Someone asks what is the best way to become licensed in guided imagery, so she can work with patients before and after surgery; and how to fulfill a dream of opening up a healing center.. BR,
I am not a licensed healthcare professional, although I have completed some college pre-med courses years ago while pursuing an art therapy degree. I have also worked in surgery at a local trauma hospital in Alabama, as a surgical technologist (not certified, just hands on training) assigned to neurosurgery.

I am interested in becoming licensed in guided imagery and working with patients before and after surgery. How can I ensure getting to do this? Will I have to get my RN?

On a grander scale, I dream of opening a Center for Healing, incorporating mind/body medicine. I am just having a difficult time clarifying what education will be necessary for me to complete in order to accomplish my goal. I know I am competent enough to get it off the ground, but I realize clients/patrons/ins. companies will usually prefer some kind of healthcare licensure. Currently I have been a Realtor for the past two years, but I cannot deny my inner calling to be a healer. What do you think?? Thanks in advance!!


Dear Hilary,
There are several avenues you can take to get to your goal of helping patients with guided imagery, before and after surgery. There is no institutional licensing in guided imagery, although there are many fine certificate programs. For training plus legitimacy in the hospital setting, you would need a terminal degree: an RN would deliver the paper with the best match for your wishes - with an emphasis on learning the physiology of the human body and methods and techniques of medical treatment. Nonetheless, you would still need to find a hospital with a holistic or mind-body-spirit program that would be willing to deploy you in this way. Many hospitals now have such services, but I just want to be clear that, even with an RN, you would have to be pretty self-motivated and resourceful about getting to do this type of work, and it would likely have to be along with doing a lot of other things.

In addition, a masters in social work (MSW) would also get you a legitimate, clinical spot in a hospital setting. That training is more psychologically oriented and might suit you, but, again, just to warn you: nowadays hospital social workers spend a lot of time on discharge planning, and in the O.R. they generally must defer to the medically trained personnel. So again, having an MSW won’t ensure you get to do what you want either, without a little extra ingenuity from you.

And finally, a massage therapy license (MT) could also get you where you want to go, and would take you less time. But again, you’d need to find a hospital or insurance program that would be happy to use you in this way.

You could also get guided imagery training with Beyond Ordinary Nursing or the Academy for Guided Imagery, and volunteer your services through one of the many organizations that provide complementary mind-body-spirit therapies to people.

As for training to start a healing center, I’d definitely work or volunteer in at least one such center first, and see how it works. I’d also meet with people who started these places and see what it took - not just to start it but to keep it going. I suspect that for this skill set, you’d most need management, entrepreneurial and business development skills. The places that have survived have mostly learned how to pay for themselves, perhaps supplemented by grants; or else they have superb fundraisers at their helm who spend most of their time getting donations and forging powerful community relationships.

So I suggest you take it one step at a time and see if this is for you, one step at a time.