I interviewed a nurse, a paramedic & a firefighter affected by PTSD, who were treated with the Rewind Technique by different therapists for my research paper. All 3 told me they'd been adamant that they did not want to talk about the incidents that haunted them, so they liked the fact they could receive treatment for their symptoms without talking about them repeatedly - although they were sceptical about it initially and weren't convinced it would work. But when you're at breaking point, having nightmares, panic attacks and are living on your nerves, trying to get through shifts without anyone noticing how wired you are - you'll pretty much try anything to find relief.
All 3 recovered from the severe daily, intrusive symptoms and were amazed at how effective such a simple intervention was. Here I share the story of one of my research participants, 'Sam', a paramedic.
After attending multiple paediatric deaths in quick succession, Sam described their symptoms before rewind therapy; "I was just an emotional wreck and having panic attacks, and I’ve never, ever suffered panic attacks, y’know I’ve always felt I’m quite a confident person, but going from that to feeling like, if somebody said ‘boo’ to me from behind a door, I would break down. I had flashbacks, I had disturbed sleep, I had panic attacks every time I went to a paediatric job, because I felt it was just gonna be the same as those other jobs."
Sam only sought help after breaking down to a colleague who threatened to act on their behalf if they didn't seek urgent support. Sam described the work culture around ambulance service staff experiencing mental health issues, like PTSD;
"I know there’s so many things out there, like hashtag ‘it’s OK not to be OK’, but in the ambulance service it isn’t OK to not be OK, y’know. That’s not OK, because as a clinician, as a professional, a paramedic or emergency care assistant or technician, your job is to be absolutely alright and be invincible, but you’re also human y’know, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be a paediatric death that gets to you. It could be holding someone’s hand as they take their last breath. We should be looking after our staff, because ultimately, they’re the people that are looking after everybody else."
This is how Sam felt about the Rewind Technique initially;
"I was hopeful because they said that they deal with trauma management, they reassured me to start with that I wasn’t bonkers, I wasn’t depressed, I wasn’t suffering from a mental illness, so that was nice to hear, because I thought I was just a bit crazy. That was how I felt, personally. And it was really nice for somebody to say “you’re not crazy, you’re not bonkers” y’know you’ve just been through an amount of trauma which actually, you need to deal with, to stop you from feeling the way you’ve been feeling. I was sceptical because I didn’t think, well, I didn’t know that this type of therapy existed, because it’s not really very widely known unless you’ve been through it, unless it’s word of mouth. It’s very specific, so I was really sceptical, and the one thing I didn’t want to do is talk about what had happened. Because I thought if I talk about it, she’s gonna see me as bonkers, y’know, she’s gonna see what I’m really worried about."
Here's what Sam said about the impact of the Rewind Technique;
"Erm, well obviously you can see it still bothers me, but I’m able to talk about it now. And I think that’s the difference, whereas before, I was really, deeply ashamed because I felt like I was going crazy or I was mentally unwell, mentally unstable, and I thought that that would affect me moving forward. Now I realise that there’s benefit in these things."
"I’ve been able to move forwards, I don’t have flashbacks anymore, I can understand that sometimes I can watch things happen, but actually, there is nothing we can do about it, however good we are, however much training we’ve had, sometimes trauma is just so severe, that actually people do die. Erm, so it’s allowed me to reflect on the incidents, it’s allowed me to put them in their box, so to speak. To know that I can’t change a congenital defect, for example, I can’t – sometimes things happen which are just shit y’know, and no amount of trying is gonna make that easier to handle, but things happen. But I can talk about it now and don’t get me wrong, I still have emotion about it, of course I do, but I can stand up in front of a thousand kids, each sitting, two thousand kids and I can show my experience, because I talk about one of the incidents to the kids, and it’s emotive, it’s hard, but I can talk about it with passion, with empathy, with showing them that I’m just human, y’know. I would definitely recommend it, because I don’t think I would be where I am and be able to talk about the incidents to the kids, if I hadn’t had the rewind therapy."
Raising awareness about Rewind Technique among frontline staff is the reason for sharing Sam's story, which all of the research participants were keen to help with. Sam said;
"I think there should be more, perhaps more information out there with regards to what it is, because I think y’know, you’re gonna get the old school paramedics for example, the old school firefighters, who are very much – ‘nah, I don’t go in for talking therapy, no that’s not for me’. If it was more readily available, if people knew that it was there, that actually it was a form of managing the trauma that they’ve sustained, by almost disassociating yourself, by reliving it in a safe space, in a safe environment, then I think the uptake would be better."
You can read my full research paper here: Rewind Technique for Trauma in Frontline Staff: Experiences of a Nurse, a Paramedic and a Firefighter. A Qualitative Study.