by Kenneth Kaisch, Ph.D.
Rescripting is a hypnotic technique which is occasionally used in psychotherapy. It also refers to a family of related therapeutic techniques. Re-scripting per se involves the hypnotic addition of life experience in order to modify the patient’s felt experience of him/herself. It is most often used when the patient has an experience deficit that is so profound as to be debilitating. For example, a patient who had severely abusive parents may be so deprived of ordinary parental affection as to be unable to establish an adequate sense of self worth despite the use of ordinary therapeutic treatment. In cases such as this, rescripting is the treatment of choice
It is informative to consider the place of rescripting in the therapeutic armamentarium. Rescripting is the technical complement of reframing. Reframing is a more widely used therapeutic technique, and involves changing the context around a traumatic event: changing the symptomatic situation into a positive opportunity (Watzlawick P., Weakland, J., & Fisch, R., 1974). For example, an obese woman who wanted to lose weight found herself unable to do so, even though it was a medical necessity. Using the reframing technique, she found that she used her weight to appear unattractive to men, because she was unsure of her ability to handle sexual advances. Within this newly found context, she was able to deal directly with her sexual fears, and could then lose weight. With refraining, the content of her experience remained the same, but the context was radically altered.
Given the complementary nature of rescripting and reframing, and the current widespread use of reframing in such diverse modalities as Ericksonian hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and cognitive therapies, it is curious that rescripting is seldom mentioned in the literature, or used in. practice. In an exhaustive computer search of the literature in Psychological Abstracts and Index Medicus using a variety of key words, the author was unable to find a single reference to this technique. While rescripting is occasionally mentioned in the hypnotic literature, there is no systematic examination of this technique in the literature. The purpose of this article is to address this deficit in the literature: to collect data about this technique, to examine the data critically, and to draw tentative conclusions about the place and utility of rescripting in psychotherapy with adults.