A worried Dad asks for suggestions on how to introduce guided imagery to his active duty son, who already has PTSD and is about to go back to Iraq and get some more.. Our son is back from Iraq and is now getting ready to be re-deployed. It is clear to my wife and me that he is suffering from posttraumatic stress, which has gotten worse ever since he learned he had to go back.

I would like to introduce him to the guided imagery used in the study at Duke - the Relaxation & Wellness and the Healing Trauma imagery, but I would like to describe it to him in a way that will agree with his military way of thinking, so he will not be turned off. Do you have any ideas on how I can make this palatable enough to get him to give it a try?

Art L. from OKC

Dear Art,

Thank you for the question - a very astute one that takes into account how important language is, in getting your soldier son to give this a try. There is, in fact, a military-friendly way of introducing guided imagery, that we are liberally borrowing from a program already in effect that trains military in learning imagery, yoga, meditation and other methods, pre-deployment, in hopes that these methods will prevent the later acquisition of PTSD or at least mitigate the severity of symptoms.

You can refer to the guided imagery as a simple, individually executable mental exercise for navigating operational and combat stress. Or how about calling it a self-mastery tool to mitigate negative impacts of intense situations. Or you might say it’s a personal optimization skill for up tempo combat environments, that produces stress-hardiness and greater stamina. You get the idea. It’s all true, too. Just a different way of framing guided imagery.

Good luck. I hope your son gives it a try, and that he comes back to you, safe and sound.