Date of Award

12-1-2011

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Burke, Philip

Second Advisor

Rodriguez, Benjamin

Abstract

Guided imagery, a therapeutic technique in which a healer directs an individual to visualize a scene or sensations, has existed for millennia and is often used within healthcare settings today. A small, though growing number of studies among clinical samples demonstrate that guided imagery produces positive effects such as decreased pain and anxiety. Few studies have dismantled this intervention in order to isolate its active ingredients, and even fewer studies have determined for whom this intervention works. The current study sought to address these gaps in the literature by examining the effects of guided imagery on mood and anxiety among a college sample. The effects of a single session of non-directive guided imagery were examined through a repeated measures, pre-test post-test design with three experimental conditions. Multivariate analysis of data from 107 adults showed that following a distress induction, guided imagery significantly decreased anxiety and negative affect. However, guided imagery did not produce significantly greater changes in mood and anxiety than quiet rest or attention control conditions as hypothesized. Individual difference variables hypothesized as moderators (trait absorption, imagery vividness, imagery control) did not predict outcome; however, self-reported engagement in the experimental conditions predicted magnitude of change in outcome. The discussion outlines potential reasons for these unique findings as well as clinical implications and future directions for research.

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