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Alternative Medicine: Guided Imagery as a Tool for Relaxation, Confidence, Pain Relief


If you’re looking for something that can help you relax, perhaps help soothe your anxiety or even give you a sense of control over your cancer, you may want to investigate guided imagery therapy. Guided imagery is akin to hypnosis. The basic idea behind it is that your mind can affect the health of your body and the way it functions.

During the sessions, patients, along with a guided imagery practitioner, use a visualization technique that helps them imagine positive thoughts and pictures. Cancer patients often use a technique developed by an oncologist named O. Carl Simonton and his wife. Patients imagine that their immune system is “gobbling up” and destroying cancer cells. They also may envision their tumors shrinking. They may imagine that their bodies are becoming cancer-free.

Other techniques include imagining a ball of healing energy forming somewhere in your body. When you’re able to visualize this ball, you imagine that as you breathe in and out, you’re able to “blow” the ball to any area of your body where you feel pain or tension.

Guided imagery practitioners also help patients to learn general relaxation techniques that help reduce stress. It can help you learn to guide yourself to enter a state of mind that’s more peaceful and calm.

There have been small studies on the effect of guided imagery on cancer patients and treatment. Findings have shown that it can help

  • Reduce nausea
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce pain

Additionally, some practitioners believe that guided imagery can help strengthen the immune system, because it helps reduce stress.

The first thing to remember is that guided imagery can be used along with your other cancer treatment, but it shouldn’t replace it. It’s what some practitioners call an “adjunct” therapy.

To find a guided imagery therapist in your area, visit the Academy for Guided Imagery . You could also ask members of your treatment team whether they can recommend a practitioner for you.

The Academy of Guided Imagery; K. Pelletier, The Best Alternative Medicine, Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 2000; Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center; The National Cancer Institute
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