Identifying common features in the use of mental imagery in talking therapies

The move towards psychotherapy integration that began in the 1970s stimulated some, admittedly short-lived, interest in more general theorising with regard to the therapeutic use of mental imagery. However, apart from the aforementioned exceptions of Ahsen’s (1984) and Singer’s (2006) work, these attempts have tended, on the whole, to reflect the empirical/phenomenological divide discussed in the previous chapter; and, consequently do not provide a satisfactory means of integrating radically different therapeutic approaches.

Is there another way to move beyond this split that has done so much to halt the movement towards theoretical convergence in the theory and practice of mental imagery? In the previous chapter I discussed the potential for explanations of the therapeutic efficacy of mental imagery to deliver some grounds for integration: in this chapter I consider whether observations from clinical practice can identify common features across the different schools. This chapter identifies some of the simple types of imagery and basic operational differences that are generally accepted in therapeutic practice including the particularly important distinction that is made between receptive and directive imagery. I will then go on to consider a set of six common therapeutic functions that have been identified in a recent research study. As this typology of functions forms the basis of the transtheoretical model that I will be presenting in the following chapter, each function will be described and discussed in considerable detail.

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