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Does Imagery Work Well for Stroke Patients in Rehab?

05 Jun

Hello,

I am an occupational therapist working with elders who have suffered a stroke. I am interested in incorporating your stroke CD in my treatment. While I have used your guided imagery CDs myself and found them very helpful, I'm wondering whether there are any precautions I should be aware of prior to using them with my patients.

Thanks for your response, and for your important work!

Warmly,
Don

Dear Don,
Thanks for asking and thanks for doing the work that you do.  I know from my clients, friends and family the difference OT’s make in people’s lives.  

I think it’s a great use of guided imagery, to incorporate it into your occupational therapy protocol, and I’ve heard enthusiastic reports about using it to support and potentiate work with OT, PT (physical therapy), MT (massage therapy) and RT (recreational therapy), not to mention sports coaching.

Over the past few years, there’s been a spate of impressive research about the efficacy of imagery for helping to restore function – some of the most compelling across many fields and conditions, in fact.  For starters, one study demonstrates how “mental rehearsal” (a.k.a. guided imagery) changes the brain in stroke patients.
 
Another shows big gains for post stroke paralysis.

There are studies showing how imagining movement produces extra results in paralyzed patients; and another that shows how imagery increases post stroke learning.

There’s one research article that talks about how to combine imagery with your practice. And that’s just a drop in the bucket.  There’s been a lot of research going on with imagery in the rehab field.

I’m not aware of any precautions or caveats.  One thing worth mentioning, however: some older people who have lost hearing in the lower sound registers might have trouble hearing my voice over the music.  So don’t be surprised if you get a complaint or two about that from your population!  (When Bruce has had the time and the end-user has had the cash for the engineering, our recording studio has been known to remix the recording for the hearing impaired.)  Other than that, I’d say by all means, give it a try.  Thanks for the question and reminding me about the uses of imagery for stroke.  

I hope this helps, and good luck!

All best,
Belleruth

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