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Can My Developmentally Disabled Brother Use Guided Imagery?

28 Dec

Dear Belleruth,

I have a 22 year old brother with mental retardation/developmental disability.  He lives in a group home and holds down a job at a local supermarket as a stock boy.  Every now and then, he gets stressed, just like the rest of us.  My question is this:  can you use guided imagery with people like my brother?  Would he be able to get something out of a guided imagery CD? I’d like to give him a pre-loaded iPod for Christmas.

Thank you in advance,

Martin T.

Dear Martin,
A great question from a great brother, who is planning a great gift!  The answer is absolutely yes!!
Guided imagery mainly accesses the more primitive, survival-based areas of the brain, with soothing voice tone and music.  As a result, it is not dependent on fancy cognitive abilities to do its job.  In fact, this is why it can be used with small children; puppies and other pets; patients with Alzheimers and other forms of dementia; and people with various levels of developmental disability.  It’s also why it reduces the symptoms of people with PTSD – most of those symptoms are lodged in the midbrain and brain stem, where “upscale” talking and thinking can’t reach.

So, by all means, get the iPod for your brother.  He’s a lucky guy to have you in his corner!

Happy holidays,


Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award