Sharon Ufberg, DC interviews James S. Gordon, MD about his recently published book, life’s work and future plans in the field of integrative medicine.
James S. Gordon, MD, is a Harvard-educated psychiatrist and world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, anxiety, and psychological trauma. He is the founder and director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. James Gordon about his life’s work and his recently published book, Unstuck: Your Guide To The Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression (Penguin Press).
Please tell me about the Center for Mind Body Medicine. Has its mission and your vision changed since it opened in 1991?I knew from the beginning I wanted to teach self-awareness, self-care and self-help and work with people most in need. I always had a particular interest in working with diverse populations and especially those underserved.
Since its inception in 1991, the mission of the Center for Mind Body Medicine (CMBM) has stayed the same, growing and evolving organically. The Center’s model combines the precision of modern science with the wisdom of the world’s healing traditions, to help health professionals heal themselves, their patients and clients, and their communities.
Our approach to mind-body medicine includes techniques such as self-awareness and self-expression through words, drawings, movement, relaxation, meditation, exercise, diet, biofeedback, visual imagery, self-hypnosis and group support.
I believe self-care to be central to all healthcare. CMBM explores, respects and integrates the healing practices of the world including acupuncture, meditation and yoga, as well as alternative Western approaches including herbalism, massage, musculo–skeletal manipulation, and prayer. We are clinicians and scientists seeking to advance medicine by integrating the best of all scientifically proven approaches.
We view illness as an opportunity for personal growth and transformation as well as a profound challenge, and healthcare providers as catalysts and guides in this process. We have focused on education versus direct service. Healthcare practitioners that we train to practice mind-body medicine enhance their own well–being. They learn how to affect change in their patients’ lives, and create clinical practices and educational experiences that are deeply fulfilling for themselves and those they serve.
Dr. Gordon, you have done groundbreaking work and created programs of comprehensive mind-body healing for physicians, medical students, nurses, psychologists and the clergy, for people with cancer, depression and other chronic illnesses, for traumatized children and families in Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel, and Gaza, and former child soldiers in Africa, post-9/11 New Yorkers and survivors of post-Katrina southern Louisiana, and for U.S Military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Most recently you have been working in Haiti, can you tell us more about that experience?Initially, I realized that I just needed to spend time with the people of Haiti, listening to their stories and then doing workshops with priests, nuns and other religious leaders, college and nursing students, Red Cross volunteers, kids in schools, teachers and mental health professionals. We arrived to help the people of Haiti deal with the disaster and to train people there to work with the trauma victims. The goal is create a sustainable program with trained faculty using a replicable model. We did this in Kosovo, aligned with the peace-keepers in 1998; we have now trained over 600 people and have developed a Kosovo mind-body medicine faculty. I have been blogging about Haiti on my website for those that want to read more about the experience.
Now about your most recent book, Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression. Why did you choose to write this book at this time?I wrote Unstuck for all those people who wonder if there is anything else they can do other than what they are now doing. With 30 million people on antidepressants, I knew I needed to write the book for them. This book, and the work I am doing, supports people as they go through the transformation from antidepressants to self-care. I also want clinicians to realize how important they are as a link to help patients to get on this journey—psychologically, spiritually and biologically. Unstuck gives people hope and offers clinicians a way to act as a catalyst for their patients.
What’s on the horizon for you Dr. Gordon? What is your vision going forward?My first priority is my still unfinished ongoing work. An example of this is the work we are doing in Gaza where we have trained 30,000 Palestinians since 2005 and have projected training 25,000 more in 2010. We offer 10 week program sessions that are demonstrating amazing outcomes. In Gaza, we train primarily psychologists, but also clinicians—physicians and nurses, educators and clergy. After participation in the program, they report posttraumatic stress syndrome symptom reduction by as much as 80%.
The other three major areas of emphasis for the future for me are:
1. Expand our capacity to go anywhere in the world where our work of global trauma relief is needed. Making this truly available is primarily a financial issue, whether in the United States or overseas.
2. Develop, pilot and implement a school wellness program, one that can be a model program on a state by state or national level. We did this in the 1990’s in Washington, D.C. and it is time for this to be created and actualized.
3. Bring together the leaders in health care for a campaign for true health care transformation. Create a health care system based on wellness, health equity and health promotion. It is time for a national movement with a common platform. One idea I have been sharing for years is to have all health care education be free with 3 years of obligatory service to follow.”
Is there anything else you would like to share with the IntegrativePractitoner.com membership?Just that we all are aware that the Center for Mind Body Medicine is a healing community and a community of healers and that our goal is to provide everyone in health care with the basic tools to help themselves and ongoing support to evolve as human beings and clinicians.”
For more information about the Center for Mind Body Medicine go to www.cmbm.org.