The Rewind Therapy (RT)

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.

The Rewind Therapy (RT) has become internationally recognised as indispensable to treat PTSD.

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.

The rewind technique can help reduce, or in some cases remove, the following PTSD symptoms:

  • flashbacks
  • intrusive thoughts or images
  • nightmares
  • intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma
  • physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea, or trembling


(RT) was first introduced into the literature of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by Dr. David Muss (founder of IARTT) back in 1991; A new technique for treating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder”. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1991, 30,91-92. 

The Rewind is different from other imaginal exposure therapies because no details are disclosed to the therapist hence the treatment is known as “closure without disclosure”

The benefits of non-disclosure include:

  • Minimizing the risk of the client being re-traumatized.
  • There is no fear of disclosing sensitive information e.g. In the case of servicemen, for example, about deployment.
  • For survivors of rape and sexual abuse the benefit of not having to disclose details of the event to a stranger is self-evident
  • Minimizing the risk to the Counsellor of developing compassion fatigue, particularly for those therapists involved with heavy workloads.

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 encourages the client to imagine a safe place, the client is then asked by the practitioner to visualise a screen or a television, for example.

They are then guided through a visualisation of themselves watching from afar themselves watching the TV. The individual will watch themselves as they are subject to a ‘screening’ of the traumatic memory or event that is affecting them.

They go on to imagine themselves ‘rewinding’ through the trauma as if they were a character the film being played backwards. This cycle is repeated several times with each traumatic memory.

How effective is the rewind technique?

Clients report a marked improvement with their post traumatic symptoms.  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.

More information can be found at  – IARTT | International Association for Rewind Trauma Therapy | The Rewind Technique

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