January 18, 2011
Self-help Method Can Help Cure Nightmares
In the last 2010 issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, a group of researchers of the University of Utrecht has tested a self-help method for treating nightmares in a randomized controlled trial.
Several cognitive-behavioral techniques are effective in reducing nightmare frequency, but the therapeutic factor (e.g. cognitive restructuring, systematic desensitization) remains unclear. The aim of this study was to compare the nightmare treatments imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT), exposure, and recording (keeping a diary) "“ in a self-help format "“ with a waiting list.
Compared to recording, IRT reduced nightmare frequency while exposure reduced nightmare distress (p < 0.05). The recording condition was more effective compared to the waiting list in ameliorating nightmare frequency, nightmare distress, and subjective sleep quality (p < 0.05). IRT had a more rapid reduction on the diary compared to exposure and recording. IRT and exposure appear equally effective in ameliorating nightmare complaints. Exposure to nightmare imagery may function as the crucial therapeutic factor; however, cognitive restructuring may be a useful addition to increase immediate effects.
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