Imagery Rescripting: A New Treatment for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse Suffering From Posttraumatic Stress

Some theoretical foundations for you: Here is an article published in the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, Volume 9, Number 1,1995 by Constance Dancu, Edna B. Foa, Jan L. Niederee and yours truly, Mervin Smucker PhD.

Mervin Smucker – Definition of Imagery Rescripting and Reprocessing Therapy (IRRT) .

IRRT is an imagery-based CBT treatment designed to alleviate PTSD symptoms and modify trauma-related images, beliefs and schemas. IRRT involves three phases of imagery:

  1. imaginal reliving – visually recalling and re-experiencing the traumatic imagery along with the associated thoughts, affect, and bodily sensations accompanied by the creation of a detailed, descriptive, verbal narrative;
  2. mastery imagery –  visualizing oneself as a competent and capable ADULT (today) successfully confronting and disempowering the perpetrator (back then) while rescuing the CHILD from the trauma scene;
  3. self-calming/self-nurturing imagery  – visualizing oneself as an ADULT (today) calming, soothing, and nurturing the traumatized CHILD (back then).

Through this 3-phase imaginal symbolic “psychodrama” (on the “inner stage”), the trauma material is initially activated and experienced through the eyes of the “traumatized child,” and then challenged, modified, and reprocessed through the eyes of the “empowered adult” today.  Replacing victimization imagery with mastery imagery enables trauma victims to experience themselves responding to the traumatic event as an empowered individual today no longer “frozen” in a state of helplessness, uncertainty, and confusion.  In addition, the overwhelming emotional and physiological distress that often accompanies trauma memories is replaced with positive feelings of self-nurturing and self-calm. Thus, through the re-living, re-scripting, and re-processing of the trauma memory, successful emotional and cognitive processing of the traumatic event may occur, allowing the individual’s response to the traumatic event to normalize.

Mervin Smucker (2012)

You can find a presentation about IRRT here: Mervin Smucker IRRT Presentation