Relaxation made just for you:
Delayna Haley lounges on a swing in the backyard of her Flint, Mich., home. Her fluffy,
white dog Attie jumps up and flops next to her to cuddle. It's a summer day, and Haley smells the flowers.
U-M guided imagery expert creates customized CD's for patients
In reality, though, it's a chilly day -- a day too cold to sit outside. And although her mind has drifted back home, Haley is lying
in a private infusion room in the University of Michigan Cancer Center. Haley is listening to a recording created especially for her by
the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center's guided imagery clinician, Claire Casselman.
Delayna Haley listens to a guided imagery
podcast created specifically for her to
help her relax and fall asleep more easily.
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"Listening to this relaxes me," says Haley, who is undergoing treatment for stage IV
Ewing sarcoma. "My breathing changes, and all of my muscles aren't tense anymore. I
listen only to Claire's voice, and no thoughts cross my mind."
Guided imagery has been shown to lower blood pressure, decrease stress hormones,
help with chronic pain, enhance sleep, lessen side effects, boost the immune system and
improve surgical recovery.
At the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, Casselman, a licensed clinical social
worker, begins a guided imagery session by talking with patients to learn about their
worries, hopes and goals. For some, guided imagery is a tool to reduce overall anxiety;
for others, it's a tool to be used in a specific situation -- for example, before the start of
Casselman asks patients what types of experiences or images appeal to them. It's
different for everyone and can vary based on a person's goals. For Haley, relaxing on the swing with her dog was ideal for calming
herself and helping with sleep problems. But for times when she wanted to feel more energetic, Haley preferred to envision herself
diving into a pool and swimming -- a favorite activity she hasn't been able to do since
After discussing in specific detail
why certain images or activities are
comforting, Casselman develops a script. Using her low, soothing
voice, Casselman records a CD that walks
patients through breathing exercises followed
by an imagery exercise tailored to the
individual patient. She may make tweaks after
getting feedback from the patient as well.
"Research shows us that there's a significant number of people who respond even more
positively to an image that's personalized and speaks to their particular situation," Casselman
says. "We already employ our imagination in everyday ways, and this work is learning to
steer it in a direction that's very beneficial. It doesn't take a lot of training or skill to make
your imagination a very powerful ally."
For Haley, guided imagery has become a tool for helping her to
"I breathe in
good energy and
breathe out the
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