Finding a Favorite Place

Rebecca Cherry, MD, MPH
August 22, 2022 / 5 mins read

Guided imagery involving a "favorite place" can be an excellent technique to help someone feel more comfortable. In fact, it is so reliable that we often use it when guiding a child or teen into a hypnotic state. Sometimes I never find out what a person's "favorite place" is, but I am always curious!

Before talking more about what favorite places are, it is important also to mention what they are not. Simply put, they are not all the same. A favorite place does not have to be quiet, peaceful, or in a natural setting. Many guided imagery recordings involve the beach. That location, though, may not be at all appropriate for someone who does not like sand, prefers to stay indoors because they sunburn easily, or has a phobia of sharks.

I have also found that asking a person for their favorite place can be somewhat stressful, as they start searching their memories for a perfect answer. I've learned to lower the stakes a bit by asking, "For today, what's a place or activity where you feel really comfortable or at ease? I'm not going to hold you to it, it can just be an example."

The answer to the question provides a starting point for guided imagery. At the same time, the question makes it clear that there is not one right answer and that there will be other times to go through the process again, but differently.

Here are some of the "favorite places" which kids have told me about over the years:

  • Going to Costco with a parent and trying all the different samples
  • A room full of playful dogs
  • The middle of a soccer game
  • Lying on a boat floating through a cave and gazing up at a rock ceiling studded with gems
  • Playing in the ocean
  • Sitting in a big chair in a quiet library
  • Flying a kite on the beach
  • Standing at the top of a snowy mountain
  • Riding a horse through a meadow
  • Eating noodles at a restaurant in Japan
  • Going on the same ride at Disneyland, over and over again
  • Sitting on a couch petting a cat

There is no good way to generalize about what and where different people feel comfortable. So I hope that everyone feels entitled to travel in their imagination to the place of their choice -- even if it is not the beach!