It can be used to shift a client’s perspective
Thinking inside the box can happen to the best of us, especially once we’ve created a story around something we’re trying to shift or change. Visualization is especially good at helping to create movement in these cases.
- Standing in someone else's shoes
- Rehearsing for confidence (as opposed to role playing, which is another technique)
- Taking metaphor to a whole new level
The imagination can be used to create things and situations that would likely never be, simply for the sake of exploration. You can go anywhere, allow them the space to do anything.
In a safe, comfortable space in which the coach has built a good deal of rapport, this can be truly transformative.
To take from another real life coach/client experience, a woman I was working with spoke once about conversations with her father being like a chess match.
With her permission I took her into that chess match through visualization. She indicated that her pieces were red, and her father’s were white, and commented on how interesting that was.
I asked her questions about why and how, and this drew out information about how she always ended up feeling like the bad guy in their conversations. She’d ‘see red’ while he remained calm, even though he would usually start the conversation.
We progressed through a chess match, her playing her side and then imagining how her father would play his. His opening move, her ending one. How he would sacrifice pieces, etc.
This opened the door for life-changing revelations for her about her relationship with her father – ones that may not have been possible another way, and in very short time.
It can be used to practice doing, or even just feeling the emotions that go with an experience
- Getting that new job
- Meeting someone for the first time
- Being successful at...anything
The mind doesn’t know the difference between an imagined memory and a real one. Upon experience – especially when fueled with high feeling and/or intensity – the brain begins to re-wire whole new ways of seeing and being into the system.
In other words, the person is made more ready for the situation because they’re already familiar with the feelings and thoughts associated with it having come to pass.
The key to this is that these types of visualizations are done in the moment, with the client’s permission and direct interaction.
They are not planned, and they’re not passive, setting them apart from a purely guided experience such as a guided relaxation or meditation exercise.
They’re a way to re-frame a situation from an entirely different perspective, one in which the client has total, omnipotent power, with the intention of discovery.
The mind uses symbols, spontaneously, to express itself. Symbols that are patterned to the client’s way of thinking, the client’s emotions. They will tell you when they’ve discovered something of interest, either directly or through a shift in their voice and energy.
The job of the coach is just to go along for the ride, and remain curious, holding the intention of discovery without judgment. Quesitons about powerful symbols and experiences during a visualization will naturally arise from this state of curiosity.
The Basics of Holding a Coaching Visualization
Using a soothing, quiet voice is nice but not a requirement. You may also want to ask them to breathe deeply and settle themselves, maybe even ask them to close their eyes.
None of this is a must, however – a natural, curious and specifically designated flow into and out of the visualization is more important than anything.
First: The client’s interest and permission are a must. Without them, you’re going no where.
Second: The client is king – trust them. You are NOT running this show aside from setting up the scenario. If you trust and allow the process, they’ll take you to extraordinary and enlightening places.
Third: This is all about them. You are just the space opener and holder. Do not ask leading questions – comment and ask only about what they directly provide in their descriptions.
Fourth: Keep it Simple – the opening scenario doesn’t need much window dressing. Too much can just become mind clutter.
Fifth: The senses vary for clients. Some are very visual, some just have thoughts, others are strong feelers. Follow their lead and adjust your questions accordingly.
Sixth: Keep it short, 10-15 mins max, and make a clear delineation between going In and coming Out of the visualization exercise.
Seventh: Be sure to explore the information they’ve gathered once you’re out. This is your time to relfect patterns you noticed, etc.
Questions for Reflection
- Think about your current clients – anywhere you think they might be able to make use of visualization?
- What are your strongest senses? Can you relate to your clients even if they speak of senses you’re not strong in?
- Are you comfortable with slience as your clients explore?
- Are you able to let the client take the lead while still holding a space for them?
- What other areas do you think would be good to explore using visualization?