Definition of Imagery

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Imagery: Both a mental process (as in imagining) and a wide variety of procedures used in therapy to encourage changes in attitudes, behavior, or physiological reactions. As a mental process, it is often defined as "any thought representing a sensory quality." It includes, as well as the visual, all the senses - aural, tactile, olfactory, proprioceptive, and kinesthetic.

Imagery has been successfully tested as a strategy for alleviating nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy in cancer patients, to relieve stress, and to facilitate weight gain in cancer patients. It has been successfully used and tested for pain control in a variety of settings; as adjunctive therapy for several diseases, including diabetes; and with geriatric patients to enhance immunity.

Imagery is usually combined with other behavioral approaches. It is best known in the treatment of cancer as a means to help patients mobilize their immune systems, but it also is used as part of a multidisciplinary approach to cardiac rehabilitation and in many settings that specialize in treating chronic pain.


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