Imagery Rehearsal Therapy for Nightmares
Approximately 1 in 3 people suffer from bouts of insomnia. While many resort to sleep meds (which have been shown to lack long-term effectiveness) or have given up hope that better sleep is possible, a scientifically-proven treatment is available and highly underutilized. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBTi, is considered by primary care doctors and sleep experts as the first-line, gold standard treatment for insomnia. CBTi typically leads to noticeable improvement within 4 weeks. For an excellent overview of CBTi by Dr. Rachel Manber, director of the Stanford Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, you can go here.
Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) for Nightmares
Some facts about nightmares:
- Nightmares can change – the content, intensity, and/or frequency of nightmares are all modifiable.
- Over time, nightmares become a habit – With repeating nightmares we have rehearsed the same bad story over and over again. Thus, once we fall asleep, our brain automatically falls back into that negative track once again. IRT teaches you how to create another track (one that is not disruptive or disturbing) so that when you fall asleep your brain has a more restful direction it can go.
- Events that happen during the day sometimes appear in our dreams and nightmares – we frequently dream about events of the day. People, places, and things we are exposed to during the day often show up in our dreams and nightmares. By practicing positive imagery techniques during the day, we can replace unwanted content in our dreams with content more of our choosing.
Skeptical? I was too. As a clinical scientist, I was highly skeptical of this treatment before I started conducting it. Much of my skepticism was due to my belief that dreams and nightmares were an area entirely outside of our control. What I have found from successfully conducting this treatment with numerous people is that this belief is in fact a myth. Similar to a lot of things in life, with practice we can change the habitual patterns that our minds fall into, even if those patterns occur when we are asleep. I began conducting this treatment with veterans with PTSD related to combat and other stressful military experiences. By the end of the first group I ran, both my veterans and I became strong proponents of this treatment. Seeing people find relief from a 5-week nightmare treatment after suffering from nightmares for months, sometimes decades on end, is an incredibly rewarding aspect of my work.
I offer imagery rehearsal therapy for nightmares on a one-on-one basis only. If you are interested in learning more about IRT, please click here to schedule an appointment or free phone consultation.