Dealing with trauma as an intervention for aggression: A review of approaches and the value of reprocessing


The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact of trauma with specific consideration to the neurological impact this has on information processing and potential links with aggression. Design/methodology/approach - This paper provides a summary of the literature in relation to theories of aggression and trauma. The paper considers how the two may interact and overlap and considers a theoretical rationale for why addressing trauma through a treatment such as Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) may assist to reduce aggression. Findings - The paper argues that the experience of trauma may contribute to inputs which may take a person closer towards engaging in aggression. This is consistent with information processing models and unified models of aggression such as the General Aggression Model. Factors that were specifically identified included physiological hyper-arousal, hostile attributions of stimulus, and neurological impairments. In addition, the paper also argued that there is evidence that as a result of trauma, a person's ability to provide cognitive accounts for the function of their behaviour may also be impaired because of the reduced interactivity between the two prefrontal hemispheres. Research limitations/implications - The paper argues that as a result, interventions designed to reduce aggression may benefit from including additional elements which directly assist clients to process emotional information and that a reprocessing treatment such as EMDR could assist to reduce levels of emotional arousal and improve treatment effectiveness. Differences in the way in which EMDR is carried out and the variances in treatment protocols used should be attended to increase the reliability of future research. Originality/value - Current modes of aggression therapy have focused on exposure based and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). However, there is evidence that EMDR has benefits over exposure and CBT approaches because of the way in which cognitive verbal accounts of the trauma are not required and because EMDR does not require the individual to have insight into their trauma experience and the link with aggression.






Rachel Worthington

Original Work Citation

Worthington, R. (2012, April). Dealing with trauma as an intervention for aggression: A review of approaches and the value of reprocessing. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 4(2), 108-118. doi:10.1108/17596591211208319



“Dealing with trauma as an intervention for aggression: A review of approaches and the value of reprocessing,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed May 16, 2021,

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