Kosovo was the pilot program for CMBM’s innovative use of mind-body medicine with population-wide healing. CMBM Founder and CEO James S. Gordon, MD, and Susan Lord, MD, began working in Kosovo in 1998 alongside the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe when the war began. They expanded the scope of their work with the support of the British Department for International Development, generous individual donors and various foundations. CMBM’s international faculty trained more than 600 Kosovar clinicians and educators over five years, who have helped establish CMBM’s model as one of the pillars of Kosovo’s post-war, nationwide community mental health system. More than 20 years later, it is still available to the entire population of two million people.
Kosovar psychiatrists Afrim Blyta, MD, PhD, and Jusuf Ulaj, MD, are Country Co-Directors of this landmark program. They and their team of 15 faculty continue to provide ongoing supervision to CMBM trainees who use our model in Kosovo’s community mental health centers.
Communities in the Suhareka region were particularly hard-hit—80% of homes were destroyed, and 20% of the high school students lost one or both parents. The first randomized controlled trial (RCT) of any intervention with war-traumatized children and the first RCT of a successful, comprehensive mind-body approach with any traumatized population were published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2008, showing highly significant and lasting changes in symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
More than 80% of the high school students who began the 12-week program qualifying for the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder no longer qualified for the diagnosis and the end of 12 weeks. These gains held at 3-month follow-up. This study is remarkable not only for its success, but for the fact that the leaders of these groups were rural high school teachers with no background in psychology other than the CMBM training.
The Kosovo study was a landmark in the research literature. It demonstrated that nonprofessionals, committed to learning and using the CMBM model with themselves and others, could successfully bring CMBM’s trauma-healing work to large numbers of people. This study also inspired CMBM to expand the scope of our work and engage with non-clinical community leaders across the world.
- From the first full-scale training program held in Macedonia for refugee Kosovar physicians in 1999, the program has evolved into a pillar of the nationwide Community Mental Health system.
- 600 health and education professionals were trained, serving 2 million children and adults.
- Leadership team of 15 providing ongoing supervision.
- Groundbreaking research on the positive effects of mind-body medicine on PTSD
Gordon, J. S., Staples, J. K., Blyta, A., Bytyqi, M., & Wilson, A. T. (2008). Treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder in postwar Kosovar adolescents using mind-body skills groups: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 69(9), 1469-76.
This study demonstrates that CMBM’s groundbreaking model can be used to produce highly significant and lasting changes in levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms in highly traumatized children.
Eighty-two high school students in Kosovo participated in this randomized controlled study. The program was conducted by teachers in an educational, supportive small group setting and included meditation, guided imagery, breathing techniques and biofeedback, as well as self-expression through words, drawings and movement. All the students met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which was measured using the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire. Following the program, the percentage of students having symptoms indicating PTSD was significantly reduced from 100% to 18%. The reduction in symptoms was maintained at a three-month follow up.
The full text of this study can be accessed here.