The therapeutic application of creative visualization and guided imagery was investigated by American psychologist Jeanne Achterberg. She received her PhD from Texas Christian University, in General Experimental Psychology; additionally she served as a faculty member at Southwestern Medical School.
Actherberg was inspired by oncologist O. Carl Simonton, who had worked to develop coping strategies with cancer patients. In addition to creative visualization and guided imagery, Simonton used guided meditation.
It was he that observed a correlation between a patient’s positive thoughts and images of treatment with their success. This led Actherberg to pursue research the potential of using imagery to prevent secondary tumors.
So, what is guided imagery and what is its purpose in health and well being?
Guided imagery is any type of focused relaxation, which is designed to harmonize your mind and body. It offers a way to focus your imagination- you create peaceful images in your mind to provide a mental escape, akin to creating a “happy place.”
It’s a powerful psychological approach that can improve coping skills. Consider the fact that it is not just one sense that is involved in the process, but all of them, as well as the body and emotions. It offers a fresh perspective on how to assess the way you are feeling, and troubles that you are experiencing.
When we encounter changes in our lives, it is easy to feel like we are losing control. It could be a situation that involves moving home, or jobs, or it could be something major like surgery. The Journal of Neuroscience completed a study showing that anxiety can exacerbate pain; guided imagery can bring calm to the lives of those deeply entrenched in stress and anxiety. It’s also conducive to healing.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are a number of issues that Guided Imagery can treat:
- Stress and anxiety
- Respiratory issues
- Improved sleep
- Improved self-confidence
- Boost immune system
- Improved quality of life
- Decreased hospital stays
- Decreased nausea
- Decreased blood pressure
- Increased sense of control
Patients who should avoid guided imagery include: active psychotics, those who suffer from delusions or hallucinations, have dementia, or are unable to communicate.
The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center offers a number of complimentary guided imagery recordings. This is an excellent place to start your journey, and you will discover numerous categories are the website.
There are guided imagery recordings for Developing Intuition and Inner Wisdom for Health and Healing, Inner Teacher, Life Purpose, Self-Awareness, Autogenic Training, Breathing Deeply for Relaxation and Stress Relief, Comfort in the Face of Grief and Loss, Easing Pain, Prepare for Procedure, and Prepare for Surgery.
In addition to these, you will also find guided imagery recordings for Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Relaxation, Relaxation for Children, Relaxation Imagery with a Pool of Light, Skill Master, Safe Place, and Sleeping Deeply, Easily, Restfully.
Additionally, Dartmouth University offers two dozen or so guided imagery recordings as well as a variety of exercises that you can follow if you are new to guided imagery. You will even find a selection of instrumental classical music pieces that were performed by their very own resident physician in psychiatry, Jasper James Chen, MD.
You can learn guided imagery using the recordings above, or you could visit a facility that has licensed practitioners to guide you through the techniques. If you choose to do so at home, make sure that you create an area of relaxation for yourself.
Turn off the television and hide your smartphone, you will want a distraction free zone. Use deep breathing techniques to generate a sense of calm, and music that will foster a sense of wellbeing.