30 December 2006

Guided imagery

“The term ‘guided imagery’ refers to a number of different techniques, including visualization; direct suggestion using imagery, metaphor and storytelling; fantasy and game playing; dream interpretation; drawing; and active imagination.

Therapeutic guided imagery is believed to allow patients to enter a relaxed state and focus attention on images associated with issues they are confronting… Guided imagery is a meditative relaxation technique sometimes used with biofeedback.”

[from 'Natural Standard', an organization that produces scientifically based reviews of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) topics.]

Imagery is the most fundamental language we have. Everything we do is processed in the mind through images.

For the past hundred years, many renowned Western psychologists have worked with imagery (dreams, daydreams and fantasies), some of whom have even postulated their own psychoanalytic techniques. Besides Wolfgang Kretschmer (whom I mentioned in my previous post), Robert Desoille’s ‘guided daydreams’, Jacob Morena’s ‘psychodrama’, and Hans Carl Leuner’s ‘experimentally introduced cathathymic imagery’ have all contributed to using imagery in therapy. Hans Carl Leuner had further developed psychodrama, calling it symboldrama psychotherapy or guided affective imagery.

However, according to Joe Utay, Assistant Professor, Counselor Education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Director of Counseling and Evaluation Services, Total Learning Centers, in a March 2006 article in Journal of Instructional Psychology, it is David Bresler’s and Martin Rossman’s work with guided imagery which is better known today. Bresler and Rossman co-founded the Academy for Guided Imagery and defined guided imagery as a “range of techniques from simple visualization and direct imagery-based suggestion through metaphor and storytelling.”

There are many others, of course, who have worked with guided imagery. In fact, there is no end to the amount of research that’s going on today in this field. In the same informative March 2006 article from Journal of Instructional Psychology, Professor Utay explains, “Guided imagery can be used to learn and rehearse skills, more effectively problem solve through visualizing possible outcomes of different alternatives, and increase creativity and imagination. It has also been shown to affect physiological processes… in addition to its use in counseling, guided imagery has also been used with very positive results in sports training, rehabilitative medicine, and healthcare.”

Although its applications are manifold, guided imagery is considered a part of alternative therapy/medicine and yet to be embraced by the mainstream medical fraternity. As the Natural Standard website says, “…research is early and is not definitive.”

To read the article on Guided Imagery by Professor Joe Utay and Megan Miller from the March 2006 issue of Journal of Instructional Psychology, click here.

To visit the Natural Standard website, click here.

To visit the Academy for Guided Imagery website, click here.


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