James Gordon, M.D., Dean of Saybrook University’s College of Mind-Body Medicine, has announced that he will launch a training effort for over 300 health and mental health professionals, community leaders, and educators in Gaza City.
This training in Mind-Body Medicine techniques is designed to help address the overwhelming mental health needs of children in the Palestinian territories.
The trainings will be provided by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, which Dr. Gordon founded and directs.
The training program focuses on psychological self-care, community building, and spiritual renewal. Participants will bring what they learn personally and professionally back to the communities they serve to create a sustainable system of psychological self-care and support, and to help alleviate the posttraumatic stress disorder, stress, depression and anxiety that plague Gaza’s children and youth.
During this visit, Dr. Gordon and his CMBM team will meet with their local Israeli and Palestinian leadership teams, including CMBM-trained clinicians and educators, and visit some of the 160 ongoing groups practicing self-care techniques of mind-body medicine.
The Dean of Saybrook’s College of Mind-Body Medicine, Dr. James Gordon, is one of the leading global voices calling for a change in the way medicine is practiced.
The Founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine and a Clinical Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at Georgetown Medical School, he recently served as Chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. He also served as the first Chair of the Program Advisory Council of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine and is a former member of the Cancer Advisory Panel on Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the NIH.
The Saybrook Forum asked Dr. Gordon to talk with us about the changes he sees in medicine as a field, and his recent book Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression (Penguin Press).
Forum: Are there myths about depression that most Americans hold?
James Gordon: “Basically we’ve decided, with the fervent urging of the pharmaceutical companies and the sometimes active participation of the medical community, that depression is a disease and that it’s best treated with medications we call ‘anti-depressant’ drugs.
This is a misunderstanding, this is a myth, and it goes against the scientific grain as well as the experience of many, many, people.
Depression is a very painful experience, but it’s not the same as diabetes or coronary artery occlusion. There’s no consistent chemical abnormality. Depression is a state of being that we get into when we’re out of balance. Sometimes physically out of balance, to be sure, but also socially, spiritually, emotionally. It has many causes, but the causes are not Prozac deficiency, or even serotonin deficiency. These are often results, rather than causes. So what I’m doing in Unstuck is saying let’s look at the evidence, and the evidence is quite clear that depression is not a disease like these other entities are, that there is no simple biochemical abnormality, and that when you look at the so-called magic bullets that are supposed to wipe out depression, the research shows that they are little better than placebo, than sugar pills. When you look at the history of the research, the published studies make them look like they’re very effective therapeutic agents, but when you put these together with the unpublished studies, you see that they’re of very little use.
It’s an emperor’s new clothes situation. We’ve developed and marketed a cure that doesn’t really work very well.”
Forum: What should we do differently?