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Leslie Davenport on Guided Imagery in Hospitals

Creating and Sustaining Hospital Based Imagery Programs
by Leslie Davenport, MFT

Leslie Davenport, MFT

Healthcare is in need of healing — as is the environment, food production, finances, and education.  We human beings, with our evolving minds and emotions, have such a marvelous capacity for inventiveness. Yet it is tragically easy to recognize that most of our systems are radically out of balance.

Part of the reason we careen down these dangerous paths is that most of us are not using our whole brains as we navigate decisions. As guided imagery enthusiasts and advocates, you are well aware that the area of human perception where images arise is underutilized and undervalued in our culture. Many of the subtle, intuitive, and soulful aspects of life which would provide life-affirming balance within our institutions are blind to the analytical lens we see through so much of the time.

The benefits of guided imagery in a hospital setting are multilayered, because imagery is not only powerful in helping people heal, but also in transforming healthcare.  Patients who are introduced to imagery experiences in the hospital are awakened to their natural but dormant imaginative domains. Becoming empowered through imagery goes home with them, and some people are intrigued enough to continue developing imagery skills for a range of life experiences beyond their medical concerns. In this way, imagery grows organically into their lives, and the excitement of this valuable discovery often spills over to their work, and circle of family and friends. Physicians and other hospitals staff also become educated to the power of imagery as patients spontaneously report the benefits of their sessions, such as reduced side effects, deceased anxiety and overcoming insomnia.

We are fortunate that the guided imagery services, which are part of the Institute for Health and Healing, are well integrated into all medical units at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. A team of twenty-four imagery practitioners provide imagery sessions in maternity, pediatrics, oncology, cardiology, transplant, surgery, palliative care and hospice. The imagery practitioners also participate in medical rounds, provide staff in-services, and facilitate imagery-based community support groups.

I began offering guided imagery in a hospital in 1989, and have since launched imagery programs at five hospitals. I would love to see more of these kinds of programs take root, and am excited to share what I have learned over the last twenty years.

You can visit the Institute for Health and Healing website to learn more about the Guided Imagery/Expressive Arts certification program. A student in the program has written about her experience here.

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