Katathym Imaginative Therapy

Today, guided mental imagery is a scientifically recognized method of therapy.  It was researched and developed by Professor Hanscarl Leuner in the 1950's.  He obtained positive results through systematic experiments and his psychotherapeutic method became widely publicised.  Since that time, Kathatym Imaginative Psychotherapy (KIP) has been used worldwide.

Guided imagery is used in situations where clients find themselves feeling overwhelmed, experiencing psychosomatic disorders, phobias or symptoms of depression.  Through guided imagery, clients have access to their unconscious.  The inner images, which are internalised, provide information about the mental state of the clients, their unaddressed wounds from the past, their ways of interacting with the opposite sex, their methods of dealing with aggression and fear, as well as their defence mechanisms.  Guided imagery can also be used with emotionally “healthy” individuals to help them develop their personalities, increase their creativity, improve their problem-solving ability, as well as provide a means to gain personal insights.

 

Flowers and Fields

The client sits comfortably on a chair or lies on a couch, closes his or her eyes and is led into a relaxed state.  The therapist activates the client's ability to daydream, which is a process that clients generally enjoy.  The therapist might begin with, “Imagine a flower before you,” and a flower suddenly appears in the inner eye of the client, but exactly how this flower looks varies from client to client.  When the client describes the flower in detail, feelings are elicited (for example, joy, mourning, insecurity, curiosity) or a story may develop.  Another often-employed motif is “the field”.  Every person sees a different field, “his” or “her” own field.  With the field visualized, clients are guided to enter the field.  Some might see a path and follow it, others might see animals frolicking, still others might find themselves in a swamp, while others might come to a section of blooming flowers.  Anything is possible, but each client's image is very individual.

 

Dialog with the Unconscious

The therapist stays in dialog with the client through the guided imagery.  In other words, the client explains what he or she sees and the therapist gently probes for more details.  The task of the therapist is to cautiously guide the client, to gather the symbolic contents of the images without influencing the client's imagination and at the same time not giving the images an inflexible, definite meaning.  The unconscious draws pictures, which can have various levels of meaning.  Thus, in order for the client to be able to grapple with these images (that the conscious mind is not yet even aware of), requires an unconscious process and this process leads to inner changes in the client.

Through confronting these images, which come out of a deep unconscious level, clients can begin to come to terms with a situation or problem from the past that they had not yet dealt with.  In so doing, problems can be alleviated or even solved.  This process is referred to as “Self-discovery with the protection of the symbols”.  This symbolic language of the unconscious has its own systematic “logic” (inner connections) and its own “words” (images).  Therefore it is unnecessary, and could even be counterproductive, to discuss the images during the session, as it would be then imposing the logic and words of the rational, conscious mind on them.

 

Sketching from within

Rather than discussing the images, it is more effective to have clients draw the images that they have seen.  This should be done immediately after the guided imagery and clients must be encouraged to simply draw, as opposed to making it “look nice” as they might have done in school.  Drawing deepens the therapeutic process of the guided imagery, as the unconscious draws its own perspective of the world.  The picture is then discussed by the client and therapist together, and this concludes the therapy session.