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Trauma-specific guided imagery: an adjunct intervention to group psychotherapy

15 Aug

We have strong indications that our Healing Trauma imagery gives an assist to existing cognitive behavioral and multi-modal programs for PTSD in recovering vets, but Leslie Root, PhD, Ellen Koch, PhD & colleagues at the VA Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi, Mississippi, wanted to measure the effects of the trauma-specific imagery as the only add-on intervention after each of 5 group treatment sessions for PTSD. This breaks new ground.

They presented early findings with 22 subjects from 5 different groups in a poster session at the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies annual conference earlier this month. World War II, Korean War and Vietnam vets were included in the study in other words, the source of the PTSD was at least 30 years old or more, and most of the subjects had been in treatment for PTSD for at least 2 years. Subjects were given a pre-test and kept a daily log during treatment; a post-test was given by telephone after the course of treatment and again at 3 months follow-up.

The researchers found a surprisingly low attrition rate (unusual for this population) and the primary benefit was reported to be increased relaxation. Other positive outcomes were diminished arousal, positive mood states, improved sense of self and others and improved cognitive and emotional functioning. For some, symptoms worsened initially, probably due to the evocative nature of the imagery. For many, feelings became more accessible (sorrow, sadness, loneliness & grief), which was seen by the therapists as a benefit. However, when a pre-test and post-test on anxiety management was compared, no differences were found at 3 months.

Nonetheless, at 3 month follow-up, 89% were still using the tape, and 100% of the subjects recommended the tape for other vets with PTSD, as did their significant others.

The researchers will continue with this study and look to refine their findings.

Citation: Root L, Koch E, Reyntjens K, O’Brien C, Alexander S, Gaughf N. Trauma-Specific Guided Imagery: A Systematic Evaluation of an Adjunct Intervention to Group Psychotherapy. Poster Session, ISTSS Annual Meeting, New Orleans, 2001.
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