Mind-Body Medicine


In Memorium: Jeanne Achterberg

It is with deep sadness that I announce that Jeanne Achterberg died Wednesday afternoon, March 7, 2012, of metastatic breast cancer.

Jeanne Achterberg was a pioneer in mind-body medicine and complementary medicine. Early in her career, Jeannie collaborated with O. Carl Simonton, studying the quality of imagery in cancer patients. She was able to show that features in the imagery predicted the course of the illness. Since that time, she has championed the role of imagery in healing, the role of the mind and spirit in healing, and the shamanic role of the healer.

Jeannie went on to serve in the Office of Alternative Medicine, co-chairing the panel on mind-body interventions. The OAM grew into NCCAM, the home of complementary and alternative medicine within NIH. She is also a past president of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology.

Jeannie has contributed much to mind-body medicine: Her books, Bridges of the Body-Mind, Imagery in Healing, Woman as Healer, Rituals of Healing, Imagery and Disease, and Lightning at the Gate, remain best sellers. Jeannie has also given us a personal example of courage in the face of illness. Her book, Lightning at the Gate, narrated her own journey with illness.

Jeannie has been a friend and mentor to me for over 15 years. Our mutual friend Lynda Kirk introduced us in the 1990’s, when Jeannie presented a keynote at the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. I am now attending this same meeting, and it is here I received Dean Bob Schmitt’s message and learned of Jeannie’s death. When I first joined Saybrook, Jeannie took the time to welcome me, and continually supported my work with students. Together Jeannie and I have served as advisors to the new International Network for Integrative Mental Health.

Jeannie has been a friend to the College of Mind-Body Medicine, since its inception. She has extended herself whenever possible to teach our students, especially in the imagery course, and also in theses and dissertations.

I extend my deepest sympathy and support to her companion Mark Harris, and to her family and close friends. She was a woman filled with creativity, compassion, and love, and we will all miss her.

Don Moss
Chair, College of Mind-Body Medicine

Posted at 01:24 PM in

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Sandy Sela-Smith

Jeanne you were a most significant reason I chose to go to Saybrook to earn a PhD in psychology and you were an important part of the reason I applied to Saybrook to be a faculty member in 2001. Your creation of the year-long Imagery and Healing training course were characterized by significant experiences in shamanic journeys, one of which led me to change my name from San Dra Smith to Sandy Sela-Smith, an action that has had a profound impact on my life, and without what you created, that may not have happened.

As I look back over the past two decades, I cannot imagine my life without having your influence in it.

I grieve the loss of you a giant in this world, who impacted thousands of people with your knowledge and understanding and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to study and work with you in the time we shared. My heart and mind are still in painful confusion trying to adjust to you not being here as you had been. I miss your energy presence in the world. Sweet journey, my teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend.


Posted by Sandy Sela-Smith (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 11:15 AM

Kevin Le Blanc

I am offering prayers of Health and Happiness to Lee Ann and Dai, Jeanne's mother, and Jeanne's sons during this transition and passing.

Of the many women that I consider 'my teachers' over the years, Jeanne Achterberg is one that taught me to practice outside the norm and to continue to embrace the limitlessness of human potential. I hold her teachings in highest esteem for the bravery she had in at first, nudging, and then pushing the boundaries of the status quo of traditional medicine and thought, and how she embraced the greatest gift humankind has, Potential.

I accept your deeper teachings even now, even from the other side. Blessings to you, dear Jeanne, in your new voyage ahead.

All the Best!


Kevin Le Blanc nd mmp lmt
Natural Healing Arts Specialist
Holistic Bodywork Practitioner

(504) 535 - 9771


Posted by Kevin Le Blanc (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 11:19 AM
Jeannie's passing is shocking and sad for us all. She was both sensitive and incredibly tough. Committed, caring, insightful, and pathbreaking. A leader at Saybrook and in her field. So helpful to others in her research on healing. Yet who knew until the end how much she was going through herself. Just last semester, Jeannie was Faculty Co-Chair with Steve Pritzker. She was still active on committees, opinionated, helpful. She was one of the most rigorous researchers around--someone a colleague one could really count on--yet she looked so delicate and lovely, and magically almost diaphanous, as she encountered us. Jeannie's research on imagery is classic; she helped establish the field of mind-body medicine (and journals such as Alternative Therapies). Yet I think her love for students was as important to her as anything. What I am hearing from so many students is the deepest grief and loss, shared in every respect by us faculty. All of us at Saybrook miss Jeannie so very much. Posted by Dr. Ruth Richards (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 11:19 AM

Margaret F. Dawson, PhD

I suffered intensed pain while a student and Jeanne was there to listen and talk with me. She was an extraordinary teacher and woman. I will miss her as a part of the family of Saybrook.

Posted by Margaret F. Dawson, PhD (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 11:23 AM

Tina Suaso

I feel grateful that Jeanne agreed to be part of my dissertation committee and I greatly benefited from her kindness and wise direction. Many Blessings to Jeanne and her family during this time of transition. She will be missed!

Tina Suaso
Desert Milagros
Tucson, AZ

Posted by Tina Suaso (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 11:24 AM

Val Kendall

When emotions overwhelm and words fail, try visualization, metaphor. Jeannie would appreciate that.

My heart is bursting with sadness;
I appreciate so much with gladness
Jeanne's influence in my life
And her desist from strife.

I'm in awe at her immense patience with a mature student, as myself,
Hanging in there with hope, not leaving me on the shelf.
I love her infectious laughter, great sense of humor!
Never did a rumor
She allow to loomer,
But protected her students' mental rest,
Not wanting to get them overly stressed.

Unaware of the situation,
I just kept plodding on with the dissertation,
A bit puzzled by long silence
Assuming Jeanne was giving me license
To work along at my own speed
Not knowing her desperate need, or creed?

I feel bereft
And over-swept
With tears for her, tears for me, tears for her family.
Thank you for the richness of knowing you, being my chair,
Being so fair.
It will be hard to fill that seat
Of one who has been so very sweet.

I was in Mexico one day, attending a transpersonal psychological conference, sharing with a stranger what I was doing. Her response with enlivened face?
"Jeanne Achterberg's your chair? Oh! You're so lucky!"
Internationally revered!

You will continue to be an inspiration,
A driving force in my transformation.
You'll embrace your path, whatever it is,
And pioneer into the bliss.
I honor your dedication,
You're re-creation;
With your gallant spirit
You'll test the limit.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
A wellspring flooding your fresh start.
Farewell reluctantly,
For what must be, must be......
Val Kendall
Your dedicated and loving student.

Posted by Val Kendall (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 11:31 AM

Carl M. Hild

Thank you for your gentle words. As with many others, I had read Jeanne's work before I met her. I was fortunate to attend a gathering on traditional healing and mind/body medicine that was held in Anchorage, Alaska, at which she presented her research. We realized that we had a common friend in a traditional healer from Hawaii. The associated conversations were so rich in content and emotion. She encouraged me to attend Saybrook and focus my study on traditional healers and their use and connection to place. Her seminars during RCs, the conversations over meals, and the continued exchanges through e-mails, through them all she provided expertize, insights, citations, and encouragement to complete the research. I am saddened to hear of her passing. My sympathy goes out to her family and friends. I am very glad to have known and worked with her. She touched so many people and was a lever to open the investigative doors to greater understanding of how the mind can heal the body on so many levels.

Most sincerely,
Carl M. Hild, PhD
Independent Investigator
Anchorage, AK

Posted by Carl M. Hild (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 03:10 PM

Lorna Minewiser, PhD

I am saddened to learn of Jeanne's passing. She was a role model for so many of us and will be deeply missed. I was honored that she was my chair and I learned so much from her. My condolences to her family and friends and to the Saybrook family that she was such an important part of for so long.
Lorna Minewiser, PhD

Posted by Lorna Minewiser, PhD (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 03:12 PM

Rita Anita Linger

Like a bright light in the midst of darkness, Jeannie blessed my life for over 5 years with mentorship, guidance, encouragement and wisdom. She played the role of mother/sister/friend and sage in my life. I grew to love her and respect her very quickly. She "knew" me in a way very few people do, and as a result of her support and love, I have grown as a student/scholar and as a human being. She personified "warrior woman" and "woman of faith". It is because of Jeannie that I am in love with integrative health and mind body modalities. She courted me through some very dark and tragic personal times and always told me the truth..."never give up, you can make it, you are brilliant, bright and powerful". Her last words to me three weeks ago were "visit with you soon, lots of love". Jeannie we will see each other again, and I will work very hard to live up to your expectations of a scholar and human being of excellence. I love you and your passing does not trump or transcend that love. Please hug Candice for me, as she already knew so much about you. Rita Anita

Posted by Rita Anita Linger (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 03:13 PM

Thea Samit

Jeanne was the reason I chose to attend Saybrook, after decades of following her pioneering work, which she said was meant to put humanity back into healthcare. This is to offer condolences to the Saybrook community, who loved her as I did, to her family, and to her many friends, especially Sylvia, and also Mark, whom I have met. I will keep her in my heart always, as the humanitarian gem she was to us all.

Posted by Thea Samit (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 03:13 PM
Mariusz Wirga

Jeanne Achterberg was a great teacher, colleague and friend. Gentle, caring and kind human being. Powerful woman. Healer. I met Jeanne through Carl Simonton in a retreat near Linden, little village in Bavaria. Since then we shared many trips and many retreats (even being practically neighbors in New Mexico). Although it was the passion for the science and practice of mind-body-spirit medicine that initiated our relationship, we also shared a lot of laughter and some tears. Jeanne, you will be missed.
Mariusz Wirga, MD Posted by Mariusz Wirga (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 03:14 PM
Beth Haggett

I am struck by the many comments sharing that Jeanne is the reason they chose Saybrook. It is the same for me. I came to an RC to evaluate the quality of the education and chose to attend Jeanne's lecture. I fell in love, with her, with Saybrook, with the words and ideas she was sharing. She was so kind to me from then on and I saw her as the kind of woman I wanted to become. I will miss her beauty, her fun laughter and the feeling I had when talking with her that we were sharing a secret. She was kind enough to keep in touch and I am thankful for something tangible I can read from her. I know I will listen to her tapes and reread her books with fondness and gratitude for the impact she made on the world. Love you Jeanne! your friend, Beth Haggett Posted by Beth Haggett (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 03:14 PM
Stanley Krippner

I am still grieving over the loss of Jeannie, my dear friend and colleague. Years ago, she attended one of my seminars in Dalls, Texas, and was surprised to know that I had read and admired her work. I was instrumental in bringing her to Saybrook only to see her drop out during a period of faculty strife. When things cooled down, she rejoined the faculty and was of incredible value to students, faculty, and the university in general. We had many joint adventures at conventions, at parties, at an ayahuasca ritual, and at a Hawaiian hotel where I was speaking and, just by chance, where she was staying. We wrote together, worked together, amd played together. There will never be anyone like her in my life, at Saybrook University, or in the field of intergrative medicine that she pioneered.
Stan Krippner Posted by Stanley Krippner (not verified) | 03/13/2012 @ 03:15 PM
When I heard of Jeanne Achterberg's passing, I felt the need to send a note of love.   
Although I never studied with Jeanne, I clearly remember her colorful and exuberant presence at the RCs.
To me she seemed like a rare, exotic flower; someone out of the ordinary, someone bigger than life.  
The last time I saw Jeanne, she walked past me, dressed in a bright yellow linen dress, a multi-colored silk scarf fluttering around her like a thousand butterflies. And even though this happened many years ago at one of the June RCs in Santa Rosa, I vividly remember the sight: Jeanne looked like a perfect summer day: free, alive, and absolutely happy!  I felt moved to tell her how I perceived her and she thanked me as though I had gifted her with the golden sun. 
I thought I'd share this small, sunshine-filled Jeanne moment with you. 
May her everlasting love soothe your heart  today and always
Posted by sigrid (not verified) | 03/15/2012 @ 12:02 PM
Thank you for your article post.Really thank you! Much obliged. Posted by barcode app (not verified) | 03/18/2012 @ 01:05 AM

I never met Jeanne Achterberg but her books strenghtened my resolve in my 1990 aggressive breast cancer diagnosis [in my dreams] to follow the guidance of my inner doctor, my imagination, and to trust in the imagery which I harvested from my dreams. I wrote a book chronicling my own story in 2003 and am grateful for the ground-breaking work of this remarkable woman. She will continue to find her way into the dreams and imaginal life of those who need her help. Her work is not over!

Wanda Burch

She Who Dreams

Posted by Wanda Burch (not verified) | 03/18/2012 @ 07:06 AM

I am deeply saddened at this loss to women and healing in the world.Jeanne was a soul sister and often spoke at our Therapeutic Touch conferences.The 80's were a time of awakening to the possibilities of healing oneself and i was priviledged to review her book"Bridges of the Bodymind" for the American Cancer society's educational committee in Chicago and it changed my life personnally and professionally.After reading "Lightening at the Gate" I recognized the parallels in our lives on so many levels and knew we were indeed soul sisters.She was a warrior woman and a role model for so many.May she walk the Spirit Road in Peace and Joy until we meet again,Shalom and Namaste

Posted by Dr. Mary Gayle Floden-Selfridge (not verified) | 04/08/2012 @ 09:45 AM

A great loss. A wonderful and inspirational writer and researcher - truly a 'one of a kind'. She will be sorely missed and my thoughts and prayers are with her family.

Posted by Dr Jayne Gerrard (not verified) | 05/21/2012 @ 12:40 PM