WASH the WEB: 10th Annual Trauma Summit (California)


 To combat burn-out and the effects of chronic stress, the following is a simple tool I have devised to help first-responders and emergency & medical staff to process difficult emotions associated with their daily work. It is explained in the lecture Working in trauma: a blueprint for a better work-life balance.

 “I’m WASHing off the WEB.”

Theory:          Using mature defence mechanisms (Vaillant, 1985)

Using compassion more than empathy (Singer, 2014)

Using exposure therapy techniques

Using a technique based on EMDR (Artigas, 2014)


Tool:               WASH your mind during the day while at work between cases.       

Wall off your limbic system; affirm “I am here to be useful.”

                        Anticipate trauma; make space on a shelf in your mind.

                        Shelve the trauma; consciously Suppress it to be processed later.

                        Hold Hope; reaffirm between cases “I was and continue to be useful.”


WEB processes the shelved emotions at the end of the day, preferably before you arrive home in the evening; walk in a park, perhaps. Walk through the day’s emotions in your mind, recall each event. Expose yourself to and Experience each Emotion; consciously cry, get angry, laugh, feel fear. You may need to ‘push’ your emotion in the same way you ’push’ your emotion when at the theatre

Butterfly hug; (optional) tap left & right on clavicles as explained.


Practice:       Memorize the tool step-by-step.

Aim to do it daily for three weeks for it to become a habit.

Use gentle reminders to keep on track.

Just as drills, procedures and practices are important to have in-grained for emergency situations, so too is regularly practicing and maintaining this tool.



 Singer, Tania, and Olga M. Klimecki. “Empathy and compassion.” Current Biology 24.18 (2014): R875-R878.

Vaillant, George E. “An empirically derived hierarchy of adaptive mechanisms and its usefulness as a potential diagnostic axis.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 71.S319 (1985): 171-180.

 Artigas, Luciana, and Ignacio Jarero. “The butterfly hug.” Implementing EMDR early mental health interventions for man-made and natural disasters (2014): 127-130.

Ben Heim