing the picture on the TV screen which creates a double dissociation. They watch themselves watching a 'film' of the traumatic event that is still affecting them.
They go on to imagine floating back into their body and experience themselves rewinding backwards through the trauma, as if they were a character in a video that is being rewound. They then watch the same images in fast forward (dissociation). This cycle is repeated several times with each traumatic memory.
How effective is the rewind technique?
I have been using the rewind technique for approximately five years now and have been absolutely amazed with the results. Clients have reported a marked improvement with their anxiety-related symptoms, and often tell me that they feel like they have a new relationship with their old traumatic memories. The great thing about this technique is that it is completely safe and does not come with the risks of re-traumatising the client, unlike some talking therapies.
In my experience, the rewind technique is a versatile treatment. It can be used as a stand-alone treatment for phobias, such as fear of flying, which normally requires one-two sessions. Or, it can be used for more complex multiple trauma, such as sexual abuse or assault which can sometimes work better when integrated with ongoing talking therapy.
For further information about how the rewind technique could help you, you can contact a counsellor trained in this area for a further discussion.
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About Neelam Zahid
Neelam is a BACP accredited Integrative Counsellor & Psychotherapist practising since 2003. She offers individual therapy, fast phobia & trauma treatment (Rewind Technique), Mindfulness courses and Transcultural Counselling training. Neelam has also contributed to 'The Handbook of Transcultural Counselling and Psychotherapy', 2011 (eds Colin Lago).… Read more
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