Search: Articles:


Dr. Richard Isaacson

Mind-Body Therapies: Meditation, Relaxation, Guided Imagery & Hypnotherapy

Health treatment techniques dedicated to integrating the mind and the body are based on recognition of the fact that mental and emotional states directly affect physical health. The infiltration of Eastern healing methods such as acupuncture has helped Western medicine come to grips with the relationship between mental status and physical health. Not only preventive medicine but actual treatment for physical afflictions can now involve behavioral and psychological elements. So many studies have been done that support this idea that mind-body techniques are even now utilized by traditional doctors.

Perhaps the premier example of this fact is the importance that stress plays in cardiology. Heart disease is the most fatal disease in this country; cardiologists go to great lengths to emphasize the importance in reducing stress with patients who have had cardiac problems or who are at risk.

Tools of the Trade

Meditation is the practice of calming yourself, noticing the breath, and emptying the mind of thought, which allows you to develop a greater self awareness. Meditation begins with the simplest of processes. All you are asked to do is to sit quietly and to close off all the mental chatter that usually accompanies us, focusing the mind on one thing - or, to the degree possible, perhaps nothing. Some practitioners use the repetition of a word or phrase (a mantra) in order to assist in reducing the mental background noise. Meditation is a tool that can be a challenge to many of us raised in the rat-race Western cultures, because it is basically a process of training the mind to do less rather than more.

Meditation began as an exercise to further a person’s progress down a religious or spiritual path. As such, the goal of the practice was less oriented to physical well being and more focused on spiritual growth. As meditation has become a mainstream Western practice, religious or cultural background has receded as an issue. Now that it is used in medical care its teaching and practice has taken on an expanded and decidedly Western style.

Regardless of its origins, meditation is used as a tool to relax the individual physically while providing mental focus. Most forms of meditation train an individual to utilize that mental focus to reduce stress and simplify one’s conscious focus.

Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques are exercises and stretches done to alleviate stress and anxiety. Many of these techniques are related to the processes involved in meditation, but often focused on one particular part of the body. Breathing exercises, slow and methodical physical movement and other practices are used to bring both body and mind under control at a comfortable pace. As the body relaxes, so does the conscious and subconscious mind. Physical impacts that have been tied to periodic relaxation practices include lower blood pressure and reduction of chronic muscle or joint pain.

Guided Imagery
Guided imagery is the practice of creating mental images in order to create a state of calm and wellness. This process began strictly as a psychological tool to assist people in replacing traumatizing images that have impacted their mental well being. Today the process is utilized as part of a physical therapy process, trying to induce a patient to imagine a damaged joint or organ functioning properly. Generally this process is guided by a practitioner in the beginning, helping the patient to develop the treatment method and the belief that it can make a difference.

Individuals who have been traumatized by an incident in a public place might be guided on a mental tour through that place that concludes safely. Guided imagery is a practice that often gains effectiveness through repetition, as the patient must learn to trust the practice and to give credence to the concept before it develops impact.

Hypnosis has been used by psychiatrists for years as a treatment tool. The state of hypnosis is one in which the patient is relaxed and conscious, but in an altered state of mind that leaves him or her unaware of the physical surroundings and focused on the instructions of the hypnotherapist.

Psychological stress and mental conflict are known to be capable of creating the sensation of seemingly unrelated pain or discomfort in other parts of the body. These are called conversion disorders and hypnosis has been utilized as an effective tool in helping people deal with this phenomenon. Hypnosis has also been a standard tool for people who struggle in their attempts to quit smoking.

Hypnotherapy is also used to bring to the surface traumatic experiences that a person may have no conscious memory of. These buried experiences, in turn, may have real physical consequences such as phobias about automobiles, water, and so forth. Hypnosis is a powerful tool in helping to realign psychological damage that exists in the subconscious.

Therapeutic Touch
Dr. Dolores Kreiger is a registered nurse and university professor who developed a treatment technique called therapeutic touch, or TT. TT is affiliated with the concept that the body has a fixed number of energy centers, or chakras, which must be functioning and aligned in order for a person to feel whole. A TT practitioner will undertake treatment by seeking out the areas where the patient’s energy has been blocked or is misaligned for some reason. This is done through touch - the practitioner touching various parts of the body in order to determine where the patient needs treatment.

The goal of therapeutic touch, like all mind-body techniques, is to promote the patient’s capability of healing his or herself. In the case of TT, the practitioner has established methods that are designed to release blocked energy and set it to functioning properly. This process has been applied in situations where chronic pain is a problem - both to reduce the level of pain and to attempt to lower the dependency on pain medication.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.