About Integrative Imagery


[Click for an interview with Susan about Integrative Imagery]

Sources and Types of Therapeutic Imagery

Most forms of meditation, hypnosis and dream analysis use some kind of imagery process. The process may be active, in directly engaging with the images, or may be receptive in just letting images arise spontaneously. Tibetan meditations, for example, often focus on an image of a deity, contemplating certain qualities or powers. In actuality, just about any insight process uses some form of imagery. These are some definitions that might be helpful:


Imagery is a natural thought process, using one or more of the five senses and usually associated with emotions. Just as we all dream, we all use imagery to picture a scene in our mind’s eye, remember a pleasant childhood memory or recall a favorite piece of music. The creative process in writing, painting or developing a new idea cannot take place without imagery. One first imagines, then one creates. For many years, athletes have been using imagery rehearsal to visualize the activity and the end outcome of their sport with recognizable advantages.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is a therapeutic process that facilitates working with the power of the imagination to positively affect mental attitude and potentiate positive outcomes. In general, this process is scripted, structured and directed by a practitioner. For instance, a group may be guided on a journey in a hot air balloon to view the landscape below and see the "big picture." Commercial audiotapes and CDs are also examples of scripted "guided" imagery. Most people in the general population and in health care are already familiar with this style. As a matter of fact, guided imagery is one of the most accepted complementary therapies in medical centers and hospitals worldwide.

Integrative Imagery

This model takes the therapeutic process to an even deeper level by eliciting and working with a person's own images, both positive and negative. This process is best facilitated by a practitioner, guiding a person to bring to mind an image for something, then directly engaging with this image, often in dialogue. For example, an image of healing is elicited. Then by communicating with this image, one may uncover what is needed in order to heal. This process is somewhat like conscious dreaming in that we are able to communicate and interact with symbolic representations of our inner self and glean information. Judie Heinschel, PhD, RN, describes this as a "lived experience" in that "it is an experience that occurs as the client interacts with images."

Communication between the client and the inner images may be in an interactive dialogue or in a sense of “knowing,” a more intuitive sensing. Each person’s imagery process is unique to them. However, most people access “images” through one or more of the senses. The majority of the population is visual and will see, picture, or envision an image. Some have very elaborate scenes and figures. Kinesthetic imagers, on the other hand, will primarily feel or sense something without “seeing” anything at all. Musicians and singers will often have a strong auditory presence. Closing your eyes and concentrating on a favorite piece of music is one way to experience imagery. Overall, images can be seen, felt, heard, touched, smelled or sometimes even tasted. The more senses that are recruited the richer the experience.

The dialogue component is one of the most important factors that distinguishes Integrative Imagery from guided imagery. Direct interaction between the client and the images is dynamic and powerful, leading to insights and wisdom from within that is less common in a receptive “guided imagery” process. The dialogue between the client and the guide is also crucial. Generally, the “right” brain conceptualizes in images and the “left” brain formulates language. While experiencing the imagery process in the right brain and describing that experience verbally to the guide using left brain function, the client seems to have an integration of the experience at a much deeper level. The interactivity between the client and the images can happen by engaging in the imagery process without a guide and some do this very well.

However, for most of us, an essential element in the depth and power of the work lies in the guide facilitating the process, bearing witness and holding a safe and sacred space for the client.

Interactive Imagery℠ or Interactive Guided Imagery℠

In concept and structure, this imagery modality was developed by David Bresler, PhD and Marty Rossman, MD, co-founders of the Academy for Guided Imagery. It is very similar and is the predecessor of Integrative Imagery. This specialty of the active and interactive process is primarily based on the body of works of Carl Jung, MD, (Active Imagination) Roberto Assagioli, MD (an Italian psychiatrist who developed Psychosynthesis) and Irving Oyle, MD (a Bolinas, CA based physician.)

Both Interactive and Integrative Imagery:

Click below to hear a Podcast by Susan Ezra: "Imagery and Its Applications"


All information on this page is excerpted from Susan Ezra's book Guided Imagery and Beyond: Stories of Healing and Transformation.

Integrative Imagery, with Susan's support and guidance, has helped me shift negative and unproductive thoughts into a positive, healthy and "anything-is-possible" mentality. Creating a positive point of reference through imagery has allowed me to heal and progress during health challenging times.