Imagination is one of the most powerful tools available to people undergoing psychological therapy to improve their mental health.. Thanks to this resource, psychotherapists can access with the patient their dysfunctional patterns, memories of negative experiences that have generated a negative emotional impact on them.
In this article we will talk about one of the Imaginary retreatment therapy and retreatment, Which includes some of the more complex and experiential techniques in psychological therapy, which, when used well (require improvisation skills and therapeutic skills), can help many people turn the page and adopt more adaptive points of view compared to its past.
It should be noted that, unlike other scientifically proven techniques, this therapy has been shown to be effective for post-traumatic stress disorder. Specifically, it has been shown to be effective for patients with high levels of anger, hostility and guilt over the trauma suffered.
What is Reprocessing and Imaginary Reprocessing Therapy?
Imaginary Reprocessing and Reprocessing Therapy (TRIR) was originally designed to treat adults who were sexually abused as children. It has been proposed by Smucker and Dancu (1999, 2005), although today there are different variations (see Arntz and Weertman, 1999 and Wild and Clark, 2011) to address various issues.
The TRIR highlights the emotions, impulses and needs felt by the patient when he relives the trauma in the imagination. The trauma is not denied: the patient corrects the situation in his imagination so that he can now express his feelings and act according to his needs, which at the time was not possible (for his vulnerability or his helplessness, or simply to be in shock).
It is a combination of imaginal exposure, domain imagination (in which the patient takes a more active protagonist role) and trauma-focused cognitive restructuring. The main objectives of reprocessing and imaginal reprocessing are:
Reduce anxiety, repetitive images and memories of the trauma / emotionally negative situation.
- Modify unsuitable patterns related to abuse (feeling of helplessness, filth, inherent evil).
Why is it recommended to use the TRIR?
In what cases can it be used?
In general, it has been used to a greater extent by people who suffered trauma in their childhood (child sexual abuse, child abuse, bullying) and who, as a result, developed post stress. -traumatic.
however, can be used in anyone who has had negative experiences in childhood / adolescence – not necessarily traumatic – that have had a negative impact on your personal development. For example, situations of neglect (not being well cared for), not having met their psychological needs in childhood (affection, security, feeling important and understood, validated as a person …).
It is also used in cases of social phobia, as these people usually exhibit recurring images related to memories of traumatic social events (feeling humiliated, rejected, or ridiculed) that occurred at the onset of the disorder or during its worsening.
It is also used in people with personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder or elusive personality disorder.
Variants and phases of this psychotherapeutic model
The two best-known variants of TRIR are that of Smucker and Dancu (1999) and that of Arntz and Weertman (1999).
1. Variant of Smucker and Dancu (1999)
- Imagination exposure phase: It consists in representing in the imagination, with closed eyes, the entire traumatic event, as it appears in revivivas and nightmares. The client must verbalize aloud and in the present tense what he is experiencing: sensory details, feelings, thoughts, actions.
- Imaginal retouching phase: The client visualizes the beginning of the abuse scene again, but now includes in the scene his “adult self” (present) who comes to help the child (who is himself from the past that he has suffered abuse ). The role of the “adult self” is to protect the child, to expel the abuser and to lead the child to a place of safety. It is up to the patient to decide which strategies to use (this is why it is called domain imagination). The therapist guides you through the process, albeit in a non-directive way.
- Imagination phase of “Nourish”. Through the questions, the adult is led to interact directly in the imagination with the traumatized child and to support him (by hugs, comfort, promises to stay with him, and to take care of him). When considering that the client may be ready to enter into the “nurturing” imagination, he is asked if he has anything more to say to the child before the imagination is over.
- Post-imagination reprocessing phase: It seeks to encourage the linguistic treatment of what has been worked on in the imagination and to reinforce the positive alternative representations (visual and verbal) created during the imagination of the domain.
2. Variant of Arntz and Weertman (1999)
This variant consists of 3 phases (very similar to those of Smucker and Dancu) but it differs from that of Smucker in 2 things:
- You don’t have to imagine all the traumatic memoriesBut this can only be imagined until the patient realizes that something terrible is going to happen (this is very important in the face of trauma related to child sexual abuse). The reshuffle can begin at this time and the patient does not have to remember the details of the trauma and the associated emotions.
- In the third phase, the new course of events is seen from the point of view of the child rather than that of the adult., This allows new emotions to emerge from the evolutionary level at which the trauma occurred. In this way, the patients come to understand the point of view of the child, who really could not or nothing to avoid the situation of abuse. This third phase is very useful for working on feelings of guilt (“I could have stopped it”, “I could have said that I didn’t want”), to finally feel that something different could have been done. than what has been done.