Imagery & imagery rescripting

Different imagery techniques are used in many different types of therapy, for many different purposes. There is evidence that imagery produces more powerful emotional responses than verbal representations. It is often claimed that imagery work can lead to changes in felt emotion, and that it can be especially useful when clients are stuck using cognitive techniques alone: "I hear what you're saying, but I don't feel it"

Imagery rescripting

Imagery rescripting is a particular type of imagery frequently used in the treatment of symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks and nightmares. There is also evidence that it could be useful in the treatment of intrusive images in other conditions including depression.

Imagery Rescripting Type A - negative image transformed into positive image

Imagery Rescripting Type B - new positive image constructed to rescript negative schemas

Description & examples of imagery rescripting PDFPDF Download from

Smucker's original paper on imagery rescripting PDF Download from 

Imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT)

Imagery rehearsal therapy is often used for treatment of trauma-related nightmares.

Treating nightmares with imagery rescripting and rehearsal PDF Download from

Exposure, relaxation, and rescripting therapy (ERRT) 

Compassion imagery

The image of 'the perfect nurturer' is often used in Compassionate Mind Therapy (Gilbert / Lee)

Instructions for building a compassionate image PDF Download from 

Rewind technique / Visual-kinesthetic dissociation (VK Dissociation)

The rewind technique is frequently used by practitioners of NLP. Although there's not much scientific evidence for the effectiveness of NLP in general the rewind technique shares commonalities with other forms of exposure therapy and so is inlcuded here.

The Rewind Technique PDF Download from

(Dr Mike Heap provides an excellent review of NLP on his website

Key papers

Hackmann, A. (2011). Imagery rescripting in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Cognitive and Behavioural Practice, 18(4), 424-432.

Holmes, E. A., Arntz, A., Smucker, M. R. (2009). Imagery rescripting in cognitive behaviour therapy: Images, treatment techniques and outcomes. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. PDF Download from

Holmes, E. A., Matthews, A. (2010). Mental imagery in emotion and emotional disorders. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 349-362. PDF Download from

Long, M. E., Quevillon, R. (2009). Imagery rescripting in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23, 67-76. 

Evidence - a selection of studies testing imagery rescripting procedures

Arntz, A., Kindt, M., & Tiesema, M. (2007). Treatment of PTSD: A comparison of imaginal exposure with and without imagery rescripting. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.

Brewin, C. R., Wheatley, J., Patel, T., Fearon, P., Hackmann, A., Wells, A., Fisher, P., Myers, S. (2009). Imagery rescripting as a brief stand-alone treatment for depressed patients with intrusive memories. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47(7), 569-576

Smucker, Dancu, Foa & Niederee (1995) Imagery Rescripting: A new treatment for survivors of childhood sexual abuse suffering from post-traumatic stress. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 9(1), 3-17.

Wild, J., Hackmann, A., Clark, D. (2008). Rescripting early memories linked to negative images in social phobia: a pilot study. Behaviour Therapy, 39(1), 47-56. PDF Download from


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