In the 20th century, many psychotherapeutic techniques have emerged that have incorporated imagery as a psychotherapeutic tool. Just to name a few, are: “Active Imagination” by Dr. Carl Jung, “Guided Waking Dream” by Dr. Robert Desoille and “Guided Affective Imagery” by Dr. Hanscarl Leuner.
Towards the end of the 20th century, radiotherapy oncologist Dr. Carl Simonton and his wife, psychologist, Stephanie Simonton, presented clinical trials that showed the increased survival of cancer patients who practiced metal imagery to improve their immune system.
The implementation of imagery has been extended to a wider number of diseases in clinical trials performed by Irving Oyle D.O.
He adapted the “Inner Advisor” method in his clinical practice, as well as by Martin Rossman, M.D. and David Bresler, Ph.D., who introduced the implementation of “Interactive Guided Imagery”. In fact, in his book “Guided Imagery for Self-Healing,” Dr. Martin Rossman states, “The evidence is so strong that if imagery was a drug, physicians would prescribe imagery to improve the immune system without the fear of side effects.” (Rossman 2000, p. 227).
Many other clinical trials and empirical studies have been carried out, but I will end with two significant and recent ones by Assistant Professor Ulas Kaplan of James Madison University and Dr. Gerald Epstein, MD, psychiatrist and founder of the American Institute for Mental Imagery.
In 2012 they studied the application of imagery to monitor heart rate variability. Results showed that the application of imagery significantly increased the rate of heart coherence. (Imagination, Cognition and Personality, Vol. 31 (4) 297-312, 2011-2012 ).
They conducted another study in 2014 with the purpose of presenting a qualitative approach to changes in daily well-being, as a function of imagery practice. Results of the imagery group far surpassed results obtained from the other two groups, affirmations coming in a distant second, while the group doing nothing other than ordinary thinking showed no effect at all. An additional discovery was that levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, were reduced during the imagery process, but this was not the case for the affirmation or thinking groups. (Imagination, Cognition and Personality, Vol. 34(1) 73-96, 2014-2015).
The nature of Imagery is both diagnostic in the sense that images reflect the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of our existence that call for exploration and healing, as well as therapeutic in that it reveals a live treasure of therapeutic symbols which comprise the key to our transformation. All that is needed is to be trained in understanding the language of Imagery and the messages it conveys.
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