Visualization Technique Part One | Counseling | Therapy

Visualization Technique Part One

Alex , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director

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Anxiety Therapy in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Santa Fe, Mechanicsville : Visualization Technique Part One: visualization and imagery are powerful weapons in the arsenal against anxiety. Whether guided by a therapist at the Center for Growth / Anxiety Therapy in Philadelphia or practiced alone, these tools unlock the potential inside the human mind to heal and release energy. The possibilities are endless when it comes to visualization, but knowing just a few simple techniques is all one really needs to begin using it effectively against their anxiety symptoms.

Beginners to the use of visualization and guided imagery should start slow. Part of the trick behind the results is the process, and that requires taking the time at first to gradually sink into the exercise. Begin by finding a quiet place to sit or lie down, somewhere that you can work uninterrupted. Take a moment to get into a comfortable position. Once settled, close your eyes and listen to your own breathing. If it is fast, slow it down some. If it is shallow, deepen it. As your breathing comes under control, start to clear your mind. This should not require mental force, but should be allowed to happen naturally and smoothly; letting ideas come and then letting them go until the pace slows and the mind relaxes. With the breath and mind in harmony, check the body for tension. Points of tension, such as the neck or back, should be released. Do this by focusing on them steadily until the tension softens and disappears. Now you should be in a completely relaxed state and the imagery can begin.

The Safe Place- One of the first and most instrumental visualization techniques involves the creation of a safe or “happy” place. This can be highly individualized, so that makes it very flexible. Once a state of relaxation is achieved try and picture a place that you would like to be, somewhere you are drawn to or that epitomizes relaxation to you. Examples might be a beach, a waterfall, or even a pastoral scene from a favorite painting. Some even picture a room. Whatever represents calm and peace to you is good for this exercise. Feel free to take a few moments to scan through a few settings until you settle on the right one.

Once you have the place, hold it in your mind. Develop a clearer picture of it. Examine the richness of the colors. For a beach, compare the blue of the water to the blue of the sky. For a garden, what colors are the flowers and foliage? Is there grass? What shade of green is it? Now bring in the details. See the waves rolling in from the ocean, the butterflies flitting about a garden. Picture the sand, the soil, any furnishings nearby. You want to see your place as vividly as possible and solidify that image in your mind, because this will not be your only visit.

When you have carefully constructed every line and shadow in your safe place, you can invite your other senses into the experience. What sounds do you hear in your safe place? Are there birds somewhere overhead? Are the waves of your mental ocean crashing loudly or whispering as they roll softly onto the shore? Maybe even there is music playing. What about the smells? Is it salty, fragrant, or mossy? Is something cooking nearby? Let your imagination run wild with these, there is no right or wrong answers because this is your place. Feel the textures in your mind: gritty sand, the rough bark of a tree, the silky blades of grass. Even taste plays a role. At the beach you may be able to taste the salt in the air. In a garden, there may be berries growing that are sweet and juicy. Again, anything you put in your safe place is up to you. Just remember to stick to things that bring comfort or calm.

At this point, you may choose to open your eyes and end the exercise. You should feel relaxed and invigorated. You have created a completely safe and relaxing environment, and you can go there anytime to unwind and let go of stresses and anxiety. In time, you will find that much can be accomplished in this mental place, but for now it is enough to have built it. Whenever possible, find the time to return to your safe place just for a few moments following the same steps outlined above. Having already done it once, it should get quicker and easier each time. This practice can help solidify the place you have built in your mind, and eases the ability to transition there when necessary. That way, your safe place can be available whenever it is needed to ward off anxiety and de-stress.

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