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Relaxation Techniques, 3rd Edition
A Practical Handbook for the Health Care Professional
by Rosemary A. Payne, BSc, MCSP

This book brings together in one volume 18 of the most commonly used methods of relaxation. Different techniques drawn from muscular, breathing and psychological approaches.

Full Description:   

This book brings together in one volume 18 of the most commonly used methods of relaxation. Different techniques drawn from muscular, breathing and psychological approaches are described and illustrated by sample scripts and schedules. The methods are suitable for small groups and individuals.

    Key features:
  • Focuses on the practical aspects of relaxation techniques
  • Provides ready-to-use schedules and scripts
  • Pitfalls of each method are discussed in detail
  • Background theory to each technique is desribed
  • Muscular approaches include progressive relaxation, the Mitchell method and the Alexander technique
  • Psychological approaches include self-awareness, imagery, autogenics, meditation and positive self-talk

Chapter Excerpt



For the imagery to be effective, the individual should first be in a state of relaxation. Fanning (1988) regards relaxation as 'an absolute prerequisite' of effective imagery. The individual may use any method she finds helpful, but passive approaches are seen as being the most appropriate (Achterberg 1985). Thus relaxation is a precondition as well as a result of therapeutic imagery.

Introductory remarks to participants

As with other approaches, a short passage of explanation is appropriate.

Imagery is about building pictures in the mind. The pictures can be pleasant or unpleasant. The first kind induce a feeling of calm, the second, of unease.

The relaxing effect of pleasant imagery is partly due to the distraction it creates from stressful thoughts. Daydreaming is an example of this kind of imagery. However, the imagination can also bring us nearer to our inner selves, and this aspect of it is used to help people discover new possibilities in themselves, thereby enriching their lives. This kind of imagery is more structures than daydreaming.

You'll find it helpful to make yourself relaxed before you begin.


A session of imagery should be gradually brought to an end. First, the image is deliberately allowed to fade. Then the visualizer slowly brings her attention back to the room in which she is lying, and in her own time, opens her eyes. In the next few minutes she gives her limbs a gentle stretch and then resumes normal activity.


It seems that people differ in the vividness and clarity of the images they create, and also in the ability to control the image once formed (Finke 1989). Imaging ability is thus not a unitary skill. Again, some people find it easier to conjure up images than others.

There is some evidence to suggest that image-forming can be improved with practice, although the extent of any such improvement has not been determined (Kosslyn 1983, Lichstein 1988). Nevertheless, exercises are often used in the belief that they help to develop innate potential. A difficulty in imaging should not, however, be seen as a deficit but reather, as a manifestation of the many ways in which human beings differ from one another. People who report difficulty in forming images, may also describe a sensation which fulfills the same function in their thought processes.

For those who wish to explore their capacity to create images, however, the following exercises are presented. They use the modalities of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, temperature and kinaesthetic sense. A total of 15-20 seconds can be spent on each item.



  • a shape: circle, triangle, square
  • an oak tree
  • a snail
  • a sailing boat
  • a button
  • a strand of hair.


Since visual images tend to be more dominant than auditory ones, it can be useful, when evoking the latter, to surround oneself with an imaginary mist or darkness which swallows up any visual images and releases sounds in isolation. Imaging:

  • the wind blowing through the trees, through river edges, through sheets on a clothes line
  • the ring of your telephone
  • different people calling your name
  • horses' hooves on different surfaces: cobblestone, tarmac, hard sand, deep mud
  • scales played on the piano
  • traffic starting off
  • water flowing along a rocky stream bed, lapping on a lake shore or cascading from a height.


Slowly conjure up one by one, the following smells:

  • thyme trodden underfoot
  • petrol fumes
  • newly baked bread
  • hyacinth scent
  • chlorine
  • new mown grass
  • vanilla


Imagine the taste of:

  • sprouts,
  • figs
  • banana
  • mayonnaise
  • grapefruit
  • toothpaste


    Let other sensory images fade as you turn your attention to those of touch. Evoke the following tactile images:

    • shaking hands
    • standing barefoot on loose, dry sand
    • running your fingers over satin, velvet, sacking
    • brushing past fur
    • holding a smooth pebble
    • threading a needle


    Image sensations of heat and cold:

    • drinking a hot liquid
    • sunlight falling on your arm
    • moving from a warm room to a cool one
    • holding an ice-cube
    • stepping into a warm bath.

    Kinaesthetic sense

    This sense is the perception of body movement. Feel yourself engaged in a form of activity:

    • swimming
    • running on grass
    • sawing wood
    • throwing a ball
    • climbing a sand dune
    • hanging a coat on a peg
    • stirring syrup.

    Imagery drawn from all sense modalities

    Fanning (1988) suggests an exercise which draws on all the above sense modalities:

    Take a fruit that you like, say an orange. Feel its texture...weight...size...notice its shape...colour and surface it firm or soft?...smell it...then dig your nail into the peel and begin to tear it off. Listen to the faint sound of the tearing. As you peel the orange, notice how the flesh gets exposed here and there, releasing a new smell. Separate the segments and put one in your mouth...bite through its juicy flesh...feel the sensation of the juice running over your tongue...recognize the taste of orange...

    From the above exercise it can be seen that variety of sensory detail helps to build a vivid mental image. When we visualize a scene we usually draw on more than one sense modality, and we can make the scene still more vivid by adding further sensory information. Images of sight, sound, smell, texture, temperature and the sensation of body movement can all be used to enrich the mental picture. Guided imagery (p. 141) employs these ideas.

    New to this edition:

    • Two new chapters on cognitive behavioral approaches and other techniques
    • including yoga, Eastern methods, body awareness therapy, massage, aromatherapy, and reflex therapy.
    • 2-color design throughout.
    • Most line drawings are redrawn in 2-color.
    • Now includes guidelines for selecting the appropriate therapy for use with each individual.
    • Psychological theory sections in Chapters 1 and 3 are completely rewritten and expanded.
    • Includes references and short explanations of relevant recent research.

    300 pages 85 ills 7 7/16 X 9 11/16 in


    Section 1. Introduction Theoretical background General aspects of relaxation training Stress Section 2. Somatic methods of relaxation Progressive relaxation Progressive relaxation training A tense-release script Passive muscular relaxation Applied relaxation Behavioral relaxation training The Mitchell method The Alexander technique Differential relaxation Stretchings Physical exercise Breathing Section 3. Cognitive approaches to relaxation Self-awareness Imagery Goal-directed visualization Autogenic training Meditation Benson's method Cognitive behavioral approaches Section 4. Miscellaneous topics On-the-spot techniques Other techniques Relaxation in pregnancy and childbirth Measurement: patient assessment and clinical audit Evidence from research suggesting choice of technique for particular conditions. Drawing the threads together. Section 5. Appendices and references Index

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