Guided imagery is a two-part process. The first component involves reaching a state of deep relaxation through breathing and muscle relaxation techniques. During the relaxation phase, the person closes his eyes and focuses on the slow, in and out of his breathing. Or, he might focus on releasing the feelings of tension from his muscles, starting with the toes and working up to the top of the head. Relaxation tapes often feature soft music or tranquil, natural sounds such as rolling waves and chirping birds in order to promote feelings of relaxation.
Once complete relaxation is achieved, the second component of the exercise is the imagery, or visualization, itself. Relaxation imagery involves conjuring up pleasant, relaxing images that rest the mind and body. These may be experiences that have already happened, or new situations.
The individual may also use mental rehearsal. Mental rehearsal involves imagining a situation or scenario and its ideal outcome. It can be used to reduce anxiety about an upcoming situation, such as childbirth, surgery, or even a critical event such as an important competition or a job interview. Individuals imagine themselves going through each step of the anxiety-producing event and then successfully completing it.
Paula Ford-Martin, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,