It is important to acknowledge that there are important practice issues related to using mental imagery in counselling and psychotherapy. In this chapter I consider some of the more significant ones in relation to developing a more inclusive practice with mental imagery. I begin by reviewing some of the more general matters such safe practice, which includes: contra-indications to its use; working with induced relaxation states; and managing clients’ problematic reactions to imagery. This overview will be followed by a discussion of issues that are particularly relevant for a more inclusive practice such as strategies for increasing the client’s capacity for making productive use of their mental images. Finally, I make some comments regarding the way that utilising mental imagery in counselling and psychotherapy affects the therapeutic relationship and how this work, in its turn, is also shaped by the intersubjective context.
It has long been acknowledged that mental imagery is a potentially powerful therapeutic method that needs to be treated with caution. Practitioners who already use techniques such as guided visualisation with their clients will be familiar with some of the guidance presented in this section. The obvious dangers are predicated on the way that mental images can bypass conscious defences and access repressed experience. Other issues concerning safe practice are linked to the increased vulnerability of clients who will be working in induced relaxed states with their eyes closed. In this section I discuss ways in which the therapists can ensure that their practice is safe.