The Rewind Technique
We are sharing information like this because we think it's very important to have the information here, share it with your treatment team or trauma work buddies, and consider what tools are available out there that might be useful for your health and healing. Being kept in the dark about potential tools for trauma work is not helping our community, and not helping educate our therapists.
Please approach all trauma work with caution. Please do not retraumatize your system in the search for relief!!
This invented by Dr. David Muss , with some modifications for plural systems.
The Rewind Technique is a trauma New processing technique used to treat trauma and its symptoms (see also panic reactions New). It was developed by David Muss, a therapist based in the UK, to inactivate repetitive intrusive imagery of traumatic events. This technique is successful due to the principles of memory reconsolidation New and has been shown to produce long-lasting results.
What is the Rewind Technique?
The Rewind Technique is a non-invasive therapy that involves visualization and relaxation. It is designed to help individuals process traumatic memories and reduce the emotional and physical symptoms associated with trauma.
Using the Technique
Please read the whole page before using this technique. Please do this technique with someone knowledgable before using it on your own. We cannot be responsible for your use of techniques or information on our site.
The technique involves key preparatory steps:
- identifying a specific traumatic memory as the target for reconsolidation. Sometimes such a scene is given a title or nickname for a layer of abstraction and easy recall. "The Balloon Incident" etc.
- We have been experimenting with doing a "whole life" from conception to present day with clients who are highly activated in general and may become distressed picking a specific memory. The idea is to help lower their anxiety in general before moving on to specific distressing memories.
- Another way to use this is to find a specific recent memory to use it on.
- It is not necessary to dig back to "original" memories to achieve memory reconsolidation of childhood trauma. If I have had a recent trigger of childhood abandonment issues, I can process the recent incident and it will target the same neurological panic pathway.
- rating the nicknamed memory with the SUDS scale New and noting any symptoms, bodily sensations, distress, intrusive thoughts or feelings, etc. brought on.
- creating a "safe space" for the individual to retreat to during the process (see The Calm Scene below).
- being aware of the flow of the full re-wind process, as it can go very quickly (see The Loops below).
The Calm Scene
This is an important step and should be done before proceeding.
The client is instructed to create an imaginary or real scene where they feel completely safe & relaxed. It can be a scene from a video, movie, book, or vacation. The goal is for the scene itself to have a SUDS rating of 0, and to be unrelated to the target nicknamed scene.
To make it easy to return to the Calm Scene, the client is asked to make their Calm Scene as "real" as possible by paying attention to all their senses. The facilitator can prompt the client about sensory information and then allow them to enjoy it until they are ready to begin.
The client can stay in the calm scene as long as they would like in each loop. Their goal is to get back as close as possible to a SUDS score of 0 before starting each loop. (Some clients cannot get to a 0, so asking about what a "good" day SUDS score is for them may be helpful.)
Once the Calm Scene has been established, the individual takes time getting acquainted with it. Then they are guided through a visualization process:
- SUDS Scale New - rating current distress & any other pertinent symptoms
- The Play Scene: watching a mental movie of the traumatic event played extra fast: in under 2 minutes.
- Modification: this step can be done "double dissociated" - watching themself watch the movie. This allows the individual to dissociate from the traumatic memory and view reactions to it from a more detached perspective.
- If the modification is used for initial loops, it can be removed to put the client "in the chair watching the movie on the laptop" in subsequent loops — a low SUDS is a good indicator the client may be ready for this alteration.
- The Rewind Scene: they jump into the movie and it is rewound super-fast, in a blur. This is another potential "mismatch" in memory reconsolidation New terms.
- jump back to resting in the Calm Scene, and when ready they start the loop over.
- We like to give the client a remote control with 2 buttons to control the play & rewind processes on their own.
This animated gif shows the process as well. Click for a larger image.
The goal of the Rewind Technique is to reconsolidate the memory of the traumatic event in a less physically activating way. By re-experiencing the memory in a safe and controlled environment, and with safeguards like dissociating the scenes, it's been found that the individual's nervous system can remove the activation triggers from the memory with minimal discomfort or retraumatization.
We may make audio files available to help folks who have already worked with someone using this technique. All the audio files do is help to follow the directions on this page and follow the loop timing. They do not help you set up for successful memory reconsolidation, getting an accurate SUDS score, delving into issues, picking a memory for reconsolidation, or help you monitor your activation level or prevent flooding or retraumatization.
This is why we're not adding the audio files here yet.
How does the Rewind Technique work?
The Rewind Technique is based on the principles of memory reconsolidation New, based on brain science that shows that memories are not fixed or static but can be altered over time. This means that memories can be reconsolidated or "re-written" when they are recalled and neurologically convinced to be re-experienced in a different way.
There's several different types of memory. The "target" of this technique is not the factual or explicit memory of the situation, but how the autonomic nervous system has also encoded signals from the memory that tell the body to be in a trauma-activated state. In other words, the part of the memory that tells us to expect and be ready for danger.
The Rewind Technique helps to remove the danger signals by creating a safe and controlled environment and encouraging the nervous system to "re-think" whether the remembered event(s) are actually dangerous after all.
What are the benefits of the Rewind Technique?
The Rewind Technique has been shown to produce long-lasting results in the treatment of trauma and its symptoms. Unlike other therapies that rely on prolonged exposure to traumatic memories, the Rewind Technique can produce significant results in just a few sessions.
The technique is non-invasive and can be used to treat a range of traumas, including single-incident traumas like accidents, as well as complex traumas (C-PTSD).
The Rewind Technique is also flexible and can be adapted to suit the individual needs of each client. It can be used in conjunction with other therapies or as a standalone treatment.
The Rewind Technique is a powerful tool for treating trauma and its symptoms. By dissociating from the emotional triggers associated with traumatic memories, the Rewind Technique can help individuals approach very troubling memories as Memory Reconsolidation targets.
It's also potentially fast so that many loops of the Rewind Technique can be done within even part of a session with a client. Repetition is important for memory reconsolidation, and the Rewind Technique already contains easy access to repetition.
The Rewind Technique should first be experienced with someone who has experience with memory reconsolidation and with facilitating the Rewind Technique.
More tips for using the Rewind Technique:
- This version of The Rewind Technique has been modified for C-PTSD and DID use, and persons with significant generalized distress who may already be operating outside their window of tolerance.
- Rewind Technique may be contraindicated if you are struggling to imagine, think or concentrate.
- Watching yourself watching the video is a double-dissociation technique useful if you are at or over your window of tolerance to start with. If you start out at a SUDS of 3 or lower on any particular topic, you might decide to do the Play Scene from the chair and watch the video directly. This is the usual way the Rewind Technique is used. The double-dissociation technique basically assumes you are highly distressed.
- The Play Scene video can be any memory you have. Something recent. Something old. You do not need to find or dig through old memories to process trauma, you can use a recent memory of something that triggered a traumatic reaction that may have started long ago. This is the normal way the Rewind Technique is used.
- If your SUDS goes down to 0 on any given topic, try the Play Scene standing inside the video watching the events go by fast around you. Then Rewind and go back to your Calm Scene. Is there any discomfort left? If not, then you are done with that scene.
- Each Rewind session generally concentrates on one scene. Say you do it on your whole life, you may do the loop a few times on your whole life from conception to today and you are looking for a significant lowering of your SUDS score. Next session you might pick something different.
- Different head-mates will experience scenes differently. Other head-mates may need to revisit the same scene. This is probably best done in different sessions, but perhaps experiment with how to work on this.
- Alun Parry (affiliate link) has an interpretation of the David Muss technique which includes some potential modifications we have added to it such as watching yourself watching the movie, or doing a whole-life movie.
- paper on the use of the re-wind technique on police officers with PTSD