Help for Those With Traumatic Head Injuries

Using guided imagery with semi-comatose patients

Do you have any questions about healing, intuition, or guided imagery? Ask our expert, imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek, the creator of the Health Journeys tape series and founder of

The Guided Imagery Resource Center

. Contact her at

Listen to an

audio clip

to assist recovery from trauma.


Do you have any suggestions about guided imagery or meditation tapes that might be useful for an 18-year-old who has sustained a head injury and is semi-comatose? Also, do you know of any research studying guided imagery's effectiveness in this area?

A: There are many excellent general healing audio programs available now. Both Emmett Miller and Jeanne Achterberg have produced some fine recordings, as has Jon Kabat-Zinn and Joan Borysenko. I've sometimes recommended our stroke tape for this kind of situation, because there is imagery in there for imagining the body working to rebuild itself and to generate alternate neurological routes for getting sensory motor function back.


The only hesitation I have is that if the voice or content is incompatible or grating to the patient, there's no way she can say, "Hey, shut that miserable thing off!" But if you know her likes and dislikes, I'd say, yes, by all means, give it a try.

Although I don't know of any studies with semi-comatose patients, my colleagues and I have certainly heard plenty of anecdotes, including those from patients who were once comatose. In looking back and reporting on their experiences, they remembered a great deal of what was said and done while they were presumably non compos mentis.

In a tangentially related vein, I'm aware of some studies involving anesthesia that show that people pick up information while under its influence. The most recent one I know about was done at Columbia Presbyterian by principal investigator David Adams, M.D., with cardiac transplant patients.

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Belleruth Naparstek
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