We’ve all been there. Stress, restless nights, and the dread, terror, and panic associated with nightmares. Uncomfortable dreams are emotionally taxing have the ability to affect a person’s well-being long after they wake up. Often, when bad dreams become incredibly intense or frequently occur over a period of weeks or months, a sufferer can experience insomnia, anxiety, mood changes and a decreased quality of life. Particularly, for those dealing with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) emotional nightmares and the accompanying symptoms are all too common. However, using an emerging therapy can drastically reduce the frequency and intensity of bad dreams making them much more manageable. Imagine having the power to reprogram your nightmares to change their outcomes. An innovative therapy called Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) helps people do just that and aims to give sufferers back their restful nights.
What is IRT?
Imagery Rehearsal Therapy is a cognitive behavioral treatment aimed at reducing the number and intensity of bad dreams, specifically among people with post traumatic stress disorder. Nightmares are one of the most common symptoms for individuals suffering from PTSD and IRT focuses on making those episodes less intense.
The goal of IRT treatment is to reimagine or “rewrite” your nightmares with less terrifying outcomes. This process allows you to reprogram your mind to find dreams less frightening when they happen again. The same way that watching a horror movie for the second time isn’t as scary, IRT takes a suffer’s fears and replays them in a safe environment which helps to make the experience less intense. The long term result will be less severe nightmares, fewer nightmares and the ability to better cope with any new stressor that enters one’s life.
How does IRT Work?
When using IRT, a therapist will help you identify some of your worst nightmares. Then they’ll walk you through each of them to understand the worst parts and help you to slowly “rewrite” them with less terrifying outcomes. Doing this while awake will train your brain also to do it while you’re sleeping. Generally, you’ll start with a less intense dream in order to build your confidence and confirm that this therapy is effective for you. Once you tackle the low hanging fruit, you’ll work your way up to your most terrifying nightmares, slowly re-imagining them with positive outcomes, allowing you get through them easily and sleep soundly.
The effective use of IRT will help you address some of your worst fears that manifest in your dreams while changing your mindset in your waking hours. By practicing positive thinking and mindfulness, you’ll be able to process new stressful stimuli correctly instead of it presenting itself as bad dreams or night terrors.
Do you think that Imagery Rehearsal Therapy could be an effective treatment for you? Don’t go another night suffering from physically, emotionally, and mentally damaging nightmares. Talk to your therapist to learn more about IRT and how it can help you alleviate your PSTD symptoms.
Newport Beach Psychologist, Dimitra Takos, PsyD.