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Incorporating Guided Imagery and Visualization Techniques with Art Therapy Practice

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Imagine the potential for healing when you combine the power of your mind and the effectiveness of guided imagery and visualization. This ancient healing modality is now recognized as a valuable therapeutic tool. Guided imagery and visualization are powerful therapeutic tools that can help us tap into our subconscious mind, access our inner wisdom, and resolve emotional issues. Health professionals are increasingly using guided imagery and visualization as therapeutic interventions.

During a guided imagery session, you may be asked to imagine yourself in a peaceful setting, such as a garden, beach, or mountaintop. You may also be asked to visualize healing energy entering your body and resolving emotional issues. Guided imagery is a specific type of visualization that involves following a specific set of instructions to create a specific mental image. Studies have shown that guided imagery can be an effective tool for managing stress and reducing anxiety. It can also be helpful for improving sleep and reducing pain. Guided imagery is often recommended as a way to manage chronic pain, cancer pain, and pain from other medical conditions.

Visualization is the process of creating a mental image or picture of something. When you visualize, you see the object in your mind's eye. You may also hear, smell, feel, or taste it. This can be done in any number of ways, including through sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch. Visualization can be used for a wide range of purposes, including relaxation, stress relief, improving sleep, increasing self-awareness, and reducing anxiety.

This can be a great way to achieve a state of relaxation and mindfulness, without having to sit still or dedicate a lot of time to the practice. Both methods involve the use of images and/or sounds to guide the mind in a specific direction, and both have been shown to be effective in promoting physical, emotional, and mental health. By using your imagination, you can create positive images and sensations that can help you to relax, feel better, and achieve your goals.

Here is a sample of a guided imagery script that takes place on an imagined beach:

Take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to relax. Imagine that you are standing on a beautiful beach, with the sun shining down on you. The sand is soft under your feet, and the sound of the waves crashing against the shore is soothing. Take a few more deep breaths, and allow yourself to feel at peace as you experience this place in your mind.

In art therapy, we can take this process a step further by externalizing an image or sensation that resonated from the experience. Perhaps, it felt really nice to take a moment to stand at the edge of the ocean where the water repeatedly moves forward and recedes leaving foam on the sand. Consider what it would be like to create an image of this felt experience and translate it using materials, such as paint, chalk pastels or oil pastels. Perhaps the image one is using as a visualization technique, such as witnessing one’s anger melting through the form of an imagined ice cube sitting out in the sun, can be used as a source of inspiration for an image to be created using art materials. By combining these techniques together, we are able to combine mentalization brain processes with image formation processes for a healing and therapeutic experience.

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