Guided Imagery is a relaxation technique used to reduce distress and improve tolerance to stressful situations. In the event that a situation is too complex to be changed, Guided Imagery is suggested and is usually effective for individuals with Eating Disorders, Post-Traumatic Stress or Substance abuse.
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. One example: Imagine you are sitting at a windy beach with soft white sand and calm waves. 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 Therapy can also reduce the unhelpful mental images that may manifest together with the negative beliefs. Ultimately, individuals are able to replace their old coping mechanisms (unhelpful behaviour like smoking/ ruminating) with new and adaptive images (happy future/ life aspirations) 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:
- Substance Abuse
Steps to do Guided Imagery
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable place, take a few deep breaths and relax
- Begin to picture a setting that is calm and peaceful. This setting could be anything: the beach, a meadow or even your own home.
- 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?
- When you have finished building up your scene, take a few moments to fully be in the moment.
- 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.
- 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.
Other techniques of Guided Imagery
✽ Positive imagery
Using pleasant images (calm beach) to introduce relaxation and reduce anxiousness.
✽ Negative/aversive imagery
Using unpleasant images such as consequences of destructive behaviour (e.g. poor health due to excessive smoking).
✽ Step-up technique
Learning to cope with the feelings of anxiety by inducing anxiousness (imagining themselves in a crowded party to induce social anxiety).
✽ Associated imagery
Using physical images associated with strong emotions (happy family-happiness/ person walking in the rain-sadness).
- Images serve as a reminder or help to facilitate visualisation of a specific person or past events that might be the root cause of the anxiety, distress or fears (e.g. childhood trauma).
- Individuals would be able to describe their emotions more vividly gain insightful recovery.
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