Functional Imagery Training

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Human behaviour is at the root of so-called ‘lifestyle diseases’ such as heart disease and diabetes. Simply prescribing different behaviour – a healthier diet or stopping smoking for instance – is generally ineffective because changing habits requires motivation. Often, people do not do what their doctors or physiotherapists feel is best for them, even if they agree it is a good idea. They may dislike the side effects of their medication, or feel unable to cope without a drink in the evening, or find their prescribed exercises difficult or boring. Even if they get started, people often stop trying over the following days or weeks.

FIT is a new way of supporting behaviour change by strengthening motivation.

FIT uses the elicitation, elaboration, and practise of mental imagery to motivate change. This approach builds on two decades of research showing that mental imagery is more strongly emotionally charged than other types of thought. Mental imagery is what gives drug cravings their dominance over other thoughts, and it can be what makes us work successfully towards a new goal despite obstacles. FIT builds on this potential and uses a variety of methods to continue building goal imagery once the person has left therapy.

FIT uses the empathic style of motivational interviewing to work in partnership with clients, helping them resolve dilemmas, find solutions, and develop strategies and confidence for achieving them. It teaches people new ways of thinking about their immediate future to help them stay motivated as they achieve each small step towards their goal.

FIT is applicable to a wide range of conditions. It has been used to change eating habits, treat alcohol dependence, and increase physical activity. The length of the intervention can be tailored to these different settings, from a brief consultation or small section of a larger intervention, to a more extensive intervention with several interviews over a number of weeks to sustain motivation until a new behaviour has become habitual. Examples of both approaches are included in these training materials.