Imaging in therapy: what it is and how it is used in psychology

Guided imagery is a technique used in sports therapy and psychology primarily to help the subject control anxiety states; from treating the phobia to improving the subject’s performance in certain sports.

In this article, we will see how this technique is applied in psychological interventions, as well as the most common cases where it is usually implemented. We will see a list with the steps to follow for the imagery to be used correctly.

    What is imagery?

    Guided imagery consists of propose to the subject an imaginary scenario where he is able to overcome situations guided by the therapist, This with the aim of bringing the individual to acquire sufficient self-confidence for the moment when he has to face a similar problem in his daily life.

    This technique offers good results in the treatment of neurosis, especially in the subject of anxiety states, as we have already mentioned above, thanks to the fact that the subject is offered the possibility of facing a situation. complicated from a controlled and safe environment.

    The main idea is that after the process of guided imagery, the person will gradually reach the the psychological resources needed to cope with adversity that can happen in your life, regardless of the field.

    Thus, imagery makes it easier for the patient to learn to relate to certain situations in a functional way and without the bad management of emotions working against them. This is due to the fact that it combines the use of the imagination applied to the creation of fictitious but living situations, On the one hand, and the possibility of controlling this imaginary environment so that it adapts to the “training plan”, on the other hand.

    With psychological supervision, the person is exposed to imaginary scenarios that adapt to the level of difficulty they may be facing at any given time.

    When is its application practical?

    We will now look at some examples where imaging is effective for treatment.

    1. States of anxiety

    Anxiety is characterized by an accelerated and catastrophic thought pattern, In which the subject anticipates its failure before having started to exercise the activity.

    In these cases, imagery consists of proposing to the subject imaginary situations in which he is exposed to certain detonating factors of his anxiety, and of guiding until he is able to cope with the situation, being himself. even who finds the tools to manage them in a secure context.

    2. When looking to improve performance

    Regardless of the field in which one seeks to improve performance, imaging is an excellent technique to achieve this goal. In these cases, an imaginary scenario is generated in relation to the area where you want to have an improvement, whether in the sporting, professional, family or personal aspect, etc.

    Once we have mentally located the subject where we want to, we proceed to guide it through a series of situations in which he will have to overcome certain obstacles that the specialist will generate throughout the visualization process.

    For example, if it is a footballer who has experienced a significant drop in his performance, he seeks to put him in key situations, where his competitive instincts emerge, such as taking a decisive penalty, among other specific situations. to their sport.

    3. When looking to close cycles

    Thanks to this technique, the therapist can bring the subject to close certain negative cycles which keep him anchored in certain situations of the past and which do not allow him to develop correctly in the aspects of his daily life.

    Relationship breakdown, job loss, departure of childrenAmong other grieving processes, they are common in treatments that use imagery. Usually, when people are reluctant to close certain cycles in their life, it is because they escape situations completely, to the point of not even thinking about them consciously.

    In order to get our patient to properly close the cycles, it is necessary to be tactful in bringing the visualization to the subject’s mind; otherwise, there might be some pretty annoying resistances during the process.

    Sometimes it will be necessary to get the person to imagine another person with whom they have had a heated argument, or even someone who is no longer alive, all in order to have a suitable farewell to achieve. the end of the desired cycle.

      Steps to follow during the process

      In the following lines, we will go over the guidelines to follow when applying imagery.

      1. Preparation of the report

      This aspect is fundamental for the success of any therapeutic process., Especially when we apply guided images. It is essential that the subject trusts us as therapists and allows us to give him the advice he needs during the process.

      The report refers to the degree of trust that the therapist manages to establish with his patient; it is generally carried out during the first consultation sessions, Before starting the application of any technique.

      2. Obtain the real reason for the request

      The real reason refers to the real cause for which the subject is attending the consultation. It’s common that at first the reason you state isn’t what really affects you.

      It is the therapist’s job to identify the real reason and work on it. At the time of applying the imagery, we should already know both the separate pattern and the actual pattern of the case.

      3. Pre-interview

      It is important to have conducted a prior interview with the subject who can provide meaningful information about their daily routine, in order to use this information during the orientation process.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Cavall, V. (1991). Manual of behavior modification and therapy techniques. Pyramid, Madrid.
      • Holmes, EA, Arntz, A. and Smucker, MR, Image Rewriting in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Images, Treatment Techniques, and Outcomes. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 38 (4), pages 297-305.
      • Iachini, T., Ruggiero, G. (2010). The role of visual experience in the mental exploration of real pathways: evidence from blind and sighted people. Perception, 39 (7): pages 953-969.
      • Pérez-Álvarez, M. (1996). Psychotherapy from a behavioral point of view. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva.

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