What is guided meditation?
Let’s say you’d like to meditate but are having a hard time focusing. Or you need help with even a basic attempt to relax. Or you wish you could be mentally transported away from your current routine and surroundings, or you long to simply have some easing of withdrawal symptoms for a while. Guided meditation, in which someone provides verbal instruction—via an audio recording, a video, or in person—is designed to help achieve goals such as these, sometimes through the use of mental imagery and visualization to create sensory perceptions of taste, smell, sight, touch, movement, and sound. Similar approaches are sometimes called “guided relaxation” or “guided imagery.”
Because there’s an external, guiding voice involved, some people undergoing psychiatric drug withdrawal find that guided meditation (or guided relaxation / imagery) provides a grounding element that can be helpful. In our experience, using guided audios or videos is reported to be one of the most effective coping methods, especially if cognitive impairment is an issue. It can also be a first step toward learning to meditate unassisted, if desired—for example, some find that listening to a guided meditation about focusing on the breath or doing a body scan can eventually lead to doing those practices on their own with more comfort and ease.
Where can I find more information?
There are countless guided meditations available, via websites dedicated to them or on YouTube videos, MP3s, CDs, podcasts, or special apps. The key seems to be finding a voice, background music, tempo, and message or narration that resonate with you. What works is highly individual—a narrator’s voice that one person finds soothing may leave another person giggling, while a script that one person finds annoying might have someone else experiencing tears of relief. Many guided meditations fall into one of the following categories, or they may mix more than one together:
- Traditional guided meditations offer the voice of a teacher guiding the listener to a meditative state. There’s often more silence than verbal instruction and little or no background music.
- Body scans and guided relaxation tend to be related to mindfulness practices. They often guide the listener toward being aware of different areas of the body and noticing how each one feels without trying to change anything. Nature sounds or soothing music might be used as background.
- Guided imagery techniques invite the participant to use visualization and imagination to conjure restful scenery or go along on a “journey” that calls on all the senses. Although the narrative is scripted by the instructor, the idea is that the listener’s mind may edit or make substitutes for the original content, creating a unique and transporting experience.
- Affirmations are intended to imprint hopeful messages and thoughts in the listener’s mind and are usually coupled with another form of meditation. They’re often accompanied by background music.
Below is a random selection of guided meditations that some people in the withdrawal community have found helpful. If you like one of them, googling the creator can sometimes lead to an online library of audios or videos by that person. It’s also possible to refine a search by adding in terms like “pain,” “anxiety,” or “insomnia.” Please note that finding a guided meditation that works is a highly personal process—and that some people may find that this coping method is simply not for them.
- Tara Brach Leads a Guided Meditation: Opening and Calming (traditional meditation aimed at quieting the mind by focusing on the breath)
- Back to Basics Guided Meditation: For beginners & returning meditation users (simple meditation drawing on mindful awareness)
- Mindfulness Guided Meditation (brief meditation focusing on mindful awareness of the feet, then the belly rising and falling)
- Guided Meditation: “The Seat” (peaceful guided imagery involving the five senses, with wind sounds and some video)
- 10-Minute Guided Meditation to ease Anxiety, Worry, and Urgency (guided imagery with some affirmations)
- Guided Mindfulness Meditation on Coping with Pain (incorporates affirmations and visualization)
- Spoken Meditation for Sleep: “Into the Tree House”—A Guided Visualization for Calm (gentle narration with nature sounds and guided imagery)