How is Somatic Imagery Used in Therapy

Imagery can be used in psychotherapy in both exploratory and analytic work as well as in the process of conflict resolution. Exploratory work may be conducted either through the use of a partially structured image, which gives the client freedom to project her or his own perceptions or feelings into the image, or through a kind of “waking dream”, in which the client’s unconscious issues become manifest as the image unfolds. The partially structured images may be based on themes from nature or from mythology or fairy tales; or they may evolve from perceptions of childhood experiences, especially of one’s parents and family; or they may derive from current experience.

Conflict resolution may occur spontaneously from the exploratory process, as sometimes happens in dreaming. The imagery process also facilitates the client’s freedom to play with various solutions to a problem, enhancing both the speed and quality of its resolution. Somatic imagery may be integrated into virtually any psychotherapeutic format, including analytically-oriented psychotherapy, gestalt therapy, behavior modification, family therapy, and group therapy. Imagery may also be used in working with psychosomatic disorders, pain control, stress management, and with victims of sexual abuse.

Somatic imagery may be the basis for an entire therapeutic approach, single sessions, or it may constitute only a brief interval in the course of more traditional psychodynamic work. Usually the client is invited to relax and to let an image unfold. The therapist then helps the client to focus on important affects, body experiences, and/or significant perceptions revealed in the image in order to facilitate exploration or resolution.

The common thread in all imagery work is the search for solutions from within the self, whether they be in the nature of changed perceptions, new insights, or the discovery of personal resources with which to face life’s challenges creatively.