Guided Therapeutic Imagery
When a therapist tells you to visualize the pain going away, there is no way that can work. In reality, the mind and the body have a connection with each other where how you feel mentally can affect how you feel physically. This is important for a patient’s overall health and well-being. Guided Therapeutic Imagery is a technique used in complementary and alternative medicine to focus on mental images to make patients feel relaxed.
Guided Therapeutic Imagery has been around since Ancient Greek times, Chinese medicine, and the American Indians. In the 1970s, Dr. David Bressler and Dr. Martin Rossman used this mode of therapy for chronic pain, cancer, and other illnesses. In 1989, the Academy for Guided Imagery was created.
How this technique works is that a therapist will give the patient verbal prompts to direct the focus of the imagery to encourage the patient to notice the sensory elements of the scene. They will be asked to picture a peaceful place that includes aromas, textures, and sounds. All five senses are explored in order for the body and the mind to be impacted. Guided Therapeutic Imagery will slow down a patient’s breathing with their muscles relaxed in order to feel calm. The idea of this technique is to focus on a particular area of concern and to picture the desired outcome.
Guided Therapeutic Imagery can be used for stress management to imagine a place of relaxation. It can also be used for issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, PTSD, substance abuse, diminished self care, relationship problems, and family and parenting problems. This method can help address high blood pressure, pain management, and getting rid of unwanted behavior like smoking. Athletes even use this technique to better their performance as well as cancer patients to imagine their cells healthy and their organs stronger. These techniques can also be useful when doing any public speaking or in business settings.
It is important to know that you are in charge of the visualization so if an image makes a patient uncomfortable or anxious, they do not need to continue it. You can use this method either with a trained professional or even listen to tapes at home to guide you through the process. Guided Therapeutic Imagery is generally safe to use and can invoke positive feelings and a greater sense of self-control as you are in control of what you see.
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Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | November 24, 2017