NLP Phobia, Trauma and PTSD Treatment

Neuro Linguistic Programming phobia, trauma and ptsd therapy

Using Neuro Linguistic Programming to Heal a Traumatic Memory

By Steve Reed, LPC, LMSW, LMFT  copyright 1997

Steve B. Reed, psychotherapist and counselor

People who suffer from phobias, traumas and post traumatic stress disorder can now benefit from several new and highly effective therapies (including NLP) that have been shown valuable in facilitating healing.

What is Neuro Linguistic Programming?  Are you looking for articles to explain NLP?  The following article illustrates one man's path to a full recovery utilizing the NLP Phobia, Trauma and PTSD Treatment.


Bill had been working as the assistant manager of a liquor store. Everyday he would take the stores deposit to the local bank.  Then one cool and cloudy fall afternoon a man stepped up, pulled a gun and demanded the cash.  Bill froze gripped with fear.  His hand shaking, he handed over the moneybag.   It all happened so fast, he hardly saw the man’s face.  Bill’s eyes were fixed on the cold steel barrel of the pistol the whole time.   All he could do was think of his wife and child, say a quick prayer and hope he wouldn’t be shot.

Bill was lucky.  He was badly shaken but not physically hurt.  But as the days and nights passed Bill become very concerned.  He began having nightmares.  He couldn’t stop thinking about the robbery.  He felt terribly anxious at work and even panicky when he would have to take the store deposit to the bank.  Bill began to be afraid of being robbed again, car-jacked or worse.  Soon he started feeling overwhelmed because his fear was growing more intense and more frequent.  He knew it was time to seek help.

When Bill came to my office I told him about a therapeutic process from NLP Therapy (Neuro Linguistic Programming) called the visual/kinesthetic dissociation technique (v/k-d).  Also referred to as the “Phobia, Trauma and PTSD Treatment”, this method has been very successfully used to help people recover from overwhelming events and the associated anxiety.  The process involves replaying the visual memory of a painful incident but in entirely different ways than a person usually does.  This method disrupts the painful way an experience is remembered and enables the person’s mind to recode the event in a way that does not bother them.  Faster and more effective than older forms of traditional talk therapy, this process is extremely beneficial for people who have a good ability to visualize.

Since Bill was good with visual imagery, we decided to work with this NLP technique.  I asked him to begin by explaining what happened to him.  I also asked him some questions about the way he saw the scene in his mind.  This is important because people who are not yet over a traumatic incident remember the details of such an event differently than people who are still in pain over their trauma.  Bill remembered his traumatic event as though he was in the scene and it was happening to him.  He saw the gun as being bigger than it really was.  The colors were sharp and vivid.  The gunman seemed closer than he actually was.  The movie he saw in his mind of the incident also seemed to be in slow motion.  By thinking of the robbery in this way, it seemed extremely intense and frightening.

The images from the robbery that bothered him the most were 1) the robber, 2) the gun, and 3) the yellow Cadillac which was the get-away car.  On a scale that ranks disturbance from 0 (least disturbing) to 10 (most disturbing), Bill rated his anxiety level at a 10.

I asked Bill to begin by imagining that he was in a small movie theater looking at a blank screen.  I then had him see an image of himself on the screen in black & white without any sound.  Next I asked Bill to step outside of himself and imagine that he was in the projection booth of the theater watching himself in the audience observing the photo of himself on the screen.  These are all-important shifts in perception.  Changing the color image on the screen to black & white while turning off the sound diminishes the intensity of what he is about to watch.  By stepping into an outside observer position he is immediately more removed from the event.  Shifting to a greater distance up in the projection booth creates more separation and makes the scene appear smaller and less threatening.  These changes will allow Bill to view the event the way people who have already gotten over unpleasant memories view them.

It was now time to have Bill review the robbery in his mind but with the important changes that we had just discussed.  As Bill played the scene in his mind, I observe him closely to notice any signs of intense emotion, which could signal that he had reverted to his old way of viewing the scene.  When he got to the end of the scene, Bill reported that he had successfully remained in the disassociated position in the projection booth, watching himself in the audience, seeing the black & white, silent move unfold.  For the first time since the robbery he had been able to think about the incident without having the tight, fearful feeling in his chest.

Bill was now ready for the second half of the process.  This time, I asked him to imagine leaving the projection booth and returning to his seat in the movie theater.  From there he was to walk up to the movie screen and step into the movie at the end of the scene.  Once inside the scene he was instructed to change the movie from black & white back to color.  He was then told to rewind the scene back to the beginning in about 2-4 seconds.  This is like watching videotape rewinding on an old VCR but in this case you are in the video as it rewinds.  We went over this part of the process several times until Bill was able to rewind the scene quickly enough.

When Bill finished, we repeated both parts of the Phobia, Trauma and PTSD treatment process several more times.  As a result of this NLP therapy several important changes took place.  First, the degree of disturbance associated with the traumatic memory had dropped in intensity.  The intensity which was measured on a scale of 0 to 10 where 10 represents something that was as disturbing as possible and 0 was not disturbing at all.  On this scale, Bill began at a level 8, a very intense and upsetting level.  After repeating the NLP treatment process several times, Bill’s disturbance level had dropped to a level 4.  This was a 50% reduction in how upsetting the memory of the robbery was to him.

Several important changes also took place regarding the way his mind coded the event. 

When he originally thought of the trauma, he saw himself in the scene as though it was happening to him.  He saw the gun as disproportionately larger than the rest of the scene.  The lighting seemed brighter than it really was and the colors were extremely vivid.

After NLP therapy, he now remembers the scene as though he was watching it on video not like he was in it at all.  The gun seems smaller than it really was.  The lighting is dimmer and the colors now seem faded or subdued.  These changes reflect a lessening of intensity that is a part of the process of desensitizing a traumatic experience.  Bill is beginning to view his traumatic memory in a similar way to his non-traumatic memories.  His healing is progressing nicely.

In further NLP therapy sessions we continued to work with the Phobia, Trauma and PTSD treatment process.  We focused on other elements of concern, which included transporting the store’s money to the bank and feeling uncomfortable when he would see a yellow Cadillac resembling the get-away car.  Each of these aspects of his trauma were treated in the same way with good results.  After several sessions Bill no longer was experiencing nightmares, flashbacks or intense intrusive thoughts about being robbed or shot.

His disturbance level had dropped.  It had been reduced somewhere between a level 2 and 3. When I inquired about what kept that remaining level of disturbance present he said that his store had still not hired any security personnel.  We also discussed the crime statistics for the area, which had been on the rise for several years.  The neighborhood was in fact very crime prone.  Given the reality of the area where he worked his discomfort level was appropriate.

Bill decided that what he needed to do was seek employment elsewhere.  He had been working with the store for eight years and enjoyed his work.  He was however concerned about the changing nature of the neighborhood, the increase in crime and his store’s lack of willingness to hire security personnel.  Even after his robbery in the store parking lot, the owner refused to increase the store’s security.  Bill decided that this was reasonable cause for any prudent person to make a change.  I concurred.

Within a few weeks Bill found employment in a better neighborhood and at a better salary.  After this change, he reported that his disturbance level dropped to zero and he had no remaining signs of residual stress from his traumatic experience.

This case example illustrates the successful use of the NLP Phobia, Trauma and PTSD treatment in therapy with a single incident traumatic experience.  When several similar incidents have been linked together, each incident and every important aspect of each incident must be treated to achieve the desired effect of complete desensitization and resolution of the signs and symptoms of traumatic stress.

Steve B. Reed, LPC, LMSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist in private practice in the Dallas area.  He has been working with NLP for over 25 years.  He is also the developer of the REMAP process, the leading-edge treatment utilizing acupressure to rapidly ease emotional distress.  For details, see Quick REMAP and the REMAP process.

To schedule an appointment with Steve -- call 972-997-9955 today.

Help with Fear of Flying, Fear of Driving, Fear of Public Speaking, Fear of Insects, Fear of Small Animals, Fear of Elevators, Fear of Water, Fear of Heights, Fear of Bridges, Fear of Public Places, Fear of Medical Procedures, Test Anxiety, Claustrophobia, Panic Attacks, Anxiety Attacks, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia (Social Anxiety).

Please note that Steve has retired from the treatment of trauma patients.

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