New Civilization News: Alternatives for Mental Health Workers and their Clients    
 Alternatives for Mental Health Workers and their Clients8 comments
picture20 Jun 2007 @ 13:17, by Gerald Vest

Meditation Proves to Relieve Stress-

"Mindfulness requires keen observation, but it must be free from interpretation and passing judgment. Practicing mindfulness develops our usual awarenss to its most subtle level; with this awareness, we can protect ourselves against being pulled off balance by our thoughts and emotions." (Tarthang Tulku, Openness Mind, p. 118)

While discussing the mental health movement in several of my previous logs, I also introduced meditation, exercise, Martial Arts, Psychocalisthenics, massage & skillful touch, theatre, photography, art, music and dance. As we become more interested and involved in developing ourselves--our knowledge and experience of the arts and of various meditations, we can learn first hand how we can balance our body, mind and emotions while experiencing very positive feelings and healthy relationships both internally and externally. Thus, it is no surprise to learn that depression, stress and anxiety can be improved with meditation and the arts because we are 'playing a part' in the healing processes. We develop will power or determination by maintaining a daily practice of being mindful and by being engaged in many integrative health practices.

For many years, while teaching full time for New Mexico State University, School of Social Work, I taught courses in Holistic Health Practice and Integrative Health Practices every semester for many disciplines that included all of these methods. Currently, I introduce these practices with the US Army, Ft. Bliss, TX as part of the "Stress Management-Health Promotion Classes," Army Community Services and annually with our course in "Social Work Practice with Elders."

With meditation, the healing takes place with the patient or client participating in this experience. With drugs, the participant is not often considered important to the healing process, especially with the psychotropic drugs. I have abstracted a couple of paragraphs from this Buddhist Meditation website that demonstrates through research how effective meditation practices can be for improving our whole being and for relieving our pain and suffering.

Buddhist Meditation and Health

"Duangjai Gasandigun (1986) has carried out research on how our moods affect our mental health: 'the effects of meditation on mental health, measured by comparing depression in individuals between 15 and 25 years of age at the Buddhist Center for the practice of Religious Precepts (Phrathamgai Temple) in Phatumthani province. A control group of 156 people who had been instructed in meditation, had to take a test that measured their level of depression both before and after meditation. The average score showed that depression was lower after meditation. This suggests that meditation relieves stress, bringing with it the ability to analyze, understand problems and alleviate the cause of depression.

It should be pointed out that all kinds of diseases are treated with medicine or with many procedures of medical science. Some treatments use our own intentions and will power, for example, psychotherapy or the practice of meditation. In such treatments, the patient must play a part in helping himself, not simply depending on medicine. These treatments demonstrate that the mind can look after itself and have an effect on the treatment of physical disease. In this way, if a patient receiving treatment is able to understand that his sickness is physical and doesn't allow it to affect his mental health, staying calm and cheerful, then that his sickness will inevitably improved and be cured more quickly. But if a patient reverts to being low-spirited, depressed or self-piteous then the sickness will be more difficult and take longer to treat. Therefore, staying calm, clear-headed and cheerful at all times is something that can protect us from disease. Phra Dhebhavedhi (Prayut Payuddho 1993 pp. 15-16) has listed all the benefits meditation can bring both to mental and to the development of the personality: will-power, determination, stability, politeness, gentleness, dexterity, liveliness, nimbleness, cheerfulness, dignity, altruism and the ability to know oneself and others truthfully. These are the attributes of a person who has achieved perfection in both in body and mind."


Another program in Toronto, Canada, "Meditation for Health," introduces meditation and mindfulness to treat a host of symptoms that are normally treated through drug therapies. These alternatives to medical interventions have proven to be very successful for thousands of years by many cultures--our western psychologies are only now beginning to do their research that clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of these practices. Lucynda Sykes,' MD, program as described here, introduces a health practice that is not unlike many integrative health practices throughout the US, many modeled after Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn's, stress reduction clinic, the University of Massachusetts Medical center and introduced in his classic book - Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness.

Meditation for Health is:

a community-based medical program in Toronto, Canada, that teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as a self-care treatment for chronic, stress-sensitive symptoms.

-a complement and support to regular medical treatment. It helps people to mobilize their own inner resources for coping and healing -- especially for symptoms no longer responding to more standard medical treatments, or for symptoms exacerbating the course of chronic disease.

-an instruction in self-regulating techniques that have been shown to change the experience of symptoms, and to promote healing by reducing the stress response in mind and body.

Has been useful for such conditions as:

o chronic pain

o anxiety and panic

o sleep disturbance & insomnia

o gastrointestinal distress

o fatigue

o headaches

o job or family stress

o skin disorders

o high blood pressure

o stress factors in heart disease"

Furthermore, Dr. Sykes introduces mindfulness that is taught throughout her workshops and sessions:

What is "mindfulness"?

"Mindfulness" is nonjudgmental, moment to moment awareness --- our experience of being here, now.

"Mindfulness can be cultivated by deciding to pay attention to things that we normally never give a moment's thought to:

.... Like the sounds you are hearing right now ....

.... or the feeling of your eyes as they scan this text ....

.... Can you feel your next breath beginning ? .............

This is mindfulness."
(Lucynda Sykes, MD)[link]

These are two excellent models of health practices that can be used to replace the primary use of drugs while supporting and improving the whole health of clients, patients and participants. No diagnostic label is necessary and the participants are fully engaged in their complete process of knowing, changing and improving themselves. I suggest and recommend that mental health workers and social workers learn these various modalities so that they can be more skillful and effective. Also, they should learn to administer evaluation instruments so that what they teach can be evaluated and demonstrated in their practice.

Note: The picture was taken during one of my experiential stress management classes with soldiers at Ft. Bliss, TX.

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21 Jun 2007 @ 08:32 by jazzolog : Indeed
Some of these practices, of course, are associated with martial arts...and that is no contradiction. What we call psychosis might be called a mythic journey or dreamtime in another time or culture. Whatever it is, battles with demons and dragons can be expected and if you're the kind of worker who dives in after or with the "patient," the readiness is all. Madness also can be seductive, and the more you are centered the more real help you can be. I suppose most workers and doctors prefer to stand as a model above and outside the internal upheaval and say things like, "When you stop talking crazy, we can begin therapy." But there is the rare mental health worker who, if invited, will accept the privilege to go in and learn the language.  

21 Jun 2007 @ 14:46 by jerryvest : Thanks, Richard...I believe that
you are right about developing a relationship and learning the language while working and being with others. Seems to me that healthy, loving mothers instinctually know what their babies and children need, even before their language is perfected. Perhaps, once that label is slapped on the 'patient or human being' they are no longer viewed as a unique person who is creatively communicating--just another "sicko" in the eyes of the therapist.

This is an interesting article that I discovered today that may lend some light on the subject of learning to understand, support and appreciate the person or child early on as it may be our best opportunity to help them.

"In many ways my thoughts about the future of schizophrenia treatment are going back to psychosocial forms of intervention, especially at these early phases," he said. "One of the most important things is to keep these young people engaged and keep them from withdrawing. The earlier you can intervene in the developmental process, the more psychosocial interventions are going to have an impact." {link:}

Again, I would like to recommend that our mental health workers become aquainted with Dr. Ashley Montagu. For example, he describes the power of love and for all of us to "...take the trouble to understand what a baby really is, what its needs are."

Furthermore, for those in our society who become our cast-offs, Montagu describes the following point of reference:

"The unloving among us are those who have been failed in the most essential of all needs, for without love there is no ability to love, and without the ability to love it is possible at most to live a crippled human existence, to remain unfulfilled and unsatisfied as a human being. It is, in short, to suffer the cruelest of all deprivations." As he points out, it is not only the nourishing love and attention that is given by his caregivers that is crucial for development, but also the child's natural response or need to reciprocate that unifies our cycle of health and well-being.  

21 Jun 2007 @ 16:37 by a-d : Jazzo,
what you say makes me think of Carlos Castaneda -who was invited on "a Trip" with Don Juan -and what Trip it became! I think it went far beyond what even Don Juan first had in mind!
When I saw Jerry's article here, people started their Parade from the dark recesses of my Memory Lane... Somehow, I always end up with "the Same Answer" to this kind of Pondering: the Individual vs (VS; with emphasis) the Community > Establishment. It is a SICK Community/Soc/ Est/ that has its own sickness reflected back to itself via its so called Mentally Ill ( gross generalization here). There will be a day when the ONLY TRUE Mental Illness will be seen/acknowledged for what it is "Mental Illness" - which on the other hand, in itself is "nothing but SELFISHNESS" (when it is at the expense of others) with all its MYRIADS of expressions!... -ALL else is one way, or the other, a HEALTHY response to such an interaction, where one person's selfishness hurt the other to the point of having to show it as Mental Illness. Am I making sense to you guys here? I hope so. Because this is VERY IMPORTANT and TRUE! With this result of the Analysis ALL ELSE is already gone through and removed as being only symptoms found on the way, down to the (very core of) the CAUSE: IMBalanced SELFISHNESS ; one that extends beyond oneself and steals from others. This Original Sin; "falling out of grace" = shutting down one's own ability to listen Within in order to respond to the Outside World with the Answers/Ideas etc we found there; Within. The cause to this shutting down, can be found in a person's first Moments/year/s here on earth: Mother-Child-Father connection is SOMEHOW disturbed; not been as it was meant to be by Life/Nature. Period!

22 Jun 2007 @ 01:53 by jerryvest : As I entered our NCN discussion
forum, this is the quotation for the day that fits our discussion very well.

"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom." (Albert Einstein)  

22 Jun 2007 @ 05:16 by a-d : Well, whadddoukno'! : )
THIS is what showed up just a second ago in "that" space here on NCN: "Each small task of everyday life is part of the total harmony of the universe."

Isn't this the Truth! Being the case.... we'd better know ( the quality of ) our actions!.... I had this flash (of genius!....ahummmm ; )) the other day: Our Cosmic Powers are invertedly proportional (in strength and abilities) to our (level) of selfishness. The more of one , the less of the other! : )...just like our Freedom of choice is invertedly proportional to our (amount of ) prejudice. ( i hope I used the right word:{invertedly....If it doesn't make sense, let me know and I'll work on finding a word to replace this one... but this should be the Right one. )(what kind of excercise are you guys doing there on the pic? )  

22 Jun 2007 @ 12:53 by jerryvest : I'm not a very good word-smith, but
always appreciate the comments to my logs--thank you both for them. I suspect that when we judge anyone we are limiting our opportunities to get to know them and that is a very important point you raise. For example, it fits with this discussion that when we place a psychiatric/psychological label on a human being, we are adding something to their character or essential being that is not respectful, encouraging or empowering. It is for this reason that I have made such a 'big thing' about the DSM. It is very common for therapists to even unknowingly perceive their patients in the context of the diagnosis rather than in appreciating their true nature.

I believe that Fritjof Capra has a great definition for health that describes this picture for me: Health is 'a dynamic experience' that is in relationship with nature (all that is) and our whole being--physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Unfortunately, the mental health movement with its disease model, does not include the interaction and influence of the various relationships that we encounter every moment of our lives. It is for this reason that I believe that these professionals could help others more effectively by learning about their own mind and how it works--it (our mind)is much more than an isolated container that stores our experiences.

Oh, I am introducing some movements from tai chi with soldiers as part of our stress management class at Ft. Bliss. These slow moving exercises, coordinated with our breath, allows us to develop awareness, open our mind, relax and experience these dynamic interactions and relationships, without judgment.  

23 Jun 2007 @ 16:50 by Runi @ : medicalization of mental health
In western societies there has been over medicalisation of illnesses. This has prevented us from looking into other determinants of health and alternative treatment for mental health problems. It is sad that it is only now that people are beginning to appreciate the relevance of meditation to peoples over all health. I wonder if ethnocentrism has not played a part in this. Thanks Jerry for introducing skilful touch therapy.

What I have noticed is that for people to get help they require diagnostic labels and the sad part of this is that their conditions are most often exaggerated in order for them to qualify for service. Again, these labels come with a lot of negative impact.  

24 Jun 2007 @ 13:05 by jerryvest : Thanks, Runi...your message
certainly represents an awareness that I would hope would spread across our health professions, country and beyond. I suspect you are right that ethnocentrism has played a big part with many people unwilling to include meditation or touch as a daily health practice or even experiment with it.

I have been introducing meditation and martial arts in my classes for over 30 years and it still amazes me that only a hand full of students have even tried to calm and open their minds with meditation or mindfulness. I do believe that fear of the unknown, ignorance and prejudice are the major reasons. It is also unfortunate that students would rather take medicine/drugs than even attempt to use alternative methods, including touch, that have proven results as identified in this and other logs. The research by the Touch Institute and other integrative health programs have even provided validity and reliability measures demonstrating the effectiveness of many of these practices, while the DSM and other psychology/psychiatry interventions have little if any evidence of their efficacy. Hmm, perhaps our professionals and educators should begin to review the adage--'let research and science guide our practice.' We could also add: "Meditation is a way of opening our lives to the richness of experience, not an esoteric practice limited to certain times and places. In this way, we learn to open to the truth of our experience. How we live, what is happening in our lives, how we are affected by our experience--this is the ground of reality, and the source of spiritual awareness." (Tarthang Tulku, _Openness Mind_)

Runi, I hope you will continue to add your experiences, knowledge and understanding here on NCN. We don't have many student social workers participating here, so you are especially valuable to me and to those of us wishing to open the door and the mind to reason and to integrative health practices.

Let's stay-in-touch. Jerry  

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Other entries in
31 May 2010 @ 22:18: Our StressOut Mission and Activities
27 May 2008 @ 13:31: Another Critical Look at the DSM
4 May 2008 @ 02:25: Prototype Health Program for Wounded Warriors
21 Jan 2008 @ 20:58: What A Day Brings
16 Jan 2008 @ 14:31: Our Primary Concern is our Client ....
4 Jan 2008 @ 15:17: Study Finds, Drugs Offer No Benefit in Curbing Aggression
25 Nov 2007 @ 20:05: A Story about a Drug Representative of the Big Pharmas
14 Oct 2007 @ 14:27: Use of Touch & Integrative Methods
5 Jun 2007 @ 10:03: The US: One Big Drug Store
3 Jun 2007 @ 21:56: Serious Questions go Unanswered in Mental Health Movement

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