Cautela, J. R., & Kearney, A. J. (1986). The covert conditioning handbook. New York, NY: Springer.

A structure for implementing procedures involving imagery (covert behaviors) whether they be for modeling, learning, or performance enhancement, was presented. Its main feature is the demand for imagery control and vividness/clarity. Without those two factors the reliability of imagery procedures will be decreased.

Suggested steps in the structure are as follows.

  1. Educate the client about the procedure.
  2. Have clients assess the quality and clarity of their imagery (usually be indicating on a 0-5 scale with 0 being "none" and 5 "very much"). Only qualities in the 4-5 range should be accepted.
  3. Have clients rate their involvement in the imagined scenes. Once again using a 0-5 scale is helpful with clients being encouraged to "experience" their involvement at the 4-5 level before proceeding.
  4. For new scenes, inquire of the client as to the degree of clarity, enjoyment, and/or involvement experienced.
  5. The between trials interval is important. Time has to be allotted for significant post-trial behaviors. Covert positive reinforcement (CPR) should be encouraged for about 30 seconds and covert sensitization, the preliminary activity prior to a covert trial, should be allotted at least 5 seconds.
  6. In non-threatening scenes, a client must be able to perceive him/herself as being "there." This should be continually checked throughout any procedure and session. Use of a 0-5 scale is consistent with other evaluations and establishes a reliable reference point for the therapist and the client.
  7. Successful imagery should be determined by the attainment of clarity, control, and the central placement of the individual in the trial scene. Typically, having clients raise an index figure when the image is clear and controlled is a method for communicating this achievement.
  8. To avoid satiation, as many positive and different positive reinforcers as possible should be used for CPR.
  9. Strongly disruptive scenes should not be used. If very disruptive situations are to be treated the stimulus should be faded gradually so that elements are progressively removed to avoid aversive responses in the client.
  10. Two types of scenes related to a target behavior can be differentiated.
  11. Relaxation is only necessary when the client is too anxious and the anxiety interferes with the procedure.
  12. Scenes should involve every situation in which there are antecedents and/or discriminative stimuli for the behavior when it occurs at an undesirable rate.
  13. Homework should not exceed 10 scenes of the same situation per day for any one imagery technique (covert modeling, learning, performance enhancement).
  14. To produce overlearning scenes should continue even after the target behavior has been attained or eliminated.
  15. Treatment termination should only occur after the schedule of CPR has been stretched.
  16. With children, covert modeling and CPR are preferred over aversive consequence methods.

Implication. This model requires imagery use to be more structured than the simple assumption that athletes will know how to "image" appropriately and effectively. This structure has been described for sport-skill learning and performance enhancement in: Rushall, B. S. (1991). Imagery training in sports. Spring Valley, CA: Sports Science Associates. Published in Australia by the Australian Coaching Council, Canberra, ACT.

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.