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Is It Possible to Enhance Intensity in Guided Imagery Exercises? An Experimental Study

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Objective: Guided imagery exercises can have a powerful impact on distressing mental images. Clinically, it is usually recommended to experience these exercises as intensely as possible. However, patients sometimes object to the related instructions. In this study, we tested whether typical clinical instructions aiming at increasing intensity led to a stronger effect of the exercise. Methods: Sixty-four healthy participants watched a trauma movie clip. Then they were pseudo-randomized into one of two strategies (intense, less intense) or a waiting control condition. Dependent variables were self-reported emotional intensity and psychophysiology measures. Results: Participants in the intense ImRS strategy did not experience the exercise as more intense than those in the less intense ImRS strategy on any outcome measure. Both ImRS strategies showed increased sympathetic activation compared to a decrease of activation in the waiting control group. Conclusions: Our results suggest that emotional intensity in guided imagery exercises may not depend very much on the therapist's instructions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2018

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