Using Imagery in Cognitive Therapy

Dr Susie Hales

Tuesday, 24 January 2023


In Beck’s cognitive theory of emotional disorders (1976), the importance of images in addition to verbal thoughts was highlighted, though in modern cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) images have often been neglected in favour of a focus on verbal thought processes.

In recent years, however, there has been increased attention on mental imagery in CBT, with a mounting body of research evidence pointing to the role of imagery in the maintenance of a variety of mental health difficulties, including depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, psychosis and others.

This workshop aims to deepen your understanding of the science of mental imagery and give new ideas about ways you might use imagery in your clinical practice.

The workshop will provide a practical guide to using imagery within the framework of a CBT approach. We will cover assessment, formulation and intervention, including how to integrate imagery skills with other tools in the CBT repertoire.

The event will be equivalent to 2.3/4hrs of CPD.


This workshop will:
Give an overview of the clinical and experimental research on mental imagery
Consider barriers to using imagery in cognitive therapy, including therapist concerns.
Explore how to communicate the concept of mental imagery to clients
Demonstrate how to assess mental imagery and to use this information to create imagery microformulations of a problematic image linked to the client’s difficulties.
Provide an overview of a range of imagery-based techniques, including imagery rescripting, and how to decide when to use them.
Give an opportunity for participants to develop skills in metacognitive techniques and imagery rescripting
Help participants identify areas of existing CBT practice where imagery work might be incorporated.

Learning Objectives

You will:
Learn what mental imagery is and why it is clinically important to focus on mental images
Understand how to assess mental imagery using standardised and idiosyncratic measures
Develop confidence in creating an imagery microformulation to inform intervention
Gain experience in using imagery-based techniques such as metacognitive interventions and imagery rescripting to target problematic imagery

Training Modalities

Didactic content, experiential components, polls, Q&A.

Key References

Beierl, E., Murray, H., Wiedemann, M., Warnock-Parkes, E., Wild, J., Stott, R., Grey, N., Clark, D.M. & Ehlers, A. (2021). The Relationship Between Working Alliance and Symptom Improvement in Cognitive Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Front Psychiatry, 12, 602648. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.602648

About the presenter

Susie Hales is a Clinical Psychologist currently working with organisations including Oxford Cognitive Therapy Centre, UCLH NHS Foundation Trust and Uppsala University, Sweden. She has previously worked as a Research Tutor for the Oxford Institute of Clinical Psychology Training and Research, and as a Wellcome Trust funded Research Clinical Psychologist at the University of Oxford. She has provided supervision for therapists in psychological research trials, and has several years’ clinical experience in NHS services. Her research focusses on mental imagery processes and treatment innovation for mood disorders. She has published papers on psychological aspects of bipolar disorder and suicidality, and on novel ways of delivering cognitive therapy. She is active in the supervision and training of mental health professionals in a range of competencies, with a particular emphasis on the provision of imagery-focused cognitive therapy training workshops and materials.

Who should attend

Suitable for all. A prior understanding of standard CBT techniques will be helpful.