I spend a lot of time working with my clients on change. Ostensibly, that’s the reason they’ve come to rehab. They cannot continue to expose themselves time after time to the ridiculous at best, grotesque and perverse at worst.

This work calls for a big imagination from each and every one of them. If they want to get better, they need to create a personal vision of what better will look like.

How can you get better if you have no notion of what better is?

If you’ve never considered what a renovated You would be like, if you’ve never even imagined that it’s possible to change, you will most likely stay comfortably or uncomfortably stuck in your old patterns, relatively content in your familiar nowhere.

When I prompt my clients to conduct these visualizations, many will rant and rave that this task is impossible: They can’t calm down enough; they can’t expand their minds beyond their present realities.

Among my various clients, there are different reasons for this resistant state of mind. There are those who feel guilty for things they’ve done. Why imagine something good happening when they can hardly imagine they deserve it, let alone that it’s in the realm of possibility?

There are those whose lives have been a series of frustrating disappointments. Why invest in something so unrealistic and unattainable as imagining their lives could be better?

There is also a fear of incompetence, as if not following my instructions perfectly might in some way jeopardize the success of the altered state and guided thinking. These people will panic at the idea of coming forth with something, even just a thought, on command. I have encountered individuals who, when instructed to imagine a tree, get all in a tizzy about whether I want fruit tree, a pine tree, a palm tree, a flowering tree, or something else. Indecisive and emotionally unsteady, they break out of the altered state, open their eyes, and say: “But what do you mean?”

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My message is and will always be that change is possible. It’s a sought-after, cherished yearning that I want to instill in my clients.

They need to recognize that there are countless ways to change. They need to give themselves enough credit to believe they can pull it off somehow.

I let them know that each one of them possesses the G-d-given gift of imagination.

That’s all they need to succeed at this task. Part of my modus operandi is that I’m a relentless nudnik and either by charming them or poking them in the ribs, I can get most of them to come around.

It is deeply satisfying to witness the fruits of their personal growth. The moment comes when they find that even with their eyes open, they can conjure up a new look, a strategy or even a change of emotion. Once they’ve achieved this, their confidence receives an immediate boost. More importantly, in visualizing a truly positive outcome for themselves, they’ve taken the essential first step towards improving their lives.