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Abstract

Imagery-rehearsal therapy for chronic nightmares was assessed in a randomized, controlled study of sexual assault survivors with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nightmares, sleep quality, and PTSD were assessed at baseline for 169 women, who were randomized into two groups: treatment (n = 87) and wait-list control (n = 82). Treatment consisted of two 3-hr sessions and one 1-hr session conducted over 5 weeks. Of 169 participants, 91 women (Treatment, n = 43, Control, n = 48) completed a 3-month follow-up and 78 did not. At follow-up, nightmare frequency and PTSD severity decreased and sleep quality improved in the treatment group with small to minimal changes in the control group. Treatment effects were moderate to high (Cohen's d ranged from 0.57 to 1.26). Notwithstanding the large dropout rate, imagery-rehearsal therapy is an effective treatment for chronic nightmares in sexual assault survivors with PTSD and is associated with improvement in sleep quality and decreases in PTSD severity.