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What to Give a Very Anxious Twelve-Year-Old Facing Major Surgery

04 Aug

We just got this question from a concerned mother, whose 12-yr-old daughter is facing major surgery and is feeling a lot of anxiety and trepidation over it.

Dear Belleruth,

My 12 year old daughter is about to have major surgery. She is very anxious. Do u have a guided imagery that is appropriate?

Concerned Mom

Dear Mom,

Yes, we do have guided imagery for her, and the good news is that two different studies – one out of Columbia Presbyterian and one from Blue Shield's HMO in California – showed that the more anxious the person was, the more they benefitted from listening to pre-surgery guided imagery. Counter-intuitive but true. We've noticed this on our end too, just from the feedback we've gotten in the office and keep on getting.

More good news: 12-yr-olds and teenagers in general are the perfect candidates for altered state techniques like guided imagery and hypnosis – they take to it like ducks to water – probably because most teens are already soaking in a trance-inducing hormone soup in their bloodstreams (that's my personal hunch – no hard data to back this up that I know of).

And a twelve-year-old is old enough to use an adult audio program. So I'm recommending she listen to Successful Surgery, once or twice a day (or as much as she wants) before her surgery. This should help a lot with her anxiety. She can also bring it into the O.R. with her and have it played during surgery; and after surgery, the affirmations track is designed to help her through recovery.

We wish her the best. Let us all know how she does.

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.