What is Guided Imagery

what is guided imageryImagery can be defined as a way of bridging body, mind, and spirit with our internal experiences of memories, dreams, fantasies, and visions, by using one or more of our senses.  A guide helps access the imagination for guided imagery.1

The purposeful use of mental images achieves goals, while in a deep state of relaxation.2

For this technique, people are taught to focus on pleasant images to replace negative or stressful feelings. This may be self-directed or led by a practitioner.  Because imagery links perceptions, emotions, and physiological responses, the selection of appropriate images is important.

One study, where participants listened to a guided imagery script on a CD, demonstrated how guided imagery can decrease stress and anxiety.  The study did emphasize that daily practice is an important component of skill acquisition to help decrease corticotrophin releasing hormones (CRH), a biologic marker of stress.

Uses for Guided Imagery (the list is unlimited)

  • Reducing fear, anxiety, and pain
  • For habit control
  • For changing behaviors or attitudes
  • High blood pressure
  • Stress related gastrointestinal and urinary complaints
  • Stimulating immune function by increasing numbers of natural killer cells
  • To improve sports abilities
  • For Phobias

Generally, we listen to scripts for basic, self-guided imagery, or seek the aid of a professional for more advanced guided imagery.  Scripts are guides of specific wordings to aid in achieving a deep state of relaxation and accessing the imagination.  

We may read basic scripts and audio record them with our own voice or someone with a soothing voice, then listen to that recording for our “session”.  Additionally, we could also have someone we trust with a soothing voice, read the script to us for our “session”. 

Overall, there is an abundance of research data showing positive outcomes for guided imagery.  However, those with mental health processes related to hallucinations should always seek professional care before attempting self-guided scripts on their own.

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1 Dossey, B. M. Holistic nursing: A handbook for practice. 2 Leddy, S. Integrative health promotion in nursing practice.

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