The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s (CMBM) program in Gaza is one of the world’s largest, most effective, and most culturally acceptable programs of healing population-wide psychological trauma. CMBM is the only program working with both Palestinians and Israelis throughout ongoing conflict.
Since 2005, CMBM has trained 600 Palestinian clinicians, educators, and community leaders in its model of psychological self-care and group support. These trainees have brought the CMBM approach to more than 150,000 children and adults. Some 40,000 people have participated in 10-weeklong Mind-Body Skills Groups. CMBM works closely with the Ministries of Health, Education, and Social Welfare, The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and an additional 200 international and local NGOs.
Gaza, a 25-mile long Mediterranean sliver of land between Israel and Egypt, is regularly referred to by its own inhabitants as “the world’s largest open air prison”. One of the most densely populated places on our planet, Gaza frequently experiences unpredictable land, air, and sea attacks and is subject to violent political and clan schisms. The entire population of 1.8 million has witnessed and/or been affected by violence. Unemployment and poverty levels are soaring. Access to basic needs such as water, sanitation, power, food sources, and adequate health care are extremely limited and unreliable.
Jamil Abdel Atti, CMBM Gaza Country Director
I thought my husband’s death destroyed my life. I cried a lot in the Mind-Body Skills Groups, but no one prevented me; they respected my sadness, my silence, and my suffering. I learned to take deep breaths to fill my chest with oxygen, acceptance and hope, and to exhale the anger and despair. I learned that I do have a body to care about, and other family members that I could rely on.Nadia, age 27
The psychological consequences for the entire population – and especially Gaza’s children who make up half the population – are grave. In response to this ongoing crisis, and with generous funding from The Atlantic Philanthropies (from 2005-2012), CMBM has laid a foundation in Gaza for the world’s largest, most comprehensive and most effective program for healing population-wide psychological trauma. Each week, there are thousands of men, women and children who gather together in groups to practice CMBM’s mind-body skills. They are regaining a sense of calm in the midst of chaos, and transforming their despair into hope.
CMBM’s success in relieving trauma and restoring hope has won admiration, respect, and admired support from U.S. and international agencies, including the UN, Mercy Corps, The International Medical Corps, The Red Crescent, and the U.S. VA system. It has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, and Al Jazeera.
These (mind-body skills) groups are the one place in Gaza where everyone can take off their masks, relax, and be themselves.Mohammed Abualsebah, MD, Head of Psychiatric Services for the Ministry of Health
Interviews and Our Work
The CMBM Model
The CMBM model directly addresses the causes and symptoms of trauma, stress, depression, and burnout. The practical techniques we teach are easy to learn and share with others, adaptable to a wide variety of cultures worldwide, and grounded in psychobiology.
The CMBM model is:
- cost effective
- evidence based, scientific
- preventive and therapeutic
- being implemented nationwide
- not dependent upon medication
Our Published Research
Staples JK, Abdel Attai JA, Gordon JS. Mind-body skills groups for posttraumatic stress disorder and depression symptoms in Palestinian children and adolescents in Gaza. Int J Stress Manag. 2011; 18(3): 246-262. doi: 10.1037/a0024015
- 500 children participated in mind-body skills groups taught by 31 CMBM trained health professionals in Gaza in 2007-2008. Prior to participation in the program, 26% of the children had symptoms which qualified them as having PTSD. In those having qualifying PTSD symptoms, the PTSD symptom scores were significantly decreased (56%) following the program. This improvement was partially maintained at 7 month follow-up with a 39% decrease in scores compared to baseline.
- 56% of those qualifying as having PTSD also qualified as having depression using cutoff values on the Children’s Depression Inventory. The depression scores were significantly decreased (29%) following the program. This improvement was partially maintained at 7 month follow-up with a 20% decrease in scores compared to baseline. The children felt more hopeful about their future and their lives as indicated by a statistically significant decrease in hopelessness scores (28% decrease) following participation in the mind-body skills groups. This improvement was fully maintained at follow-up.
- The full text of this study can be accessed here.
Gordon JS, Staples JK, Abdel Atti JA. Mind-body skills groups for posttraumatic stress disorder and depression symptoms in Palestinian adults in Gaza. Published in Traumatology in August 2016.
- Data was gathered from 499 adults in Gaza who participated in mind-body skills groups in 2007-2008. Prior to participation in the program 17% of the adults had symptoms which qualified them as having posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire.
- A study in Gaza shows that mind-body skills groups reduced symptoms of PTSD and depression in Palestinian adults. Participants also reported overall improvements in quality of life. Improvement was maintained at 10 month follow-up for PTSD, depression, and anxiety symptoms, and some of the quality of life subscales.