Saybrook’s Mind-Body Medicine Program began in the fall of 2009, and since its inception several students have earned a Master’s degree in Mind-Body Medicine. As students continue to graduate and make their mark in the world, it is inspiring for other students to learn about their passions and paths.
Marisa Iacobucci was one of 16 students in the first cohort and completed her Master’s degree in Mind-Body Medicine in January 2012. Marisa decided to pursue a Master’s in Social Work (MSW), after completing her degree, as it is her intention to work with veterans and their families as well as individuals with chronic pain and illness. While she was finishing her degree at Saybrook she began to look into MSW programs. At the same time, she participated in an Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) training at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The training was taught by Carol Look (http://www.attractingabundance.com/eft/about-carol/) over a three-day weekend and included the basics of EFT and its value in treating trauma in individuals.
EFT is a simple acupressure technique that is showing promise for its ability to calm the part of the brain that becomes over-aroused or frozen during a traumatic event. It involves tapping on places on the body determined by the Chinese meridian system, in combination with a series of eye movements. Once individuals learn the technique, they are then able to regulate their own mind-body system to eliminate the flashbacks, nightmares, and terror that can plague them after a traumatic event.
To help determine which graduate programs to apply to, Marisa reviewed faculty biographies to see if any indicated an interest in mind-body connections; her hope was to be in a program that would be supportive of her mind-body medicine viewpoint. Drs. Heather Larkin and Lara Kaye, at the State University of New York at Albany (SUNY), both included mind-body approaches in their bio-sketches. Marisa contacted both and found they were seeking funding for a pilot study to test the effects of EFT as a potential treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults 55 and older, who have had a cardiac event. Dr. Larkin said it would be great if Marisa could assist with the study. However, this was in March 2011, eight months before Marisa would even apply to the MSW program, and recruitment was scheduled to begin in the summer of 2011. Despite that, SUNY at Albany seemed like a good fit. Marisa was accepted into the program and upon notifying Dr. Larkin of this, was told that because the initial funding had not come through, the study would be pushed back to Summer of 2012, about the time that Marisa would begin her new academic program.
Marisa was enlisted as the lead research assistant for the study, helping to coordinate the recruitment and screening of participants. She will also administer measures at baseline, post-intervention and at a one month follow-up. Due to the timing of grant funds, recruitment began in August 2012. To determine eligibility for the study the following screening tools are being used: the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) scale, which assesses whether participants have experienced childhood abuse and neglect, a non-veteran PTSD checklist, and a basic intake form, which includes demographics information, standard mental health questions and two questions on cardiac health. Recruitment efforts have targeted cardiology departments in all local hospitals, cardiac rehabs, private practice cardiologists and any local complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices. The lead interventionist is working to speak at local support groups and was recently interviewed for the local paper: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/New-therapy-taps-into-emotions-3948351.php
Information on the study can be found at: http://www.integralsocialwork.com/wp-content/uploads/Heartattack1.pdf To refer an individual for the study, contact the research team at: EFT@albany.edu or (518) 442-3824.
In addition to pursuing an MSW, Marisa is completing the final requirements for the Center for Mind Body Medicine’s Certification Program. She will attend the advanced training in San Antonio in January of 2013 to complete her training.
Asked how her MS in Mind-Body Medicine has impacted her career so far, Marisa stated: “When I introduced myself on the first day of each class, I explained my background, including my MS in Mind-Body Medicine. After each class, and ever since, I have had people approach me with questions and an interest in the degree, the school, and what my plans are to use my mind-body skills and knowledge. I have found most people are interested in CAM treatments that are more holistic in how they help people.”
She has also discovered that there is a movement within social work called Integral Social Work or Integral Theory (http://www.integralsocialwork.com/) which seeks to incorporate mind, body and spirit in healing social work (Ken Wilbur is the primary source for the integral healing perspective). In addition, there is a community of people within and outside of her school that has a similar mind-body medicine viewpoint; they just don’t always call it mind-body medicine.
Marisa commented on her current experiences: “My biggest challenge moving forward is to somehow work all I learned at Saybrook, and what I continue to learn, into the rigid systems that are in place to help those both physically and mentally ill. I am currently interning in a middle school and am happy to find that my supervisor and the teachers are very interested in what I have to offer. One step at a time, right?”