Mervin Smucker – From Imagery Substitution to Imagery Rescripting

Mervin Smucker (2012).  From Imagery Substitution to Imagery Rescripting:  Therapeutic Applications of Imagery from Janet’s 19th Century Laboratory to 21st Century CBT Clinical Practice.

Since the mid-1990s, the use of imagery in CBT treatments has become more commonplace, especially as a means of treating PTSD and other anxiety disorders.  However, the use of imagery as a therapeutic agent is actually not a recent discovery, but has a long history that parallels the development of psychotherapy itself and shows up in the early works of Janet, Charcot, Freud, and Jung. Later Reichian and Gestalt Therapists also made use of imagery in ways that created a powerful experience for clients, but which were difficult to integrate within an academic framework. What is new about the emerging approach to imagery in the past decade or so is the use of CBT as a framework for theoretically integrating linguistic techniques with imagery interventions.  This visual-verbal cognitive interface is reflected in Beck’s early writings in which he contended that images were “visual cognitions” subject to examination and modification just as verbal cognitions are.

Imagery Rescripting & Reprocessing Therapy (IRRT) is an expanded cognitive model that has “liberated” CBT therapists to use imagery-based interventions in a scientific manner and to empirically validate their imagery treatments.  IRRT, which is the first and only manualized imagery rescripting treatment, uniquely emphasizes the integration of imagistic and linguistic elements, as well as the use of precise and skillful questioning, Socratic imagery rather than guided imagery, and the importance of having the client take the lead in the process of transforming traumatic imagery to adaptive imagery.