Last week I wrote about Experiential Interventions and why they’re so powerful. Now that you understand the concept, I bet you’re wondering what these interventions actually look like in the therapy room. Read on for the first example of many – I bet some of you therapy-goers even recognize this one.
Guided visualization, or guided imagery, is a technique that combines verbal prompts (words) and other audio cues (such as music) by the practitioner (therapist) to elicit a cognitive image in the mind of the subject (client). In simpler terms: Guided visualization is when a therapist invites a client to close their eyes and use their imagination to create a mental image.
The “guided” aspect of visualizations has a spectrum; sometimes, the therapist is very direct and specific with their prompts while other times, the therapist is vague and invites the client to create their own details of the imagery. The level of guidance depends on how open-minded the client is regarding the technique, how well-practiced they are with guided visualizations, and the client’s level of distress. Skepticism, lack of confidence, and heightened emotional stress often require more direction from the therapist.
The science behind guided visualizations is fascinating. Research shows that mentally practicing a physical experience can be just as beneficial as physical practice, and in some cases, more beneficial. Our brains don’t know the difference between imagining doing something and actually doing something; that’s how powerful the human mind is. Guided visualizations are routine for athletes, performers, and public speakers, and they are just as useful in the therapy room. If we can practice performing physically or intellectually, we can practice our emotional experiences, too.
I use guided visualizations to help clients reprocess past experiences, integrate present realities, and lower anxiety around the future. Guided visualization is an integral experiential intervention and helps everything from severe trauma recovery to childbirth prep, pandemic anxiety management to faith crisis integration. It’s not only an integral therapeutic tool, though; it’s also a vehicle for the creativity that is so integral to therapy. Therapy is both an art and a science; guided visualizations is one of the ways in which we therapists get to collaborate creatively with our clients.
Have you ever been through a guided visualization? How was it? I’d love to hear!
For information on working with Caitlin, look no further.