STEP 1: Why and when to use visualisation and imagery
When clients come to us for coaching, they are looking for change which shows itself through realistic mindsets and appropriate behaviour. Visualisation and imagery are two ways that the client can change their mindset from distressing to positive and so on to action:
- Visualisation is using the mind’s eye to create a representational image of the desired outcome e.g. giving a presentation with confidence and authority.
- Imagery is using an abstract image to identify distressing feelings (and thoughts) e.g. an IBS episode may feel like molten lava.
We can use either of these approaches during a coaching session when a client needs to move from one mind state to another. Some clients are more visual than others, so we need to look out for their visual language e.g. my anger feels like a thick taut rope. If a client doesn’t use visual language, they still might be open to using visualisation or imagery.
STEP 2: How to use visualisation and imagery
There are several ways we could use visualisation and imagery in a coaching session: through talking – using oracle cards or similar – via writing – using art. Here I give you an outline for how you might use a talking approach:
- If you sense an opportunity to use visualisation or imagery, open the opportunity to the client. If they accept, choose which method to use and outline the relevance of the method to the client’s issue.
- Ask the client to close their eyes or gaze in soft focus at the floor. Ask them to place both feet on the floor and their hands in their lap.
- If you prefer you can do a brief relaxation or breathing exercise.
- If you’re doing a visualisation activity e.g. giving a presentation, ask the client if they want to talk you through their (positive) visualisation using all the senses if possible (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) or they want you to talk them through it.
- If you’re doing an imagery activity e.g. IBS example, ask the client for an image which expresses a painful IBS episode. Let them explore and talk. Then ask them how they might change the image to one that is healing and let them explore and talk.
- Take your time with all of the above steps.
STEP 3: Facilitating client’s understanding
When the activity is over, ask the client how they experienced it and how they might apply their takeaways to their issue.