Guided Imagery

Guided Imagery is a relaxation technique used to reduce distress and improve tolerance to stressful situations. This is done especially when the situation is too complex to be changed.

Guided Imagery involves the usage of all 5 senses to create a mental image of a safe and relaxing place, while in a therapeutic setting. Guided Imagery is often used alongside Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) so that individuals are able to visualise their irrational thoughts and beliefs, and learn to change their negative thoughts. In addition, Guided Imagery can also reduce the unhelpful mental images that may manifest together with their negative beliefs. Ultimately, individuals are able to replace their old, unhealthy, coping mechanisms with new and adaptive images to reduce anxiety and stress. 


Benefits of Guided Imagery 

  • Reduce stress and anxiety 
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Increases the mind body connection 
  • Creates a positive mindset 


Issues Treated with Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is a fairly common practice that can help treat many psychological issues. Some of those include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Substance Abuse
  • Grief
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Eating Disorders


Steps in Guided Imagery 

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable place, take a few deep breaths and relax.
  2. Begin to picture a setting that is calm and peaceful. This setting could be anything: the beach, a meadow or even your own home. For instance: Imagine you are sitting at a windy beach with soft white sand and calm waves.
  3. While imagining the scene, make sure to add as much detail as you can to help simulate that environment: Are you hearing the waves of the ocean? Are you feeling a breeze across your skin?
  4. When you have finished building up your scene, take a few moments to fully be in the moment. 
  5. Try to think of a word or a sound that can help you bring you back to this mental escape in the future when you need it.
  6. When you are ready, slowly take yourself out of the scene and back into the present. Make sure to take note of how you feel right now.  


Techniques Involved in Guided Imagery 

✽   Positive imagery

Using pleasant images to introduce relaxation and reduce anxiousness.

✽   Negative/aversive imagery

Using unpleasant images to reduce unhealthy behaviours, for instance, imagining the consequences of a destructive behaviour like excessive smoking.

✽   Step-up technique

Learning to cope with and determine the source of one's anxiety by imagining potential sources of anxiousness.

✽   Associated imagery

Using physical images associated with strong emotions to help facilitate visualisation of specific people or events that might be the root cause of anxiety, distress, or fear. Facilitating this visualisation helps individuals describe their emotions more vividly to gain insights and aid recovery.