Reviews & Recommendations

A Toolbox for Healing

Review of Imagery Toolbox 3.0

Jan Taal and his associates at the Amsterdam School for Imagery in the Netherlands, have created a multifaceted collection of resources to help people who are facing cancer, chronic illness or other life crises. The Imagery Toolbox 3.0 is their latest version of a what is literally a “box of tools” that can be used by a guide, counselor, or therapist who is working with a client, or by a person who is experiencing illness or crisis without assistance. My own assessment is that the Toolbox might best be used by a Coach or other helping professional who is providing support for another. True to its subtitle, the toolbox provides means for a person to “mobilize inner resources,” and is an invaluable ready-made resource for the helping professional. There are two versions of the Toolbox, one in Dutch and one in English.

This is a wonderful creation, a “one-stop” set of aids ready for use with little advance preparation required. The Toolbox contains a Course Book that briefly describes the contents of the toolbox, as well as a three-week course of suggested guidelines for using it. As the Course Book indicates, “there is no certain recipe for how to deal with illness or crisis,” but the course does provide a format for making optimal use of the materials. The course shows how the tools can be used together in a way to focus one’s energy continually over time for maximum benefit.

The materials include a DVD (European format, but also available at the website) on which there is a lovely film called “Singing for Your Life,” and another called “Touched by an Angel,” which provide inspiration to anyone undergoing personal or medical challenges.  Watching these films can be a good introduction to the program and also an inspiring rest-stop to return to as one is working through personal issues. The toolbox course makes it clear that singing and other forms of musical participation and among the most direct ways to access one’s inner world—where healing occurs—and that film and other media such as photography are also important resources.

One section of the Course Book provides examples of how members of a family can work together to use art and imagery to help in the healing process. Some of these exercises include family imagery work to cope with death in a beautiful and meaningful way.

A two-CD set called “Strength of Mind Plus 3.0” may be the most valuable part of the Toolbox. It presents what to me is the core of the three-week course. The first CD provides four basic guided imagery exercises that train the user to use the imagination in specific ways that can be used to promote well-being and healing. The second CD is more focused, providing four guided imagery exercises to engage inner allies, to promote self-care of one’s body, to relieve pain, and to open to the reality of death.  I am pleased and impressed with the way these exercises gently mobilize a person’s will using imagination for healing. The exercises are well-presented and effective.

The Toolbox also provides means to record and experience the person’s responses to the exercises in the CD’s—clay for sculpting and modeling, a notebook for writing thoughts and reflections, watercolor crayons and brush with a sketchbook for drawing and painting, and a wonderful set of symbol cards containing a wide variety of beautifully rendered photographs that can be used to stimulate one’s own individual process. These tools of course can, firstly, be used to ground the participant who has done the imagery exercises, but can also be used in any way that the healing process suggests, to explore issues as well as to physically manifest the images that come to mind in the course of exploring options for healing and growth.

The Course Book, in addition to providing guidelines for an organized program, also provides suggestions for the potential use of the individual tools. For example, it devotes four pages to suggested guidelines as to how the symbol cards can be used as a “way in” to the power of one’s own imagination.

The Imagery Toolbox also provides some conceptual background for those who are approaching the use of therapeutic imagery for the first time. Section 11 of the Course Book provides some background on the development of modern understanding of imagination as a real and powerful force in one’s psychological life and its use in creativity and medicine.  Section 12 provides an explanation of how the use of imagery fits into a systems biology approach to health and resilience, which connects the program to cutting-edge medical practice.

I am positively impressed with the Imagery Toolbox 3.0. Having myself survived cancer 40 years ago when cancer treatment was exclusively biochemical (and fairly brutal), I can testify that inner experiences were in fact the decisive factor in my own healing. At that time I advocated in vain for my doctors to adopt a more holistic, psychosomatic approach, not knowing that precisely at that time doctors like O. Carl Simonton were forging ahead with the new approaches to psycho-oncology that used imagery and other techniques to support patient self-support and healing.  I could only wish that I had had such a resource as the Imagery Toolbox when I was going through the tough times! This set of resources is helpful not only for cancer patients, but for anyone undergoing serious illness or personal crisis.

The Imagery Toolbox 3.0 is a worthy, non-profit addition to this field, providing simple, easily understood and user-friendly tools and techniques to support personal wellness, and a wonderful resource for guides, counselor and therapists to help people on their healing journeys.

The English website offers comprehensive information including films in which clients share their experiences. The Imagery Toolbox 3.0 can be ordered through this site for €38.50 (approximately US $44).

Many more tools and resources, including training in the imagination, are available at the Amsterdam School for Imagery website, which Google can translate from Dutch into English for those who need this. The School also offers training for Coaches who wish to use the Toolbox in their practice.

Several English articles about the toolbox and the use of imagery in therapy, counseling and coaching can also be found on https://www.imaginatie.nl/achtergrondartikelen

Jan Kuniholm

Jan is a philosopher who focuses on issues of psyche and spirit. He is a former Cochair of the Steering Committee of the Association for the Advancement of Psychosynthesis and editor of Psychosynthesis Quarterly. He is author of The Gospel Within Us, a commentary on the Gospel According to Mark through the lens of psychosynthesis, and editor of Sharing Wellness: Psychosynthesis For Helping People, a collection of classic essays. He lives in Cheshire, Massachusetts in the USA.