The Therapeutic Classroom

Guided Imagery and Visualizations for Students with Anger Problems Carmen Y. Reyes
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Techniques like robot/rag doll (See my article on Scribd, “Child Guidance Skills for Teachers: Relaxation Techniques for Angry and Troubled Students”), take advantage of children’s vivid imagination to help them relax and to solve social problems. Teachers can train children to use their imagination to learn relaxation breathing. For instance, in the bubble technique the student imagines herself taking a deep breath and then, very slowly, the child lets the air out so that the bubble gets as big as possible. Alternatively, the child can imagine a candle in front of her. As the child exhales, she makes the candle flicker but not to go out. We can train emotionally troubled and behaviorally disordered students to use their imagination to create what they want in life and as a mean of seeing themselves in a more positive light; for example, to perceive themselves as better able to tolerate frustration or to inhibit anger episodes and/or tantrums. Known as creative visualization, children learn to use their imagination to overcome fears, shyness, insecurity, anxiety, or anger. Examples of creative visualizations that we can use with children are: 1) Help the child imagine, as vividly as possible, how his life is when he exercises the strong will that will enable him to stop his temper tantrums. The child imagines that he has attained this willpower. Ask the child to describe the images fully and in detail, or instruct the child to draw a picture of the mental scene (Schaefer, 1994).

The student can imagine pleasant scenes about rainbows.” 7) Help the child create a mental movie where his superhero guides him in how to deal with the problem (e. tells you to ignore the two boys and to walk away with him… Now. “Imagine that you…” followed by the teacher describing the calming and relaxing scene. who is very _____ (e. “You are in the schoolyard with Batman. and you start smiling and feeling proud of yourself for the mature way that you are handling this problem.g. the teacher helps the child go through the mental scene using the phrase. “Think of someone you know and like. close your eyes and imagine that you are this (calm or clever) person. 5) Train the student to turn on a make-believe TV in his mind. the more details you put in the images. and that you are (e. The child can imagine that he is a character from his favorite TV show. the screen brightens and the picture gets clearer. We can use a metaphor like a basketball game or a soccer game to describe success. calm or clever). for example.g. clouds. that is.2) Teach the child to use positive imagery. You can structure this visualization. the child imagines a pleasant. Batman squeezes your hand. you are walking away with Batman. the beach. calm scene like sailing on a boat. Suddenly. 6) Tell the child. swimming. Alternatively. As the child watches with the eyes closed. or just any scene that helps him calm down and cope successfully with the current problem. the better. etc. and the more varied and intense the images.” With visualization exercises. vacations. the child can “let go” his worries when he is horse riding. 4) Help the student visualize a movie of success where he recalls and borrows a previous achievement or triumph (from an area where the child is already successful) and uses these success images to outline a success plan in the current problem. taking the spelling test or dealing with name-calling) the same way this (calm or clever) person does. 3) In guided visualizations.g. . saying. name-calling or tantrums). Batman is waving good-bye to you and drives away on his batmovil… The other kids in the schoolyard are thinking that you are so cool for having a friend like Batman. a forest. You can see in Batman’s face that he is feeling proud of you for walking away calmly. or a warm spring day at the lake. Now. Now. and very softly. these two boys start calling you names.

shyness.8) Use the technique “Imagine yourself as…” The child imagines that he is talking with a superhero or a real person that he admires.” sending the calming color through her body to relax and to feel at ease. and in control. so you need to repeat the exercise several times (on separate 10-15 minutes sessions) until it is easy for the child to “become the hero. 10) Rief (1993) recommends a color visualization exercise that we can use with students with attention deficit disorders or ADD. the child relaxes the muscles to cope with tension. turquoise. pink. jade. or amber) and she learns to “breathe the color. The student selects a color that is calming to her (e. Finally. and closing the eyes. or tantrum problem. as the hero.” Once the child is ready. he imagines that he is a turtle withdrawing into his shell: the arms close to the body. 9) The turtle technique uses imagery to deal with angry feelings and aggressive behaviors in children (Schneider and Dolnick. When the student starts feeling angry. To help the student describe the scene in detail. using problem-solving techniques. you can ask questions like:       How is he dressed? Where the two of you are? What is he doing? What are you doing? How does his voice sound? What is he telling you? Then the child imagines that he is merging with the hero and becoming the hero. 1976).g. the child generates an alternative behavior (not angry or aggressive) to deal with the problem. gold. The child can create and visualize a hero that helps in dealing with fearful situations as well. peaceful. violet. . you guide the child in taking hero steps to resolve his anger issues. and down to the stomach until her body is filled with the (peaceful. Inside the turtle’s shell. The child pictures the calming color going down the throat. white. lowering the head. This visualization is easily adapted to deal with children with anger or acting-out problems. into the neck and chest. absorbing all the hero’s qualities and strengths. It may take time for the child to master this mental exercise.

Carmarthen. or any other pleasant and comfortable sensation. Child guidance skills for teachers: Relaxation techniques for angry and troubled students. As an alternative to colors. sad. You can guide the child to (relax. feel at ease. . and interventions for helping children with attention problems and hyperactivity. http://www. 2003) Related Article Reyes. light. when you find yourself feeling (angry. for example. E. Y. we can train the child to cue herself so that she can apply the strategy any time she needs to regain her self-control. West Nyack. The child can send the calming color to her hand until she releases the fist and fingers loose. Northvale. (1994). telling the child that with each breath she takes in. 11) Once the student knows how to relax using deep breathing. or anxious)… Just place your hand on your stomach again and go inside… Fill your stomach with this beautiful color… Keep breathing… slowly… Notice how the (anger. warmth. S. (2010). a color. NY: Center for Applied Research. or anxiety) dissolves… The (anger. fear. peaceful. or any other visualization exercise. References Mahony. and/ or relaxed. fear. strategies. Words work! How to change your language to improve behaviour in your classroom. How to influence children: A handbook of practical child guidance skills (Second Edition). she absorbs more and more of this calming color and her body feels more comfortable. C. Schaefer. C. (1993). How to reach and teach ADD/ADHD children: Practical techniques. sadness.scribd. or anxiety) goes away… Until it has completely gone…” (Adapted from Mahony. Reif recommends that children visualize a soothing aroma. or wonderful) color and feeling. Wales: Crown House.beautiful. a sound. afraid. NJ: Jason Aronson. For example. or feel comfortable). “Now imagine yourself in the future. (2003). T. you can tell the child. F. sadness.

M. Reyes. includes ten years teaching emotionally disturbed/behaviorally disordered children and four years teaching students with a learning disability or low cognitive functioning. and educational diagnostician. and in teaching students with learning or behavior problems. Psychology in the Schools. resource room teacher. in New York City and her native Puerto Rico. Carmen is the author of 60+ books and articles in child guidance and in alternative techniques for students with low academic skills. 449-453. The turtle technique: An extended case study of selfcontrol in the classroom. You can read the complete collection of articles on Scribd or her blog. Carmen has a bachelor’s degree in psychology (University of Puerto Rico) and a master’s degree in special education with a specialization in emotional disorders (Long Island University. Carmen is an expert in the application of behavior management strategies. “The Psycho-Educational Teacher. The Psycho-Educational Teacher. . Brooklyn: NY). She also has extensive graduate training in psychology (30+ credits).” To preview her books and download the free eguide. Carmen has taught at all grade levels. About the Author Carmen Y. (1976). R. A. & Dolnick. Her classroom background. from kindergarten to post secondary. pp.. has more than twenty years of experience as a self-contained special education teacher.Schneider. “Persuasive Discipline: Using Power Messages and Suggestions to Influence Children Toward Positive Behavior” visit Carmen’s blog. 13.

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