Researchers at The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health find that the positive effects of Imagery Rehearsal Therapy on posttraumatic nightmares continue to last for twelve months post-treatment.. Researchers at The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health in West Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia looked at long term efficacy of Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) for reducing posttraumatic nightmares. With imagery rehearsal therapy, trauma survivors repeatedly re-imagine their nightmares with new endings, in much the same fashion as Stephen LeBerge’s Lucid Dreaming technique.

A pilot study by these same authors, had already demonstrated that IRT was effective in the treatment of posttraumatic nightmares in a group of combat veterans up to 3-month posttreatment.

This study reports the 12-month follow-up data of the pilot study, examining the longer term outcome of the IRT treatment. Twelve Australian Vietnam veterans with chronic combat-related PTSD were treated with 6 weekly sessions of imagery rehearsal and assessed using standardized measures of nightmare frequency and intensity, PTSD, depression, anxiety and broader symptomatology at intake, posttreatment, and 3-and 12-month follow-up.

Significant improvements in targeted nightmare frequency and intensity were evident to 12-month posttreatment. Similarly, improvements in overall PTSD, depression, anxiety, and broader based symptomatology were also maintained to 12 months.

This study provides preliminary evidence that the positive treatment effects of IRT on posttraumatic nightmares, PTSD, and broader symptomatology in males with chronic combat-related PTSD hold up for the longer term.

Citation: Forbes D, Phelps AJ, McHugh AF, Debenham P, Hopwood M, Creamer M. Imagery rehearsal in the treatment of posttraumatic nightmares in Australian veterans with chronic combat-related PTSD: 12-month follow-up data. J Trauma Stress. 2003 Oct;16(5):509-13. [email protected]