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Imagery & Imagery Rescripting

Different imagery techniques are used in many different types of therapy, for many different purposes. There is evidence that imagery produces more powerful emotional responses than verbal representations. It is often claimed that imagery work can lead to changes in felt emotion, and that it can be especially useful when clients are stuck using cognitive techniques alone: “I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t feel it”.

Imagery Rescripting

Imagery rescripting is a particular type of imagery frequently used in the treatment of symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks and nightmares. There is also evidence that it could be useful in the treatment of intrusive images in other conditions including depression.

  • Imagery Rescripting Type A – negative image transformed into positive image
  • Imagery Rescripting Type B – new positive image constructed to rescript negative schemas
  • Description & examples of imagery rescripting
  • Smucker’s original paper on imagery rescripting
  • Like a phoenix from the ashes – imagery rescripting self-help manual used in Moritz et al (2018)

Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT)

Imagery rehearsal therapy is often used for treatment of trauma-related nightmares.

  • Krakow, B., & Zadra, A. (2010). Imagery rehearsal therapy: principles and practice. Sleep Medicine Clinics, 5(2), 289-298

Exposure, Relaxation, And Rescripting Therapy (ERRT)

Compassion Imagery

The image of ‘the perfect nurturer’ is often used in Compassionate Mind Therapy (Gilbert / Lee)

  • Instructions for building a compassionate image

Rewind Technique / Visual-Kinesthetic Dissociation (VK Dissociation)

The rewind technique is frequently used by practitioners of NLP. Although there’s not much scientific evidence for the effectiveness of NLP in general the rewind technique shares commonalities with other forms of exposure therapy and so is inlcuded here.

  • Edwards, D. (2007). Restructuring implicational meaning through memory-based imagery: Some historical notes. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 38, 306-316
  • Hackmann, A. (2011). Imagery rescripting in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Cognitive and Behavioural Practice, 18(4), 424-432.
  • Holmes, E. A., Arntz, A., Smucker, M. R. (2009). Imagery rescripting in cognitive behaviour therapy: Images, treatment techniques and outcomes. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.
  • Holmes, E. A., Matthews, A. (2010). Mental imagery in emotion and emotional disorders. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 349-362.
  • Long, M. E., Quevillon, R. (2009). Imagery rescripting in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23, 67-76.
  • Long, M. E., Davis, J. L., Springer, J. R., Elhai, J. D., Rhudy, J. L., Teng, E. J., & Frueh, B. C. (2011). The role of cognitions in imagery rescripting for posttraumatic nightmares. Journal of clinical psychology, 67(10), 1008-1016
  • Moritz, S., Ahlf-Schumacher, J., Hottenrott, B., Peter, U., Franck, S., Schnell, T., … & Jelinek, L. (2018). We cannot change the past, but we can change its meaning. A randomized controlled trial on the effects of self-help imagery rescripting on depression. Behaviour research and therapy, 104, 74-83.
  • Arntz, A., Kindt, M., & Tiesema, M. (2007). Treatment of PTSD: A comparison of imaginal exposure with and without imagery rescripting. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.
  • Brewin, C. R., Wheatley, J., Patel, T., Fearon, P., Hackmann, A., Wells, A., Fisher, P., Myers, S. (2009). Imagery rescripting as a brief stand-alone treatment for depressed patients with intrusive memories. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47(7), 569-576
  • Smucker, Dancu, Foa & Niederee (1995) Imagery Rescripting: A new treatment for survivors of childhood sexual abuse suffering from post-traumatic stress. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 9(1), 3-17.
  • Wild, J., Hackmann, A., Clark, D. (2008). Rescripting early memories linked to negative images in social phobia: a pilot study. Behaviour Therapy, 39(1), 47-56.

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