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Update on Guided Imagery with the Military

09 Jul


Dear Belleruth,

I seem to remember reading an article about your progress in getting the DoD to use GI (guided imagery) with returning soldiers.  I cannot find it on your website.  Would you mind sending me the link?  

If I am misremembering, would you please let me know the status of your efforts in convincing the DOD to utilize GI, etc. ?  Thank you for all you do!  



Dear Chris,

Thank you for your question and your interest in this subject, which is very close to my heart.  Times really are changing, and the interest from both the DoD and the V.A. in guided imagery has undergone a sea change of openness and positivity, I’m happy to report.  

So, where to begin?

It may be partially due to the endorsement guided imagery got in general (and Health Journeys audios in particular) in a White Paper put out last spring by DCoE (Defense Centers of Excellence) on 12 promising practices, called  Mind Body Skills for Regulating the Autonomic Nervous System.

It also got a big boost from a pretty

, which wound up exposing nearly 8,000 practitioners from over 60 countries to the idea of guided imagery specifically geared for soldiers.

It may just be that we finally reached a critical mass, from the nearly 100 V.A.M.C.’s and the scores of military installations – posts and bases and hospitals – and word started spreading from that tipping point.

We had a productive experience working at Fort Sill, doing research with 300 soldiers newly back from Afghanistan and Iraq.  And even though attrition was high, due to unanticipated re-assignments and changes in leadership, we learned a lot and got some truly invaluable feedback.  We found out that you can indeed work through NCO’s and order soldiers to listen to guided imagery, and that even though they resent it, they own up to benefitting from it.

Studies combining our guided imagery and Healing Touch are taking place with Marines at Camp Pendleton and veterans at the V.A. in Oklahoma City (the latter funded by a V.A, innovation grant).  A very impressive study, sending individualized, cherry picked audio and video materials (guided imagery, meditation, yoga, etc) to hundreds of troubled veterans around the country is happening out of a V.A. research center in New Jersey; and an awesome organization called Way Station Inc. in Maryland has just launched a study to see if guided imagery can help homeless, job-seeking vets in transition.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I could point to at least a dozen more studies, programs or projects with guided imagery and our service members.

Best of all, the Army now has a forward-looking, visionary, gutsy Surgeon General – LTG Patricia Horoho (the first woman and the first nurse ever to hold the position, by the way) who is greatly interested in guided imagery to support the health and wellness of our soldiers and their families.  

So that, in a nutshell, is at least a partial update.  Things are good and getting better.  I’ll be keeping you informed as we go forward!  Thanks again for asking!

All best,

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