Psychologically traumatic events are highly prevalent in people’s lives. After experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, people may develop a series of post-traumatic stress reactions and are more prone to self-injury and suicidal behaviors, emotional-behavioral problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, personality problems such as Cluster B personality disorder, and trauma and stress-related disorders. Commonly used Psychotherapies for coping with post-traumatic stress and related disorders often expose patients to their traumatic memories, which may lead to adverse reactions such as mood swings, excessive stress, and dissociation in some patients.
This paper introduces flash technique, which focuses on processing traumatic memories in the brain's information processing system without exposure to trauma. Flash technique is a recently developed method of relieving distress from traumatic memories and treating psychological problems without organic damage. Flash technique is brief, low-intensity, less invasive, effective, rapid, well-tolerated.
Flash technique builds on EMDR and initially emerged as an adjunct procedure to EMDR before becoming a stand-alone therapy due to its excellent stand-alone treatment effects. Flash technique was shown not to differ much in efficacy and basic procedures from EMDR, but flash technique makes the well-being of the patients more beneficial by not exposing them to trauma, having fewer adverse effects, and not directly implanting resources. A core technique of flash technique is to engage in positive imagery (e.g., enjoyable activities, wonderful memories, dear people, or someone’s favorite music) while discouraging patients from intentionally activating the targeted traumatic memory. They also have in common the ability to reduce the vividness and emotional activation of memory, to occupy only limited working memory resources, to use counter-conditioning to make fear disappear, and to replace or "counter" maladaptive responses. But the eye-movement patterns of the two methods are different, and therefore the physiological mechanisms involved, as well as the cognitive processing mechanisms involved in activating traumatic memories, are different, but remain to be further explored and studied.
In clinical applications, flash technique can desensitize trauma memories, significantly decreasing the subjective disturbance of an aversive memory, and predicting higher psychological well-being. However, the current research on the therapeutic effects of flash technique has some shortcomings in sampling and methodology and needs further improvement. In addition, there are few studies focus on the working mechanisms of flash technique, which still need further exploration.
In conclusion, the clinical application of flash technique and related research has progressed, but it is still in the initial stage. Future studies should adopt a more rigorous randomized controlled trial (RCT) design that includes comparison groups that mimic demand effects, extended follow-up periods, and an assessment of other related symptoms beyond reactivity to the treated memory. Also, future randomized controlled studies should further assess the applicability and effectiveness of flash technique as a group therapy method. It should include a clinical, more heterogeneous, and larger sample to improve the generalizability of the findings. Although there is a growing body of research showing that the flash technique can help people who have experienced trauma, the existing research has largely focused on North and South America and European countries. Few studies have explored its effectiveness in other cultures. Thus, validating the clinical effectiveness of flash technique in different cultural contexts may provide additional benefits. Future studies may also benefit from adopting diverse measurement methods and research tools, such as fMRI, ERP, and eye-tracking technology to explore flash technique’s working mechanism. Finally, future research should gradually expand its application areas (e.g., victims of earthquakes, fires, floods, and other disasters; or firefighters, physicians, nurses and other special professionals), and result in a standardized and scalable intervention program.