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About Guided Imagery

Imagery Defined

When we use the word “imagery” we honor the definition put forth by one of our dearly missed mentors, Dr. Jeanne Achterberg, PhD, a leader in imagery exploration and application, who passed  away in 2012.  She stated it well by saying that when we refer to “imagery,” we mean

“the thought process that invokes the senses: vision, audition, smell, taste, the sense of movement, position, and touch. It is the communication mechanism between perception, emotion, and bodily change.  A major cause of both health and sickness, the image is the world’s greatest healing resource. Imagery, or the stuff of the imagination, affects the body intimately on both seemingly mundane and profound levels” (Imagery and Healing: Shamanism and Modern Medicine, p. 3 – Jeanne Achterberg, 1985)

This quote from C.G. Jung that speaks to the depth we refer to when we engage in imagery practices:

“Imagination is the active evocation of (inner) images secondum naturam, an authentic feat of thought or ideation, which does not spin aimless and groundless fantasies ‘into the blue’—does not, that is to say, just play with its objects, but tries to grasp the inner facts and portray them in images true to their nature. This activity is an opus, a work.” (Psychology and Alchemy, Collected Works, Vol. 12, p. 219)

Research and Clinical Uses

  • Guided Imagery and Psychotherapy in Medicine
In this excellent introductory article by Leslie Davenport, Licensed Psychotherapist - Guided Imagery Gets Respect - we get an overview of the scientific validated interest in adding Guided Imagery to medical applications.
  • Research shows Guided Imagery Works
Harise Stein, MD started her byline in ImagiNews called the Research Corner. In this article she tells us how to find research that "proves" Guided Imagery works. She reports an another study on the physiological changes resulting from practicing the Relaxation Response in Change Your Mind Change Your Body. Key Research Citations Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD offers an extensive list of readings and research: Imagery research articles In 2003 Diane Sternbach, CHT discussed scientific studies in "Mind-Body Control of Blood" which showed that Guided Imagery, Hypnosis or Biofeedback help patients affect blood flow which results in improved surgical outcomes.
  • Types of Therapeutic Imagery and Definitions
In an excerpt from Chapter one of their book "Guided Imagery and Beyond - Stories of Healing and Transformation", Susan Ezra, RN, HN-BC and Terry Reed, RN, MA, HN-BC offer an overview of imagery applications and definitions. Mind Body Practices are defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Martin Rossman, MD a pioneer in imagery applications discusses the principles and practices that have lead to his practicing integrative medicine. See his thoughts here: Integrative Medicine is Vital to Your Health. He also offers a way to evaluate risk/benefit in his second article Comparing Risks to Benefits of Integrative Medicine.
  • Clinical uses of Mental Imagery
Gerald Epstein, MD finds mental imagery is very useful for any clinical condition. He discusses his views in "The Image in Medicine: Notes of a Clinician" and the approach he takes with any clinical condition "How to Use Mental Imagery for Any Clinical Condition". His podcast explains How to Read Mental Images: Learning the Hieroglyphic Language of the Mind for Clinical Use. Randy Kasper, LCSW, BCD writes about the Mental Imagery she uses helping clients with addictions in Pathway to Freedom
  • Deep Imagination and The Personal Totem Pole ProcessĀ®
Mary Diggin, Ph.D tells us in her article "Forgiveness, Healing and Deep Imagination" that the journeys taken in the Personal Totem Pole ProcessĀ® are present time and allow us to ask how one can best heal and reconnect with one's wholeness and rather than be caught in a past event.
  • Guided Imagery and Metaphoric Dialogue Affects the Mind/Body
Robin Gayle, PhD, MFT, says that "Metaphoric_Dialogue" is an illuminating method that helps individuals identify, describe, externalize, integrate, and heal affects, behaviors, physical symptoms, and interpersonal dynamics.
  • Guided Imagery Used in End of Life Care
Andrew Wagner, MD a board certified family physician discusses pallative care with Jann Fredrickson-Ramus in the podcast "Hospice and End of Life Care".   Dr. Andrew Wagner and Esther Johnson, RN discuss end of life issues . Hospice nurse Esther Johnson, RN, CHP begins her ImagiNews column “Imagery at the End of Life” and in a second column uses Imagery at End of LIfe for self and other to aid a dying patient with her fears.
  • Guided Imagery Used by Child Psychologists
Kathryn dePlanque, PhD helps 10 year old Jake work through severe chronic headaches and sleeplessness in  Jake's Story. Charlotte Reznick, PhD has developed an educational approach that is child friendly. In "The Power of Children's Imagination: Teresa's Healing Toolbox" she shows how different Guided Imagery tools help a child heal.
  • Guided Imagery Facilitates Reparenting without Confrontation
Charles Leviton, EdD describes the advantages of using Guided Imagery to resolve child/parent issues in "Make Peace with your Family of Origin".
  • Psychologist uses Guided Imagery on a Psych Ward
Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD reduces anxiety and enables some self-reflection in "Interactive Group Imagery on a Psych Ward: Circling Around a Cooking Vessel".


  • Guided Imagery from a Practitioner Perspective

Fania Chazen, MSW, who practices in Israel, describes in Language as Opportunity, Words as Images what she is listening for in a client's narrative that signals the reason and opportunity to work with imagery.

  • Using Guided Imagery in Everyday Situations

"Imagery on the Sly and Golden Seeds" describes how Lee Raven, RN invites a person to look inside and experience the benefit of doing so.

  • Guided Imagery for Self-Care

Arleen Hollenhorst, RN, HN-BC, CEH, HSMI asserts in her article "Energetic Boundaries: Strategies for Lightening When We’re Feeling 'The Weight of the World' that self-care for caregivers is the key to avoiding burnout. Lee Raven, RN, HN-BC  writes in Care for the Caregiverthat listening to 12 minutes of the CD "Care for the Journey" took her "from revved up and scattered to calm grounded and curious".  She says that for any who are called to offer healing in any capacity, "Care for the Journey" is a blessing and a source of renewal.

  • When Science Doesn't Have a Cure, Guided Imagery Assists the Patient's Healing System

Sharon O'Connor, RN in her article "Nocebo vs Placebo" says positive expectation should be a part of medical treatment.  In her article "Wellness, Stress and the American Health Care System" she shows why Guided Imagery should also be part of healthcare reform.

  • Spiritual Traditions

Gerald Epstein, MD started his first column in ImagiNews titled Imagery and Illumination and recounts his spiritual experiences.  He says "Imagination is the pathway to Illumination." Dr Gerald Epstein on Ritual In the podcast "How to Read Mental Images: Learning the Hieroglyphic Language of the Mind for Clinical UseGerald Epstein, MD explains the relationships between mental images and health from a western spiritual tradition. In the article "Never the Twain Shall Meet: Spirituality or Psychotherapy" he discusses why his practice in the healing arts began with training in psychiatry and turned to a practice in the Western spiritual tradition. In her article "Religious_Clients"Jann Fredrickson, LICSW says they may best understand Guided Imagery as prayer.

  • Guided Imagery in Combination with Other Modalities

Popular Faculty Member, Past President and Imagery Person of the Year - Jann Fredrickson, LICSW - talks about advanced applications in which Guided Imagery is combined with "Thought Field Therapy, Story Telling, EMDR and Music"Patresa Rollinger, RN helps an elderly patient suffering with life long chronic pain "To Walk with Joy" using Guided Imagery and Jin Shin Jyutsu.

  • Movement

Dance Specialist Jeanne M. Schul, PHD, in her report Schul - New Mythos Preliminary Reporttitled The Feminine Divine: She Who Dances Us into Being,  shows the connection between the images from the ancient goddess cultures and the human moving body of today’s modern dancer.

  • Dreams

In her story about the Dream Catchers used by Native Americans,  Judith Ewing, MEd, MA, CIHsays dream catchers or nets remind us of the importance of metaphors and visions from the world of dreams. Gerald Epstein, MD also talks about working with waking dreams in his podcast titled Dreams and Imagery.

  • Audition

Audio recordings are of two types - custom or general.  Some general recordings like Successful Surgery created by Belleruth Naparstek have been studied in clinical trials, found significantly beneficial and are offered by some hospitals to patients. Lea Houston's Introduction to her CD "Relaxation Remedy for Pain Relief, Stress Reduction and Inner Replenishment" describes how to work with audio guidance. Most recommend not listening to audio recordings, intended to treat a problem, when driving or working. Music was used by the ancients to heal. Harpist Jeanne Martin, PhD in this podcast demonstrates how the harp is played and used in healing. --------

Quotations about Imagery

Quotations about Imagery "The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.” —Rainer Maria Rilke

"Images can either imprison us or liberate us...." —Piero Ferrucci

"Imagination is the eye of the soul." —Joseph Joubert

"We are what we imagine ourselves to be." —Kurt Vonnegut

"What is now proved once imagined." —William Blake

"Your imagination practice is equivalent to an actual experience in so far as your nervous system is concerned." —Dr. Maxwell Maltz

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