Imagery rescripting as a clinical intervention for aversive memories: A meta-analysis

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2017 Jun:55:6-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2016.11.003. Epub 2016 Nov 9.


Background and objectives: Literature suggests that imagery rescripting (ImRs) is an effective psychological intervention.

Methods: We conducted a meta-analysis of ImRs for psychological complaints that are associated with aversive memories. Relevant publications were collected from the databases Medline, PsychInfo, and Web of Science.

Results: The search identified 19 trials (including seven randomized controlled trials) with 363 adult patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (eight trials), social anxiety disorder (six trials), body dysmorphic disorder (two trials), major depression (one trial), bulimia nervosa (one trial), or obsessive compulsive disorder (one trial). ImRs was administered over a mean of 4.5 sessions (range, 1-16). Effect size estimates suggest that ImRs is largely effective in reducing symptoms from pretreatment to posttreatment and follow-up in the overall sample (Hedges' g = 1.22 and 1.79, respectively). The comparison of ImRs to passive treatment conditions resulted in a large effect size (g = 0.90) at posttreatment. Finally, the effects of ImRs on comorbid depression, aversive imagery, and encapsulated beliefs were also large.

Limitations: Most of the analyses involved pre-post comparisons and the findings are limited by the small number of randomized controlled trials.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that ImRs is a promising intervention for psychological complaints related to aversive memories, with large effects obtained in a small number of session.

Keywords: Aversive memories; Imagery rescripting; Intervention; Meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Databases, Bibliographic / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome