Why use imagery techniques with your clients?

In schema therapy, there is a strong focus on using ‘experiential’ techniques like imagery and chair work, rather than just talking about a client’s problems. That’s not to say that giving someone time and space to tell the story of their life or week is not important; just that talking alone is often not enough to provide healing at the deep, schema level at which ST aims to help people.

In my opinion, imagery techniques offer powerful and effective ways to help your clients with an almost limitless range of problems. For example, early on in the therapy process you can use imagery diagnostically, to ask your client to close their eyes and imagine themselves with a particular family member, in an upsetting situation from childhood, or just having dinner with the whole family.

Guiding them through this process and asking for details about who was there, what they said, how they reacted when your client (as a child) was upset can give you vital information about what went wrong for them as a child, their attachment history and style, relationships with their parents and other family members, and so much more.

Imagery rescripting is one of the signature ST techniques, which (like all imagery techniques) can be learned and used in your practice, whichever modality you work in. Rescripting involves a client re-experiencing an upsetting memory from childhood, visualising it as if they are there right now. At some point you, as therapist, can enter the image and intervene, protecting your client (as a child) from whatever is happening, confronting abusive or critical parents, comforting the child and helping them feel safe and cared for.

This is a hugely powerful and healing experience for clients – and it transforms the emotional content of that memory, ‘de-traumatising' it and slowly but surely helping them heal. Although these techniques are supported by an ever-expanding evidence base, in some ways there is something magical and mysterious about them. It can be a profound and moving experience for client and therapist alike…

If you would like to learn how to incorporate these hugely powerful techniques into your practice, come along to my Working with Imagery: Powerful, Transformative Techniques to Enhance Your Clinical Practice workshop. I hope to see you there!

Warm wishes,

Dan