"These children have a hypersensitivity of the nerves in their GI systems," says Miranda van Tilburg, PhD, assistant professor in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology in the UNC School of Medicine. "Guided imagery helps give the kids some control over the situation and may help change the interaction between the nerves in the brain and the stomach that causes pain," she says.
This is how it works: First, a therapist does a short exercise to help the child focus, such as having her picture herself floating on a cloud or swinging on a swing. Then the child imagines that she's holding a treasure that melts into her hand, giving it special powers. The child puts her hand on her belly, and imagines that the special powers spread from her hand into her belly to form a protective coating to shield it from any irritation. Kids in the study did one 20- minute session every other week and shorter 10-minute sessions daily for eight weeks.
You can learn how to take your child through the guided imagery sessions, but it's probably best for her to initially see a specially trained therapist. To find a practitioner near you, check out the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis at . You can also find more info at