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New Guided Imagery Initiatives in the V.A.

04 Sep

Over the past month, we’ve been contacted by 3 different Veterans Administration programs that were awarded fast-tracked, internal grants involving guided imagery. Each of these initiatives in some way wants to give imagery to veterans and evaluate the results. (This is simpler and speedier but less exacting than launching a careful, randomized clinical trial, such as what we’re doing with the soldiers at Fort Sill).  

We’re happily scratching our heads here. The V.A. has not been known for its dazzling speed in instituting new treatment ideas (although individual V.A. clinicians have always been pretty amazing at under-the-radar innovation).  Clearly times are changing and there’s a new interest in integrative therapies or what used to be called CAM (Complementary and Alternative) approaches.  We’ve heard that Secretary Shinseki has had a lot to do with this, as well as Deputy Sec’y Scott Gould and a host of others.  What a difference when there’s top down support.

One grant was awarded to a terrific Oklahoma City V.A. Chaplain – Terry Sparks – who is combining Healing Touch treatments with our Healing Trauma imagery, in a protocol that is similar to what researchers studied at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine with Marines post-deployment.  Chaplain Sparks won an Employee Innovation Competition, which is one way the V.A. has been encouraging new ideas from clinical staff and making things happen faster than usual.

Another grant was awarded to a V.A. research team that will be putting together individualized kits of preferred audio and video resources – guided imagery, yoga, qigong, mindfulness and so forth - for vets with multiple health problems and war-related injuries, to help them with stress mastery and wellness.  These will be mailed to vets all over the country, and they will then be followed by a health coach on the phone.  This is a practical approach, as many vets simply won’t return to a clinic or VAMC after the first visit – even when that visit was helpful to them. (They found this to be true with an acupuncture study, which required several serial visits to a practitioner. Way too many just didn’t come back.) And again, this is a fast-tracked program, funded in May with a new Patient-Centered Care grant and scheduled to begin by September.  


Another program is talking about ways to use guided imagery with homeless and unemployed veterans help them get back on track.  

You can see the trend here: the V.A. is invested in finding portable resources that can be self-administered by the vets themselves, based on the practicalities of what they’ll use and what will work for this population, which deserves care but can’t always get it, especially if it means regular visits to a clinic or medical center.

So, HOORAY for the V.H.A.!  I’ll keep you informed on these and other launches, as I’m able.

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