WHAT is Functional Imagery Training?
“Functional Imagery Training is Health Coaching 2.0…”Rutger Top, Lifestyle Coach, Trainer, Project Manager, Holland
FIT is an evidence-based motivational training for boosting performance across the behaviour change spectrum. FIT is best known for my peer-reviewed, published results in weight-loss. It takes a psychological approach to weight-management behaviours and it has been enabling people to on average lose five times more weight, long-term, compared to other verbal and well-established interventions, like for example Motivational Interviewing, even in those who have tried without success for many years. But actually, FIT can motivate an infinite variety of changes that help to re-gain, maintain or boost physical and mental fitness, improve leadership and manage complex processes more effectively like mediation and organisational change.
FIT incorporates three extensive bodies of research: 1) Mental imagery and its role in emotion, craving and desire, 2) Motivational Interviewing and 3) Mental Contrasting (a future where things stay the same versus a future where change has occurred, challenges have been acknowledged and successfully managed) with Implementation Intentions (specific if-then scenarios coupled with detailed rehearsal in imagination).
FIT prominently uses the elicitation and practice of personal mental imagery- the ability to experience people, objects, actions, feelings, scenarios in imagination, drawing on all senses to motivate and support change long-term. It is not a form of therapy as such; FIT is a training that teaches clients to use a new way of thinking, to build an entire toolbox drawing on and further training their own cognitive abilities in using mental imagery to mentally contrast, vividly and creatively consider valued goals and to effectively address challenges as well as solutions, affecting positive behaviour and/or performance change.
A core part of FIT builds on two decades of peer-reviewed, published scientific research (see for example Prof Jackie Andrade; Prof David Kavanagh; Prof Emily Holmes; Prof Simon Blackwell; Prof Jon May, Dr Fritz Renner) showing that mental imagery is much more strongly emotionally charged than other types of thought and that mental imagery is what gives a drug and/or dysfunctional cravings and behaviours dominance over other thoughts, but conversely, it can also be what makes us work consistently and successfully towards a new goal despite obstacles.
FIT builds on this strong potential. It uses a variety of mental imagery exercises to continue building goal and success imagery and crucially, to teach clients how to do this for themselves, rather than depending on a coach or therapist long-term.
What is mental imagery?
What does Functional Imagery Training do?
FIT creates vivid ‘cravings’ for ‘why’ a particular goal is important and how it will affect the individual’s life. This process boosts motivation, confidence, increasing goal-success and performance, while also giving agency back to the client, even in the light of adversity.
“…FIT doesn’t sell you a dream, it opens up a means of travel, towards making possibilities within ourselves more substantial realities.”Maresa Segura, Psychotherapist, London and Glasgow
FIT teaches clients/patients to practice not only imagery of actions and processes, but most importantly of how good it will feel, once they have achieved the change (have become that best version of themselves), how this will affect them and permeate into all areas of their lives, while not losing sight of how to tackle obstacles along the way. Many years of research by Prof Gabriele Oettingen have shown this to be fundamentally important to achieve excellent goal outcomes. Simply thinking positive thoughts and daydreaming about a future where we have achieved the desired outcomes for ourselves is not enough to get going, in fact counterproductive and neither fit for maintaining success once we have reached our goal.
The verbal coaching side of FIT is delivered via the empathic, widely published (around 1500 trials) and well-established behaviour change intervention style of motivational interviewing by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick to work in partnership with clients, helping them to resolve dilemmas, clearly explore and develop their very own valued incentives for change, to find solutions, and to develop strategies and confidence for achieving their goals.
However, it differs from motivational interviewing, in
explicitly eliciting vivid personalized mental imagery at each stage, and
teaching people how to apply motivational imagery themselves using behavioural cueing, audios and an app to support imagery practice for building self-regulation/control.
Importantly, it also teaches people new ways of thinking about their very immediate future to help them stay motivated as they work on achieving each small step towards their best version of themselves.
Who is Functional Imagery Training useful for and in which format can it be delivered?
“FIT is a tool for life. Truly, the principles of it apply to so many things.”Doctor Tiffany Keenan, Family Physician & Emergency Room Doctor, Bermuda
FIT is relevant in and useful for all disciplines, from health behaviour and lifestyle change, keeping good mental health, to addressing a life goal and/or performance goal. It is best thought of, as the currently most effective way of training individuals in using mental imagery to support their motivation and confidence for goal-success and maintenance long-term. FIT is a flexible ‘motivational vehicle’, driving forward any change a person may wish to pursue, creating strong desires to achieve.
FIT can be used as an intervention/programme on its own, or can be easily tailored alongside other programmes to enhance effectiveness and engagement. For example, if a client decides to follow a new eating plan they worked out with a dietician and/or needs to follow a new medication regime, FIT can be introduced to boost desire for sticking to the plan and to support habit changes needed to make it a success.
FIT takes a very personalised approach to health and wellbeing, but it can be delivered effectively via a combination of group and individual sessions, where budget or practicality does not support individual sessions only. Our research team at the University of Plymouth has found promising results for group-FIT in building grit and resilience in sports and the British Army, as well as preliminary results in boosting growth-mindsets in secondary school education.
FIT can be and has been effectively delivered face-to-face, by ZOOM and Skype, by phone and/or a combination of those.
Most recently, research from our group has been published showing that using FIT made individuals 5x more likely to complete an ultra marathon than those in the Motivational Interviewing control group.
Is Functional Imagery Training effective?
Have a look at this 25 minute micro Zoom lecture. I give a brief, but solid overview of the quantitative (weight-loss) and also the qualitative data from the Functional Imagery Training versus Motivational Interviewing weight-loss trial which showed that FIT participants where not only using FIT to lose weight, but to successfully help with anxiety, work-based stress and to boost mood during episodes of depression.
I think it is useful for anyone considering becoming a client in FIT, or those of you interested in becoming a FIT trainee practitioner.
I recorded this for a webinar series on obesity, for Maine Health (USA), but thought I would share it here to anyone who is interested in learning more also.
FIT has been used successfully in research and/or commercially to achieve weight-loss and to support weight-loss maintenance, to aid recovery from binge-eating disorder, increase physical activity in people with major depression and in the general community, increase grit in professional athletes, increase resilience and support building growth mind-sets in secondary school education, raise the pass-rate of trainee soldiers on their All-Arms Commando Course (AACC) through resilience and grit in the British Army, support diabetic self-management, treat alcohol dependence, manage cannabis use in people with psychosis, reduce anxiety and to reduce self-harm in young adults.
My private practice-based evidence and the qualitative evidence from our peer-reviewed and published FIT versus Motivational Interviewing weight-loss trial I led at the University of Plymouth (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41366-018-0122-1), shows great promise for FIT in the treatment of anxiety, as well as stress, especially work-based stress. My PhD student Despina Djama is currently dedicating her PhD to investigating this even further at the University of Plymouth.
Using the FIT way of approaching and supporting motivation in behaviour change, such as changing eating habits to affect weight-loss (for which we have the strongest, published ‘gold standard’ scientific data), has shown that people on average will lose 5x more weight compared with the highly acclaimed and well-established coaching/counselling intervention motivational interviewing.
This figure represents one individual per square. It shows how many people out of 100, could expect a % bodyweight reduction (and how much reduction) if they received FIT compared to motivational interviewing which represented the comparison intervention in the weight-loss study:
The full study, entitled Functional Imagery Training versus Motivational Interviewing for Weight Loss: A randomised controlled trial of brief individual interventions for overweight and obesity is available to view in the International Journal of Obesity. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41366-018-0122-1
FIT is unique because it aims to replace the need for ongoing support and is wholly designed to equip clients/patients with all the skills they need to quickly become their own coach.
For those of you who are keen to read even more about the development and testing of FIT for weight management and physical inactivity, please see my doctoral thesis here: https://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10026.1/12300/2018solbrig10343301phd.pdf?sequence=3
How can I train in Functional Imagery Training & Become a Functional Imagery Training practitioner/coach?
Train with me, the primary developer of Functional Imagery Training for weight-management and physical activity. Become a developer-certified FIT practitioner/coach and join an international, vibrant and dedicated community of advanced & master FIT practitioners/coaches.
Here is what one of my recent trainees said about my practitioner training in FIT:
“Changing behaviour is one of the hardest challenges people face. FIT is a brilliant new method with proven results. Psychologist Linda Solbrig is a real visionary.”
Susan K. Reed, former editor in chief ‘Oprah Magazine’, editor, author, media trainer.
I am one of only two academic FIT developers who have experience in delivering FIT to research participants, and the only developer who has experience of treating patients on the National Health Service and in Public Health settings with FIT. I managed and conducted the first Randomised Controlled Trial of FIT (published in the leading obesity journal https://www.nature.com/articles/s41366-018-0122-1) for my PhD which allowed me to accumulate over 700 hours of experience in delivering FIT to members of the public who took part in our weight-loss trial. Additionally, I started my own private practice through which I have furthered FIT’s portfolio by successfully applying it to a diverse range of issues, including stress, public speaking anxiety, anxiety disorders, imposter syndrome, binge-eating disorder and alcohol use.
In combination with Body Reprogramming which is based on the Hyland Model (http://www.bodyreprogramming.org/HylandModel.aspx) I have also been able to use FIT to help patients in community health settings and private clients make strides in reducing symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME) and Fibromyalgia. Learn more about FIT practitioner training here or contact me: email@example.com or Linda@doctorlindasolbrig.com
“My training courses in FIT and Motivational Interviewing are very applied and hands-on. I ensure trainees acquire new skills and build on their existing skills in such a way that it will give them the confidence to start using what they take away from training right away, flexibly and creatively to compliment and extend their usual ways of working with individuals.”
Dr Linda Solbrig
Is Functional Imagery Training a protected trademark, brand?
Yes. Functional Imagery Training is a protected trademark and brand: No. UK00003616076. I am the owner of the name Functional Imagery Training which is a mark of quality and anyone wishing to advertise as using Functional Imagery Training and or as being a Functional Imagery Training practitioner needs to be a) trained by me and b) certified by me or c) have been trained by Prof Jackie Andrade and certified either by me or her. Prof Andrade at times trains postgrad students and/or practitioners for FIT research studies.
The Functional Imagery Training logo is also a protected trademark and the same rules as above apply to anyone wishing to use it as part of their advertising/marketing and practice. Prof Andrade and I co-own the Functional Imagery Training logo: UK00003406053
Dr Linda Solbrig and Prof Jackie Andrade
Here is a link to our official University of Plymouth Functional Imagery Training page https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/psychology/applied-psychology/functional-imagery-training, where you can find updates on who offers FIT training and research, new partners, even free FIT opportunities through research and local Charities at times.
If you are in the Netherlands, please check out our work and course offer there with Functional Imagery Training Co-trainer Rutger Top: /https://burosherpa.nl/functional-imagery-training/