Imagery Therapy


Imagery Therapy

Cite this article as:
Bowen, C. (2011). Imagery Therapy. Retrieved from on [insert the date that you retrieved the file here].

In Imagery Therapy (Klein 1996a, b) error and target are contrasted and the feature difference is usually minimal. This means that Sue-zoo, sue-shoe or Sue-soon would be more usual oppositions for the SLP/SLT to introduce than more perceptually salient and distinct contrasts like Sue-moo or Sue-roo.

Labels and images of phonetic characteristics are used to aid the child’s learning of new phonological rules. The rational for the approach is that homonymy motivates phonemic change.

Klein (1996a) says that the approach is suitable for ‘children with one or many phonological processes’ with mild through to severe SSD.

This intervention proceeds in three steps.

Step 1:
Identification and production of the contrast in nonsense syllables

  • An imagery term or imagery label is assigned to the ‘intruder’ (Klein’s term for error) and ‘sound class’ (target class). For example, if the child stops fricatives, the stops (intruders) may be called poppies, and fricatives (the target sound class) may be called windies.
  • These are combined with vowels to make CVs, representing the intruders (e.g., pah, pee, paw; tah, tee, taw) and target sound classes(e.g., fah, fee, faw; sah, see, saw).
  • The therapist produces a syllable (e.g., paw) and the child indicates the associated imagery term on a poppies poster or a windies poster (if the therapist has said paw then the child should choose the poppies poster).
  • The child is then asked to produce a syllable containing a sound from each imagery class. e.g., Give me a poppy sound o r Give me a windy sound. If the child is confused at this point, the therapist provides a choice, usually with the target produced first: e.g., ‘which one is windy - paw or faw?’ Printed captions accompany all picture-and-object-stimuli to support literacy acquisition.
  • Bear in mind that the child is required to produce CVs and not isolated phones.

Step 2:
Identification, classification, and production of the contrast in single words

  • Next, the therapist shows a picture or an object representing a real word containing either the intruder or target, says the word, and asks the child to indicate the imagery term associated with the word. For instance, the therapist says, sail and the child should respond correctly by placing the picture on the poster for ‘windies’ because he or she knows that /s/ is ‘windy’.
  • Then the therapist silently shows a picture or object with either the intruder or target and the child indicates the associated imagery term on one or other poster. By now the clinician's production has been eliminated. The child is drawing on his or her own internal representation in order to make the classification. Each treatment word is classified thus.
  • Following classification of a word, the child is asked to produce the word, keeping in mind the classification. For example, the child is shown a picture of sail and classifies it as a ‘windy’. The clinician responds, ‘That's right. Now make it with a windy sound.’
  • Note that the child is instructed to say the target word but no model is provided.
  • The clinician responds to any errors in production by referring to the classification the child provided. For example, if the child said tail for sail the therapist might say, ‘Tail? You said it was a windy word, but you made it with a poppy sound. Can you try it again and put in the windy sound that you said it should have?’
  • Conventional minimal pair activities (Weiner, 1981a) that include communicative consequences for using both the intruder and target are also used at this level.

Throughout Step 1 and Step 2, isolated sounds are not elicited and the clinician does not overtly model how to say the treatment words. For example, when eliciting g-words the therapist might say, proffering a picture, ‘Can you say this one with your throatie?’

Natural feedback is given if the child errs, perhaps by producing /d/ in place of /g/: ‘But you said it was a throaty and you said it with a tippy. Try it again with your throatie?’

Step 3:
Production in narratives and conversational speech

The procedures at this point on are quite ‘traditional’ and include activities such as story telling, games incorporating target sound classes, and ‘controlled conversation tasks’.


Klein, E. S. (1996a). Phonological/traditional approaches to articulation therapy: A retrospective group comparison. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 27, 314-323.

Klein, E. S. (1996b). Clinical phonology: Assessment and treatment of articulation disorders in children and adults. San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group, Inc. 

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