Where to Begin with Guided Imagery for Complex Posttraumatic Stress?

A depressed paramedic who has experienced multiple traumatic events, from an abusive mother in childhood through an abusive wife in adulthood, wonders what guided imagery he should listen to first.

We make some suggestions, but also suggest some counseling or joining a support group for releasing some repeating patterns with abusive relationships . Read on:


I'm hoping you can tell me where to start with guided imagery.  I’m going through a particularly bad resurgence of depression and PTS. I am a paramedic, and in that capacity, I have experienced some fairly severe traumas.  I have seen violence in many parts of my life.

We had an abusive, alcoholic mother who beat us when we were kids. My ex-wife came back from Iraq with PTS. By the end of our relationship, she had become erratic and violent, resulting in my taking the kids and leaving her.  

My two children still struggle with the pain of losing their mother, who is no longer in communication with them.

My younger brother, who I basically looked after growing up, committed suicide at 16..

I would like to try guided imagery, but I am not sure at all which program to start with. Recommendations would be much appreciated.

John P.


Dear John,

You’ve certainly had your fair share of sorrow and trauma. I admire the way you’ve heroically carried on in spite of it all, doing the best you could under the circumstances, trying to help whomever you could, whenever you could.

I suspect that part of what you’re carrying around that feeds your recurring depression is the feeling that you should have somehow done more – to protect your brother from your mother; save your ex from her misery; and all those tragic emergencies you couldn’t fix as a paramedic.

So on top of all the violence and hurt you’ve been hit with, you maybe also have the added burden of feeling that you’re responsible for it all. If so, that fits a codependent pattern, to at least some extent. Maybe some counseling or a recovery support group could help with this? …just a thought that I hope you’ll consider.  

As for what imagery to start with: you really could start with any of several – that depends on what level of intensity you’re ready for. Certainly you could theoretically make good use of the Grief, Depression and Healing Trauma imagery. Traci Stein’s Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion would be wonderful, too.

Certainly the payload is dealing with your own complex, layered posttraumatic stress. So if you’re up for the emotional intensity of it, I’d go straight for the Healing Trauma imagery and play it multiple times, as frequently as you need to hear it, for as many weeks or months as it takes. You may want to alternate it with some of the others, just for variety. 

The imagery might make you pretty emotional, but that’s okay. You have a lot to release. I’d guess I’d listen to the tracks on Traci’s Self-Compassion program to have a safe holding space that supports your healing and helps you cut yourself a break as you move through this. 

If you feel you want to build up to the trauma imagery, I’d start with the Depression, and then, after a few weeks, perhaps move to the more cathartic Grief imagery.  You can alternate these with Traci’s Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion programs. You’ll be more than ready for Healing Trauma after working with these other audios first.

I hope this helps. Best of luck and check in now and then.

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