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

Although all the main counselling and psychotherapy schools agree that working with mental imagery is therapeutically efficacious, attempts to use explanations for its efficacy as a locus of integration is problematic: this is due to the divide between two different views of the nature of mental imagery. This barrier has been so great that even Ahsen’s (1984) descriptive transtheoretical ISM model that captures the links between body, image and meaning-making has gained little purchase on the field of counselling and psychotherapy; this is despite it being accepted in other disciplines that use imagination as a healing modality. Casting around for other theoretical means to bridge the empirical and phenomenological perspectives on mental imagery has led writers and theorists to consider developments in other new disciplines of embodied cognition and cognitive linguistics. In this regard, it would appear that Lakoff and Johnson’s theory of conceptual metaphor that attributes a primary role to metaphor in the structuring of cognition holds the most promise. By association, conceptual metaphor does two things for the practice of mental imagery in talking therapies. First, it offers a robust explanation for its therapeutic efficacy: mental images operate as bridges between nonconceptual cognitive processing and later emerging higher-order conceptualisation. Second, it presents a means for integrating two different perspectives on the nature of imagery and the two different types of imagery, i.e. autobiographic, reality-based imagery and symbolic or metaphoric imagery. Conceptual metaphor theory supports the empirical position by offering an explanation of the physiological grounding of mental representations that bears resemblances to Kossyln et alls theory of functional equivalence. At the same time, due to its focus on the metaphoric nature of cognition, it also accords with the emphasis placed on narrative and experience by the phenomenological position. And finally, by implication, this theory strongly suggests that the usual role generally assigned to mental imagery in therapy, i.e. as merely a useful technique or procedure, needs to be reassessed - mental imagery is a primary means of interacting with the fundamental cognitive processes that are shaping the person's perception and behaviour.

 
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