Mervin Smucker. Imagery-based interventions for PTSD: Outcome data.

Symposium presentated at the 37th Annual Congress of the European Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Therapies, Helsinki, Finland.

Since the early 1990s, the use of imagery as a primary therapeutic agent in fostering cognitive and emotional processing of traumatic material is being employed by a rapidly growing number of CBT clinicians and theorists. Traumatic memories and associated meanings are often encoded as vivid images and sensations embedded in the traumatic imagery itself and is not accessible through linguistic retrieval alone.  As such, imagery-based interventions are increasingly used as primary therapeutic agents to facilitate alleviation of PTSD symptomatology and modify traumagenic beliefs and schemas.

In this talk, Dr. Smucker describes how he “stumbled” across a powerful imagery rescripting intervention which induced a dramatic change within one session with a rape victim twenty years ago, and how he went on to build on this case to develop an imagery rescripting treatment for individuals who have been traumatized and are struggling with PTSD.

Empirical data from 3 recent studies are presented on the outcomes of two imagery-based treatments for victims of Type I work-related accidents suffering from PTSD:  (1) prolonged exposure, (2) imagery-rescripting and reprocessing therapy. The results of these studies are discussed along with their implications for treatment.  The underlying mechanisms involved in both the maintenance and alleviation of PTSD symptoms are also addressed.  Evidence-based hypotheses are advanced pertaining to how the clinician may ascertain the best treatment fit between specific imagery interventions and the trauma characteristics of a given PTSD patient.

Mervin Smucker