The Center for Mind-Body Medicine
James S. Gordon MD

About James S. Gordon MD

James S. Gordon, MD is Founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine; Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Family Medicine; Georgetown University School of Medicine and author of Manifesto for a New Medicine, Comprehensive Cancer Care, and Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey out of Depression.

Coming Together to Heal

lit voltive candles

The terrible deaths of school children and those who care for them in Connecticut are bound to touch all of our children and, indeed, all of us. I’ve learned, over 15 years of work with populations traumatized by violence and natural disaster, that we must pay attention to whole populations as well as to the people most affected. All of us, certainly those who have lost family members and all of those living in Newtown need a way to come together to share their grief and anger, bewilderment, and, yes, despair. And they need, as well, ways to help them to deal with the fear and mistrust, the rage and the emotional numbing, that may persist along with the grief and the loss.

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An Open Door in Gaza

The first day’s meeting with our Gaza leadership team opens the door, actually frames the whole visit. There’s Jamil—our Program Director, and nineteen others—psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers. They have day jobs in Gaza’s ministries, at the UN, and in the red crescent, and a variety of local NGOs. Many have been with us since 2005 when they came to the first training. They lead our programs in the institutions in which they work, supervise the 420 clinicians and educators we have trained in Gaza and meet together every week to learn from one another and make our program as good and as easily available as it can be. Jamil and his team are responsible for bringing our work to, so far, 50,000 Palestinian children and adults.

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Coming Together at CancerGuides Israel

 

People with cancer often come to me with a central question: “What else can I do?” This has two parts: What other therapies are available than the ones my oncologist prescribed? And, second, what can I do? How can I participate actively in my own care?

For Israelis and Palestinians, this question is fundamental. Israelis, like Americans, are faced with a multitude of (often conflicting) treatment choices. For Palestinians with very limited treatment options, a cancer diagnosis—even for some of the most treatable forms of the illness—is often accepted as a death sentence. In both cases, “what else can I do?” is a question whose answers are of central importance to the well-being of patients—one that The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) has been answering for twelve years in its US CancerGuides trainings.

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Playing, and Winning, in Las Vegas

The basketball courts lie, like high-value chips a giant might play, across the vast floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center. 400 teams, 4,000 players ages 9-19, at the Jam On It AAU Tournament. There are 12 or 15 thousand parents, coaches, refs, and siblings, the kids in uniforms, almost all of us in baggy shorts.

It’s overwhelming and I am, at first, a bit huffy about it. Wondering why my son needs to fly to another state to play, remembering going every day to the park for pick-up games.

But it grows on me. The kids are black, brown, yellow, white, wealthy and working class, and there are almost as many girls as boys, practicing cross-over dribbles, slapping hands. Very focused.

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Letters the NY Times Didn't Print: About Liberty

Kurt Andersen (“The Downside of Liberty,” New York Times.com, 7/4/12) writes that because of the “do your own thing” ethos of the 1960’s, “we are all shamelessly selfish.”

Anderson misreads the character and is insensitive to the spirit of those times, which my friends and I, and millions of other young people, lived through and were touched by. Doing our own thing was for most of us a quest for authenticity spurred by generous hopes for all and fulfilled in communal action.

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Our Work in Haiti: The Impact

The people you see in this video are our brothers and sisters. We bring them hope for healing the terrible losses they experienced in the January 2010 earthquake. Their unaffected courage, their warmth, joy and humor as they learn to heal themselves give me hope for all of us.

I very much look forward to reading your comments.

 

This is the first of a new series of videos that we’ll be sharing about our work in Haiti.

Learn more about our Global Trauma Relief work in Haiti

Donate now! Your help means the world to us.

Letters The New York Times Chose Not to Print: #2

I wanted to make sure you saw this one because it’s relevant to the 2nd anniversary of the BP Oil Spill and because Joe Nocera’s tone and column were so troubling-and The Times’ response to informed criticism, absent. No Letters to The Editor were published about this column.

What follows is my Letter that didn’t get published, and a link to the original piece titled “The Phony Settlement.”

To the Editor of The New York Times

Re: The Phony Settlement by Joe Nocera March 10, 2012

James S. Gordon

In claiming the moral high ground in his critique of possibly inflated claims resulting from BP’s Deep Water Horizon oil spill, the usually fair-minded Joe Nocera, tramples on the truth.

According to Nocera, only “700 sought compensation” for health reasons from Kennith Feinberg at the Gulf Coast Claims facility. But the health consequences, apparently unclaimed until now, are likely to be far more extensive and far worse.

Working in Plaquemines Parish my colleagues and I have met hundreds of previously healthy people now marked by skin lesions, often wheezing and tremulous as well as anxious and depressed. And authoritative studies on the population and the toxic consequences of both the oil spill and the dispersants that were used—in The New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of American Medical Association, and the Annals of Internal Medicine—suggest that more dire consequences are to come including liver and heart disease and the kinds of genetic mutations that lead to cancer.

Here as elsewhere it is the already vulnerable population–the poor and unemployed, children, pregnant women, and those previously displaced by Katrina—who will be most affected. These people, whom Mr. Nocera seems to dismiss as “runny-nose[d]” complainers, are the ones about whom we should care—who should be compensated.


“The Phony Settlement”

James S. Gordon MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.

Letters The New York Times Chose Not to Print: Occasional Postings

Like many people I know, I’ve long been in continual dialogue with The New York Times, my breakfast companion for over 60 years. Often I’ve nodded my head with appreciation when The Times reporters have brought back news from far away or previously ignored places, or its columnists have set out a position with which I agreed or one I was groping toward. Sometimes I’ve been stumped, particularly by the arcana of financial reporting. And on occasion—coverage of the run-up to the war in Iraq comes to mind—I’ve found myself shouting at the folded paper, even shaking my fist.

I’ve written for The Times occasionally, over more than 40 years, mostly for The Book Review but also for the Science section. The Times has also written about me and my work, mostly quite favorably. And I’ve also written letters. A couple have been published, and a number of them have been rejected. Or is “ignored” the better word?

Perhaps it’s vanity or the infirmity that comes with age—or maybe it’s just experience and conviction—that makes me feel I have something to say that others should attend to. In any case, I decided that I’m going to share with you what doesn’t appear in The Times to let opinions and words that may have seemed peripheral, tendentious, or perhaps too challenging to The Times staff, find a more welcoming home.

What I’m going to do is publish the letter I wrote here with a link to the original article and another to the letters The Times did choose to publish. I hope you’ll find this experiment interesting and that it will also inspire you to let your own voices be heard. In any case, please let me know what you think.

This first posting, below, concerns a column by Nicholas Kristof “A Veteran’s Death, The Nation’s Shame,” which I admired, which appeared on April 15th, together with the letters that were in the paper today, April 20th.

Preventing Military Suicide with Self-Care

James S. Gordon, M.D.

In his poignant piece on escalating post-deployment military suicides (NYT, April 15), Nicholas Kristof writes that “we refurbish tanks after time in combat, but don’t much help men and women exorcise the demons of war.”

There are in fact programs that do address these demons successfully and in ways that are stigma free and widely acceptable to the military and their families. Unfortunately they are not yet widely available.

These programs are based on the understanding that persistent stress and trauma may come to all who are in combat; and that practical self-care skills like meditation, guided imagery and movement can provide prospective on and address the agitation and aggression, the overwhelming memories, isolation, despair, and suicidal feelings—the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—that may come in its wake.

At The Center for Mind-Body Medicine we have used this approach to reduce symptoms of war-related PTSD by 80%-in Kosovo and Gaza. The 300 US military and VA clinicians whom we have trained and the active duty, veterans, and family members with whom they work, appreciate the stress-reducing, mood enhancing practicality of our “mind-body” program. They embrace the opportunity to express themselves without fear of censure, or career foreclosure, in small groups whose support is reminiscent of combat units.

We are currently undertaking a Department of Defense funded randomized controlled trial of this method with war-traumatized US vets. Others are doing similar studies with similar approaches. Our preliminary results are promising, but research is slow and the time for many vets, like Ryan and Michael, is short. The Defense Department and the VA need to move ahead swiftly to offer this program and others to the hundreds of thousands who can make good, perhaps life-saving use of them.

“A Veteran’s Death, The Nation’s Shame”

“Letters to the Editor, April 20th, 2012″

James S. Gordon MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.

Day 5: Images of Our Time Together

So much happens to all of us in the Jacmel training as we go deeper, become more aware, take chances, and connect over five days.

Our faculty faces fears of not performing well, of not sleeping at night, and of missing what is muffled in translation. We take the chance of feeling our uncertainty of daily supervision and are gratified that our colleagues have at least as much compassion for us as we feel for those we are helping.

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Day Five: Images of Our Time Together

So much happens to all of us in the Jacmel training as we go deeper, become more aware, take chances, and connect over five days.

Our faculty faces fears of not performing well, of not sleeping at night, and of missing what is muffled in translation. We take the chance of feeling our uncertainty of daily supervision and are gratified that our colleagues have at least as much compassion for us as we feel for those we are helping.

The interns are stars, setting examples of emotional risk taking and taking care of business: filling in where the translator is a bit off, pointing out what faculty may have missed, and making sure, as if they have invited all of us into their own homes, that we are well cared for in lines at lunch, during the lectures, and at the beginning and end of each day.

I see the participants grow more receptive each day, feel them more engaged with every exercise we do. Men and women who have never heard of, let alone participated in, psychotherapy are exquisitely sensitive to each others’ complex feelings and thoughts, and us. Often without words, old and young, farmers as well as physicians, create a climate of acceptance in which everyone–and I really do mean everyone–seems to feel safe.

The suspicion and rancor among religious groups–Catholics, Protestants, Vodoun Healers—is palpable in the early days. Though the saying has it that Haiti is 80% Christian and 100% Vodoun, some of the Christians seem quite fearful. “Who are these Vodoun people?” They ask with uneasily politeness. By the last day, after having sat in the same small groups, most of them seem at ease. “We are just people” says Clement, who heads the Jacmel Vodoun Healers Association. “I feel like these people are my family,” and the nuns in their habits and scripture-quoting-Protestants nod their heads.

Nature is so important. In drawing after drawing on the final day, the restoration of hope is symbolized by new trees, green and blue where there was, on the first day, only brown.

If it is possible, community is even more important. The final day’s drawings of the goal each participant would hope to reach are crowded with family, friends, and neighbors. When the groups come to the front of the grande salle to receive their certificates of completion, they sing songs to their leader and intern, and to themselves, and they call themselves “family”.

Already on the first evening many of the participants are sharing what they’ve learned with children, spouses, and parents. On the fifth and last day, they are, without being asked, pledging to take “CMBM,” this work, to their schools, churches, clinics, and to everyone in their communities. Linda has to slow them down a bit. “Sharing with your friends and family is good, but you need to practice much more. You are just learning. When we have the Advanced Training in November we will teach you how to lead groups.”

James S. Gordon MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.

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