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DCoE Releases "Promising Practices" White Paper

05 Jun

Well, at long last, the White Paper from DCoE (Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury) describing promising Mind Body Skills for Regulating the Autonomic Nervous System has been published.
This report reviews mind-body practices that can be self-administered, offered peer-to-peer or used by line leaders to help regulate stress, support resilience and prevent psychological difficulties in a non-clinical, military setting.  Very cool.
This is a big deal, people, that the Pentagon is now taking mind-body practices seriously and actively promoting their use.

The promising practices described in this groundbreaking paper fall into three basic domains of integrative techniques: (1) breath exercises; (2) manipulative body‐based tension release exercises; and (3) mindfulness, meditation and guided imagery techniques.

The breath techniques reviewed here are Paced Breath, Diaphragmatic Breathing, a computerized breath practice called iBreathe/Breathe2Relax and Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (Warrior Breath).

The manipulative, body-based practices are Yoga postures or asanas, Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and the Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM).

The mindfulness techniques include Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness Mind‐Fitness Training (MMFT), a meditation technique called Yoga Nidra (iRest), Guided Imagery and biofeedback.

Here’s what it says about guided imagery in general and Health Journeys in particular:

Brain scans have indicated that imagery can stimulate the same areas of the brain and nervous systems as an equivalent experience can. It has also been stipulated that the brain's visual cortex, which processes images, is connected to the autonomic nervous system.

In terms of evidence supporting the use of guided imagery, a meta‐analytic review of 46 studies suggest that guided imagery may be helpful for managing stress, anxiety, depression and pain management... (the report then stipulates that the findings are often confounded by protocols that use other methods at the same time).

Here is a nice summary of the sports and performance research:

Guided imagery has also been used in sports psychology to enhance performance. Feltz and Landers conducted a meta‐analytic review examining 60 studies in which mental practice was compared to control conditions. The review concluded that mental rehearsal (or mental practice using imagery) improved performance, though consistently less so than actual physical practice. As an illustration of findings, a randomized control study conducted by Roure examined guided imagery and its impact on the autonomic nervous system, as well as on ball‐passing performance among volleyball players. ANS functions to include temperature, heart rate and respiratory frequency were tested both during mental rehearsal sessions and actual practice. Study results indicate that mental imagery induces the same patterns of autonomic response that physical experiences can, but to a lesser degree of intensity. During an actual volleyball practice, players who had mentally rehearsed, displayed more balanced autonomic functioning (i.e., were calmer) during the game and rated significantly better on performance compared to the control group.

And here is what they say about Health Journeys and traumatic stress:
Recent research indicates that guided imagery may be promising as a treatment for PTSD. In a randomized controlled trial study through Duke University in partnership with the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 52 women veterans with longstanding military sexual trauma experienced a significant drop in PTSD symptoms following 6 weeks of a guided imagery intervention specifically designed to treat individuals with PTSD. The audio CD used in the intervention was created in partnership with Health Journeys (, which is a company that partners with research centers and universities to develop and test guided imagery programs. Results of this study have recently been submitted to the Journal of the American Medical Association and are due to be published in the Summer of 2011 (J. Strauss, personal communication).

 Check out the Gratitude Salute on our Inspiring Story page.  I think it’s a keeper.

Take care and be well,

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