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A Visualization Strategy for Rapid Treatment of Depression

This technique can quickly diagnose and lift away depression's dark cloud.

A conflict resolution visualization can lift away depression.
A conflict resolution visualization can lift away depression.

Therapy treatments for depression come in various brands. There's CBT, psychoanalysis, family therapy, behavioral therapy, solution-focused and many more. Here's yet another: a conflict resolution visualization.

Are you up for trying a new appoach? If so, try this exercise on your own, or ask a friend or a therapist to do it with you.

This treatment for alleviating depression is based on the following conflict-resolution theoretical assumption: Depression is a disorder of power that emerges as a by-product of dominant-submissive conflict resolution. That explanation may sound pretty confusing initially. Hopefully as you read on it will increasigly make sense.

Conflict resolution offers a relatively new way of understanding how psychotherapy works. It rests on the core idea that ineffectively-resolved conflicts lie at the core of emotional distress.

I explain conflict resolution theory and some of the treatment methods that grow out of it in detail in my book for therapists, From Conflict to Resolution. For an article offering a simplified version, which I call bump theory, see here. In any case, here's how this new mode of treatment can help to alleviate a depressive collapse.

Can I do it on my own?

Yes, you can do the visualization on your own. Just open your eyes each time you're ready to read the next question.

Most people find it easier though if a friend or relative reads the questions, you verbalize what you see, and together you discuss each of your answers, keeping your eyes closed the full time.

If you have a therapist, a third and probably the best option is to ask your therapist to guide you.

What's ahead?

Here's an overview of the visualization.

It begins by helping you to identify the situation that has triggered the depressive collapse.

It then gives you an inner sense of empowerment.

From a more empowered place you will re-address the situation that triggered your depression.

As you begin to think of new solution options, your inner energy lights will come back on. The dark gloom of depressive hopelessness and helplessness will dissipate, replaced by the light of positive feelings like enthusiasm, appreciation and hope.

Here goes!

Sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Read aloud the following questions, pausing after each to let visual images clarify themselves on your visual screen.


Identify the conflict. "If you were going to be mad at someone or at something other than yourself, notice what image comes up of whom you could be mad at."

Fill in the details. "In that scene, what do you see him (her) doing? How do you respond? What do you want? What do you feel, and think?"

Check relative sizes. "Who appears bigger, you or the other? By a little, or by a lot?" Note: if there are no size discrepancies, you are not dealing with depression, or have not yet identified the depressogenic situation. Check by asking toward whom or what else, again not yourself, you may be feeling irritation, frustration or anger.


Alter the sizes, increasing the patient's sense of power. "Picture yourself suddenly growing very tall, like Alice in Wonderland, shooting way up tall. Take a deep breath and with each breath feel yourself growing larger."


Broaden the database."From this new height, from this perspective, what can you see now that you may not have noticed before when you were small?"

Find new solutions. "Knowing what you now know, from this bigger size, what are some new ways you might handle the problem to be more effective in getting what you want?"

Now open your eyes and think/talk about what you have discovered. Notice how much stronger you feel, and lighter, with your newly returned sense of internal empowerment. Notice that the impulse to negative self-talk about how bad you are ceases. Notice how instead of that negative hopeless feeling you now have a plan of action. Go for it!

A video example of this depression treatment

In addition, to get rid of a tendency to feel depressed...

For well-being to be sustained, you also will need to address on-going patterns of dominant-submissive interactions with people of import to you. These communication patterns will need to be replaced with cooperative power-sharing because any time you take a submissive stance on issues important to you, the serotonin levels in your body drop and the likelihood of feeling depressed rises.

I write about these skills in my posts on effective sentence-starters, and on the win-win waltz for making shared decisions. These skills are taught also in my online couple skills course,


Susan Heitler, PhD, a Harvard and NYU trained Denver clinical psychologist, is author of multiple books and a website for upgrading your marriage skills,

(c) Susan Heitler, PhD
Source: (c) Susan Heitler, PhD

Her most recent book is Prescriptions Without Pills: For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More.

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