Guided imagery is used to describe a mind-body technique that relies on imagery and visualization through suggestion, story-telling, metaphor, dream interpretation and fantasy exploration. This method, which is often considered a form of hypnosis and an alternative therapeutic approach, helps the unconscious mind communicate with the conscious mind to influence the emotional and physical states to bring about physiologic changes that assist with reaching therapeutic goals.
What It’s Used For
The mind-body connection created by guided imagery is used for a variety of health concerns. Many patients suffering from muscle tension pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, depression and insomnia have found relief through the use of guided imagery therapy. There is also evidence that the therapy can assist with the treatment of autoimmune disorders, asthma, allergies and hives as well.
According to the Academy for Guided Imagery, there are three separate categories wherein guided imagery can be applied:
- Bringing about relaxation and reducing stress
- Using receptive imagery through the use of words and images that are brought to the conscious mind to provide guidance on illnesses, treatments, symptoms or moods
- Using directed or active visualization to change behaviors and outcomes, and to improve performance
Benefits of Guided Imagery
Guided imagery works by relying on our understanding of mental images, which we become aware of and understand before the abilities to speak and understand language occur. By focusing on these images, patients and their health care providers can gain a better understanding of their attitudes and beliefs concerning illness and regaining better health.
When used in a therapeutic way, patients enter a relaxed mind-state that allows them to focus on specific images that are related to the issues at hand. As these images form, the patient and therapist are able to begin an imaginary dialogue with the images, asking questions as to what it wants, why it’s there, and what it specifically needs. This practice provides additional information that can assist with diagnosis, and provide guidance.
Guided imagery also allows patients to interact with their imagery in an effort to find pain relief, or even to assist with making difficult health decisions by promoting an exploration of their subconscious feelings about different treatments.
By incorporating guided imagery into therapeutic practices and in conjunction with required physical therapies, patients gain a better sense of self-efficacy, autonomy, and improved chances of creating effective self-care methods.