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Psycho-Imagination Therapy


Psycho-Imagination Therapy (PIT) was developed in Los Angeles by Dr Joseph E Shorr.  He wrote: “There is a movie constantly running through your mind in an ever-changing, never-ceasing stream.  Yet you are often unaware of the existence of these pictures until you are involved in an intense day-dream, are suddenly startled by a nightmare, or find an unbidden image intruding into your consciousness.”  In addition, Shorr thinks that, “a person’s imagery, more than any other function, indicates how he organises his inner world.”

Every psycho-dynamic therapist needs to know how a subject organises his inner world, that world of conflict and fears, and PIT offers a more direct route into the unconscious than dream analysis.

Freud, in 1982, used a form of PIT by pressing on the patient’s forehead suggesting that the patient would see a recollection which he should describe.  Freud said, “This procedure has taught me much, and has also invariably achieved its aim.  Today I can no longer do without it.”  However, he did give it up as he had previously given up hypnosis.

Most psycho-analysts have rejected the value of imagery, but in the USA its acceptance owes more to the behavioural psychologists who have extensively used the imagination and imagery in desensitisation techniques.  There is a longer tradition of using imagery in Europe though.

The basic philosophy of PIT is that the therapist suggests scenes which may have some symbolic and therapeutic importance for the patient.  It is thought that what is psychically unresolved will, in the description of a scene, manifest itself through symbolic visual forms and resolve itself at a symbolic level, independent of conscious control.  It is not the patient’s verbal reports of the images that are necessary to work through his conflicts, but psychological change can occur without verbalisation.

The technique does not need very good imagery on the part of the patients providing a good introduction is given on the imagery methodology.  If they lacked imagination they would probably not have a problem.  They can be asked to count the number of doors in their house or to describe their journey to work, both of which prove they can use imagery.

Shaun Brookhouse


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