Workshop presented at the 38th European Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies, Helsinki, Finland.
The use of imagery as a primary therapeutic agent in fostering cognitive and emotional processing of traumatic material is being employed by a growing number of CBT clinicians. Since much of the cognitive-affective disturbance associated with intrusive memories is embedded in the traumatic images themselves, directly challenging and modifying the traumatic imagery becomes a powerful, if not preferred, means of processing trauma-related material.
In this workshop, Dr. Smucker demonstrates how trauma victims suffering from PTSD can be effectively treated with Imagery Rescripting and Reprocessing Therapy (IRRT) – an imagery-based, trauma-processing CBT treatment (with stabilization components) that blends visual and verbal interventions to access, modify, and process traumatic memories. Specifically, each IRRT session comprises three phases that involve: (1) visually activating and reliving the traumatic imagery, (2) transforming the trauma-related imagery into mastery/coping imagery, and (3) facilitating emotional self-regulation through self-calming, self-soothing, and self-nurturing imagery.
IRRT applications are brought to life via instructional videos, experiential exercises, and case examples. Participants experience first-hand how this combination of intense trauma-processing followed by a stabilization-focused 3rd phase, can lead to dramatic cognitive shifts (sometimes within a single session) that (a) reduce or eliminate PTSD symptoms, (b) modify maladaptive trauma-related beliefs, (c) enhance one’s capacity to self-nurture and self-calm, and (d) promote the development of adaptive schemas. IRRT is a manualized CBT treatment for PTSD with solid empirical support.
In this workshop, Dr. Smucker also addresses how to use critical information about the patient’s specific trauma characteristics for effective treatment planning – such as, when to focus on trauma-processing vs. stabilization interventions, the importance of assessing the patient’s predominant PTSD emotion (e.g., guilt, shame, anger, or fear), and the effect that such information may have on treatment.