Health Journeys, Inc. is a multimedia publishing company that specializes in mind-body audio recordings and has been instrumental gaining mainstream acceptance for mind-body, complimentary healthcare modalities. The company was founded in 1991 by social worker, author and guided imagery audio producer, Belleruth Naparstek.
Health Journeys produce spoken word recordings designed to reduce symptoms, alleviate suffering, and enhance coping capacity in people under duress from a variety of health, mental health and situational challenges; and to improve peak performance, creativity, intuitive ability and healthy behavior change. Health Journeys distributes more than 200 audio and video titles.
The company is based in Cleveland, Ohio, where it publishes and distributes guided imagery meditation, hypnosis, and various forms of moving meditation, including Yoga, Reiki and Tai Chi.
Distributors of Health Journeys audio programs include health maintenance organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, the United States Veterans Administration, and United Health Care. Health Journeys content is also distributed to hospitals, colleges, individual health care providers, psychotherapists, coaches, pastors, chemical dependency professionals, counselors, social service workers, yoga instructors and massage therapists.
Since 1997, Health Journeys has been building a searchable, web-based, archive of research on mind-body complimentary health interventions. The Health Journeys research database includes hundreds of randomized clinical trials, meta-analyses and pilot studies on the effectiveness of these Integrative Medicine techniques.
In 1987, Belleruth Naparstek, a psychotherapist, began experimenting with creating personalized guided imagery audio cassettes for clients in her private practice. She recorded in the early morning hours when her children were asleep and the phone was silent, using two tape recorders at her kitchen table, one for recording a narrative and the other for playing background music. She gathered feedback on what worked and what did not. Altogether, she made thirty-eight of these individualized programs over the course of the next two years.
Naparstek describes guided imagery as a form of immersive meditation, a kind of directed daydreaming or focused reverie. Listeners are encouraged to imagine a desired end state with all of their senses. The narrative elicits fantasy and memory, often telling a healing story with the help of evocative images, symbol, metaphor, archetypal figures and universal, mythic themes. Voice tone, pacing and music are as critical to efficacy as the wording, if not more so.
The technique appealed to Naparstek because it was a portable, private, self-administered self-help tool, available day or night, making it an ideal intervention for trauma survivors and people with anxiety. Additionally, it worked well with other treatment methods, or could be used as a stand-alone resource. It had the advantage of requiring no special training or preparation of the listener; and its impact grew with continued use.
In 1988, a woman visited Naparstek’s clinical office. She had advanced metastatic breast cancer which had spread to her bones, brain and lungs. She had heard about the personalized recordings Naparstek was making for clients and wanted an audio program to help her through an upcoming course of chemotherapy. Her goal was to live long enough to see her daughter, a sophomore in high school, graduate. She was motivated, charismatic and bossy, and when Naparstek demurred, saying that she didn't know enough to make such a tape, she replied, "Don't worry; I'll tell you what to do."
Naparstek checked with her oncologist and was told to go ahead and give her whatever she wanted, because she only had six months or so to live anyway. Naparstek and she collaborated, putting together her client’s most compelling images: childhood memories of walking on the beach with her beloved father, her little hand in his big, warm one; the waves washing through her body, taking all the cancer out with the tide; images of her mother, a formidable cleaner, vacuuming cancer cells out of her body with characteristic ferocity; tumors shrinking and white cells becoming more active. The recording turned out to be less than 20 minutes long. She listened faithfully and brought it with her to chemotherapy, where she responded well to treatment, and the lesions began to shrink.
Her anxiety abated. Instead, she was a woman on a mission, telling other patients, staff, and anyone who would listen on the chemo floor that they too should have a guided imagery audio tape. She dispensed bootlegged copies of her own tape, and as a result of her ad hoc promotional campaign, the nurses requested guided imagery recordings for anxious waiting room patients.
This woman lived two years longer than predicted, with very little discomfort and good quality of life, up until her final weeks. Naparstek was captured by the simplicity and power of guided imagery, and its ability to empower a frightened woman, giving her a sense of agency over her circumstances. Other requests for tapes came in – for surgery, depression, diabetes and stroke. Naparstek began buttonholing doctors, nurses and patients, digging into the medical literature and the guided imagery research to create appropriate content.
A friend introduced her to George Klein, a local businessman who funded the initial production of seven new health-specific guided imagery tapes. Naparstek found her way to composer Steven Mark Kohn, who introduced her to sound engineer Bruce Gigax. In 1991, Klein and Naparstek launched Health Journeys, Inc., to produce guided imagery audio cassette tapes to be distributed via drug stores and supermarkets.
Guided imagery quickly began to gain mainstream interest and acceptance. In 1993, Larry Kirshbaum, then editor of Warner Books, opened a new division, Time Warner AudioBooks. He picked up Health Journeys’ first fourteen audio titles and began national bookstore distribution of the product line. In 1994, pharmaceutical company Smithkline Beecham private-labeled 200,000 Health Journeys chemotherapy audio cassettes for nurses to give away to patients undergoing treatment with the help of the anti-emetic, Zofran. Soon after, a competitor, Roche Laboratories, signed a similar deal for their anti-emetic, Kytril.
As of 2017, Health Journeys has published over eighty audio titles, and distributes more than two hundred mind-body, self-help programs created by a variety of practitioners and producers.
- "Kaiser Permanente". healthy.kaiserpermanente.org. Retrieved 2017-08-03.
- Gerhardt, Pamela; Gerhardt, Pamela (2000-01-11). "Helping Veterans Overcome Their Fears". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-08-03.
- "Stress | UnitedHealthcare". www.uhc.com. Retrieved 2017-08-03.
- "Hot Research". blog.healthjourneys.com. Retrieved 2017-07-02.
- Naparstek, Belleruth (1994). Staying Well With Guided Imagery. Warner Books. ISBN 978-0-44651-821-5. Search this book on
- Beecham, SmithKline. "Free Educational Materials Available on SmithKline Beecham Product Web Site". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2017-07-02.
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