What is guided imagery?

Guided imagery is a proven form of focused relaxation that helps create harmony between the mind and body. Guided imagery coaches you in creating calm, peaceful images in your mind – a "mental escape."

Guided imagery provides a powerful psychological strategy that enhances a person’s coping skills. Many people dealing with stress feel loss of control, fear, panic, anxiety, helplessness and uncertainty. Research has shown that guided imagery can dramatically counteract these effects. It can help people overcome stress, anger, pain, depression, insomnia and other problems often associated with illnesses and medical/surgical procedures.

Positive role of guided imagery in medicine

Over 200 research studies in the past 30 years have explored the role of mind-body techniques in helping prepare people for surgical and medical procedures and helping them recover more rapidly. These studies have shown that guided imagery may significantly reduce stress and anxiety before and after surgical and medical procedures. In addition guided imagery has proven to help people:

  • Dramatically decrease pain and the need for pain medication
  • Decrease side effects and complications of medical procedures
  • Reduce recovery time and shorten hospital stays
  • Enhance sleep
  • Strengthen the immune system and enhance the ability to heal
  • Increase self-confidence and self-control

In addition to helping patients cope during a medical or surgical procedure, guided imagery can help patients undergoing chemotherapy, dialysis, in vitro fertilization or other treatment procedures.

Mentally preparing for your procedure

If you are undergoing a medical or surgical procedure, use guided imagery before, during and after the procedure.

  • Prepare to use guided imagery techniques before, during and after the procedure.
  • Identify your self-talk, that is, what you are saying to yourself about the surgery or procedure you are going to have. It is important to identify negative self-talk and develop healthy, positive self-talk. This is a powerful way to take control of the way you are reacting to the sense of unknown about the procedure.
  • Reduce pre-procedure worry by gathering information about the procedure, your doctor and the medical facility. You can also reduce worry by performing a self-assessment of your emotions. Then take steps to reduce anxiety, reduce unhappiness, and increase your social support and confidence.
  • Develop a working relationship with your doctors and nurses. Try to identify what occupies your thoughts in the days before your procedure.
  • Communicate with your friends and family members so that you have a sense of warmth, love and support in preparing and recovering from the procedure.


Practice these strong, positive statements to counteract negative thoughts and emotions before, during and after the procedure:

  • More and more I let go of things I can not control.
  • I am healthy, vital and strong.
  • There is nothing in the world I can not handle.
  • I am not judgmental.
  • I forgive and release the past.
  • All of my needs are met.
  • The challenges in my life are my teachers.
  • I am completely and utterly safe.
  • Every day in every way I am getting stronger.

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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