Resolving early memories reduces the distress of later related memories


Trauma therapists must make clinical judgments about which upsetting memories to target in what order, taking into account the particular client’s ability to tolerate a potentially challenging trauma-focused session. This paper presents the results of a study with 119 participants in 10 trauma workshops (either EMDR or Progressive Counting, an exposure variant) in 4 countries. Participants first provided a SUDS rating of an identified distressing memory, then “floated back” and worked on an earlier memory, and finally provided another SUDS rating on the initial (not worked-on) identified memory. The final SUDS rating was lower for almost every participant, often substantially so, indicating that work on earlier related memories is likely to reduce the distress associated with a later memory. Follow-up with a subset of participants at 1 and 4 weeks post-treatment indicated some deterioration but substantial maintenance of effect. When the client’s affect tolerance is a potentially limiting factor in proceeding with trauma work, the present findings support the strategy of first working through earlier related memories.






Ricky Greenwald

Original Work Citation

Greenwald, R. (2008, November). Resolving early memories reduces the distress of later related memories. Poster presented at the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies 24th Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL



“Resolving early memories reduces the distress of later related memories,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed November 26, 2020,

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