Guided Imagery

Guided Imagery


Guided imagery is a form of visualization and imagery technique that allows a patient to explore relaxation through dream interpretation, drawing, story-telling and other fantasy driven practices. Although this was once known as an alternative approach, it is now being used commonly to help people relax their body and mind through psychophysiological therapy. This form of treatment helps clients manage anxiety, physical pain and psychological symptoms such as depression. It can prevent patients from participating in some habits that are dangerous to their health. Before a patient undergoes surgery this is also a common preparation method. The rituals that are associated with this form of treatment are considered to be one of the oldest forms of applied medicine performed in different cultures.

Goals of Guided Imagery

The client benefits from guided imagery because the treatment allows the patient to reflect inward, looking at who they are and how much they deserve in life and in goals. The mental images that are encouraged to the patient help them in realizing how much power they have in caring for their own body and mind. This form of therapy helps cradle their beliefs and attitude which in turn has the capacity to help them in dealing with physical symptoms. This also helps the client mobilize their unconscious and achieve personal goals. It is for the purpose of strengthening a person through powerful imagination and emotional focus. The patient has the capacity to create their own thoughts and build a life for themselves because of the way that they have learned to manipulate their mind and attitude. The goal of this therapy is to use imagination to take over the body and create advancement in the patient's overall wellbeing. Guided imagery incorporates all senses, not just mental activity. When used correctly it has a powerful effect on the body, mind and spirit.

When is Guided Therapy Used?

Treatment is used to help people who may deal with severe anxiety, depression and other behavioral problems. It is used often with patients who have a difficult time relaxing, controlling emotions, preparing their mind for change or eliminating bad habits. Guided therapy can assist people in controlling physical pain, learning new behavior and increasing motivation. It helps the patient deal with stress which can be burdensome on the physical body. 

This form of therapy helps many in dealing with social phobias, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive behavior, sexual dysfunction, bad habits and stuttering. It's used to treat children who suffer from behavioral disorders as well. Individuals who want to achieve a certain trade or those who want to improve their motor skills may use guided imagery to do so. Visualization in coordination with these behavioral techniques can help many people overcome personal conflicts that they face in their personal lives, work place environment and in their relationships with others.

How Guided Imagery Works

Before guided imagery begins, an assessment of the client's issues or goals is one of the most important elements of the therapy – not only in the beginning of the session but during the visualization process. This assessment is for the purpose of ensuring that the therapist is focusing on the right mental or behavioral issues. Developmental history, past events, medical history and goals are often questioned. There are many cases in which the client has experienced issues in the past and has seen a therapist before for medical reasons. They may have turned to this form of therapy to prioritize their medical or personal goals. After the assessment the therapist will explain to the client what imagery techniques to use and how it will help them in correcting a given behavior. In order to enhance their visuals it's important to use all five senses. Using more than just thoughts allows the client to feel the experience instead of just see it. The therapist will speak to the client about visuals and help them find a therapeutic image and thought process. After a scene has been constructed the therapist guides the client through relaxing verbal phrases.

Criticisms of Guided Therapy

Being that guided therapy is a therapeutic formulation it can treat clients who suffer from a degree of conditions. Every client reacts differently to the technique. In rare cases imagery or rational emotive therapy can result in a higher level of anxiety in some individuals. If the patients are experiencing asthma attacks, seizures, suicidal thoughts, cardiac related conditions, hysteria, and severe psychological disorders or they are pregnant – discretion is advised. If the technique is causing an unhealthy reaction, the therapist is likely to try out a different strategy that does not trigger severe anxiety.


Guided imagery. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Warren, C. (2002). Guided imagery / visualization uses with the cancer patron. Retrieved from

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