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Mervin R. Smucker, Ph.D., is an Experienced Psychologist

Imagery Rescripting as a Therapeutic Agent for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, by Mervin Smucker, Ph.D.

Mervin Smucker, Ph.D. pioneered the field of imagery restructuring as a component of cognitive behavior therapy. In the following, Dr. Mervin Smucker discusses imagery rescripting as a therapeutic agent for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mental imagery often plays a key role in anxiety disorders. While clients seeking treatment for anxiety disorders such as PTSD often share verbal thoughts, they may leave out mental imagery unless prompted by their therapists. However, these mental images are present in all anxiety disorders and the images that patients see often relate to their main fears as a result of the disorder. For instance, in PTSD, intense mental imagery occurs during flashbacks of the precipitating event. Dr. Smucker emphasizes that imagery is important because it has a powerful effect on negative emotion, and cognitive behavior studies show it actually has more of an impact than verbal processing.

In cognitive behavior therapy, which has proven effective for treating PTSD, imagery rescripting is often used to help clients overcome the negative images they may experience via flashbacks and/or nightmares. In imagery rescripting, the existing trauma-related images and their meanings are transformed into mastery/coping images that help the client to feel more empowered and in control. In order for this approach to be effective, therapists must first establish a trusting environment in which the client feels safe. Once the safe environment is established, the therapist guides and accompanies the client through the upsetting imagery via three phases: (1) Imaginal Reliving – visually activating and verbally describing the upsetting images in vivid detail (including the entire memory network and associated affect), (2) Mastery Imagery – replacing victimization imagery with mastery/coping imagery via challenging, confronting, and modifying the distressing images, (3) Self-Compassionate Imagery – visualizing oneself as an empowered individual today nurturing, soothing, comforting, reassuring the “traumatized self” back then.

Imagery rescripting benefits the client in many ways, which includes facilitating expression and organization of feelings, enabling the client to reach closure, decreasing flashbacks, nightmares, and other PTSD-related anxiety symptoms, and improving overall post-trauma adjustment.

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Penn State’s Graduate Program in Psychology

Psychologist Dr. Mervin R. Smucker earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), where the Department of Psychology, located at the University Park campus, only accepts application from candidates to the doctoral program; although in many cases students earn a Master’s degree in the course of their studies.

Each year, Penn State’s Department of Psychology accepts a select group of applicants. In 2010, the admissions officials allowed 22 students to join the program, which includes about 100 graduate scholars. At the start of their tenure, students must select a major from five choices: Social, Industrial-Organizational, Clinical, Cognitive, and Developmental. They can then select a minor if they so desire, but the program does not require it.

The graduate psychology program consists of a variety of learning methods, including practical experience, research, coursework, and a dissertation, which must be completed by the end of the fifth year. The usual path for students includes taking classes during the first few years and finishing a comprehensive exam at the end of the third year. To fund psychology studies, some students serve as graduate assistants, working about 20 hours each week. Other financial aid comes from collaborating with professors on grant-funded research, private scholarships, and training grants.

Dr. Mervin R. Smucker followed the clinical track while engaging in his graduate studies at Penn State. He wrote a dissertation entitled, “The Children’s Depression Inventory: Norms and Psychometric Analysis.” Unlike some graduate programs for psychology, Penn State’s clinical training serves professionals who seek to engage in research in addition to treating patients. The institution’s faculty dissuades students who wish to concentrate solely on private practice. The clinical section of the program includes the scientific method, as well as intervention and assessment. Upon completion of the dissertation and the awarding of the Ph.D., students should be qualified for licensure in most U.S. states.

For more information about Penn State’s graduate psychology program, visit http://psych.la.psu.edu/graduate/index.html.


Antioch College

by Mervin Smucker

Before launching his career as a clinical psychologist and researcher, Mervin R. Smucker received a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Foreign Languages from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Established in 1852 by the Christian Connection, a religious movement in the United States during the 1800s, Antioch College opened its doors in 1853. Antioch College, the primary institution within the Antioch University system, remains known for providing students with written evaluations instead of traditional letter grades.

During its early years, Antioch College instructed students in traditional subjects such as history, philosophy, mathematics, Latin, and Greek. Students also earned the opportunity to choose among electives in modern languages, botany, art, and pedagogy. Horace Mann, the first president of Antioch College, delivered a commencement speech in 1859 that included the current motto of the school: “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

Today, the curriculum at Antioch College has expanded to include a wide array of fields and a special emphasis on interdisciplinary study. Divided into four areas of concentration–arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences—the academics at Antioch College focus on providing students with a well-rounded liberal arts education. Antioch College also offers a number of global seminars designed to introduce students to global issues that extend beyond the reach of the classroom. The seminars, which often feature notable guest speakers and visitors, help students discover their passions and prepare them for their lives as global citizens.

Students at Antioch College also benefit from a co-op work program, which requires them to work in full-time positions every other term and collect college credit. In the past, students have held positions within a wide variety of organizations, including nonprofit organizations, hospitals, museums, and government agencies. Through its co-op work program, Antioch College hopes to provide students with a diverse range of experiences in both academic and professional settings. By leaving campus and working with real-world organizations, students mature and develop valuable leadership and problem-solving skills, as well as a clearer picture of their goals.