Young people such as teens and children naturally spend a great deal of time in their imaginations, and imagery is a natural way for them to think. As we begin to explore the world as infants, we explore it with our senses, and then we turn those sensory impressions into internal representations of how the world is — those representations are stored in the form of sensory-based thoughts — also called “images.”
Young people process information very quickly and do not need induction periods of relaxation and quieting their mind to engage in imagery. Much of the time, we work with children’s imagery in a conversational way — “can you imagine being in a very beautiful, happy place? What does it look like? (Let them answer.) What sounds do you hear there? What does it smell like? What would you like to do there?” Or, for a scared child, “Imagine you have a powerful superhero protecting you — who is it? How do they protect you? Do they need any more help to make sure you are safe? Can you imagine they get all the help they need to make sure you are safe? Do you feel safer with them here?”
Children of school age can learn simple imagery techniques such as visualizing spelling words to improve their memories, learn to use imagery to improve their skill levels at learning, sports, and even learning to handle themselves well in class. We also use imagery with children in medicine to help them tolerate difficult procedures, to relax, to relieve pain, and to work though emotional difficulties.
Older children and teenagers can learn more structured skills for the same purposes (especially sports, performances, public speaking, and memory enhancement) and for helping them develop better social skills (talking to that cute guy or girl can be very stressful!) People of all ages benefit from using images in their daily lives and for specific goals.