Many people suffering from depression and anxiety experience negative mental images and memories of events, as well as self-defeating thoughts and worries (from the past or related to the future). Research on the imagery rescripting technique suggests that positive mental images can “compete with” negative images, reducing their impact on mood and self-esteem.
From blob fish to leopard, exercise from the manual. Drawings by Fiona Braun.
Imagery rescripting is a psychotherapeutic technique that aims to ameliorate negative emotions by altering (i.e., rescripting) negative memories and images. The method was initially developed for individuals experiencing psychological distress due to trauma (Schmucker, Dancu, Foa & Niederee, 1995), but trials in the face-to-face setting (i.e., treatment conducted by therapists) have yielded promising results for other diagnoses as well.
Our group has developed a self-help manual (see link below) for imagery rescripting and has examined its feasibility and efficacy in individuals with depression. We found that the full version of our manual led to significant improvements in depressive symptoms compared to a wait-list group at a moderate effect size. There were also significant improvements in self-esteem and quality of life. The treatment was particularly effective for individuals who had more severe symptoms of depression and those who had a greater readiness to change.
If you try the technique, we welcome your feedback regardless of whether or not you found it to be helpful.
Moritz, S., Ahlf-Schumacher, J., Hottenrott, B., Peter, U., Franck, S., Schnell, T., Peter, H., Schneider, B. C.* & Jelinek, L.* (2018). We cannot change the past, but we can change its meaning. A randomized controlled trial on the effects of self-help imagery rescripting on depression. Behaviour Research & Therapy. 104, 74-83.
*last authors made equal contributions