A common thread in today’s world is anxious children and parents who are pulled in too many directions (aka stressed out). One way to help children and their parents simultaneously reduce anxiety and stress in their lives is through the use of relaxation, Guided Imagery, and visualization techniques.
Guided Imagery is one of my favorite techniques to help clients achieve a sense of relaxation and well-being. Guided imagery is a form of focused relaxation that helps create harmony between the mind and body. It is a way of focusing your imagination to create calm, peaceful images in your mind; thereby creating an imaginary haven or “safe place” that can be revisited anytime.
I find that combining Guided Imagery, Expressive Arts, and parents is a powerful three some that helps both child and parent embrace and internalize the power of a mindful way of being. Awareness of this kind can have a virtually immediate effect on health and well-being.
Here is how I combine Guided Imagery – Expressive Arts - Parents
Since Expressive Art therapy uses more directive techniques, I like to separate it from the non-directive therapy that is practiced in the playroom. So, I take my child client to a different therapy room than the playroom. As I am leading my child client from the waiting area, I mention to them that we will be working in a different room today than the traditional play room in which we normally interact. Once we arrive, they can see that there are markers, colored pencils, crayons and drawing paper laid out on the coffee table and there is calm, meditative music playing in the background. This sends a non-verbal message to my client that “today is going to be different.” I briefly describe what we will be doing today and get their approval. To alleviate all fears that they may have, I explain that the Guided Imagery will tell them anything that they need to do.
To give a little background, Guided Imagery uses a script that is read out loud using a sing-song-style of voice. It is designed to put the listener/client into a relaxed, meditative state where they use their imagination to relax and feel peace. For example, one of the scripts I use is called “Cozy Castle” and it describes a magical cozy castle high in the clouds where dreams come true and we can relax and enjoy peace and comfort.
The combination of calm, meditative music with the slow, sing-song-style of voice has a powerful impact on the client’s subconscious state. The use of a melodic and sing-song tone also allows information to be processed easier and the meditative music has the ability to quickly shift our mood, affecting our subconscious mind where pesky negative thoughts feed on our fears and fuel the fires of stress.
Before we start, I read a list of Guided Imagery scripts to my client child and ask them which one they would like to start with (I will be doing two in this session). I also explain that I have some Guided Imagery scripts especially designed to be used at bedtime, which I will send home with them for their parent to read. (For me it’s important that I involve the child client in the process of these types of sessions and how their parent will continue this therapeutic process at home.)
After they choose the Guided Imagery script they want to use, I read the Guided Imagery to my client and, at the end of the script, I add the sentences, “When you’re ready to come back, open your eyes and draw your Cozy Castle [if that was the name of Guided Imagery used]. When you’re finished, I will ask you to share your drawing with me.”
I like to use Expressive Arts because it accesses the emotional world of the client in a non-verbal format, thus allowing the client and counselor to understand the experience of the client. Art also allows the client and counselor to connect through images rather than words alone. (Expressive Art therapy is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. The therapist uses the client’s artistic production as a springboard for further elaboration of the clients emotions and their causes.)
After the client and I have processed their drawing, I say, “Let’s go get your mom and together the two of you can do the next Guided Imagery.” Once their mom in with us, I explain what her child and I did in session and share the bedtime Guided Imagery scripts that I will be sending home with her. I then invite her to “join us” in a Guided Imagery journey. At this point, I again ask the child client to choose a Guided Imagery script and for everyone to sit back and get comfortable. At the end of the Guided Imagery,I again ask the child and their mom to draw their experience.
Parents love this way of being involving in their child’s therapy. It’s powerful because the parent gets to experience first-hand the emotional impact of the session and they also are able to hear how I read the Guided Imagery and understand the importance of reading in a sing-song manner with frequent pauses.
I am in the process of recording and posting various Guided Imagery scripts that I use in session on my You Tube channel. Clients draw strength from their counselors and the sound of their counselor’s voice can be a powerful guiding light, one that I want to provide for my clients.
Guided Relaxation – free Guided Imagery scripts
The Power of Music To Reduce Stress
What is anxiety or social stress?
Helping children learn how to relax and de-stress
Kay Sudekum Trotter, PhD, LPC-S, RPT-S, NCC, CEIP-MH specializes in counseling for young children and adolescents that strives to help families nurture inner healing and optimal growth. She has a successful private practice, Kaleidoscope Counseling, in Flower Mound, Texas where she also provides private practice business consulting and equine therapy consulting and counseling supervision for interns. In addition to her private practice, Kay has established a strong social media presence by providing play therapy and parenting resources for both professionals and laypersons. Kay is sought after by local and national media as an expert on a variety of topics, including bullying, post traumatic stress, and equine assisted counseling.