The characteristics of trauma and memory have implications for therapy with individuals who continue to be plagued by memories of distressing/traumatic events. Because trauma memories are encoded primarily in images, and the affective disturbance is embedded in the traumatic imagery, it follows that the utilization of imagery is essential as a healing agent in the processing of traumatic memories. Numerous studies have indeed found that while simply talking about traumatic events on a rational level may give some insight into why individuals continue to relive and re-experience negative images, it does not change the images per se. In order for the alleviation of these recurring, upsetting images to occur, it is necessary to visually re-activate and re-process them together with all of the associated thoughts and feelings. As such there are three critical elements that characterize the use of imagery as a healing agent with traumatic memories:
- imagery is actively employed during cognitive recall, reprocessing, and restructuring;
- the recurring traumatic imagery is a primary target for intervention;
- the level of affective arousal during visual reliving is similar to what was experienced at the time of the traumatic event.