A common thread in today’s world is anxious children and parents who are pulled in too many directions—stressed out. One way to help children and parents simultaneously reduce anxiety and stress in their lives is through the use of relaxation, and visualization techniques.
Visualization is one of my favorite techniques to help clients achieve a sense of relaxation and well-being. Visualization is a form of focused relaxation that helps create harmony between the mind and body. It is a way of focusing your imagination to create calm, peaceful images in your mind; thereby creating an imaginary haven or “safe place” that can be revisited anytime.
I find that adding parents in the process is a powerful. Helping both child and parent both embrace and internalize the power of a mindful way of being. Awareness of this kind can have a virtually immediate effect on health and well-being.
Here is one of my favorite Anxiety Reduction Techniques
In my office markers, colored pencils, crayons and drawing paper is laid out on the coffee table and there is calm, meditative music playing in the background. This sends a non-verbal message to my client that “today is going to be different.” I briefly describe what we will be doing today and get their approval. To alleviate all fears that they may have, I explain that the visualization will tell them anything that they need to do.
To give a little background, visualization uses a script that is read out loud using a sing-song-style of voice. It is designed to put the listener into a relaxed, meditative state where they use their imagination to relax and feel peace. For example, one of the scripts I use is called “Cozy Castle” and it describes a magical cozy castle high in the clouds where dreams come true and we can relax and enjoy peace and comfort.
The combination of calm, meditative music with the slow, sing-song-style of voice has a powerful impact on the listener’s subconscious state. The use of a melodic and sing-song tone also allows information to be processed easier and the meditative music has the ability to quickly shift our mood, affecting our subconscious mind where pesky negative thoughts feed on our fears and fuel the fires of stress.
Before we start, I read a list of visualization scripts to my child and ask them which one they would like to start with (I like to do at least two). I also explain that I have some visualization scripts especially designed to be used at bedtime, which I will send home with them for their parent to read. (For me it’s important that the child be included in the decision process, it also models for the parent how to incorporate visualization scripts at home.)
After they choose the visualization script they want to use, I read the visualization to the child and, at the end of the script, I add the sentences, “When you’re ready to come back, open your eyes and draw your Cozy Castle [if that was the name of visualization used]. When you’re finished, I will ask you to share your drawing with me.”
I like to use visualization because it accesses the emotional world of the child in a non-verbal format, thus allowing the child and counselor/parent to understand the experience of the child. Art also allows the child and counselor/parent to connect through images rather than words alone. Expressive therapy is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. The therapist uses the child’s artistic production as a springboard for further elaboration of the clients emotions and their causes.
After the child and I have processed their drawing, I say, “Let’s go get your parent and together the two of you can do the next visualization together.” Once the parent is with us, I explain what her child and I did in session and share the bedtime visualization scripts that I will be sending home. I then invite the parent to “join us” in a visualization journey. At this point, I again ask the child to choose a visualization script and for everyone to sit back and get comfortable. At the end of the visualization, I again ask the child and their parent to draw their experience.
Parents love this way of being involving in their child’s life journey. It’s powerful because the parent gets to experience first-hand the emotional impact of the session and they also are able to hear how I read the visualization and understand the importance of reading in a sing-song manner with frequent pauses.