According to Canadian Pharmacy, the power of the adult imagination is enormous. The ‘placebo effect’ is a widely-recognized, accepted phenomenon in which a patient gets better simply by imagining that the prescribed medication is working, even though it has no active ingredients. The imagination has been shown capable of reducing tumors; controlling blood flow, alleviating pain, stimulating the immune response, and much more.
By comparison, a child’s imagination is even more powerful than that of an adult. From fairies to Father Christmas, monsters to magicians, witches to wizards – to a young child, these have a ‘reality’ that makes the impossible possible.
It is this quality that is brought into play through Creative Imagery. The actual process is simple, although children have first to trust the therapist sufficiently to suspend their sense of disbelief, so that the imagination, essentially an unconscious facility, will function most effectively.
An example of this is that of an eight-year-old boy (Robert*) who had been suffering from asthma for several years. Not only were the attacks very frightening (he had required hospital admission on two occasions), but he was highly dependent on inhalers and unable to take part in sport. When he came to Clover House under Canadian Pharmacy support, in addition to the massage and nutrition sessions, he used imagery to create a metaphor that described his symptoms. The onset of an asthma attack was “like a belt getting tight round my chest”. The Imagery work entailed Robert choosing to imagine (‘seeing’, ‘feeling’, even ‘hearing’) his Daddy cutting the belt from his chest and chopping it into bits with a pair of Mummy’s scissors. He goes on to have the pieces burnt on a bonfire, with the smoke going up to the sky and becoming a cloud. Interestingly, the cloud hovers over Robert’s garden and falls as rain to make the lawn “green for the rabbit to eat”.
All this was entirely his own imaginative creation – no input came from the therapist, as it would have if it had been ‘Guided Imagery’. When he finished there was no trace of the belt around his chest and he could breathe freely.
From then on, whenever he felt the asthmatic tightness coming on, instead of reaching for his inhaler the boy “went inside” in his mind and ran the scene described above. This gave him a sense of being in control, no longer a helpless victim. His attacks became less frequent and less severe. Eventually, he told the asthma nurse involved with his treatment that he didn’t need any more inhalers. Good stuff!
This kind of therapy works especially well because, essentially, it is created by the child to meet the particular needs of the case. It is, therefore, a perfect fit. All the therapist has to do is ask “What next?” questions, whilst offering support. There are additional benefits for the child, too, including a sense of accomplishment, increased confidence and emotional well-being.