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The term "guided imagery" refers to a wide variety of techniques, including simple visualization and direct suggestion using imagery, metaphor and story-telling, fantasy exploration and game playing, dream interpretation, drawing, and active imagination where elements of the unconscious are invited to appear as images that can communicate with the conscious mind.
Once considered an "alternative" "or complementary" approach, guided imagery is now finding widespread scientific and public acceptance, and it is being used to teach psychophysiological relaxation, alleviate anxiety and depression, relieve physical and psychological symptoms, overcome health-endangering habits, resolve conflicts, and help patients prepare for surgery and tolerate procedures more comfortably.
Mental images, formed long before we learn to understand and use words, lie at the core of who we think we are, what we believe the world is like, what we feel we deserve, what we think will happen to us, and how motivated we are to take care of ourselves. These images strongly influence our beliefs and attitudes about how we fall ill, and what will help us to get better.
All healing rituals involve manipulation of these images, either overtly or covertly, and thus guided imagery can be considered one of the oldest and most ubiquitous forms of medicine. The healing rituals of various cultures that have persisted over time all have a certain level of clinical efficacy, and while we may attribute these therapeutic benefits to ‘placebo effects', they have real and measurable effects with important implications for our understanding of the healing process.
In the early 1970s, inspired by the pioneering work of Irving Oyle, Carl and Stephanie Simonton, Robert Assagioli and others, Drs. David Bresler and Martin Rossman began to develop and research contemporary imagery approaches for patients coping with chronic pain, immune dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, and other catastrophic and life-threatening illnesses.
By integrating techniques originating from Jungian psychology, Gestalt therapy, Psychosynthesis, Ericksonian hypnotherapy, object relations theory, humanistic psychology, and advanced communications theory, these approaches were constantly redefined, expanded, tested, and codified, giving birth to Interactive Guided Imagerysm, an extremely powerful, yet remarkably safe and rapid therapeutic approach for mobilizing the untapped healing resources of the mind.
In 1989, the Academy for Guided Imagery was founded to provide in-depth training for clinicians and health educators, to raise public and professional awareness about the benefits of imagery, and to support research, professional communication, and the dissemination of imagery-related information.