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Home arrow Psychology arrow Using Mental Imagery in Counselling and Psychotherapy: A Guide to More Inclusive Theory and Practice

Overview of the contents

The book is divided into two parts: the first part (Chapters 2-6) sets the context and deals with the theory; and the second part (Chapters 7-12) provides a guide to more inclusive practice. Although the second half can be read as a stand-alone guide, it is supported by the preceding theoretical section.

It is important to note this is not designed to be a scholarly text although it does address theoretical matters. Some of the debates concerning mental imagery raise complex epistemological and ontological questions. In order to make the material presented in this book accessible for the general reader I have taken shortcuts wherever it is possible and when it will not undermine the argument.

NB: Part One presents the background to the use of mental imagery in counselling and psychotherapy. In order to do this I have drawn on a wide range of scholarly work by experts in these fields. Any mistakes in the ensuing synthesis are purely my own.

one: towards more inclusive theory

Chapter 2 presents an overview of the history of imagination as a healing modality. It starts with a description of the premodern view of imagination as an integral part of healing practices. It then goes on to discuss the impact of Cartesian dualism on Western culture’s approach to illness and health and, in particular, the end of imagination as a healing modality. It discusses the way that mental imagery was also deprivileged within the emerging discipline of psychology until the mid-20th century.

Chapter 3 returns to the late 19 th century to trace the way that, beginning with Freud, the psychotherapeutic use of mental images developed as different sets of techniques within the main therapeutic approaches. As it assumes the reader will be familiar with the range of mental imagery methods developed within mainstream schools over the 20th century, these sections will be presented in summary. It then goes on to consider the contributions of clinical pioneers, working outside the mainstream, who developed influential image-based therapies, particularly those from the European waking dream tradition such as Desoille’s (1966) directed daydream method and Leuner’s (1984) Guided Affective Imagery. It ends by discussing the current developments within contemporary cognitive approaches including an account of some of the new imagery approaches for trauma such as rescripting.

Chapter 4 considers how the field has dealt with explaining the therapeutic efficacy of mental imagery. These explanations can be grouped into two types - i.e. empirical models and phenomenological descriptions. It then goes on to consider an attempt from within the field to generate a more transtheoretical explanation, i.e. Ahsen’s (1984) image/somatic/meaning model (ISM). It then describes a particularly important and relevant theory from another discipline, i.e. conceptual metaphor developed by cognitive linguists, Lakoff and Johnson (2003). It discusses how this theory can explain the operations of mental imagery as a bridge between nonconceptual cognitive processing and later emerging higher-order conceptualisation processes. It concludes that conceptual metaphors can provide potential ground for the integration of both the empirical and phenomenological perspectives on mental imagery.

Chapter 5 discusses another way of moving beyond the empirical/phenomeno- logical divide that has characterised the study of mental imagery in counselling and psychotherapy by returning to the field and identifying basic commonalities in its practice. It considers some of the simple distinctions and basic operational differences that are generally accepted in clinical practice across the different schools, including the particularly important distinction that is made between receptive and directive imagery in therapeutic practice. It then goes on to consider, in detail, a typology of communication functions that emerged from a recent research study.

Chapter 6 goes on to discuss how the typology of communication functions identified in the previous chapter can provide the basis for an inclusive theoretical framework of mental imagery in therapeutic practice. It explains how the six different identified functions model the way that mental images operate as an interactive communication process between the rational and imaginal perspectives. The chapter concludes by offering some thoughts on the advantages of the model and also acknowledges its limitations.

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