A variety of magnetic resonance imaging acoustic radiation force imaging (MR-ARFI) pulse sequences as the means for image guidance of focused ultrasound therapy have been recently developed and tested ex vivo and in animal models. To successfully translate MR-ARFI guidance into human applications, ensuring that MR-ARFI provides satisfactory image quality in the presence of patient motion and deposits safe amount of ultrasound energy during image acquisition is necessary. The first aim of this work was to study the effect of motion on in vivo displacement images of the brain obtained with 2D Fourier transform spin echo MR-ARFI. Repeated bipolar displacement encoding configuration was shown less sensitive to organ motion. The optimal signal-to-noise ratio of displacement images was found for the duration of encoding gradients of 12 ms. The second aim was to further optimize the displacement signal-to-noise ratio for a particular tissue type by setting the time offset between the ultrasound emission and encoding based on the tissue response to acoustic radiation force. A method for measuring tissue response noninvasively was demonstrated. Finally, a new method for simultaneous monitoring of tissue heating during MR-ARFI acquisition was presented to enable timely adjustment of the ultrasound energy aimed at ensuring the safety of the MR-ARFI acquisition. Magn Reson Med, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.