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March 13, 2006

13 Mar
Thanks for all your fabulous input on panic attacks. Within 10 minutes, I received 40 emails, chock full of critically useful information. Please keep it coming, and feel free to post your comments on our discussion page..
Thanks for all your fabulous input on panic attacks. Within the space of 10 minutes, I’d received 40 emails, chock full of critically useful information. Please keep it coming, and feel free to post your comments on our discussion page. As I say on my post, talk to me as if I were a novice, trying to understand this for the first time. I’d love to hear about your symptoms, your internal experience, what happens in your body, your emotions and your thoughts when this hits you. What do you want on a guided imagery audio for this? What helps you? What makes it worse? Any and all of this sort of information is hugely helpful. Thanks.

Last week we had a question about the Bonny Method of Imagery and Music, and someone wrote in that there’s in fact an annual conference coming up this October 6-8 in Corte Madera, California: Music and Psyche at the Edges of Life. For more information, click here.

I’ve just got done watching my review copy of the upcoming PBS Special, The New Medicine, due to air on Wednesday, March 29th, at 9 p.m., and I have to say, I think this is an absolutely superb program. It will do a lot to push mind-body medicine and guided imagery forward as a mainstream intervention. If you can, get your friends, colleagues, patients and clients to watch this - any skeptical relative or patient will benefit greatly.

Muffie Meyer, the producer, made some impeccable choices, interviewing and following patients and practitioners with tremendous appeal and presence. The result is an inspiring, riveting, informative and exciting special. In keeping with the grace and heart suffusing this program, the host of this 2-part special is the courageous, beautiful and inspiring Dana Reeve, being her usual clear, focused and authentic self.

The whole idea of The New Medicine is to show the use of new, patient-centered, mind-body-spirit approaches in mainstream medical institutions by regular docs and patients. So they pretty much chose prestigious institutions with practitioners who do not identify as "alternative" using these techniques. This of course makes a powerful case that this stuff is for everyone.

The first program focuses on imagery, hypnosis, relaxation and other mind-body methods, starting off with a problem pregnancy - a woman stuck in bed at Duke Medical Center, trying as hard as she can to keep her baby on the inside as long as possible, because every day counts for sustainable life on the outside. She increases her odds with guided imagery, with the help of her luminous OBGYN, Tracy Gaudet (whom I would follow anywhere). There are also kids with CP in wheelchairs, Type-A guys facing back surgery and coronary artery disease, and many others, each appealing, engaging person somebody you root for madly.

Deborah Schwab of Blue Shield of California is interviewed, too, and discusses the rather amazing findings resulting from using our Successful Surgery imagery on hysterectomy patients (They saved on average $2003 per procedure with the members who used imagery).

The second program focuses on the movement to counter high-tech, impersonal, modern medicine with a return to more collaborative, mutually satisfying healer-patient relationships.. again, some wonderful people and stories, displaying dazzling changes in the practice of medicine as it struggles to return to its compassionate roots.

The programs are inclusive, too. There are people from all backgrounds, races, ethnic groups and socio-economic classes. (Sometimes integrative therapies get misrepresented as only good for upper middle class consumers. Blessedly this program isn''t limited to this. There’s even footage of a free clinic using acupuncture and imagery on a room full of homeless people.)

I have one axe to grind - a small one, relatively speaking, in the larger scheme of things, given the beauty and power of this program. The producers created their own imagery for the demo that is actually heard on the program - a composite version that doesn’t exist in real life. They wanted something to stand alone without music. In doing this, they seem to have removed a lot of the immersive, right brain features that actually make imagery work. Perhaps they felt the need to make it appear more left-brained and therefore (presumably) more acceptable to the mainstream viewer. I''m not really sure what the thinking was here.

So they play a much more cognitive, cerebral version of guided imagery - flatter, less potent and less impactful than the real thing. (Studies show that our imagery without the music, for instance, is only half as efficacious, at best; sometimes less than that. And imagery without the altered state barely works at all, according to a couple of disappointing NIH studies..)

And so, sadly, the imagery is somewhat misrepresented. When they go on to interview Deborah Schwab, it’s not clear that the imagery she’s talking about - our Successful Surgery imagery, which created such a difference at Blue Shield, Kaiser, UC Davis and Columbia Presbyterian - doesn’t sound like that.. nor should it! So that was a bit of a bummer.

That said, I still have to say that these two programs are outstanding, and everything else is properly represented, accurate and responsible. In fact, this special so hits the mark from an aesthetic and storytelling point of view, that people will be glued to their TVs all the way through. They’ll be impressed and moved by it. Their attitudes and behavior will change as a result. It''s that good.

For educators and practitioners who want more information, click on http://www.newmedicineinfo.org/ . In addition, there’s an electronic postcard you can use to send out to friends, family, colleagues, patients and anybody else you think might benefit, at http://kellysalerno.com/newmedicine/message.php?sample=1go .

OK, take care.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award