Functional Imagery Training (FIT)

Lifestyle disease is a national problem. Simply prescribing different behaviours – a healthier diet or stopping smoking for instance – is ineffective, because changing habits requires motivation. Often, people do not do what their doctors or physiotherapists feel is best for them, even if they agree it is a good idea, because they find it hard to stay motivated.

FIT is a new way of supporting behaviour change by strengthening motivation.

What is FIT?

Functional Imagery Training (FIT) is a unique approach to behaviour change that uses mental imagery to motivate change. FIT teaches people new ways of thinking about their immediate future to help them stay motivated as they achieve each small step towards their goal. Users have described FIT as a ‘mindset shift’, where they exercised or ate healthily because they wanted to, rather than feeling they had to.

How does it work?

FIT is based on two decades of research showing that mental imagery is more strongly emotionally charged than other types of thought. Mental imagery is what gives drug cravings their dominance over other thoughts, but it can also be what makes us work successfully towards a new goal despite obstacles. FIT blends person-centred counselling with tailored imagery exercises to strengthen motivation. It builds desire and self-efficacy for behaviours that will help the individual reach their goal. 

Staying motivated

FIT goes beyond other brief motivational interventions by teaching clients how to elicit and practice motivational imagery themselves, resulting in sustained behaviour change. Everyday behaviours are used to cue imagery practice until it becomes a cognitive habit.

When can it be applied?

FIT is applicable to a wide range of conditions. It has been used to change eating habits, treat alcohol dependence, and increase physical activity. The length of the intervention can be tailored to these different settings, from a brief consultation or small section of a larger intervention, to a more extensive intervention with several interviews over a few weeks to sustain motivation until a new behaviour has become habitual. 

Who can use FIT?

Anyone with basic person-centred counselling skills who wants to help their clients change a behaviour or stick with a new behaviour. If you would like to become a FIT practitioner, please contact us to find out more about our CPD courses (details below).

CPD courses

We offer two sorts of training courses in Functional Imagery Training:

  • Plymouth University Continuing Professional Development courses: two-day courses held at Plymouth University’s city centre campus
  • Tailor-made courses delivered at your own institution

Please contact us for further information:

email: jackie.andrade@plymouth.ac.uk

tel: + 44 1752 584807


The Team

FIT has been developed by researchers at the University of Plymouth and Queensland University of Technology. It is based on a theory called Elaborated Intrusion theory that explains the key role of mental imagery in desire. Please follow the links below for more information and links to published papers on FIT and Elaborated Intrusion theory.

University of Plymouth researchers

Development of FIT has been possible thanks to our funding partners  NHMRC, QUT and NIHR.