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A Word From Our Therapist: Visualization to Reduce Anxiety

Visualization is another evidence-based coping skill that is effective in helping children, adolescents and adults feel more relaxed. There are several variations of visualization, some of which are guided via meditation CDs, YouTube videos, or apps while others unfold naturally. I often teach this skill when people are feeling anxious, having difficulty falling asleep, feeling sad or depressed, or struggling to regulate anger. When I teach this strategy to children I usually refer to visualization as the “happy place.”
Here are simple steps to helping your child practice a basic visualization:

  • Find a comfortable place to relax, either sitting or lying down.
  • If you feel comfortable closing your eyes, consider doing so. If you prefer your eyes to remain open, focus on a spot on the floor.
  • Practice a few slow, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Ask the following questions:

  • If you could be anywhere in the world, real or pretend, where would you choose to be? The only rule is you must feel happy there. Now go there in your mind.
  • Are you there alone or is anyone with you?
  • What do you see? Give as many details as you can. 
  • What do you hear?
  • Do you smell anything?
  • Can you taste anything? Sometimes people have their favorite snacks, food or drinks in their happy place.
  • What can you feel on your body? (ie. water on your feet if you are at the beach; the sun or wind on your skin)

If you can use as many details as possible, it helps the visualization to become more effective at reducing tension and distress. Remember to ask questions about the 5 senses to pull details from the visualization.
Visualization is a coping skill that can be fun to practice. Sometimes people select the same place to visualize each time, while others have several “happy places” they like to think of.
Thank you,

Annie Gray, LICSW
Behavioral Health ConsultantWestwood-Mansfield Pediatric Associates
“Proactive in your child’s care. Empowering families for over 65 years.”

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