Imagery therapy or guided imagery is a therapeutic technique used to help people lessen their stress. During guided imagery, a therapist will ask you to close your eyes and focus on specific images to induce calmness and relaxation. This technique is rooted in the idea of a mind-body connection. We start by visualizing a relaxing setting and are then prompted to engage all our other senses as well - sound, touch, smell and taste. By using this technique, essentially, we are transported to a safe place where our mind can be put at ease. Guided imagery can be done in both group or individual therapy and can even be done on our own. Individuals are encouraged to first try Guided Imagery under the care of a therapist and once they are comfortable with it, can move on to practice on their own.
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
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
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 in Guided Imagery
✽ Positive imagery: using pleasant images (calm beach) to introduce relaxation. Reduces 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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