This is Part 2 of Lisa Broggi’s introduction to Guided Imagery. If you have’t read Part 1 yet, click here to do so.
Now that you’ve been introduced to guided imagery, now let’s explore how some therapists are using guided imagery to assist clients with issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression. In a typical guided imagery session, the therapist guides the client through a sensory experience through verbal prompts.
For example, the therapist might invite the client to close their eyes and imagine a place which brings them a feeling of peace. The therapist will deepen the experience by having the client pay close attention to the sensory aspects of the imagery through their five senses. The therapist may invite the client to bring their attention to the smell of beautiful flowers or the sound of trees swaying in the breeze.
As the client engages with their five senses in this imaginal realm, they may begin to experience a shift in their physical experience while still sitting with eyes closed. Their breath may become slower and their muscles become relaxed as they are met with a new sensation of calm and relaxation. Meanwhile, the client hasn’t even left the therapy couch. So how does this work?
Science has shown that the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes images, is strongly connected to our autonomic nervous system. This system regulates our involuntary activities, such as pulse, breath and our body’s response to stress. When we engage in intentional imagery, as when a therapist facilitates guided imagery during a session, we can actually slow our breath, lower our blood pressure and release hormones which lift our mood, such as endorphins.
We can consider guided imagery like a work out for our imagination, but rather than sweating at the gym we merely close our eyes and relax. Not only can guided imagery positively impact our sense of well-being, but it can also assist us in having a more impactful therapy session. Studies have shown that the more relaxed we become, the better we are able to access new wisdom and insight. In other words, guided imagery can guide us to finding new solutions to old problems.
So next time you find yourself worrying about something, pause and notice how your imaginative mind is participating in that moment. Is your imagination running wild and bringing your heart rate along for the ride? How can you turn that energy around and utilize that power for your own healing? Grant yourself permission to reconnect with your childlike imagination, and recognize how this imaginal realm of your experience can also facilitate your overall well-being.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa Broggi is an Associate Marriage & Family Therapist at Well Clinic in San Francisco. According to Lisa,
I believe that therapy can be something that we want to show up for and that learning how to become more gentle with ourselves is the key ingredient for transformation and growth.