Guided Imagery

Guided Imagery in helping you cope with surgery: It's use in Heart Surgery and other Procedures   

What is guided imagery?

Guided imagery is a proven form of focused relaxation that helps create harmony between the mind and body. Guided imagery coaches you in creating calm, peaceful images in your mind – a "mental escape."

Guided imagery provides a powerful psychological strategy that enhances a person’s coping skills. Many people dealing with stress feel loss of control, fear, panic, anxiety, helplessness and uncertainty. Research has shown that guided imagery can dramatically counteract these effects. It can help people overcome stress, anger, pain, depression, insomnia and other problems often associated with illnesses and medical/surgical procedures.

Positive role of guided imagery in medicine

Over 200 research studies in the past 30 years have explored the role of mind-body techniques in helping prepare people for surgical and medical procedures and helping them recover more rapidly. These studies have shown that guided imagery may significantly reduce stress and anxiety before and after surgical and medical procedures. In addition guided imagery has proven to help people:

  • Dramatically decrease pain and the need for pain medication
  • Decrease side effects and complications of medical procedures
  • Reduce recovery time and shorten hospital stays
  • Enhance sleep
  • Strengthen the immune system and enhance the ability to heal
  • Increase self-confidence and self-control

In addition to helping patients cope during a medical or surgical procedure, guided imagery can help patients undergoing chemotherapy, dialysis, in vitro fertilization or other treatment procedures.

Mentally preparing for your procedure

If you are undergoing a medical or surgical procedure, use guided imagery before, during and after the procedure.

  • Prepare to use guided imagery techniques before, during and after the procedure.
  • Identify your self-talk, that is, what you are saying to yourself about the surgery or procedure you are going to have. It is important to identify negative self-talk and develop healthy, positive self-talk. This is a powerful way to take control of the way you are reacting to the sense of unknown about the procedure.
  • Reduce pre-procedure worry by gathering information about the procedure, your doctor and the medical facility. You can also reduce worry by performing a self-assessment of your emotions. Then take steps to reduce anxiety, reduce unhappiness, and increase your social social support and confidence.
  • Develop a working relationship with your doctors and nurses. Try to identify what occupies your thoughts in the days before your procedure.
  • Communicate with your friends and family members so that you have a sense of warmth, love and support in preparing and recovering from the procedure.


Practice these strong, positive statements to counteract negative thoughts and emotions before, during and after the procedure:

  • More and more I let go of things I can not control.
  • I am healthy, vital and strong.
  • There is nothing in the world I can not handle.
  • I am not judgmental.
  • I forgive and release the past.
  • All of my needs are met.
  • The challenges in my life are my teachers.
  • I am completely and utterly safe.
  • Every day in every way I am getting stronger.

When to listen to guided imagery tapes

What to bring to listen to the tapes or CD:

Ask your doctor or nurse if you will be able to play your tape during your procedure. On the day of the procedure or surgery, please bring an auto-reverse, portable tape player with head-phones, or a portable CD player with headphones, with new batteries. Please label the tape or CD player with your name, clinic number and phone number. If you don't have a tape or CD player, you can purchase one in the hospital gift shop. New batteries are recommended.

Before the procedure

Begin listening to the tapes or CD as soon as possible before your procedure. Listeners are encouraged to confront and work through any feelings of fear, anxiety or negativity. After listening to the tapes, people report feeling a strong sense of peace and relaxation.

During the procedure

Most people listen to the program as they are being taken to the procedure room. The program will play continually during your procedure and during your recovery in the recovery room with your auto-reverse tape player or, you can set your portable CD player to continuous play. Our heart surgery staff is aware of the guided imagery program and will allow you to wear your headphones during the procedure.

People have responded that listening to the tape during a medical or surgical procedure helps them to refocus their thoughts away from pain, anxiety and fear. In addition, they have reported waking from the procedure very comforted and less frightened.

During some interventional procedures, the physician will need to speak to you during the procedure. You may be able to listen before, but not during, these particular procedures. Ask your doctor if you will be able to listen to your tape or CD during the procedure.

After the procedure

Begin listening to the program at any time after your procedure, preferably the morning after your surgery and twice daily during your recovery. You may need your family members, friends or nurse to assist you in putting the tapes or CD in the player and playing them, as you will be drowsy after the procedure.

The more you listen, the greater you will benefit!

You may continue to listen to the program after you are discharged from the hospital for personal relaxation or sleep after the procedure. It is helpful to listen to the program without interruption, if possible.

Family members have also reported a beneficial effect from listening to guided imagery tapes to help reduce the anxiety of having a loved one in the hospital or undergoing a surgical procedure.

Patients must understand that guided imagery is not an alternative to medical or surgical treatment, nor is it a cure. Rather, it is an inexpensive, yet powerful way in which patients can actively participate in their health care.