Guided Imagery—What is it?

Guided Imagery is the deliberate creation of sensory images (a thought that you can mentally see, hear, taste, smell, touch, and feel) in your mind which can improve your physical, mental and emotional health. For example, to facilitate relaxation, you might be asked to allow an image of a safe and relaxing place to form in your mind, and then as your guide, I would invite you to explore and deepen this image by asking what you see, hear, smell, and feel as you imagine this place.

Described by some as a focused daydream, guided imagery uses words and images to take you on a purposeful journey to help you reach your personal goals. The term “guided imagery” refers to a variety of techniques, including visualization and positive mental rehearsal. Guided imagery can be used actively, when a specific image is used to help alleviate symptoms or problems, or receptively, when an image is “allowed” to come to mind to help gain greater understanding of or insight into an issue in your life.

How Does Guided Imagery Work?

Guided imagery causes profound physical changes in the body. This happens because the body tends to respond to vivid sensory images in the same way it responds in real life to the same experience. For example, if you vividly imagine smelling and tasting your favorite meal, you may soon begin to salivate. It appears that images activate the nervous system, which sends chemical messengers through the bloodstream to specific cells, triggering healing activity. This makes guided imagery invaluable in physical healing, as it has been shown to affect many systems of the body. For example, imagery has been shown to increase the number of circulating white blood cells in cancer patients, thus enhancing the immune system.

Because imagery also help you to get in touch with symbolic thinking, it can be useful in tapping into your inner wisdom and insight, as well as enhancing creativity. This makes it very useful in helping you gain insight into life issues, problems, and symptoms, and in developing new and creative solutions.

Guided imagery is usually used in the deeply relaxed or “altered” state. This allows messages to travel more easily between our minds and our bodies. Working in the altered state rapidly accelerates any learning or healing that takes place during the imagery experience.

The Role of the Imagery Guide

As your imagery guide, my role is to help you get connected with and explore your own imagery. As a non-directive guide, I will not supply you with stock images. Instead, I work with you to allow the formation of your own, most relevant, images. I work to facilitate your imagery experience and help you learn to use imagery effectively on your own, thus empowering you. While imagery can be very beneficial when practiced on your own, working with an experienced guide can help to deepen and focus the process, while keeping the experience safe and productive.

Benefits of Guided Imagery

There are very few physical, emotional or behavioral symptoms that are not affected to some degree by the mind. Guided Imagery taps into your innate inner resources to help you find new and creative solutions to your own problems. Working with an experienced guide enables you to begin your own process of healing, personal growth and enrichment. Because Guided Imagery techniques carry few, if any, negative side effects when used properly, they can be an ideal adjunct to many other types of therapy and treatment.

Guided Imagery has been shown to be very effective with many physical and emotional issues, but seems to be particularly effective when used to address conditions that are caused or aggravated by stress, such as: blood pressure, headaches, pain, gastrointestinal disorders, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression. Guided imagery can also be very useful in enhancing creativity, working through an internal conflict, searching for meaning and purpose, and relaxation.

Imagery can also be useful in rehearsing for an upcoming event, such as public speaking, asserting yourself in a difficult situation, or performing athletically. You can imagine in detail exactly how you want to perform and feel at the actual event, thus programming yourself for success. Imagery can also be used to help change negative habits and to install positive new behaviors (for example, to stop overeating and to incorporate a healthy diet and exercise plan).

Clinical Applications of Imagery

There are many clinical applications of Guided imagery; here is a list of some of the situations in which guided imagery can be particularly helpful:
  • Anxiety
  • Cancer treatment and life-threatening illnesses
  • Changing lifestyle behaviors
  • Creativity
  • Depression
  • Family and parenting
  • Fertility, birthing and delivery
  • Fitness training
  • Goal-setting
  • Grief issues
  • Immune system enhancement
  • Managing chronic illnesses
  • Mind/body issues
  • Meaning and purpose exploration
  • Pain management
  • Performance enhancement
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Preparation for surgery and medical procedures
  • Relationship issues
  • Relieving physical symptoms
  • Relaxation training
  • Sleep disorders
  • Smoking cessation
  • Spirituality
  • Stress management
  • Survivors of abuse
  • Weight management

Several reference books on guided imagery:

Staying Well with Guided Imagery by Belleruth Naparstek, Warner Books, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1994.

Guided Imagery for Self-Healing by Martin L. Rossman, M.D., H. J. Kramer, Tiburon, California, 2000.

Fighting Cancer From Within by Martin L. Rossman, M.D., Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, N.Y. 2003

Listen to Lora's Guided Imagery and Hypnosis Now

Created by Lora Hanna, LISW, psychotherapist and certified hypnotherapist, this recording utilizes both hypnosis and guided imagery for deep relaxation and personal growth.

Hypnosis for Relaxation (67:10 minutes). Lora will guide you on a relaxing journey to your safe place where you will have 90 seconds for deep relaxation or for any inner work you choose to do. After 17 minutes of guided hypnosis, you can continue your relaxation with another 50 minutes of soothing music by mach1audio.

Listening Guidelines for Hypnosis and Guided Imagery

  1. As this recording is designed to create a deeply relaxed state, please do not listen to it while driving.
  2. You will get the most benefit out of this experience if you set aside uninterrupted time, eliminate distractions, and get yourself into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down, before listening.
  3. It is most helpful to adopt a nonjudgemental, receptive attitude while listening, without trying to force or critique the process. Just let what happens happen. Accept that what happens during the imagery is the best thing for you at that time, even if the outcome is different than you expected.
  4. Know that imagery and hypnosis work differently for everyone—some people are very visual, seeing very clear colors and pictures, almost like a movie, while others just get a “sense” of the process. Either way is OK. You may also find that like most things, your ability to image will improve with time and repetition, and you may begin to experience the images more clearly and with more of your senses over time.
  5. You may find that your mind drifts away from my voice from time to time as you listen. This is OK and very normal—it’s part of the process when working with your subconscious/nonrational mind. If you notice that you have drifted, just gently guide your awareness back to my voice without judgement or critique.

Are you ready to go deeper? Contact Lora to learn more about how guided imagery and hypnosis can help you make positive changes in your life.

iRest Meditation

Lora is a Level 1 iRest Meditation teacher. iRest is a meditation practice based on the ancient tradition of Yoga Nidra and adapted to suit modern life. iRest is a practical ten-step program which can help you deeply relax as well as tap into the wisdom and healing capabilities of your body and mind. iRest can be practiced in a group or individually. With regular practice, (little and often) iRest can help you meet life's challenges with mental calmness and composure.

The Ten Steps of iRest Include:
1) Connect to Your Heartfelt Desire
2) Set an Intention
3) Find Your Inner Resource
4) Feel Your Body
5) Become Aware of Your Breath
6) Welcome Your Emotions
7) Witness Your Thoughts
8) Experience Joy
9) Find Lasting Peace
10) Reflect on Your Practice

iRest can help with many issues, including sleep problems, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. iRest is simple to learn and easy to practice, regardless of physical ability or prior experience with meditation. Once learned, iRest becomes a set of tools for life.

Information on this page adapted from