Mind-Body Medicine for Cancer Patients with James Gordon

WebMD Live Events Transcript

According to James Gordon, MD, mind-body medicine focuses on the interactions between mind and body and the powerful ways in which emotional, mental, social and spiritual factors can directly affect health. Can this work for cancer patients?

Event Date: 05/26/2000.

The opinions expressed by Dr. Gordon are his and his alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for information purposes only.

Moderator: Good evening all! Please welcome James S. Gordon, MD.

Dr. Gordon: Thank you for inviting me. I'm happy to be here.

Moderator: Let's begin by defining mind-body medicine.

Dr. Gordon: Well, mind-body medicine is a way of understanding that there is no separation between mind and body, that everything we think and feel and perceive affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally, and that we can use our mind to affect the way our body works, and we can use our body to affect our mind. For example, relaxation techniques, meditation, biofeedback, visual imagery, all are ways of mobilizing the mind to affect itself and to affect physical functioning. Similarly, we can use the body to make positive changes in itself, and also to influence the mind. So for example, physical exercise is very useful for decreasing anxiety and reducing depression. Mind-body medicine is an approach which essentially teaches people how to use their own capacity to affect physical and emotional function.

Morris71_Lycos: Is mind-body therapy alternative therapy?

Dr. Gordon: Well, I think we're coming to the point at which the distinctions between alternative and conventional are less meaningful. Probably 50% of the people in the U.S. make use of therapies that are alternative to or different from the ones their doctors were taught in medical school. The mind-body approach makes use of our most recent scientific understanding to help people to help themselves. Most of the approaches I just talked about are increasingly coming into the mainstream of medical care.

Moderator: Is the NIH (National Institutes of Health) starting to recognize those therapies not considered "conventional?"

Dr. Gordon: The NIH is recognizing those therapies, and increasingly providing funding for research into them. The NIH is funding centers around the country, university medical schools, et cetera, for the most part, that are sponsoring research in mind-body therapies, nutrition, energy medicine, acupuncture, et cetera, so a major part is through medical research places. There are now research committees that are composed of people who are expert in alternative therapies, and therefore, they're more open to considering grants for these, including mind-body.

Moderator: How does one go about choosing a mind-body therapy?

Dr. Gordon: I think in a very real sense, the therapy chooses you. There are certain things that may appeal to you. For example, if you look at my book, Manifesto For A New Medicine, you'll see that I use a number of different kinds of therapies for different people, and that almost always, the therapy that I suggest is one that is particularly appealing to the person for whom I'm suggesting it. So for example, somebody who has been depressed, to whom I may suggest dancing, simply putting on fast music and dancing, will often say, "You know, I was thinking I really love to dance and I don't do much of it anymore." Or somebody with a particular scientific bent may enjoy biofeedback to create a state of relaxation, because they like the instruments, they like seeing the physical change in temperature. So if you're interested, check out Manifesto For A New Medicine, and almost certainly, one of the techniques I describe will be one that feels right for you.

Morris71_Lycos: Do music and art therapies fall into mind-body therapy?

Dr. Gordon: I regard music and art therapies -- they're an intrinsic part of what we do with people who come to the center for help, and they're very much a part of our training program for professionals, as well as the work we do in traumatized people in Kosovo, and people with cancer here in the United States. While I recognize the particular expertise of art and music therapists, our feeling is that we can teach people some very simple ways of using art and music, so that they can better express themselves and understand themselves. If people want to find out more about our therapy and training programs, they should look at our web site, www.cmbm.org. 

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