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MoonDragon's Alternative Health Information
Mind & Emotion Therapies

For "Informational Use Only".
For more detailed information, contact your health care provider
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  • Visualization Therapy Description
  • History
  • Key Principles
  • Evidence & Research
  • Conventional Medical Opinion
  • Consulting A Practitioner
  • Self Help
  • Visualization Therapy Products & Education


    A technique that uses the imagination to help people cope with stress, fulfill their potential, and activate the body's self-healing processes, visualization was being used therapeutically by health care providers and psychologists by the early 1970s. Patients are said to be able to overcome physical and emotional problems by imagining positive images and desired outcomes to specific situations, either alone or helped by a practitioner (known as guided imagery). Visualization forms a part of many relaxation therapies and is sometimes used as an adjunct to conventional cancer treatment.


  • Pain relief.
  • Allergies.
  • Heart conditions.
  • Anxiety, phobias.
  • Cancer.
  • Autoimmune diseases.
  • Stress-related conditions, including gastrointestinal & reproductive disorders.
  • Personal development.

  • MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
    MoonDragon's Womens Health Information: Stress
    MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Anxiety Disorder
    MoonDragon's Womens Health Information: Phobias & Fears
    MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Autoimmune Disorders
    MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
    MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Cancer
    MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Cardiovascular Disease
    MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Cardio Problems
    MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Allergies
    MoonDragon's Health Therapy: Pain Control Therapies

    australian aborigines
    Australian Aborigines punish a transgressor of tribal law by ceremonially "pointing" at him to instill the images of death in his mind.


    Traditional societies, especially those with shamans, are well aware of the power of imagination to heal or harm. Many religions also practice imagery: Tibetan Buddhists, for example, focus on the image of a deity healing symptoms.

    MoonDragon's Alternative Health Information: Mind & Emotion - Shamanism

    Biofeedback researchers in the 1960s found that people used visual imagery in responding to cues from a biofeedback device. In 1969, Dr. Carl Simonton and his wife, Stephanie Matthews-Simonton, a psychologist, carried out research into the use of visualization in cancer treatment. They encouraged patients to imagine white blood cells destroying the cancer, and claimed that, on average, these patients lived twice as long as other cancer patients. Some cancer specialists in the US, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand now include visualization as part of care programs to improve quality of life.

    Psychologists worldwide have used visualization since the mid-20th century to improve motivation, for example in sports, and to change negative attitudes.

    visualization used for athletic competition
    Many athletes use visualization in preparation for competition. Dick Fosbury, the famous high jumper, was an early exponent of the technique.


    It is unclear how visualization works, but it is said to encourage activity in the right hemisphere of the brain, which relates to creativity and emotions. Research using positron emission tomography (PET) scans to monitor the brain during visualization exercises has shown that imagery involving sight activates the visual part of the cerebral cortex, sound imagery triggers the auditory cortex, and imagery concerning touch stimulates the sensory cortex.

    A vivid image may send a message from the cerebral cortex via the lower brain to the hormonal system and the autonomic nervous system, responsible for body functions such as heart rate and perspiration. Harnessing the power of the imagination may affect these processes and allow the body to find ways of coping with different conditions. If visualization is repeated enough, according to the theory, expectations rise and the individual begins to act as if the image were a reality. There are two common ways of using imagery depending on the aim of treatment.
      ACTIVE IMAGERY: This works with a chosen image to control a symptom or situation, or relax the body and mind.

      RECEPTIVE IMAGERY: This helps patients gain insight into a problem by allowing images to surface that may offer clues to the emotional reasons for certain behavior.

    MoonDragon's Health Therapy: Guided Imagery Therapy Information & Techniques


    There are a few scientific studies that focus solely on visualization. A number of studies since the 1960s have suggested that, when used with other stress-reducing techniques, visualization can affect physiological processes such as breathing, gastrointestinal activity, heart rate, blood pressure, sexual arousal, and the release of neurotransmitters.

    A 1989 study in the Italian journal Pediatrics found that when mothers of premature babies listened to a relaxation and visualization audiotape, they produced 63 percent more milk than those who did not. In 1988, the British Medical Journal published a study claiming that women in the early stages of breast cancer derived greater psychological benefits from relaxation and visualization therapy than from relaxation alone. Studying the mind-body relationship may one day explain how mental imagery affects the immune system.


    Most conventional health care providers concede that positive thinking is a useful tool in restoring and maintaining health, and many support the inclusion of visualization techniques in treatment. Not everyone has a vivid imagination, however, and an inability to conjure up mental images of an illness being eliminated should not be seen as a sign of failure.


    Visualization can be practiced on a one-to-one basis or in a group, often as part of psychotherapy or hypnotherapy. A practitioner may start by taking a medical history and asking what you hope to achieve from the therapy - this will affect the choice of imagery. A simple relaxation exercise, such as progressive muscle relaxation, is practiced at the start of a session, since it is easier to learn visualization if the body is relatively free of tension.

    MoonDragon's Alternative Health Information: Mind & Emotion - Relaxation & Breathing
    MoonDragon's Health Therapy: Relaxation Therapy Information & Techniques

    Once you are relaxed and either lying down or sitting in a comfortable position, the practitioner will guide you through the visualization process. He will encourage you to make your chosen imagery as vivid as possible, help you to maintain your concentration, and lead you away from any thoughts that may inhibit the process. The practitioner may also ask you to repeat "positive affirmations" - phrases such as "I feel calm" or "I am in control". This helps to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

    sitting comfortably in a high back chair.
    Sitting comfortably when practicing visualization, it is essential to find a position in which the whole body can relax and the mind can "let go".

    At the end of the session, you will be asked to open your eyes and slowly become aware of your present situation.

    Sessions last about 30 to 60 minutes, and the length of treatment will depend on your needs and your condition. You will be asked to practice daily, possibly with an audiotape or book.


    Visualization is also effective as a self-help technique. Find a quiet place, lie down, or sit in a comfortable chair, and close your eyes. Breathe slowly and relax before focusing on your chosen mental image. Try to repeat the exercise 1 to 3 times a day.

    FIGHTING ILLNESS: Create a mental picture of your illness: some people have described pain as an iron bar or a red-hot needle. Envisage any treatment you are receiving as eliminating pain and strengthening your self-healing powers. Imagine yourself healthy again.

    Turning down your pain.
    Turning down your pain on an imaginary dial may help you to feel in control of pain and able to cope more successfully with short- or long-term illness.

    Locking worries & pain away.
    Locking worries, pain, or illness in a mental box where they can be contained and shut away has proved effective in some cases.

    ACHIEVING SUCCESS: Imagine a situation in which you hope to succeed. Tell yourself that you are confident and in control. If you feel that you are becoming tense at the thought of a particular difficulty, breathe slowly, relax, and detach yourself from the scene.

    Fear of public speaking.
    Fear of public speaking can be overcome by imagining yourself speaking calmly to a room of people. Hear the applause as you finish.

    Prepare for interviews.
    To prepare for interviews, visualize yourself calmly greeting the panel of interviewers and dealing confidently with their questions.

    Before a sports event.
    Before a sports event, motivation can be boosted by mentally rehearsing the precise sequence of events required for a successful performance.

    COMBATING STRESS: Visualize a calm, beautiful scene - perhaps somewhere you have been that was truly relaxing. Picture yourself there and use all your senses to make it as real as possible. Repeat to yourself phrases such as "I am relaxed and content."

    Imagine a beach.
    Imagine a beach where you can relax and unwind. Feel the warmth of the sun and the texture of the sand, hear the waves and smell the sea air.

    A tropical waterfall.
    A tropical waterfall may help you calm your mind. Listen to the sound of rushing water and mentally explore the banks of lush plants and fragrant flowers.

    A mountain scene.
    A mountain scene can promote a sense of harmony. Imagine the space and light around you and the sensation of filling your lungs with fresh clean air.


  • Do not begin to practice visualization without the guidance of a practitioner if you have a medical condition, since disturbing images may surface that could make your symptoms worse.

  • MoonDragon's Health Therapy: Guided Imagery Therapy Information & Techniques
    MoonDragon's Health Therapy: Relaxation Therapy Information & Techniques
    MoonDragon's Alternative Health Information: Mind & Emotion - Relaxation & Breathing
    MoonDragon's Alternative Health Information: Therapy Index
    Imagery Birthing: Natural Childbirth Through Imagery
    Academy of Guided Imagery
    Guided Imagery Products
    Health Journeys - Guided Imagery Products: Health, Pain, & Pregnancy/Birth


    MoonDragon's Health Therapy: Pain Control
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    MoonDragon's Health Therapy: Guided Imagery
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    MoonDragon's Health Therapy: Meditation
    MoonDragon's Health Therapy: Relaxation Techniques
    MoonDragon's Health Therapy: TENS Therapy


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    Amazon: Visualization Therapy Products
    Amazon: Guided Visualization Therapy Products


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