Interactive Guided Imagery

  • What is Guided Imagery?
  • What is Interactive Guided Imagery?
  • Why Interactive Guided Imagery is more powerful therapeutically
  • Uses of traditional Guided Imagery
  • How you can learn to do Guided Imagery at the Center for Healing and Imagery

Interactive guided imagery is different from traditional guided imagery, although in both techniques, the therapist invites the client to visualize a scene. In traditional guided imagery, the therapist describes a scene in great detail, hoping that the detail will facilitate richness in the client’s visualization or imagery process. The scene may be expanded by the therapist by describing a series of actions, which in turn may lead to other scenes. The entire process may take from one to several minutes. During that entire period there is no dialog between the therapist and client, and the therapist can only surmise what might be happening with the client by observing the client’s facial expressions and body language.

With interactive guided imagery, on the other hand, the therapist invites the client to describe in as much detail as possible the images, emotions, physical sensations, and thoughts that he is experiencing during the visualization process. This client feedback gives valuable information to the therapist, so that he can modify what otherwise would be a “canned” guided imagery experience. The therapist will invite the client to focus on particularly problematic aspects of the imagery process so that he can help the client develop a better understanding of his problem, and/or so that he can help the client resolve whatever conflicts underlie the disturbing material.

Traditional guided imagery is particularly useful when the therapist is intending to be supportive and nurturing, such as in the early stages of psychotherapy. Since internal psychological exploration is not a goal, there is no need for client feedback. Moreover, most clients will respond well to most supportive traditional guided imagery. However, occasionally a client will have difficulty, even with a supportive guided image, and the therapist won’t appreciate the difficulty until after the guided imagery is completed.

Traditional guided imagery is also necessary in group settings for obvious reasons. Interestingly, traditional guided imagery can facilitate excellent psychological exploration for many clients in groups. However, there will often be one or two clients in a group who will require interactive guided imagery to facilitate an understanding of their psychological issues.

In individual psychotherapy, interactive guided imagery generally facilitates much more focused, efficient, and powerful therapeutic work than does traditional guided imagery. The therapist does not loose time waiting for the traditional guided image to be completed to ascertain that the focus needs to be revised or to help the client work through a therapeutic impasse.

In the Center for Healing and Imagery courses, we start with traditional guided imagery during our classes. But after class members share their images, when someone is interested in exploring her own image further, the instructor will demonstrate how to do interactive guided imagery with that class participant. We encourage our class participants to do interactive guided imagery with their clients.