Organization: Fu Jen Catholic University
Chin-Ping Liou is an associate professor in the Holistic Education Centre/ MA program in Brand and Fashion Management and a counselling psychologist in the students’ counselling centre at Fu Jen Catholic University, Taipei. She holds a PhD in counselling and psychotherapy from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. She teaches courses in the Bible and spiritual development, psychology and helping skills, and emotional management. Her research interests include holistic healing, spirituality, the study of culture, the experience of loss and resilience, the practice of counselling, mental imagery, emotions, and international service-learning.
Title: A frowning hedgehog: Mental imagery as a means for transforming emotions in counselling
Mental imagery as the representation and experience of sensory in-puts without a direct stimulus is strongly connected to emotion. Research findings have demonstrated significant effects of imagery re-scripting, emotive imagery, imagery rehearsal therapy, and rational emotive therapy with imagery in the treatment of mental disorders, if adapted to children’s developmental stages. Few studies have explored the use of mental imagery in actuals counselling sessions.
The current study investigates how mental imagery is used to work with clients suffering emotional distress. This study adopts a qualitative case study method for an in-depth exploration of how mental imagery is employed in counselling to work with those suffering emotional distress. The participants selected for this case study were two college students with whom the author became acquainted while working as a counselling psychologist in a university counselling centre. Sally was a junior undergraduate majoring in Language and Culture. She initially came to counselling for treatment of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. James was a second-year graduate student majoring in clinical psychology, who came to counselling after experiencing increased stress. For a period of time James had felt overwhelmed by unsatisfactory academic performance.
This study employed several tools to gather data, including interviews and sessions with each student, personal observation, anecdotal and cumulative records, and journal entries.
The study results demonstrate a five-phase method of the use of mental imagery for working with sufferers of emotional distress. The phases include a) Concretization, b) Personification, c) Re-scripting, d) Understanding, and e) Modification. The findings confirm that mental imagery is a powerful tool for accessing, evoking, and intensifying unacknowledged emotions, and transforming emotional / cognitive / behavioural responses. This exploratory and interpretive study raises opportunities for future research regarding theory development and concept validation.