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The Technique of G.A.I.

The Technique of G.A.I.

The patient lies down in a quiet, darkened room where any possible distractions are minimised, and is then helped to relax deeply.  The National College induction technique can be used or Progressive Relaxation. The patient is then asked to imagine the first of the 4 standard imaginary situations.

The patient is asked to imagine a meadow, and to describe in detail what the meadow looks like, how he/she feels about it, the atmosphere surrounding the image, and to explore every part of it.

When the meadow has been fully explored, the next stage is to imagine going from the meadow and climbing a mountain.  The patient imagines and describes the mountain in the distance, then finds a pathway that leads from the meadow towards the mountain, but on the way there is a forest which either ha to be traversed or gone through.  (Does the patient meet any obstacles?  Is it possible to scale the mountain?)  When the top is reached the view should be described, including any restrictions to vision.  The image can be used to check on progress of the therapy by contrasting the images seen by the patient on a return to the mountain top, i.e. difficulties in reaching the mountain may have disappeared, the view can alter, etc.

The patient then returns down the mountain, round or through the forest and back to the meadow, describing the journey, and the meadow upon return.

The third imaginary situation starts with the meadow, and then finds a way to a stream – brook, and to follow it either upstream to the source or downstream to the sea.  Occasionally obstacles will be met, and the patient is asked to study them closely.  When this is done the resistance in the therapeutic situation is worked through.  Once again, after reaching the source of the stream or the sea, the patient is asked to imagine returning to the starting point, and then back to the meadow.

The fourth and final standard imaginary situation starts in the meadow, and if the patient has not already imagined a house, then he or she is asked to imagine seeing a house, and to describe it from the outside.  Then a full inspection should be made of the interior, paying attention to the rooms, decoration, whether the ‘master’ bedroom there is a single or double bed, if there is food in the kitchen, what clothes are in the different rooms, and exploring the attic and cellar.  If there is a garden, get it described before entering, and then on leaving as it may change.  It may change from being overgrown to well tended, giving indication of therapeutic change.

A final quotation from Leuner will be of help to the trainee psychotherapist.  “… I ask the patient what he is feeling when he is in a particular imaginary situation, and I expect him to learn how to sharpen his awareness of his feelings that are arising from within himself. I may, for example, ask him about the atmosphere surrounding an unusual situation in the meadow, on top of the mountain, in the explored house, or elsewhere.  When the patient finds himself facing a symbolically significant figure, one should be alert in asking him about the message in its eyes or the feeling that emerges from its whole facial expression…”

Shaun Brookhouse

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