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A comparison of guided imagery techniques with chemotherapy patients.

01 Mar
A study of chemotherapy patients at The UCSF Mt. Zion Infusion Center by Phaedra Caruso, PhD and Trudy Helge, PhD (at the time doctoral candidates in psychology), compared two kinds of guided imagery - self-generated, unique, fill-in-the-blank type imagery vs. "canned" imagery - standardized, physiologically-based, scripted imagery - along with a third condition: a progressive relaxation tape. All three interventions were recorded by the same person - imagery expert Martin Rossman MD - and offered as part of a four-session course.

When the data were analyzed and broken down, Caruso and Helge found that both kinds of guided imagery performed equally well, and significantly better than the progressive relaxation, in reducing depression and anxiety for the patients - indeed, increasingly so over time.
But there was an interesting internal difference between the two kinds of imagery. After one session, the personalized imagery group seemed to have less anxiety and felt more excited and hopeful about the intervention. But over the course of the four sessions, it was the standardized, scripted imagery group that showed the steadiest improvement, and, unlike the self-generated group, these patients stayed with the technique. The self-generated imagery group, on the other hand, had several dropouts. Dr. Caruso thinks that this difference in usage and efficacy has to do with the placebo effect of having greater confidence in the "expert" version. Over time, she felt the Self-Generated imagery group became less and less confident about whether they were in fact on the right track and coming up with what they needed, and this interfered with their wholehearted usage. The group with the scripted imagery suffered no such compunctions.

Citation: Caruso, Phaedra., (1999). A Comparison of Guided Imagery Techniques with Chemotherapy Patients. Doctoral Dissertation, California School of Professional Psychology, Alameda, California and Helge, Trudy D., (1999). A Comparison of Three Audio Guided Imagery Tapes on the Self Efficacy of Cancer Chemotherapy Patients. Doctoral Dissertation, California School of Professional Psychology, Alameda, California.
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award