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 (Smucker, 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 recently developed a self-help manual (see link below) for imagery rescripting and examined its feasibility and efficacy in individuals with depression. We found that the long version of our manual led to significant improvements in depressive symptoms compared to individuals in a wait-list group at a moderate effect size. There were also significant improvements in self-esteem and quality of life. Moreover, the treatment was particularly effective for individuals who had more severe symptoms of depression, who had a greater readiness to change and who expected the intervention to help.
Our imagery rescripting manual can be downloaded for free at the following link. 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
Help us to help others!
Recognizing the difficult financial situation of many people suffering from depression, we offer this manual and other treatment programs we have developed free of charge (see, for example, our metacognitive training program for patients with schizophrenia).
However, research is expensive. We therefore rely on federal funding and donations. If you would like to support us in providing free treatment materials to people with psychological disorders, we would be very grateful. We will of course provide these materials to you at no cost whether or not you make a donation. No one should feel morally obligated to donate! Donations will be used for research purposes only. Upcoming projects include translation of our manuals into other languages, improvements of examples in manuals, and payment of staff members who conduct research studies. If needed for tax purposes, we are happy to send you a receipt (please send an email to Steffen Moritz (firstname.lastname@example.org) and include your postal address and full name). Donations may be made to the following account or online:
Pay to: UKE AG Neuropsychologie
Bank: Hamburger Sparkasse HASPA
Reference/Reason for Payment line (this is crucial to ensure that your donation reaches us): 0470/001 Image