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P-129 The use of relaxation, guided imagery and visualisation techniques to help relieve anxiety and pain in palliative care
  1. Jan Proud
  1. St Margaret’s Hospice, Somerset, UK


Non-pharmacological interventions are not always considered as a primary or concurrent treatment for complex physical symptoms. Work carried out within the hospice setting has shown marked improvements in the physical and psychological condition of patients who have difficult to control symptoms, by using alternative patient-centred, holistic techniques.

The hospice employed an autogenic psychotherapist to treat a patient who was in a chronic state of stress. It was identified that stress management would have a profound effect on the patient’s overall condition. Teaching sessions were provided to staff enabling them to use techniques that have shown positive symptom management results.

Conventional practice is to treat with medication – analgesia and anxiolytics. The aim was to introduce a variety of techniques giving both patients and their carers strategies to use to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and pain within palliative care.

Training sessions included experiential learning and reflective practice, taught staff to use simple breathing exercises, progressive muscular relaxation, guided imagery and visualisation techniques.

Staff discovered a powerful tool to help patients and their carers to take control of their own situation, using non pharmacological interventions to give control over physical responses to symptom management.

Using a toolkit of techniques, patients are supported to use the techniques on a face-to-face basis, using technology with CDs, and personalised recordings that they can use when and where required.

Enabling patients when they feel most out of control has shown improvements in psychological distress and physical symptom control. Staff have felt more empowered and able to introduce accessible psychological interventions alongside conventional pharmacological prescriptions.

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