“Visual or guided imagery can help clients block out intrusive visualizations by substituting a relaxing or empowering visualization or image” (Erford, 2020: 77).
I recently attended an early morning devotion at a church imbedded in a high crime neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. The deacon was leading the prayer meeting where the topic was how to be a leader in our own lives. The 37 participants had various levels of experiences with “life in the streets” as one of them summarized, some being very familiar with being recent victims and/or perpetrators of crime.
At one point, the tension in the air grew as some participants became restless. Although the various Biblical scriptures explained the good virtues of leading our lives, and some participants were quite attentive, one young man stood up, stretched his arms, and began walking out of the room while he uttered some unpleasant words reflecting his fatigue with listening to scriptural readings. The deacon identified the young man’s words and actions as an indication of the presence of demons that needed to be chased. The other participants looked on with apparent astonishment.
Concerned about the seemingly angry way that the young man left the room, a few seconds later I decided to exit the room through his same path. I met him outside smoking a cigarette, blowing the smoke into the air, and looking up into the sky. He seemed surprised to see me and curious about my presence. I asked if he was okay, and he responded, “I just need some peace.”
I asked if it was fine for me to do an exercise with him. He looked at me strangely, and said yes. He extinguished the cigarette by crushing its tip on the nearby wall. I asked him to keep looking into the sky, to keep his eyes open or closed as he felt comfortable, and imagine one of the most peaceful times he has had in his life. He asked me if it was fine for him to sit. I said yes, and we both sat on the steps leading into that section of the church. Surprising to me, he closed his eyes.
I asked him to imagine one of the most peaceful times of his life and try to relive it now. I told him that we were going to next invite that moment to visit various parts of his body. I started calling out the top of his head, forehead, ears, facial cheeks, mouth, chin, neck, and so on as I traveled downward mentioning various body parts. I asked him to imagine the presence of that peace in each of his body parts that I named. After mentioning his neck, I invited him to be the one naming body parts as I watched him. He accepted the invitation.
After slightly over eight minutes and no more body parts to call out after his toes, he identified the underneath of his feet, and gently moved his right and left feet in a forward and backward motion on the ground for about another 20 seconds. He said no words, and his eyes remained closed.
After the exercise, he asked, “so what was this all about?” I asked him what it meant to him. He answered, “for a moment, I found some peace.” I responded by asking him if he thought that he would be able to find some peace again when he needs it. “Yes, thanks for the gift, thanks for that tool,” he replied. I said that he was welcome, and I was happy to share.
He asked me where I was from. I said that I am a counseling student at North Park University, but I am here as a combined effort of my internship supervisors at Olive Branch Counseling Associates in Tinley Park in the South Suburbs, and Gro Community in Roseland on the South Side. “Tell them thanks,” he said, moving his chin upwards, wiping the dripping tear from his crying eyes, as he started climbing the steps. We both walked back inside in silence.
Written By: Peter K. B. St. Jean, Masters Level Intern
Erford, Bradley. (2020). 45 Techniques Every Counselor Should Know. Third Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education.