The PhD Practicum is an exciting part of completing a PhD in Mind-Body Medicine at Saybrook University, and for Michelle LaMasa-Schrader the Practicum is where she stepped into the role of “Doctor of Mind-Body Medicine.” Michelle describes her transformation into a mind-body practitioner as a calling, something deeper than creating a new career path. Through study and numerous experiential activities she has embodied the work that she champions deep into her soul. Michelle reflects that many of the courses in her PhD program have impacted her on a profoundly personal level. During courses such as the “Spirituality and Health” course she chose to use the opportunity to deepen her relationship with her husband. She created a spiritual ritual that has strengthened their personal relationship, an unexpected gift from her graduate education.
To culminate her academic learning Michelle designed a three-part Practicum. In the first part, she shadowed a physician, Dr. Jorge Moreno at Optimal Wellness, near Los Angeles, to learn more about his holistic medical approach. He is an osteopathic physician who utilizes many alternative therapies such as ozone therapy, neurofeedback, chelation, and Turbosonic (sound vibrational) therapy. He also works with a mind-body oriented dentist to treat patients’ specific needs. Dr. Moreno has asked Michelle to continue working with him, and to help him design a wellness program for faculty at a local Catholic High School.
The second part of her Practicum consisted of co-facilitating two mind-body workshops, one of which was a “Toolbox Workshop.” During the workshop she introduced mind-body skills including “safe place” and “wise guide” imagery, shaking and dancing, loving kindness meditation, and a forgiveness meditation that allowed the participants an opportunity to clear or resolve an area of un-forgiveness or anger. She also led the participants in an imagery exercise to “experience their future selves.” The workshop was a powerful experience for Michelle and the participants.
The final piece of her practicum took place in Omaha, Nebraska where Michelle coordinated a week-long rotation in a Complementary and Alternative Medical (CAM) practice, Cornerstone Progressive Health. During her time at the practice she worked independently with 18 patients. Stepping into the role of “Doctor of Mind-Body Medicine” was a transformational experience that intensified her dedication to the field. When working as a mind-body medicine practitioner, there was no protocol to follow. Instead Michelle relied on her knowledge and deep experience with mind-body medicine when working with patients. Michelle trusted her intuition and guided many of her patients from a sense of hopelessness to hope. Michelle reflects now how her course work prepared her for her new role: The “Coaching for Health and Wellness” course provided her with tools to ask powerful questions, and her “Imagery for Health and Healing” class provided her with a framework to go deeper with patients. Michelle’s Center for Mind-Body Medicine certification was central in the process of working with people and afforded her a variety of resources to educate and empower the patients. It was at this point in her Practicum that she felt a culminating sense of accomplishment as her academic knowledge and personal experience became one. At the end of her rotation she was invited to return and see patients in this CAM setting, and to conduct a Mind-Body Skills Workshop there, the ultimate validation that she is leader in Mind-Body Medicine.
While the Practicum was a transformational experience, Michelle has also participated in numerous other activities during the final phase of her education that are propelling her into her new career. In October 2012 she presented to 150 health care practitioners on the emotional side of cancer at the “Cancer Answers Conference” in Florida. Michelle also volunteers her time on the School of Mind-Body Medicine “SARC” (Student Academic Review Committee). In her home life she is a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and an inspired person who feels the power of the integration of mind, body, and spirit.