A social worker reports how guided imagery is starting to install some impulse control into the incarcerated youth he works with, increasing the period of time between thought and retaliatory deed.. I was inspired by the corrections counselor’s story to share another story. I, too, work with incarcerated youth. They are all being tried as adults. The jail where they are housed has generously opened up the possibility of letting an inmate listen to an imagery cassette on anger and forgiveness. He had only begun to listen to the tape, and maybe had heard it three times when all this went down.

He is on lockdown for a fight because another inmate ruined his food. He became very angry and began pacing his cell, trying to decide what to do. He wanted to charge his peer when his cell door was opened. He paced and paced. Then he lay down on his bunk and continued to think. (This alone is progress. In the past, he would react so impulsively, he could not have actively thought about his actions and consequences before reacting.)

Well, eventually he did choose to rush the other inmate. However, just the fact that he contemplated his actions for a while beforehand was a great success. Later on, in talking with me, when he described what happened, he said one of the things that helped as he mulled over what do was: "I kept hearing the voice telling me not to do it." I asked him what voice, thinking maybe he was having auditory hallucinations. He answered, "The lady on the tape. I kept hearing her voice."

I feel this is an instance of great progress and hope. Guided imagery is a great resource.

Craig Lothrop, LCSW