This mind-body therapy uses your imagination to help you relax, relieve symptoms, stimulate your body’s healing responses, access inner strengths and resources, and tolerate procedures and treatments better.

Guided imagery at a glance

Guided imagery includes several techniques from simple visualization and direct imagery-based suggestion to metaphor and story-telling. Guided imagery is enhanced by using as many senses as possible: sight, smell, sound, and body sensing. It is used to relieve symptoms, to stimulate healing responses in the body, to access inner resources, and to help you tolerate medical procedures and treatments more easily. Guided imagery is also used in teaching relaxation involving the relationship between mental (psyche) and physical (physiological) processes. Interactive Guided Imagery (IGI) is a specific way of using imagery that is particularly effective in helping patients use their own inner resources.

Guided imagery shows benefits in reducing many side effects and symptoms common during cancer or cancer treatments, especially depression and pain. It is often combined with progressive muscle relaxation and sometimes other mind-body therapiesapproaches that enhance your mind’s capacity to positively affect your body’s function and symptoms. Some interventions focus on calming your mind, improving focus, enhancing decision-making capacity, managing stress, or resolving conflict. Other interventions have a goal of relaxing both your mind and your body. such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or hypnosis. 

In this review, we look at guided imagery’s effects, but it is often part of or used in combination with one or more other mind-body therapies as listed here. We cannot separate out the effects of guided imagery alone. We report which therapies are included in each study and each summary.

  • Breathing techniques
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Psychosocial therapies
  • Relaxation techniques

CancerChoices ratings for guided imagery

We rate guided imagery on seven attributes, with 0 the lowest rating and 5 the highest.

See how we evaluate and rate complementary therapies ›

0

Treating cancer

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3

Optimizing your body terrain

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3

Managing side effects and promoting wellness

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0

Reducing cancer risk

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3

Use by integrative oncology experts

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4

Safety

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5

Affordability and access

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Resources

Keep reading about guided imagery

Authors

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Martin L. Rossman, MD

Co-founder of the Academy for Guided Imagery, physician, acupuncturist, and author
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Martin L. Rossman is a physician and acupuncturist who has practiced holistic medicine for over 30 years. He is co-founder of the Academy for Guided Imagery and the author of the award-winning Guided Imagery for Self-Healing and Fighting Cancer from Within.

Martin L. Rossman, MD Co-founder of the Academy for Guided Imagery, physician, acupuncturist, and author

Reviewer

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: May 26, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.