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Imaginary rescripting


Imaginal rescripting is an effective method in the treatment of PTSD and trauma symptoms. With IR, you rewrite negative or traumatic memories. Learn more about how IR works and whether it will help you with your help issue.

What is imaginary rescripting?

With Imaginary Rescripting (IR), you rewrite memories of unpleasant or traumatic events that affect your mental health. You recall an event from your memory as if you are reliving it. You imagine how the event could have turned out, or what you wish you had done.


It gives you the opportunity to express certain feelings, emotions or needs that you have suppressed at the time. With imaginary rescripting, you give your traumatic memory a different meaning and rewrite the memory in your mind. Your memory gets an “update,” so to speak.


Imaginal Rescripting a technique often used within both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Schematherapy. In both CBT and Schematherapy, the option exists to use Imaginary Rescripting as a tool to help you recall and process past experiences again, leading to positive changes in emotional reactions, beliefs and behaviors. The approach and goal may differ between the approaches.


How does IR work?

During IR, the memory of a traumatic event is addressed. Or another unpleasant memory that interferes with your daily life. Together with your psychologist, you first retrieve (part of) the memory. After that you look at how you can make the situation in your memory better. Questions that you ask at that point may include;

  • What did you need in that moment?
  • What action would you have wanted to perform?
  • How would the event have ended?


You do this in your mind and you imagine a better outcome. You thus change the meaning of the past event: you rewrite the memory.


You may also have had certain feelings or emotions at that conscious moment that you could not express at that time. Imaginary rescripting provides the space to still do this.


What is the result of IR?

The goal of IR is to reduce the negative impact your memories have on your mental health. The therapy form helps reduce negative emotions and reinforce positive thoughts. While rewriting the memory, the psychologist adds elements to reinforce feelings of safety, control and support. For example, you visualize a different outcome. By “updating” your memory, you develop a different perspective on past events.


Is IR right for me?

IR helps with negative or traumatic memories that affect your mental health. It is an effective treatment technique if you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to trauma. This also applies to trauma or bad memories in other mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, depression, phobias and some eating disorders.


IR can also be effective if you suffer from negative thoughts, beliefs or a negative perception of an event. Imaginal rescripting helps you turn the negative experience into positive thoughts.


IR therapy

IR therapy can take place in one session. It is more common to spread the treatment to several sessions.

IR in combination with EMDR

IR is sometimes used as an alternative to EMDR. A combination of both techniques is also possible in the treatment of PTSD. This technique focuses on reducing the emotional charge associated with certain memories.


Imaginary rescripting vs imaginary exposure

The difference between imaginary rescripting and imaginary exposure is that in IR you rewrite the memory to a better alternative. In imaginary exposure therapy, on the contrary, you are repeatedly confronted with the painful memory. You do this by repeatedly talking about it in detail. As a result, you address unhelpful thoughts about the memory and learn to create other thoughts about the event. These two techniques are also used side by side.


IR in trauma and PTSD

During an introductory consultation, a psychologist can find out if IR is appropriate in your situation. It is important that you find a psychologist with whom you feel safe and comfortable.

publish-icon Published - 12 Feb 2024
Corinne has lots of experience with various treatment methods, including IR, CBT, EMDR and client- and body-centered therapeutic interventions. She encourages you to discover what is best for you. You work this out together in sessions. During IR treatment, you also work on assignments yourself between sessions with support from an online psychologist.
GZ-Psychologist Corinne Langedijk

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