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What is Mind-Body Medicine?
Mind-body medicine is based on a relatively new, rapidly developing area of care called Psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI. Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of how the mind affects the body. "Psycho" refers to your thinking, emotions and mood states. "Neuro" refers to the neurological and neuroendocrine systems in your body. "Immunology" refers to your cellular structures and immune system.
Mind-body medicine explores the influence of your mind and emotions on your body and immune system, and vice versa. Mind-body specialists are typically psychologists or other mental health professionals who examine the affects of your mind, thoughts, attitudes and beliefs on physical health and well-being. Specialists use a variety of techniques aimed to promote health, such as deep breathing, guided imagery, relaxation therapy, meditation and yoga. Using these techniques, mind-body medicine helps you direct your energies toward healing and health.
Mind-Body Medicine in Cancer Care
Psychoneuroimmunology explores the connection between psychological and spiritual conditions, and physical well-being. Some studies have suggested that addressing your psychological and spiritual health (including mood, attitudes, self-image and outlook) can help in the recovery process from cancer and other forms of disease.
Cancer treatment can be physically demanding and can sometimes cause side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, muscle tension and lost sleep. Mind-body medicine techniques, like guided imagery and relaxation, may help reduce some of these symptoms. These techniques may become important tools in your peace of mind and well-being, and may help improve your quality of life.
Mind-Body Medicine at CTCA
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), we take a holistic, patient-centered approach to fighting cancer. While we use every available resource to treat you physically, we understand that there are other factors involved, such as your psychological well-being, which may impact your healing journey. The Mind-Body Medicine Program at CTCA goes beyond the usual counseling services to help you explore all levels of your being—mind, body and spirit.
Mind-Body Assessment and Plan
The mind-body medicine team at CTCA consists of experienced, compassionate psychologists and other psychotherapists. When you first arrive at CTCA, you will have the option to meet with a mind-body specialist. Your mind-body specialist will collaborate regularly with your oncologist and the rest of your care team to recommend specific mind-body tools and techniques based on your individual needs. The goal is to help you deal with the physical and emotional issues that may arise during your cancer treatment. Every attempt is made to empower you to participate fully in your care and treatment decisions.
Whether or not you decide to integrate mind-body medicine into your cancer treatment plan is completely up to you. Our team of specialists is here to help you, not to analyze or judge you in any way. Sometimes new patients visit with our specialists and later decide they are no longer interested. Other times patients arrive not interested in mind-body medicine and later decide to pursue it. We understand that everyone is different and we let you decide.
Mind-Body Services at CTCA
The innovative Mind-Body Medicine Program at CTCA includes the following complementary services for you and your family:
- Individual, couple and family counseling
- Stress management classes
- Relaxation and guided imagery training
- Humor/Laughter therapy
- Psychoeducational and support groups
- Tai Chi, Qigong, Reiki therapy
- Educational resources
The diagnosis of cancer, the side effects of cancer treatment, and all the other changes taking place in your life can make this time especially stressful. There are many physical, behavioral, emotional, cognitive and spiritual symptoms that occur when you experience stress. Our stress management classes help you and your family members cope with this stress so you can focus on healing.
A typical class will explore the dimensions of stress. Our mind-body specialists will discuss the differences between boredom, eustress (the good kind of stress that motivates us to be at our best), stress and distress (the level of arousal that overwhelms our abilities to deal with the current stimuli in our life). Our specialists might also recommend that you keep a stress awareness diary, and record the date, time and symptoms that occurred during the stressful event. Our specialists will help you chart your stressful events and your reactions to them, and then recommend stress management interventions.
Imagery is a flow of thoughts and feelings that help teach the body what to do. Negative images of worry and fear tell the muscles to tense, the breathing to increase, and the heart to beat faster. Positive images, on the other hand, can help control nausea and raise blood counts, help resolve constipation and manage pain. Our mind-body specialists will use guided imagery techniques to teach you to envision yourself responding to treatment and experiencing a desirable outcome.
Research tells us that laughter stimulates the body to produce its own antidepressant - a natural painkiller. Laughter is also a wonderful stress reliever and a great relationship builder. It may stimulate your immune system to aid in the healing process. It also facilitates learning and helps your body generate energy. Our mind-body specialists will help you use and enjoy laughter as a tool for healing.
Learn more about how CTCA integrates laughter therapy into your cancer care.
Pain is an important example of the relationship among the mind, body and spirit. When the body feels pain, our thoughts and emotions get aroused. Pain may cause anxiety and depression, which may make the pain more intense. The Mind-Body Medicine Program at CTCA will educate you about the effects of pain on energy, relationships and the immune system. Our therapists collaborate regularly with our pain management team and will teach you techniques to help you reduce your pain, anxiety and depression so that you can feel better and focus on healing.
Learn More: Mind-Body Medicine Tips
Read our July 2007 newsletter, featuring tips for nurturing your psychological well-being during cancer care. To subscribe to our free monthly e-newsletter, visit the CancerCenter Newsletter Sign Up page today.