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Talcherkar decided to take sobriety into her own hands in July 2012. But in order to do so, she not only had to permanently turn her back on drugs and alcohol. She also had to stand up to her own psychiatrist.
“I’m coming up on five years clean and sober,” says Talcherkar, who will turn 39 this year. “July 2012 was the last time I had any type of alcohol or drug substance, so that’s my sobriety date. I was on antidepressants for a long time because that’s how psychiatrists were treating me. For many years, I visited practitioners who treat primarily through psychotropics and who don’t really incorporate holistic medicine. They had diagnosed me as bipolar with chronic depression. But, in 2012, I finally weaned myself off of all mind-altering substances, including psychotropic medications.”
Talcherkar developed her own routine, which included the 12 Steps, Ayurveda, yoga, meditation, and the Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique. The Saybrook student, who is currently a third-year Ph.D. candidate in Mind-Body Medicine: Integrative Mental Health, has not been afraid to confront her own past during her education either. While focusing on addiction studies to earn her master’s degree in psychology, she freely admits that she was still using drugs. After completing a few credits in 2007, she left Antioch University and did not return until she was sober and ready to complete the program.
“I was in psychotherapy at the time,” Talcherkar says. “I just became fascinated by the field of psychology. It was a combination of interests, and I’ve also been very academically inclined so I tend to just continue to learn and educate myself.”
She’s just as receptive to learning even when she identifies with the population a study is focused on. As a research assistant at Harvard University in 2016, and continuing to collaborate with the Division on Addiction, she’s currently studying gambling addiction and driving under the influence (DUIs).
“Ironically, as a repeat DUI offender, there was no way for me to separate my personal experience from Harvard’s data on repeat DUI offenders,” Talcherkar says, who started drinking alcohol at the age of 15. “My biggest takeaway from this research program was that I could be more compassionate working with that challenged population. There’s immediate empathy there. Of course, most researchers don’t necessarily have the same prolonged addictive history as I do.”
“The Division on Addiction at Harvard conducts primarily quantitative-based research,” Talcherkar says. “They focus on the numbers and data, important in its own right, but sometimes there is a disagreement between qualitative versus quantitative schools. Coming from Saybrook and having the double experience of having been a repeat DUI offender, I have a level of compassion and empathy, which could be considered a personal bias or a personal strength, depending on what school you come from. My experiences at Saybrook and Harvard have taught me that there is a need and place for both. Personal anecdotes and stories are as informative as quantitative data.”
Proclaiming that “Saybrook found me,” Talcherkar learned about the university while browsing around online for an editor, who turned out to be a Saybrook student. But it was the humanistic philosophy from the professors and in the classes that made her apply and pursue her Ph.D. with Saybrook over several other programs.
“If I have an idea for a paper in a class and it’s a little unconventional, nine times out of 10, I’ve felt supported to do what I want to do,” Talcherkar says. “You don’t find that in a lot of academic institutions. Other universities have the academic rigor, guidelines, and structure. But I feel like Saybrook truly believes in the student and that humanistic philosophy. The potential of the student is their greatest asset so they really work to support you in whatever you want to be. At Saybrook, you’re going to grow and expand beyond your known mental confines.”
Talcherkar plans to use her educational growth to teach and research mind-body practices as a practitioner.
“One of my main goals is to make mindfulness-based practices more mainstream,” Talcherkar says. “In a couple of my blogs, I’ve mentioned the Sudarshan Kriya breathing practice. It’s taught by the International Association for Human Values (a sister organization of the Art of Living foundation) to different populations now. It’s a controlled rhythmic breathing practice, and it helps you ease into meditation and balance out emotions. There is some research on the practice currently that may help alcohol-dependent individuals. I’d like to contribute more research on the practice within addiction populations.”
From her experiences with the 12 Step Anonymous programs, she shies away from the belief “that we’re born fundamentally diseased and broken. I believe that people struggling with addiction can recover completely. Unfortunately, the mindset throughout the 12 Step program reinforces a disease model—a chronic condition that you’ll live with for the rest of your life. I don’t resonate with ideology driven by fear.”
Initially believing that her multiple relapses at an abstinence-based treatment center were failures, Talcherkar now looks back on that time period as a way to learn and grow into who she is today. And while she realizes that the techniques she’s used to overcome addiction may not work the same for others, she certainly plans to advocate for them.
The post Sudarshan Kriya and yoga: Saybrook student chooses new way to overcome addiction appeared first on Saybrook University.
I was already in my fourth year of business school at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil when I came to the conclusion that I should have gone into psychology instead. In Brazil, it takes five years to earn a business degree, and I was almost at the finish line. But that didn’t stop me from attending a psychology-related conference with my mother and her friend, where I met Stanley Krippner, legendary professor from Saybrook University. While I don’t remember everything about the conference, what stood out were the talking points related to Humanistic Psychology and the significance of spirituality. That’s when I made the decision to pursue a psychology degree in California.
Pursuing the career I didn’t know I wanted
Saybrook was pretty small at the time, which was a bonus for me considering I’d never studied in the United States and was self-conscious about my writing and language skills. So after completing my business degree and a yearlong internship with the marketing department of American Express, I arrived at Saybrook in January 1990. I earned my master’s degree in Psychology in 1992 from Saybrook and went on to receive a Ph.D. in Psychology from Meridian University in Petaluma, Calif., in 2003. That was around the time I also developed an interest in working on a multi-disciplinary team with psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and other health care providers in the field of transplantation.
How clinical hypnosis entered the equation
Some of my most recent work includes assisting a team with evaluating patients for left ventricular assist device implants and for heart transplants, and presenting at centers of excellence; working on a feasibility study that focuses on a cognitive behavioral therapy protocol adapted for post-heart transplant patients; and pursuing certification in the clinical hypnosis certification program from Saybrook to add to my toolbox of interventions to help address complex issues faced by heart failure, left ventricular assist device, and post-heart patients, with whom I work.
Clinical hypnosis is an evidence-based psychological intervention that may help improve anxiety, depression, pain, nausea, and emotional distress, among other issues. I’m hoping that clinical hypnosis will help my patients manage the physical and psychological symptoms they struggle with, such as depression and anxiety, and improving their quality of life.
Attending the ASCH workshop
When I recently attended the advanced track of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) Annual Scientific Meeting & Workshop in Phoenix, Arizona, as a first-timer, I must admit I was apprehensive.
I was about to meet new colleagues from a number of health disciplines who were likely more seasoned hypnosis practitioners than me. To my delight, I could have not asked for a more welcoming professional crowd, such as the one I met at the ASCH conference.
I am a mid-career licensed psychologist, and clinical hypnosis student working under the mentorship of Dr. Willmarth, who was installed as president of ASCH at the same meeting. Professionals and students at the ASCH conference are eligible to participate as beginner, intermediate, or advanced, according to prior clinical hypnosis training programs. In the advanced course I was in, taught by G. Elkins and other well-known hypnosis researchers and clinicians, I met a number of friendly professionals, eager to share knowledge and experiences with each other and myself from events focused on clinical hypnosis, integrative medicine conferences, and mind-body medicine. Working as a psychologist in transplantation, I attend a number of international multidisciplinary conferences every year. Honestly, none of them are as welcoming.
But just as I have earned my own accomplishments, I’m always seeking to be around those who are as goal-oriented as me—but in an atmosphere that is not isolating or overly competitive. The ASCH conference was exactly that. I bonded with group members in just a few hours after my flight from San Francisco. I took a tour of Dr. Milton Erickson’s family home the first evening, met Dr. Erickson’s wife’s companion and the companion’s close friend, shared an Uber ride to our hotel, made lunch plans with the group, and chatted amicably with many participants at the different workshops.
I think that I have found my professional home, which has been my quest for many years. I encourage more students and professionals to join ASCH for the invaluable bonding and resources.
And if you’re interested in treating the whole person—not just the symptoms—Saybrook’s College of Integrative Medicine has top-notch professors and the integrative approach that I (and you) may be looking for.
The post Why one psychologist took clinical hypnosis to ‘heart’ appeared first on Saybrook University.
by Allison Winters, MA, MS, BC-DMT, LCAT, RYT
As a Ph.D. student in Saybrook University’s Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences, I was recently asked to write a blog piece about my experience as a dance therapist that treats military and veteran patients. As I reflected on where I am, I realized that it is just as important to understand the roots of my journey.
When I started pursuing a career as a dance therapist, I didn’t know that I wanted to work with this population. I knew very little about veterans or military life, other than the fact that both of my grandfathers and two of my uncles had served. Yet when I began working with veterans, I felt this connection that I could not ignore. I may not be serving in the military in the traditional sense, but it is my hope that I am able to help veterans find a sense of peace and healing.
My first job as a dance/movement therapist was facilitating groups on inpatient psychiatric units in a hospital in New York City. It was exhausting but fulfilling. I had the privilege of sharing in patients’ most intimate and darkest experiences. Joining them on their journey taught me how to be empathic—not only in therapeutic relationships, but with all beings. In short, they taught me much of what I understand today about the human condition.
I remember one patient in particular who had been on the unit for months. He was chronically schizophrenic and homeless. Finding a more permanent placement for him was proving to be a challenge. He spent the days pacing the unit and mumbling to himself—visibly responding to internal stimuli through gestures, facial expressions, and physical postures.
I always invited him into the groups, even though he never indicated any signs of being interested. He never made eye contact with me, or anyone on the unit. Sometimes he would come into the group space and sit for a little while, but it didn’t take long before he was up and pacing again. Although he would come and go, I always made sure to welcome him warmly and greet him by his name.
The day finally came when a placement had been found for him, and a discharge date had been decided. During our time together, I noticed that one of the things that kept him going was the few cups of coffee that he received with his meals. So a few days before he left, I asked the psychiatrist if she would mind if I gave the patient a really good cup of coffee from a local coffee shop to bid him farewell and celebrate his moving on from the hospital. She agreed and the patient happily accepted his large cup of non-hospital cafeteria coffee.
The day the patient left, I went to say goodbye and wish him well. He looked me in the eyes for the first time in four months and spoke the only words he ever said during that time, “You saved my life.” He then quickly leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek before hurrying away.
He left behind a very stunned therapist.
It would’ve been easy for me to ignore this man as he paced and mumbled to himself all day. Instead I treated him as I did everyone else, and guess what? There was a living, breathing, feeling human being inside that rough exterior.
I reflect back on this experience often, carrying these deeply embedded lessons with me into every new therapeutic relationship.
1) Don’t make assumptions about others; you can never truly know what is going on inside of them.
2) Be your authentic self with people, and most of the time that is what you will receive in return.
A couple of years into my work on the psych units, I became aware of a job opening at a local Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center. As I stated before, I knew very little about veterans or military life. For some reason, however, I felt drawn to the job, so I applied. Shortly thereafter I was called in for an interview.
Initially, I felt entirely undeserving to be asking for a job to treat veterans, and was overwhelmed as I entered the “official-looking” entryway to the VA. Yet, there was a part of me that felt comfortable among the camouflaged and weapon-laden guards. Eventually, I was hired as a creative arts therapist working in their Community Living Center (CLC), a nursing home.
The patients were mostly confined to wheelchairs, and many were suffering from dementia as well as other comorbidities—such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and Parkinson’s Disease. These were World War II and Korean War Veterans: Soldiers who had long since seen a battlefield, but whose war stories were still very much alive in their bodies and minds.
You might be wondering how I engaged these patients in dance. Let’s start by clarifying a few things about dance/movement therapy (DMT).
It is a common misconception that DMT has to do with dance in the traditional sense—that is learning a specific sequence of movements within the style of a particular dance technique such as ballet or modern dance. While a DMT session may incorporate dance technique, it is more likely that it won’t look like a dance class at all.
What happens in a DMT session largely depends on the person or group of people in the session: It is the patients’ needs that drive the session. A dance/movement therapist is trained to use movement as a means of both analysis and treatment.
There was a man at the CLC who spent the entirety of his day in a Broda chair (similar to a reclined wheelchair). I started by sitting with him and attempting various ways of communicating. He couldn’t speak very well, had limited range of movement, and diminished muscle capacity. After a few sessions together and trying a few different stimuli, I discovered that he could toss a ball back and forth with some force. I will never forget the look on the nurses’ faces when they walked by and saw this man moving with power and intention.
Upon further exploration, I found that this same man loved music and expressed his adoration by rhythmically tapping his big toe along to the beat. Sometimes, I would help accentuate the feeling for him by gently tapping the same rhythm on his leg or arm so that he could feel it more completely.
DMT is about being with the patient—wherever they are—and moving with them in a way that is meaningful. What makes it therapy, and not just dance, is the relationship between the patient and the dance/movement therapist.
As this man’s therapist, I was aware of his diagnoses, psycho-social history, and physical limitations. I kept all this information in mind when I interacted with him, but what elicited his movement responses was the fact that I was being present with both his mind and his body.
To an outsider it may seem that his movements were subtle and perhaps inconsequential, but to those that knew him, those movements were as extraordinary as a grand jete by Barishnikov himself.
While working at the VA CLC, I met a man who happened to be on the same aircraft carrier as my grandfather during World War II. I wasn’t able to share this amazing connection with my grandfather as he recently passed away. But I was able to deepen my connection with him through my conversations with this veteran.
In fact, meeting this man who served alongside my grandfather made me feel connected across generations of warriors. I suddenly understood my own duty to serve and to continue passing this honor on to future generations. It was at that moment that I understood my calling was to serve those who have served.
The time came to move on from the Community Living Center when I received a job offer from a military medical facility in San Diego, CA.
It was difficult to leave these Veterans behind as I had grown to truly care for them. At the same time, I was excited to work with active duty military members—to learn about another area of the spectrum of military life. San Diego also happened to be the port that my grandfather’s ship deployed from: The thread of personal meaning would continue as I journeyed to the other side of the country.
The patient population that I was assigned to work with were receiving treatment for multiple diagnoses, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Although joined by their military experience, these men and women were facing a whole different set of challenges than the CLC Veterans. As active duty service members, their primary goal was still the mission. Recovery was important but only for the sake of being ready for their next order. Their needs were also different than the CLC patients from a physical perspective.
Just as I did with the CLC Veterans, I met them where they were at, but with these soldiers I had to be prepared to respond to them with a different kind of readiness. The CLC veterans were in their last stages of life and my goal was to support them in finding moments of contentment, peace, connection, and relief from pain. With the active duty members, I supported their therapeutic goals by teaching them mind-body skills that they could carry with them and continue to utilize wherever the mission may take them.
This was also the time in my career when Saybrook University and I found each other. At the same time I was moving, breathing, and exploring with military soldiers, I was undergoing my own training, deepening my knowledge and understanding of mind-body skills alongside my own army of wellness warriors.
During my time in San Diego, I was asked by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) to participate in their ADTA Talks.
The project was based on the popular TED Talk series and the result was several dance/movement therapists coming together to talk about how they utilize their skills with various patient populations.
Being one of the very few dance/movement therapists that had the opportunity to work with the military and veteran population, I suddenly found myself as the expert in this niche field. One of the things I discussed in my talk was about how I “get a bunch of soldiers to dance.”
As you might imagine, this is a question I am asked often.
What I said in the talk and what I continue to tell people today is that when provided with a safe space and given the permission to move in their own way and in their own time, walls of resistance come down quickly. DMT isn’t about forcing anyone to dance, it is about allowing space for people to feel comfortable in their own skin. It is about empowering them to make meaningful choices for their health and wellbeing.
A service member once told me that he hadn’t found much room for creativity in his experience in the military, and he was grateful to be given the opportunity to express himself again. Another told me that he never realized the breathing technique he used for shooting could also help him relax and find more balance in his life. Still another, after a group session involving rigorous shaking movement and more open-ended expressive movement said, “That was transformational.”
There’s an importance in keeping it simple, yet still remaining authentic—coming back to the DMT mantra of “being with.” One of the simplest, most authentic practices we engaged in was walking. Once a week we would take a walk and just talk—no agenda, no goal setting, no therapy—just moving in our bodies together. It was one of the most popular groups in the program. Why? Because there was no judgment. We were all just “being with.”
It wasn’t about teaching dance moves, but about moving with each other in a meaningful way. Sometimes it might be adjusting your own pace to walk alongside someone or sitting with someone in silence. Once the service members allowed themselves to be in their bodies, they understood dance/movement therapy.
I eventually parted ways with San Diego, but before leaving, I spent some time looking out at the San Diego Bay—watching the Navy ships and submarines come and go. I wondered if, as his ship deployed to the Pacific Islands, my grandfather took a moment to look back to the shore—gazing at the same place where I was sitting.
The next stop on my journey was a little farther north at another Veterans Affairs CLC in Palo Alto, Calif. (VAPAHCS).
During my time there I continued to use my DMT skills to help increase the quality of veterans’ end of life experiences. It was also during this time that Michelle Obama challenged America to dance as part of her “Gimme Five” initiative.
She performed a short piece of choreography with Ellen DeGeneres on the Ellen Show and encouraged people to film themselves performing the dance and then to share it on social media. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to encourage both patients and staff to dance. With some help from my student intern and some other dedicated colleagues, we were able to capture footage of patients and staff taking the First Lady’s challenge. Our message was that every BODY can dance, even if you are confined to a wheelchair. The resulting video was released on the VA’s Facebook page and still lives there today.
I am now back on the East Coast working with active duty service members again as the wellness coordinator in an integrative traumatic brain injury treatment program. I have had the opportunity to create and implement a mind-body program, focused on providing service members with the skills to manage and maintain their health and wellness regardless of where the mission may take them next. As I help service members build their skills, I continue to build my own as well as I move toward the end of my doctoral studies at Saybrook.
I may not have experienced war firsthand, but I have certainly felt the range of human emotion. This is why the story of the man on the psych unit in New York stays with me. Our emotions are what connect us, and we all feel our emotions in our bodies.
Whether you are a homeless man with schizophrenia or an Army Colonel, we are all living, breathing, moving human beings. These commonalities are something that we should all be reminded of, particularly during this time of unrest in our world. In the wise words of Barack Obama, “The theater is necessary. Dance is necessary. Song is necessary. The arts are necessary—they are a necessary part of our lives.”
Allison Winters is a Ph.D. student in Saybrook University’s Mind-Body Medicine program. Currently, she works as the Wellness Coordinator at an integrative traumatic brain injury program, where she uses Dance/Movement Therapy to help veterans manage and maintain wellness. She and her life dance partner, Doug, are currently cutting loose in Silver Spring, MD with their two tiny dancers, Charlie and Lily.
The post My journey: How I learned to use dance/movement therapy to help military veterans appeared first on Saybrook University.
by Shannon McLain, M.S.
Shannon McLain, a Saybrook University student, explores the concepts of mindfulness, optimism, and gratitude, and how each of these can offer a path to maintaining positivity even in the most challenging situations.
Viktor Frankl once said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
A positive mindset is about what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and how you’re approaching the world in terms of things that happen in the past, present, and future. Preserving a positive mindset can be difficult—particularly during challenging situations—but it is attainable through maintaining mindfulness, optimism, and gratitude.
Mindfulness is not necessarily thinking or feeling—in some ways it’s the absence of thinking or feeling. It’s a complete focusing on the present moment. We know from research that mindfulness has positive benefits on health and wellness. Mindfulness, basically, is the practice of being fully present in each moment with a receptive, curious, and open attitude towards the experience you’re having at the moment.
Doing yoga or having a regular meditation practice is not the only means by which we can cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness can even be incorporated into the most mundane activities, like washing the dishes, brushing our teeth, or even just being mindful of a single breath.
Optimism is a projection towards the future. It is also a very positive mindset to have. When thinking about upcoming events, optimism is thinking with positivity and thinking with hope. There are many benefits for having a sunny outlook on life:
The last piece of a positive mindset is gratitude—particularly around situations that have occurred in the past.
In our Western culture, it seems that we, as a culture, place a greater emphasis on complaining rather than gratitude. We often feel gratitude towards another person when we think of how they have enriched our lives—emotionally, socially, etc. It’s an emotion that occurs across many different cultures, and people experience it similarly. As we reflect, past emotions are often captured by gratitude. When we’re grateful for events that have occurred in our lives—even challenging situations—that can be an expression of gratitude.
What are three things you’re grateful for today? There’s a lot of research on gratitude journaling, some of it is mixed on extent of the benefits it can have on well-being. What we do know, however, is that it certainly doesn’t hurt us. One of the ways to impact your well-being—and cultivate a positive mindset—is to try to think of new things to be grateful for. You do not need to engage in this activity every day, but even doing this activity every couple of days will greatly help you maintain positivity.
As a scholar-practitioner, Shannon McLain is committed to helping individuals reach their full potential and achieve a balanced and meaningful lifestyle by attending to all areas of wellness. Shannon earned her M.S. in Mind-Body Medicine at Saybrook University as well as certification as a Health and Wellness Coach. Additionally, she has completed the Professional Training Program through the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, located in Washington, D.C. She is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. in Mind-body Medicine: Healthcare Practice Specialization program and is pursuing certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition.
The post The Happiness Habit: Cultivating a positive mindset through mindfulness, optimism, and gratitude appeared first on Saybrook University.
By Cliff Smyth, M.S., Ph.D. Student
What is the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education?
Israeli physicist Moshe Feldenkrais once wrote: “Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself.”
Those were powerful words, indeed—words that became the cornerstone of the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education. This method of learning from the lived experiences of our bodies emerged in the early 1970s at the height of the “human potential movement” in North America.
Feldenkrais’s approach to movement functioned as a catalyst, influencing mind-body practices from somatic psychotherapy to mindful yoga and dance-movement therapy. It also resulted in the professional field of Feldenkrais Method practice.
Many people who have experienced the Feldenkrais Method—through Awareness Through Movement classes, for example—have discovered how developing bodily awareness and improving bodily organization can result in less pain and greater function for a heightened sense of self-efficacy and well-being.
Why I believe the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education is important
During my term as President of the International Feldenkrais Federation (IFF, the UN of Feldenkrais organizations), I supported the creation of the Feldenkrais Research Journal, which was published for a total of four years between 2004 and 2008. It sadly fell into abeyance as the work ended up with just a few people to support it.
Feeling it is too important to lose, I recently set about finding a way to revive it. Over the span of a year and a half, I recruited a team of eight other Feldenkrais practitioners who had the academic training, research experience, and writing skills needed to bring this important journal back into print.
They are all busy professionals but made the time for this project, and for that I am grateful. As I say in the Editorial for Volume 5, “It takes a community to create a journal.”
My Saybrook Experience Helps Resurrect the Feldenkrais Research Journal
Part of what drew me to the Mind-Body Medicine program at Saybrook is how congruent it is with my work and goals as a Feldenkrais practitioner. Now I am using what I have learned from my studies at Saybrook in resurrecting this professional journal.
With the emergence of the “mindfulness” paradigm in health care, there is greater awareness of the importance of mindfulness of the body. This developing self-awareness requires changing habits of moving, sensing, feeling, and thinking.
Laura Schmalzl, at UC San Diego, and her colleagues, have put forward the construct of “movement-based embodied contemplative practices” as an important area of research in neuroscience and beyond. Catherine Kerr, at Brown University, and her colleagues, have also been doing cutting edge research into the neuroscience of embodiment and mindfulness.
We are at a point where research itself, and scholarship discussing what needs to be researched and how it can be researched most effectively, is essential for all the innovative mind-body approaches that have emerged in the last decades.
Society and the development of our field require us to document outcomes, to improve practice, and explore possible mechanisms of action. Publishing quality articles and journals is a vital project for Feldenkrais Method and similar practices. But they also need to be read. To that end, the IFF has also created a Feldenkrais Studies Database.
Find Out More About the Feldenkrais Research Journal
I invite you to have a look at the Journal. There you will find a wide range of research papers on Feldenkrais applications in health, the arts, and other fields, as well as some lively discussion on how to research somatic and mind-body practices such as Feldenkrais. You will also find interesting papers on the psychological and philosophical underpinnings of this mind-body approach.
My Editorial for Volume 5 reviews the last eight years of publishing and scholarship in the Feldenkrais Method.
I believe the return of this journal is coming at an important time in society and in health care. But we can’t do it alone. As the journal comes back to life, we also want to widen our readership—opening opportunities to contribute to people from the fields of somatic practices, psychology, and philosophy to health care and beyond.
Moshe Feldenkrais drew on the scientific method in the design of his classes. You can experience this kind of first-person research—for your own self-care—by trying a live or recorded Awareness Through Movement class today.
Cliff Smyth is founder and editor of the Feldenkrais Research Journal and a practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method at the Feldenkrais Center for Movement & Awareness in San Francisco. He is currently a student in Saybrook University’s Mind-Body Medicine program, pursuing a Ph.D.
Carolyn Trasko is a doctoral student in the College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences, and was recently awarded a FERB research grant for dissertation research.
Understanding the connections between cumulative stress and disease is an essential component of integrative medicine. Carolyn Trasko, doctoral student in Saybrook University’s College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences, selected this program because it offered her a unique educational opportunity to deepen her knowledge of how mind, body, and spirit impact psychological and medical health. Twenty-five years as a psychotherapist has provided Carolyn with the clinical opportunity to work with individuals who present with co-morbid behavioral health and medical issues, specifically chronic diseases. Often these individuals share histories of traumatic life events and cumulative stress. She came to ask herself: Could chronic psychological and physiological stress make these individuals more susceptible to develop chronic illness or diseases, specifically autoimmune diseases?
Over 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases and 75% of them are women. Such chronic conditions take an enormous physical, emotional, and financial toll resulting in $100 billion annually in healthcare costs. Working directly with women who experience these chronic conditions has fueled Carolyn with a deep passion and commitment to identify strategies that could alleviate or even prevent their suffering. Specific mind-body interventions used for stress management may impact the immune response by reducing systemic inflammation thereby helping the body to improve its ability to self-heal.
Carolyn has noticed that many of these individuals in their therapeutic work have shared anecdotal evidence of the benefits of relaxation breathing, guided imagery, or yoga that helped decrease stress levels. Could mind-body interventions, specifically relaxation breathing and guided imagery, work by calming the over-activated stress response? For these techniques to become more widely recognized and recommended within the medical community, there is a need for quantifiable proof that these methods are effective.
With assistance from a Foundation for Education and Research in Biofeedback and Related Sciences (FERB) grant award, Carolyn’s proposed research study will look at the potential clinical implications of specific relaxation techniques. This study, through the use of a one-time session of training, will measure and compare the biopsychosocial impact of paced diaphragmatic breathing to that of guided imagery, within a sample of adult women who have been diagnosed with Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases.
The study will further include 1) the biological marker of salivary interleukin-1 (IL-1) as a measure of the inflammatory response, 2) the psychophysiological measures of heart rate variability (HRV) and respiration rate, and 3) psychological measures of positive and negative mood states. Carolyn remarked that these findings could provide support for the promotion of using such mind-body techniques within a medical population. This could result in improved health, wellness, and overall quality of life for those who suffer from these chronic conditions.
The post Saybrook doctoral student wins research grant on trauma and chronic illness appeared first on Saybrook University.
Leila Kozak, PhD,is the Director of Integrative Medicine in Palliative Care for Paliativos Sin Fronteras (Palliative Care Providers Without Borders). She is a Saybrook University graduate and an instructor in the Saybrook University College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences. Dr. Kozak is currently a “Clinical Champion” at the Office of Patient-Centered Care and Culture Transformation at the Veterans Administration Central Office and works locally with VA Puget Sound Health Care System in advancing patient-centered care and integrative health for Veterans. She will be delivering a keynote address and conducting a breakout session at the Palliative Care Institute Spring Conference, May 13-14, 2016 at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.
Palliative care providers are increasingly seeking non-pharmacological supportive interventions to increase comfort and quality of life, which has led to the integration of complementary therapies within palliative care environments. A variety of complementary therapies have been shown to reduce suffering and improve quality of life in palliative care populations. This emerging field of integrative palliative care brings wonderful opportunities as well as challenges.
In her keynote, Dr. Kozak will discuss the opportunities and challenges related to the use of integrative modalities in palliative care, including acupuncture, aromatherapy, biofield therapies (Healing Touch, Therapeutic Touch, and Reiki), expressive arts therapies (art, writing, and music methods), massage, mind-body interventions, and movement approaches.
Dr. Kozak’s break out session will discuss “The Role of Touch Therapies in Enhancing the Patient Experience.” Her presentation was inspired by a video interview describing the implementation of touch therapies at VA hospitals, in which a Veteran undergoing palliative care described his experience receiving massage: “It makes you feel that you are not just a thing, you are a person.” During the 90 minute session, Dr. Kozak will introduce participants to various touch therapies, describing affordability and costs and emphasizing evidence and the role of these modalities in symptom management and quality of life. The session will also provide practical strategies that participants can use to implement touch therapies at their medical facilities.
Readers may register for the conference at:
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Brianne Morwood, RD, CD, LDN, is a dietitian and a student in the first cohort of Saybrook’s new Master’s of Science Program in Integrative and Functional Nutrition. Another student in this cohort, Karmen Gregg, is interviewing the cohort members and creating blog postings about each. Here are Brianne’s responses to a series of interview questions.
What motivated you to pursue integrative nutrition versus conventional dietary treatments alone?
Conventional treatments often have a limited and superficial effect on health, while an integrative approach can identify the underlying cause of disease, thereby providing a lasting treatment and cure. The challenge of this aspect of nutrition was both inspiring and motivating as I begin my career as a dietitian.
If you had to choose one attribute that is unique to Saybrook University and your education experience, what would it be? Why?
Although Saybrook provides education through an online, distance format, the amount of support provided by professors, staff, and peers is exceptional. The residential conference allowed peers to interact and bond before beginning the program, and this friendship has continued throughout each term.
What do you think are the most important attributes and competencies for integrative nutritionists?
An integrative nutritionist should always be familiar with the latest research, as health and nutrition are continually changing. Additionally, one working in this field must be able to compile a list of effective treatment options and work with patients to determine which would be most appropriate for their situation. Thorough education and close monitoring are essential, as the patient’s primary care provider may not be familiar with interactions between dietary supplements and medications, and may not recognize the patient’s reactions to integrative treatments.
As an integrative nutritionist or dietician, what is your approach toward patient care?
As an integrative dietitian, my approach to care is individualized to the specific needs of my patients. Each patient has a unique past medical history and symptomatology, and thus each must be provided with a unique treatment plan.
How influential was the residential conference on your personal and professional growth? Describe any mind-body approaches that you have adapted as a self-care strategy, as well as incorporated into patient care plans to enhance well-being.
The residential conference provided an excellent foundation in mind-body approaches to self care for both my personal life and my practice. My eyes were opened to the variety of mind-body approaches available, and I briefly learned how to perform each, which improved my confidence in applying the techniques to my future practice. Currently I am working more to incorporate meditation into my daily routine, which will prove quite beneficial while enrolled in a demanding master’s program and working full time. The residential conference also promoted development of friendships with my peers, which has led to invaluable relationships throughout the program.
Since you enrolled in the program, how are you applying this knowledge into your personal and professional life?
Since enrolled in the program, I have been working to apply my knowledge of laboratory values and supplements to my assessment of patients. Recently, I have been working to incorporate aspects of the Nutrition-Focused Physical Exam, and I am seeking hands on training in the near future. As for my personal life, I have continued to incorporate mindful eating into my daily routine, and this has proven quite effective.
How do you envision the emerging field of integrative medicine and nutrition within the current medical model?
I envision that integrative medicine and nutrition will become an essential component of the current medical model. Conventional treatments often do not cure the underlying cause of disease, and patients are becoming quite frustrated with the lack of improvement in their health, causing them to turn to a more integrative approach. Additionally, with the changes in reimbursement, health systems may be looking for ways to decrease cost and increase outcomes, which integrative medicine and nutrition can provide.
What is your professional goal, or what career do you hope to pursue after graduation?
My dream is to open a wellness center that incorporates a variety of approaches to achieving and maintaining health. From meditation and massage therapy to fitness, nutrition, chiropractic care, and naturopathic medicine, this center will promote health and wellness by treating the underlying causes of dysfunction and disease.
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Shannon McLain, MS, is a doctoral student in the College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences. She recently led a workshop for members of the community at The Healing Space, in Houston Texas, focusing on self-care and self-compassion. Here she blogs about her the importance of self-compassion, and some initial self-care practices to build self-compassion.
Most of us feel compassion when a close friend is struggling. What would it be like to receive the same caring attention whenever you needed it most? All that’s required is a shift in the direction of our attention—recognizing that as a human being, you, too, are a worthy recipient of compassion.
Self-compassion is absolutely essential for a balanced and healthy lifestyle. It provides huge benefits including emotional resiliency, stress reduction, contentment, and healthier relationships. Without it, we are vulnerable to the opinion of others and find it difficult to deal with letting go of our mistakes. It’s tough enough to go through a difficult situation, especially when we think we had a part in creating it. It is another kind of torture to never be able to let go of self-criticism and blame. Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding with ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences, rather than getting angry or self-critical when life falls short of their set ideals. People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When this reality is denied or fought against, suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration, and self-criticism. When reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced.
Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. This stems from the willingness to observe negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive state of mind in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. Here’s a quick and helpful tool for engaging mindfulness and self-compassion in your daily life:
S—Stop, take a pause
T—Take a deep breath and relax (for a minimum of three breath cycles)
O—Observe the present moment: What do I notice? Where is my breath? How does my body feel? What am I saying in my mind? What is one way I can respond to myself with compassion and kindness?
P—Proceed. Where was my attention before S.T.O.P? Do I want to continue or attend to something else?
Tune in next time for some helpful tips for creating (or enhancing) a grateful and thankful attitude, in the next installment in Shannon McLain’s Healing Practices Series, on Gratitude.
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Robin Dickey, a doctoral student in the College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences, provided a presentation for social workers, therapists, and nurses on the importance of self-care on April 6, 2016. This event, which qualified attendees for CEU credit, was called The Knowledge Cafe and was held at the Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth, Texas. The title of the presentation was, “Permission to Bresthe! Prescribing Self-Care to Clients AND Providers.” Robin has provided a brief synopsis of the presentation:
Have you ever heard that, “An architect’s house is always crooked”? This is a phrase to indicate how some professionals do not apply their skills to their own worlds. People in the helping professions are compassionate, kind, and caring by trade. However, they are among the least likely to be SELF-compassionate, kind or caring to themselves.
This interactive presentation engaged the audience in breathing and relaxation exercises in addition to providing information about the importance of self-care for professionals. Before diving into the presentation, participants were asked to participate in a grounding exercise to be as fully present as possible. They were asked to consider what “self-care” means to them. Not surprisingly, all 54 participants were able to define self-care as a therapeutic term, but were not actually able to identify what self-care means to them as a person. In other words, no participants answered the question with examples of what they do for their own self-care. The question was presented as “Self-Care means____”. Although the responses could have included “alone time” or “going for a run,” everyone responded as if they were being asked for a formal definition. One such example was “identifying activities that are personally satisfying and choosing to implement that activity.” Once this awareness was brought to the attendees attention, the presentation began.
Topics that were covered included personal stress awareness, identifying self-care opportunities for mental, emotional, and physical health, self-care activities to complete with clients in session as well as individually, and burnout prevention techniques. Additionally, integrative approaches to health were discussed, along with the role helping professionals play in this continuously evolving field. Attendees openly discussed their opinions as to why it is easier for helping professionals to develop and implement self-care techniques with clients than themselves. After brainstorming on reasons why, attendees were asked how they might each invite self-care into their world now that the necessity had been identified and discussed.
The presentation is available to the public at the following link: http://prezi.com/iq7knfzzn7ke/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share
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