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Imagery Rehearsal Therapy Helps Kids with Nightmares

16 Jan

Researchers from the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa in Canada investigated whether imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT - a simple protocol based on lucid dreaming, using a a sequence similar to EMDR) could be used with children experiencing frequent nightmares.
 
Eleven boys and 9 girls, ages 9 - 11, with moderate to severe primary nightmares (1 or more per week for 6 months) and without posttraumatic stress disorder, were randomly divided into an imagery rehearsal treatment group (n = 9) or a waiting-list (n = 11) group.

ANCOVA with repeated measures revealed that, following a baseline period, IRT reduced the frequency of nightmares (p < .04; eta(2) = 0.22) in the treated group compared to the waiting-list group. This reduction was maintained over a 9-month follow-up.

The effects of IRT on post-nightmare state distress could not be assessed due to low nightmare incidences. However, retrospective trait nightmare distress was not significantly reduced. Future research is needed to validate this simple approach for nightmare reduction and to evaluate its potential for the reduction of the associated nightmare distress.

Citation: 
St-Onge M, Mercier P, De Koninck J. Imagery rehearsal therapy for frequent nightmares in children. Behavioral Sleep Medicine. 2009; 7 (2): pp. 81-98.

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