Group Guided Imagery

I'm working in a behavioral health unit. My background is in music education, but my duties are listed as music therapy (something I'm not totaly comfortable with). I'd like to end specific sessions with music and guided imagery, but I need some "pre-script" advice on the activity guidelines. How do I reduce the giggle-ers, the excessive movement-ers, the this is "stupid-ers?" How do you introduce an activity of this type and what are your rules for the patients?
Rome, GA

Hi Kam,

Good questions. I introduce relaxation exercises by explaining at the beginning of the session the purpose of relaxation and what to expect. For example:

"My name is Candi. I am an occupational therapist, and I will be conducting today’s relaxation session. The purpose of this group is to give you a chance to relax your mind and body, and to learn how to use relaxation techniques to relax when you want to. This session will last about half an hour. First, we will discuss what relaxation is, and how it works. Then you will have a chance to get comfortable and follow along with an actual relaxation exercise."

I then explain the following:

- The relaxation response is the opposite of the stress response

- Relaxation is a skill that takes practice. With practice you can learn conscious control over body responses that are usually automatic, such as heart rate and blood pressure.

- Relaxation has a number of benefits such as improved learning and memory, improved resistance to stress, and relief from anxiety.

Some expectations that I outline at the start include:

- Please stay for the entire session. If you are not sure you will be able to stay for the whole group or be still and quiet for 30 minutes, please leave the session now rather than in the middle of the exercise

- It's okay to ask questions now or at the end of the session, but please do not talk during the relaxation exercise

- Avoid any movements that cause discomfort (e.g. if performing progressive muscle relaxation, tighten muscles to the point of tension but NOT pain)

- It is important to be as quiet as possible during the session to allow everyone to concentrate and to relax

- It is normal to find relaxation a bit challenging at first. It gets easier with practice.

- There is nothing you need to make happen. All you need to do is observe how you are feeling and allow relaxation to occur.

For group members who are giggling or talking and do not seem interested, some ways that I have found might help engage them are:

- Ask who has done relaxation or meditation in the past, whether it helpful, and if they still practice these techniques.

- Have each person describe the reasons they decided to come to this particular session (and suggest that some people may have decided to attend because they were curious, bored, etc - that it is okay if they have mixed feelings about being there).

- Ask each participant to name one thing they hope to get out of the session, and if they are stuck, suggest that if nothing else it may give them a short break where all they need to do is relax.

I let participants know that if they are interested in trying out a relaxation technique that is great, but if they are not interested or do not want to attend, it is okay. I won't be offended if they do not wish to stay, but they are welcome to stay if they want to. Sometimes just hearing out loud that they have a choice helps participants see the value and decide to pay attention.

I hope this gives you some ideas to help get sessions off to a good start. Any therapists, group facilitators, or group attendees who have more ideas - please post them here as a comment!


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