The Use Of Guided Therapeutic Imagery In Counseling

When you see an old photo of yourself or loved ones from years back, what do you feel? Pictures of these events probably trigger a rush of memories and emotions. Snapshots of a trip overseas, your graduation, your first day at work—these probably make you remember how excited, happy, or nervous you were. 

Photos are windows to our memories and experiences, capturing moments in our lives. We might associate feelings with specific memories, and photos may remind us of these. They tell our stories, both happy and sad, those that end well and those that don’t. The adage remains true: a picture is worth a thousand words.  

Images are also potent tools for evoking emotions, and at the same time, they can be key to our relaxation. Because of this, counselors might make use of a technique called guided therapeutic imagery. This method makes use of the power of images to relax us. Guided therapeutic imagery might be a good fit for you, especially if you are a photographer or interested. Read on to learn more about this powerful form of meditation.   




The Origins Of Guided Therapeutic Imagery

Guided imagery has been used as early as the ancient Greek period. Countries like China and India have also used this technique to be a part of traditional, religious, and healing practices. 

During the 1970s, Dr. David Bressler and Dr. Martin Rossman pioneered the use of guided therapeutic imagery in counseling, integrating it with the treatment of physical illnesses such as chronic pain and cancer. Today, the technique is an established alternative and complement to medicine.  

How Guided Therapeutic Imagery Works

Guided therapeutic imagery is a type of meditation. To begin, you must be in a quiet place with little to no distractions. You must be in a comfortable position, one you will be able to hold for a while without fidgeting. 

During the session, your counselor will provide verbal directions for you to follow in your mind. For instance, they may ask you to envision a very peaceful place. It may be a natural landscape or even a comfortable room. It depends on what peace means to you. 




Your therapist will instruct you to use all your senses to capture the whole scene. They may ask you to include sounds, textures, and even aromas in your imagery. During these moments, you must abandon any thoughts besides that of the relaxing imagery. This is why guided therapeutic imagery is a good healing method. 

Aside from influencing your mind, guided therapeutic imagery is also designed to relax your body. When your mind is focused on the calming imagery, your breathing deepens, allowing your muscles to relax. This will relieve tension and possibly aches that you feel in your body. 

Guided Therapeutic Imagery Techniques

There are different techniques used in guided therapeutic imagery. One popular method is listening to guided imagery scripts. These scripts can be in the form of audiobooks or voice recordings. Once you have learned the technique, you may practice using scripts without the help of your counselor.

You can also do guided therapeutic imagery in a group setting. Your counselor can refer you to support groups that use this technique in counseling. There are also yoga classes that incorporate guided imagery.

Another technique used in guided imagery involves the use of music as part of the therapy. This technique is similar to the use of hypnosis. The relaxing music played in these sessions can also help you reach a state of relaxation faster. A major difference between guided imagery and hypnosis is its purpose. The use of hypnosis helps a person become more accepting of new beliefs. 




Mental Health Problems That Can Be Alleviated Through Guided Therapeutic Imagery

In recent years, guided therapeutic imagery in counseling has been a popular method in stress management. Studies show the effectiveness of guided imagery in reducing disorder symptoms. Some of the mental and emotional problems address through guided therapeutic imagery include:


  • Anxiety and depressive symptoms
  • Post-traumatic stress symptoms
  • Different types of stress
  • Relationship concerns
  • Family problems
  • Substance abuse issues


Additionally, guided imagery in counseling can also manage maladaptive behaviors. It can help control impulsivity and compulsion. Your counselor can also use guided therapeutic imagery to manage your pain and blood pressure and enhance your performance. 




Is Guided Therapeutic Imagery For You?

Imagining a peaceful and calming scenario can be difficult in a world with a lot of distractions. Like any counseling method and technique, guided imagery has its pros and cons. Depending on your personality and lifestyle, you can assess whether guided therapeutic imagery is for you.

Firstly, the good things. Unlike other stress management techniques such as yoga, guided imagery is also more inclusive. People with physical limitations can engage with the session without the risk of being injured.

Guided imagery can disrupt negative thought patterns. This will help you become more resilient towards stressful events. As a result, you will be influenced to have a more positive mindset. This can affect your mood and attitude throughout your day and your overall quality of life.

The only con for guided therapeutic imagery is it can be difficult to master. We live in an age where information travels at a very high speed. Entertainment is at the tip of our fingers. It will take a lot of practice for you to immerse yourself in your mind completely. However, with the use of audio recordings or the help of your counselor, you will be able to enjoy this technique. 

Guided therapeutic imagery is just like taking photographs. But instead of taking pictures with a camera lens, we use our minds to create a live, vivid scenery. If you enjoy photography and the visual arts, you may enjoy incorporating this practice into your daily life. The few minutes it takes to practice guided imagery can greatly affect your mental and physical well-being.  

This technique can improve the connection of your mind and body, providing easier access to your inner wisdom. Despite being a new method, guided therapeutic imagery in counseling offers an efficient alternative approach to improve your health.