Visualization As a Weapon Against Depression

Visualization offers a powerful tool in the fight against depression. It in no way substitutes for conventional psychotherapeutic procedures, but by reframing the mental state it helps clients take a few more steps along the path to recovery.
We begin by asking the client to abandon the description “I am a depressed person.” Following the principles of narrative therapy we focus on what is strong rather than what is wrong. The client must stop seeing him- or herself as the problem. Instead, we ask clients to visualize depression as an agent seeking to force them into the abyss, the tank of tepid water, or whatever other image they commonly use to describe the depressed state.
Invited to reframe the problem in this fashion my clients have described depression, among other things, as a gray cloud, as a tall thin gray man, and as the Grim Reaper minus the scythe. I instruct them to make their description more detailed: what are the shape, size, colour, texture, and temperature of the depression?
Next I ask clients to invent three possible weapons that would obliterate the agent of depression. Often I recall a Monty Python sketch of a grand piano falling out of the sky. Clients have come up with a varied arsenal: a sun ray, a long sword, a water cannon, a flame-thrower, a ray gun, or a ton of water. The weapon must not just discourage the depression, or blow it away temporarily. The weapon needs to dematerialize, eradicate, demolish and annihilate the depression. This kind of violent language helps clients to regard depression as an antagonist instead of an irresistible force and encourages clients to regard themselves as worthy adversaries instead of helpless victims.
I ask clients to think of times in which they have succeeded in avoiding the abyss as victories over depression. In this way they can look at the struggle against depression as one in which they occasionally score a win and in which they may be turning the tide of battle.
Having devised three possible weapons of destruction, any one of which would suffice to destroy depression, the client then chooses one and, at my signal, directs it against the opponent. Then I watch in wonder as the client, usually with eyes closed, concentrates on this colossal clash until the foe is vanquished. At the end of the process clients usually smile, often for the first time in our therapy.
I remind clients that a single visualization will not suffice to cure depression, but that by repeating the exercise daily on their own, varying the choice of weapon as they will, they can learn to regard depression as a force to be overcome and not an agent of inevitable doom.