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How To Implement a Successful, Brief Intervention for Repeating Nightmares

15 Mar


I attended your workshop in New Orleans. I now have a client who is a perfect candidate for the repetitive nightmare treatment.  Is there someone in the New Orleans area that I can refer my client to for this -- or who can teach me how to go through the process myself with my client?  Thanks.  Roberto


Dear Roberto,
The best expert is the wonderful psychologist who developed the method for the veterans at the Brecksville V.A. - Beverly Donovan, PhD.   Sadly for all of us, she's retired from the V.A. – she was very generous with her time and expertise while she was still working there, but, alas, she’s taken to traveling, relaxing and visiting a lot of family.  Darn, I hate it when that happens!

But, truthfully, I’m not even sure you need a supervisor, the method is so simple and straightforward.  I used the technique for the first time myself, with my dear friend, an 84-year-old World War II survivor, who was having a hideous, intolerable, repeating nightmare from something that happened to him 60 years earlier in Italy. 

I read my own, four page description (where it’s referred to as “Imagery Rehearsal Therapy” or IRT) in Invisible Heroes, pp. 308 – 311, which describes the method in detail, thanks to the expert help of this very same Dr. Donovan, whom I trust implicitly.  In fact, I had my friend read the four pages as well, first, to see if he wanted to proceed.  I told him I’d never used it on anyone, but trusted its efficacy, so if he was game, I was willing to take a crack at it with him.  He was game.

Dr. Donovan had used the method on scores of Vietnam vets and had even done quite a bit of research with it, and swore to me that anyone who followed the protocol and faithfully did the homework for three weeks, got rid of the nightmare.  This struck me as miraculous, given the struggles I’ve had over my 33 years as a clinician, trying to help people with traumatic nightmares using traditional, deep-dish, insight therapy.  They stick like glue and are very hard to get rid of, using standard techniques.

To my amazement and delight, he got rid of the nightmare – immediately!  It never came back to haunt him again.  I have loved this technique ever since.

Good luck with this, to both of you!
All best,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award