What is Interactive Guided Imagery?

Imagery has a long and varied history in the healing traditions of mankind. It is probably not too much to say that imagery is a central and omnipresent component of all healing experiences
when we consider the vital roles played by placebos, suggestion, and positive expectant faith.

Imagery and suggestion are often unconscious elements in the health care communications
and may significantly affect the outcome of many therapies and medical interventions. More
conscious uses of imagery can help to stimulate therapeutic change, enhance healing, and
empower patients to take better care of themselves.

As clinicians working with patients suffering from a broad spectrum of medical and
psychological problems, and with others eager to learn more about health promotion and wellness,
we have explored a wide variety of therapeutic and educational approaches over the past 20
years. We have found that the use of a highly interactive form of guided imagery has been most
effective in helping to meet therapeutic goals in relatively brief periods of time.

Interactive Guided ImagerySM is much more than simply having a patient listen to a
predetermined script. It is a powerful modality for helping a patient/client connect with the deeper
wellsprings of what is true for them at cognitive, affective, and somatic levels. The guide’s role in
this process is not to provide better images for the client, but to facilitate an enhanced awareness
of the unconscious imagery the client/patient already has, and to help the client learn to
meaningfully and effectively interact with this process. This not only brings about psychological
and physiologic change, but also empowers the patient as they learn to use the process.

For example, a patient can be asked to close his eyes and allow his mind to present him with a
picture that represents the experience of his problem. The patient may then be guided in an
imaginary dialogue with this image to explore and reveal its meaning and relevance to the problem
or issue. These images can provide important information not only about the problem or illness, but
also about the patient’s beliefs, hopes, expectations, and fears, their ability to cope with the
problem or heal from the illness, and the potential effectiveness of the recommended treatment
plan. Many patients have uncannily accurate intuitions about their illnesses, and the imagery
process makes these insights available to the diagnostician as part of an overall impression of the

Physically, imagery has the ability to directly influence the autonomic nervous system, and the
power of imagination can be recruited to promote specific physiological changes as an aid to
healing. In addition, many studies indicate that certain imagery techniques may stimulate
physiologic processes including immune and endocrine responses which can accelerate the healing

There is no human problem that is not affected to some degree by the mind. Interactive Guided ImagerySM is an effective set of tools that can be used to mobilize the latent, innate
healing abilities of the client to support rehabilitation, recovery, and health promotion.

Interactive Guided ImagerySM techniques are easy to learn with proper instruction, and carry
few, if any, negative side effects when properly utilized; thus making them an ideal adjunct to any
other type of therapy. It is our sincere hope that health professionals from all disciplines will begin
to utilize these techniques to help their patients and clients more effectively help themselves.

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Written by Martin L. Rossman MD

Explore Wellness in 2021