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Guided Imagery

Author/s: Leonard C. Bruno

The technique of guided imagery focuses the power of the mind on some aspect of the workings of the body in order to cause a real, positive physical response.

Purpose of Guided Imagery

Once learned, this self-help technique is used to relieve stress, explore psychological conflicts, and manage pain. Used as an effective means of self-care as well as in various medical settings, it can be applied to any medical situation in which relaxation, symptom relief, and a feeling of personal empowerment is useful.

 
 

Precautions before Guided Imagery

In cases of a serious disease or condition, guided imagery should not be used in place of conventional medicine or surgery. It is not recommended for psychotic patients who often cannot distinguish the difference between suggested images and reality.

Description of Guided Imagery

Guided imagery has been described by one magazine writer as a kind of "directed daydreaming." It is based on the generally accepted idea that the mind can influence the body. A typical example used by many to make this point is the suggestion that the reader relax and think about a juicy, fresh lemon. The further suggestion that the reader slice it and slowly raise the dripping, pale yellow sections to his or her waiting lips and then suck on it, almost always results in a standard physiological response: most readers salivate. Proponents of this technique argue that people possess a remarkable degree of self-regulation that generally goes unknown, unexplored, and unused.

It is a known fact, and one to which every adult who has ever been sexually aroused by a thought can testify, that a thought or "image" can affect heart and breathing rate, as well as other involuntary functions like hormone levels, gastrointestinal secretions, and brain wave patterns. Proponents of guided imagery therefore stress the importance of the image (thought) which, they say, does not have to be real to have a actual, physical effect. Guided Imagery then takes the next step and asks why can't the mind be used to cause good things to happen within the body. Also called Visualization, Creative Visualization, or Creative Imagery, this technique teaches how to consciously create positive images to accomplish a desired goal. One neurological explanation of what might go on in the brain during Guided Imagery is that the image or message is sent from the higher centers of the brain (cerebral cortex) to the lower or more primitive centers that regulate a person's involuntary functions, like breathing and heart rate. Whether or not these images are real, the lower part of the brain apparently responds accordingly as long as there is no contradictory information.

In a typical session with a practitioner, the patient or client is placed in a relaxed state by the verbal guidance of the practitioner. Once the patient is relaxed, this calm, receptive state is deepened through breathing exercises. This allows the patient to give real focus and direction to his or her imagination. Once truly deep relaxation is achieved, the practitioner encourages the patient to choose a safe place, which is a very personal, truly serene site that may or may not actually exist, in which the patient feels perfect emotional security. It is at this point that the practitioner begins to implement the particular goal of therapy, whether it is to reduce stress or anxiety, manage the constant pain of a chronic condition, or assist in the healing process. The skilled practitioner will ask leading questions that encourage patients to describe concretely and in great detail all the particular impressions they are receiving from their image, and also allows them to explore their unconscious, gaining insights into themselves and others. Following several successful sessions with a practitioner, the patient is usually able to do the same on their own, often using written instructions or special tapes.

 
 
 
 
 
   

This web site is intended for your own informational purposes only. No person or entity associated with this web site purports to be engaging in the practice of medicine through this medium. The information you receive is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional. If you have an illness or medical problem, contact your health care provider.

05/27/2011

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