Guided Imagery in Therapy – Part One

The following is the first of a series I intend to write on guided imagery – also known as guided affective therapy or katathym imaginative therapy – as a psychotherapeutic device. Although punctuated and (hopefully!) free from any major grammatical errors, it’s essentially a free-writing recollection of my therapy sessions in which this technique was used.

I am told there is a house on a hill. Can I see it in my mind?

Close eyes, lean back head, breathe deeply. But eventually…yes. Yes, I can.

And am I willing to agree to a guide taking me around the house, but let my own mind decide the specifics of the house’s aesthetics?

I draw breath, and close my eyes briefly in contemplation. But yes. Yes, I am.

A path winds up the hill towards the house, a little fence running at a right angle to where I’m standing. What colour is the fence? I don’t know – I can see it, yes, but I don’t really see it. No matter – one thing I do know is that it has a gate, and the path continues through it up to the door of the house.

The house is alone in the vicinity. Aside from the grass that surrounds it on all sides and the fence, the area in which the house stands is entirely devoid of features.

The House on the Hill

Walk up the path, says a voice from somewhere in the distance.

The gate’s in the way, I tell it.

Open it. I do, and when the voice instructs me to continue along the path towards the door, once more I dutifully obey.

The voice asks what colour the door is? Does it have any other attributes – a knocker, a postbox?

It’s black, I think, and there’s a grandiose knocker. The voice asks me to describe this, which I do. I describe the postbox, the panelling of the door. It’s fascinatingly well-appointed.

And then it tells me: open it. Open the door.

Somewhere, I feel the furrow of a puzzled frown. I speak. Not think words and sentences, as it has felt I’ve done hitherto, but speak them aloud.

“Open it?”

I always knew this was the endgame, or at least a focal point. But I feel incredulous even so.

“Yes, open it,” a man says aloud, in the same ‘new’ way as I have spoken.

I see flashes of ordinary life. A banal room, its walls adorned with non-descript pastelly colours. A bay window looking onto a bustling street.

My reticence is noticed. “It’s OK,” the man says. “It’s safe to open the door.”

The door reappears in front of me. I take a deep breath, and push it with a slightly wavering right hand. I close my eyes tight in psychological preparation.

I push it. It is locked. The door is locked.

I relay this information to my guide, the voice. For a minute, there is only silence, and that banal room and that boringly ordinary street slide into view. I feel my eyes move from the windows to the area opposite me. The man sits there, with a rather befuddled expression on his face. He sees me looking at him and says, “you have a key.”

So I return to the door, slowly and deliberately unlocking it, eyes wide shut in continuing trepidation.

And I push it, wondering – simultaneously feeling curiosity and an inherent sense of ominousness – what fate awaits me within.

The door opens.

This series continues here.

Picture credit: see outgoing link. Image modified by me.

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6 comments on “Guided Imagery in Therapy – Part One

  1. I remember you taking about this before and found it fascinating- is this a new session or more on a previous one?? Either way looking forward to the next- i was thinking at the end “no, you can’t end there, its just cruel!” lol

    Best wishes
    Kate

  2. I was wondering if this is a recent session too? It was like leaving us with a cliffhanger ending! What happened?

    btw, I absolutely adore your writing style in this post.

  3. Aww, thanks for the kind comments, ladies! I thought it was rubbish – I’m not keen on the general style employed – but I elected to publish it anyhow, as a stream-of-consciousness exercise. Anyhow, I’m glad you liked it 🙂

    Kate and CI – this post specifically is not from a recent session, but it was an exercise we picked up on again on the last few weeks, and based on my memories of all the relevant sessions, I intend to try and piece it together so it reads as one, so to speak.

    The next instalment will be up soon!

    Thanks all and take care ❤

    Viv x

  4. Briefly, Vivid–this is a very evocative post. You doubt your talent, but I suspect that you are uncommon in your assessment of your writing.

    Katathym is a very interesting type of therapy. I have not had extensive experience of it either as the practitioner or in clinical supervision, but of course it has formed *part* of my training. In these cases–from both ‘sides of the couch, as you might say–I have found myself very much in “that place”, psychologically. It is almost like hypnosis, in some ways.

    I look forward to the rest of this series.

    Sincerely,
    Robert =]

    • I have found myself very much in “that place”, psychologically. It is almost like hypnosis, in some ways.

      Yes, exactly. When my therapist first brought it up, my first instinct was to laugh in his face. I found the idea ridiculous, especially since I’d been through hypnosis (which he kept insisting it was not, but…) and found it to be of transient use, if any. But I kept an open mind, and for once I’m glad I did.

      As you say, you really feel like you are in that place. In fact, the last time we did this (my therapist and I), we ran over the session by 15 minutes because the experience was so intense for both of us. He was genuinely ‘thrown’ when he realised we’d overrun and would have to end the practice. I had been so into it that I’d almost dissociated, and it took a good while to ‘right’ myself.

      But I’ll explore this later in the series 🙂 Thanks as always for your kind comments and input, Robert.

      Take care

      Viv x

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