The facts

Guided imagery is a meditative technique using the imaginative powers of the mind to visualize positive health outcomes. It involves using mental images to promote health, wellness, and relaxation.

Guided imagery is meant to facilitate a relaxed approach to dealing with symptoms. The practice may be self-directed or led by a trained practitioner. To achieve an initial relaxed state, one would start with eyes closed and mind focused on slow and even breathing. Or one might progressively relax the muscles or perhaps listen to a recording of peaceful sounds. Once relaxed, the visualization begins.

When in a state of relaxation, a person may discover inner strength that had been dormant. Imagery will be unique to the person and stated health intention. A heart patient may imagine their blood flowing through unobstructed veins and arteries as a strong, steady river. A person grappling with anxiety may envision resting happily in a tranquil nook from their childhood home. Someone with chronic pain might imagine approaching their pain and wrapping it in soothing white light.

A word of caution

Guided imagery is an inwardly-directed practice and thus does not pose physical risks. However, since it can be an intensely focused and personal experience, guided imagery may be difficult for some with anxiety or certain psychological disorders.

Guided imagery should not be relied upon as sole treatment for a medical condition, but rather as a complement. Be sure to inform your health care providers of any guided imagery in which you take part.