StressStop Blog

Belleruth and Guided Imagery

Jim Porter, M.A.L.S., President, StressStop.comTuesday, May 10th, 2011

I first heard about guided imagery in the early 1980s when I saw a film about cancer research pioneer, Dr. O. Carl Simonton. He was taking a chemotherapy patient through a guided imagery exercise. It seemed a little bizarre to me back then, that a patient's thoughts and visions could somehow help her heal, but apparently it did, and this early work was precedent-setting.

Then, sometime in the early 1990's a nurse at a VA Medical Center in West Virginia told me I had to listen to a Belleruth Naparstek guided visualization tape. She was using them with her patients (who were mostly Vietnam Vets) and found that they were very effective. If the same nurse, hadn't already recommended humorist, Loretta LaRoche (who turned out to be AWESOME) I'm not sure I would have gone to all the trouble.

So I called up the phone number that the nurse gave me and ordered a couple of tapes to sample. I was considering whether I would carry them in my catalog. I remember getting them (You couldn't download anything back then) in the mail a week later and sitting down on my bed at home, with a program that was supposed to be helpful for cancer patients: I didn't have cancer, nor did I know anyone with cancer, so I had no personal benefit to be derived from listening to this program.

At the beginning of every imagery program Belleruth warns you that you might be "surprised" by the emotions that come up during your visualization session. As a GUY who tends to keep all his emotions in check, I didn't really feel like there was much to worry about where that was concerned.

Live Chat with Belleruth

This week's guest is Belleruth Naparstek. Belleruth has almost single-handedly turned guided imagery from an obscure, haphazard, un-studied intervention that almost no-one took seriously (except for a few forward-thinking psychotherapists who recorded their own homemade guided imagery tapes) into a powerful, well-known, well-respected, standardized, research-based therapeutic modality that can be practiced by a wide variety of patients in a wide variety of settings, both clinical and non-clinical.

Listen to the interview below:

And when Belleruth started narrating in her distinctive, monotone voice I really didn't think I was going to experience much of anything at all. But I resisted the urge to pre-judge, (and prematurely hit the eject button) and laid my head back on the pillow, closed my eyes, and just listened.

By the end of the tape I was weeping! Belleruth's imagery was all about healing and her narration encouraged me to imagine loved ones from the past coming to my aid. I didn't think there was anything broken inside me, but apparently there was. The tape struck a deep chord and as Belleruth likes to say, "this means that the imagery is reaching you the way it was designed to." I decided to carry a bunch of her CDs in our catalog and now at our website. (You can sample her Pain CD or her Healthful Sleep CD now.)

About five years later I was attending The Wellness Conference in Stevens Point Wisconsin and Belleruth was one of the keynote speakers. She shared some very interesting stories about her early days as a therapist at a VA Hospital when most of her colleagues considered the Vets with PTSD to be basically hopeless cases. But she could see how the guided imagery she used with them was working: How they were able to feel completely safe and revisit their traumatic memories in a way that allowed them to achieve resolution and healing.

That's when Belleruth asked the audience if they'd like to try a guided imagery technique for themselves. The next thing you know relaxing music was being piped in through the PA system and Belleruth began to narrate in her special guided imagery voice. Within minutes, the tissues were coming out and quiet sobs filled the air. It was a group healing session that I never would have believed possible, if I hadn't experienced it personally and seen it with my own eyes. Belleruth swears that audiences actually ride a wave of unified reverie and sometimes feel things (and depths of relaxation) they wouldn't feel if they were trying to do it alone.

Sample Belleruth's Stress CD right now.

As Belleruth explains in her book, INIVISIBLE HEROES, "guided imagery is a form of deliberate, directed daydreaming - a purposeful use of the imagination that deploys words and phrases designed to evoke rich, multi-sensory fantasy and memory. The voice tone, pacing and choice of language, usually accompanied by relaxing music, create a deeply immersive mind-state which is ideal for catalyzing desired changes in mind, body, psyche and spirit." In other words, you're going to feel a strong emotional tug, while listening to these programs.

She goes on to say that "imagery has been found to reduce anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and lipid peroxides, speed up healing from cuts, fractures and burns, reduce blood loss and length of hospital stay in surgery patients, beef up short term immune function, reduce pain from arthritis and fibromyalgia, increase comfort during all manner of medical procedures" and the list of benefits goes on and on. By the way, each one of these medical applications for guided imagery is backed up with a peer-reviewed study in her book. Check out "Invisible Heroes" if you want to learn more.

"Imagery is the gift that keeps on giving," Belleruth goes on to say. "It is fast, powerful, costs little or nothing and gets more and more effective with continued use. Its end-user needn't be smart, rich, well-educated, young, strong, or mentally healthy to reap its benefits. The listener can even be bone-tired, disgusted, depressed, disbelieving, listless, resistant, distracted, mentally-disabled, physically unfit, or at death's door and the imagery will still bestow its beneficent blessings."

When she compares it to other similar modalities you begin to see her point. Conscious breathing, meditation and body scan all have their advantages, but they all require supervision, instruction or will power. It really doesn't take much of any of these qualities to sit down with a Belleruth recording and start using your mind to get right to the heart of your specific medical malady. Anybody can do it. And that's the whole point.

Balleruth Naparstek - Stress Guided Imagery CD
Once you hear the soothing voice and guided imagery of Belleruth Naparstek, not to mention the gorgeous music on all her CDs, you'll understand why she has become such a nationally recognized name in the field of guided imagery and why her CDs are in such demand. Belleruth stimulates your imagination with a powerful but nuanced voice and with words carefully chosen to promote wellness, relaxation and a specific medical objective depending on which CD you choose.
More Information
Beleruth Naparstek: Invisible Heroes
Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal

If you or someone you love has suffered a traumatic event, you know the devastating impact it can have on your life and your spirit. Life-threatening accidents, illnesses, assaults, abusive relationships-or a tragedy like 9/11-all can leave deep emotional wounds that persist long after physical scars have healed. Survivors become "invisible heroes," courageously struggling to lead normal lives in spite of symptoms so baffling and disturbing that they sometimes doubt their own sanity.

Now there is new hope for the millions affected by posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Drawing on more than thirty years' experience as a therapist and on the most recent cutting-edge research, Belleruth Naparstek presents a clinically proven program for recovery using the potent tool of guided imagery. She reveals how guided imagery goes straight to the right side of the brain, where it impacts the nonverbal wiring of the nervous system itself, the key to alleviating suffering.

Filled with the voices of real trauma survivors and therapists whose lives and work have been changed by this approach, Invisible Heroes offers:

  • New understanding of the physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral effects of PTSD, who is most susceptible, and why symptoms can get worse rather than better with time
  • Important insights into how the brain and body respond to trauma, why conventional talk therapy can actually impede recovery, and why the nonverbal, image-based right brain is crucial to healing
  • A step-by-step program with more than twenty scripts for guided-imagery exercises tailored to the three stages of recovery, from immediate relief of anxiety attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, and insomnia, to freedom from depression and isolation, to renewed engagement with life
  • A helpful guide to the best of the new imagery-based therapies, and how to incorporate them into an overall recovery plan

Belleruth Naparstek concludes with the inspiring words of survivors who have found their way back to peace, purpose, and a deep joy in living. Her compassionate, groundbreaking book can lead you and those in your care to the same renewal and healing.


More Information
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