What is Guided Imagery?
If you’re stressed, struggling to lose weight or are trying to quit smoking, Chris Popa RN, a guided imagery therapist at the TriHealth Fitness and Health Pavilion, says guided imagery may help.
Like meditation, guided imagery is a relaxation process that creates a mind/body connection through the use of self-hypnosis. It prompts the brainwaves to slow down, which helps put off the outside world of rational logic. “I help you find a place of peace by using your senses. Then, I’m pretty much like a tour guide,” Chris explains. “Where you go and what you see springs from your own memory bank.”
Benefits of Guided Imagery
This holistic health approach teaches you to deeply relax the body, thus stimulating the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Healing benefits of guided imagery include:
- Heartburn relief
- Improvements in asthma symptoms
- Managing Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Pain relief in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, or those recovering from surgery
- Surgical recovery
Guided imagery is also helpful for those struggling to overcome psychological obstacles related to addiction or obesity. “It’s about visually creating an image and seeing yourself at your best, and disconnecting from the faulty belief systems that come along with negative thinking. It's disconnecting from whatever it may be that is in your mind that might make you fail,” Chris points out.
What’s a Guided Imagery Session Like?
Your therapist will first spend 10 or 15 minutes talking with you to learn about your background and to determine what you want to achieve. This is important because, for example, if you fear darkness, he or she will avoid guiding you to visualize a scene that includes a dark setting.
From there, your therapist will play peaceful music, and will ask you to describe what your place of peace feels like, which stems from either your imagination or your memory bank. Chris warns that sometimes it may take several minutes for the individual undergoing therapy to see these visuals.
The bulk of your guided imagery session is the middle portion, which usually lasts between 20 and 30 minutes. During this part, your therapist leads you through an experience that, ideally, results in an insight. Once you reach this state, your therapist will encourage you to use an “alpha trigger” to lock that experience in. “For myself, it’s putting two fingers together. Some people put their hand on their heart,” she explains. This way, you can use that same alpha trigger the next time you are experiencing anxiety to bring you back to a place of peace.
Afterward, your therapist will spend about 10 minutes discussing your session – like what you experienced or learned – to offer some closure.
Can I Practice Guided Imagery on my Own?
If you are using guided imagery to help with weight loss or smoking cessation, you typically need multiple sessions, “because those are habits that have been well-trained and are hard to break,” she points out.
However, if your schedule or budget does not allow for regular guided imagery sessions, Chris recommends coming in for one session, and, from there, regularly practicing guided imagery on your own. Then, she suggests coming in a few months later for a refresher course.