Healing with Imagery

Healing with Imagery

By Janice Castelbaum, LPTA

From the Healing Bridge Physical Therapy

Winter 2003 Newsletter


The body/mind connection is not a new concept in health care. Most of us realize that stress can produce physical symptoms. And we also know that relaxation and other stress management techniques can reduce and even eliminate those physical symptoms. But how do we actually get started? Many people admit that it’s hard to relax, and they don’t know any techniques to focus on healing.

We’ll start with relaxing, which is necessary for focusing on the process of healing. (Of course, deep relaxation has its own health benefits, too.)

A popular, and easy, relaxation method, Progressive Muscular Relaxation, involves finding a quiet, private place to relax with for about 20 uninterrupted minutes. Make yourself at ease, find a comfortable chair or mat to lay on, dim lighting, unrestrictive clothing. Begin by taking a couple of deep, slow breaths, and as you let go and exhale, let it be a real letting-go kind of exhale. Imagine releasing any tension or stress you may feel in your body by focusing your attention on specific areas of your body. Start with your feet, and move all the way to your head. As you do this you will feel a very pleasant, deep relaxation. Once you have learned to relax, you can begin to use imagery in more specific ways to promote health and healing.

Guided Imagery, learning to invite, recognize, and utilize images, is one effective technique. Using a flow of thoughts allows you to view and change an inner representation of your experience – how your mind stores and expresses information.

Guided Imagery: Receptive and Active

Receptive Imagery means paying attention to the images which arise in response to the questions you ask in a relaxed state of mind. Active Imagery communicates your conscious requests and intentions to your unconscious mind. Together, they can help you create effective healing imagery.

Simply described: relax and go to your quiet inner place, and focus your attention directly on the name of the illness, or symptom that is most bothersome to you. An image will come to mind that represents this problem or symptom. Accept whatever the image is, do not judge it, or try to figure it out. Let it become clearer. Observe it carefully and in detail. Then, notice what seems to be wrong with the picture. What seems to represent the pain, illness or problem? This is using Receptive Imagery.

Next, allow another image to form that represents the healing or resolution of your problem. Imagine the healing process taking place in whatever way seems right to you as the image of illness changes to the image of health. Image the feeling of positive changes happening in your body as you focus on the healing image. Notice any changes in sensation and take them as signs of encouragement, and connection to your body. End your imagery session by focusing clearly and powerfully on the healing image that appeared to you. Affirm to yourself that this is happening now, and that this healing continues in you. Completely end the session when you are ready, preparing to return from your state of relaxation into your waking consciousness.

You can also learn more about imagery through books, audiotapes and/or with a certified practitioner. A directory of practitioners is available through The Academy for Guided Imagery, at 1-800-726-2070 or online at www.interactiveimagery.com.

Many fine books and tapes are available to assist you in learning guided imagery. Check out the following:

 Guided Imagery for Self-Healing. M. Rossman

 Rituals of Healing: Using Imagery for Health and Wellness. Achterberg, Dossey and Kolkmeier

 Deep Healing: The Essence of Body/Mind Medicine. E. Miller

 Staying Well with Guided Imagery. B. Naparstek

 Seeing with the Mind’s Eye. Mike & Nancy Samuels