CMBM Uses Mind-Body Methods to Limit Stress
New York City firefighters and their families have tried mind-body
methods to cope with the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist
attacks. . .and discovered that they work. Sixty-three firefighters
attended a workshop on psychological self-care and mind-body medicine
presented by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM), based in Washington,
At first they were very skeptical, recalls James S. Gordon, MD, CMBM
founder and director. "One of them said to me, 'this is
like some kind of chick flick.' But we asked them to try these
methods as an experiment, and he began to realize how much emotion
he had suppressed after 9/11. He, and all of them, began to talk with
their wives and kids, really for the first time, about what happened
on that day." Guided imagery and yoga helped the firefighters
become more aware of the complicated, painful emotions left after 9/11. "Instead
of just indulging in their anger, they've been able to notice
when it arises, pay attention to its sources, and use some mind-body
techniques to relax."
CMBM has taken the same methods to the Gaza strip, where faculty including
Christians, Jews and Muslims train local mental health leaders to use
scientifically validated mind-body skills such as meditation, guided
imagery, biofeedback and group support to recover from their own stress
and trauma. CMBM trains them to use this approach while working with
the many children and adults who suffer from anxiety, depression, nightmares,
flashbacks, aggression and emotional isolation—the classic symptoms
of post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Our program is unique because we work with both sides, Palestinian
and Israeli," Gordon says. "I recall a Palestinian psychologist
who came to our most recent training. At first he wondered whether
he ought to spend so much time focusing on himself, while there are
so many problems crying out for his attention. In the course of the
week-long training, he found that a simple meditation technique helped
him feel more relaxed. That very night he got a call from a man who
planned to commit suicide. He taught him the same simple method, and
it worked for him too. At the end of the training, this psychologist
said to us, 'For the first time in many years, I feel hope.'"
Center for Mind-Body Medicine Offers Professional Training Programs
New York firefighters and residents of Gaza are coping with extreme
stress. But all of us experience stress in daily life, and all of
us need to know how to use mind-body methods to protect and reinvigorate
ourselves. Since 1990, the Center for Mind-Body Medicine has been
offering workshops in mind-body skills to local residents, and offering
training to healthcare practitioners who want to add mind-body methods
to their professional practice.
"No matter what our healthcare specialty may be, it's essential
for us to be fully present, relaxed and alert, in order to help the
people who come to us," Gordon says. "Nowadays training
focuses almost exclusively on acquiring new techniques, and this is
true in alternative medicine as well as in conventional medicine. That
sort of technical professional knowledge needs to be balanced with
an education in wisdom, in coming to know one's self."
In its Professional Training Program, the center teaches methods of
working with individuals and groups which can be incorporated into
any practice. "We have cardiothoracic surgeons and acupuncturists,
nurses and alternative medicine clinic directors who come to the training," Gordon
says. "We teach a variety of simple, elegant, scientifically
proven methods to help people become more self aware and learn how
to take better care of themselves. It's not enough to give someone
a tranquilizer or an acupuncture treatment. Either one may be helpful,
but in the long run, people need to know how to help themselves."
The Professional Training Program lasts for seven days, and combines
scientific background, small discussions and experiential sessions
in yoga, meditation and a variety of other mind-body techniques. It
is designed for all healthcare practitioners, including nurses, psychologists
and social workers, nutritionists, and CAM professionals, and usually
qualifies for 30 to 40 CE credits. The week includes many hours of
small group work, which allows participants to deal with their own
physical, emotional and spiritual issues in a supportive environment.
The course includes:
- History and latest research findings on mind-body
- Self-regulation through biofeedback, self-hypnosis,
breathing and relaxation
- Meditation as a way of life
- Imagery and visualization
- Using art, journals, dreams and music
- Exercise movement and dance
as therapeutic tools
- Medical precautions and contraindications for
- Small groups as a vessel for change
"The first week really focuses on personal experience" says
Susan Lord, MD, associate director of medical education at CMBM,
a senior faculty member in the training program. "We discuss
data, but we really want participants to integrate the lessons
mind-body techniques into their own lives and to understand on
the deepest level, the power they have to transform and heal people."
After six to eight months of personal practice, participants may
return for a second, advanced training session which focuses primarily
the skills needed to work with individuals and small groups within
their professional practices. "We offer coaching sessions on
how to give lectures, and also how to work intimately with a small
group of people," Lord says. "How do you hold the energy?
How do you make a container for a group of people to do deep work?
Our approach is not about pathology or telling people what's
wrong with them. It's really about honoring their own ability
The professional training program includes material on nutrition,
but because the subject is so intimately connected with health,
offers a separate training program in Food As Medicine.
In the Mind-Body Certification program, participants are encouraged
to form mind-body groups in their own communities. CMBM offers
training in how to recruit and interview potential members of the
process includes personal, step-by-step supervision, via phone
calls and e-mail.
One of the basic themes throughout the mind-body training is finding
ways to access the wisdom of the unconscious mind, Lord says. "We
do a writing exercise called 'dialogue with the symptom,' in
which you ask the symptom why it is in your life, and what it is
asking you to do. In these groups we experience a process that
is quite different
from the top-down approach of Western medicine. The leader facilitates
the group, but is also a member of the group. They bring to this
role a kind of vulnerability and openness, that helps others to
deeply within themselves."
For information about the Center for Mind-Body
Medicine and its training programs, go to: http://www.cmbm.org/index.html or call 202-966–7338.
The next Professional Training Program for healthcare professionals who want
to integrate mind-body methods into their clinical practice is scheduled January
29 to February 4 (2006) in Berkeley, California.
Food as Medicine, a training program in nutrition which presents the best current
scientific evidence and provides guidance for healthcare practitioners who want
to take the next step in counseling patients about nutrition, will be offered
June 10 to 16, 2006 in Baltimore, Maryland
CME and CE credit and scholarships are available.
Elaine Zablocki is the former editor of CHRF
News Files and Alternative
Medicine Business News.