A young Haitian and his mother after the 2010 earthquake

Psychiatrist James Gordon and his Center for Mind-Body Medicine work with military veterans and inner-city youth, as well as with victims of war and disaster in places like Haiti, Gaza and Newtown, Connecticut. He joins us to discuss his approach to treating psychological trauma.

James Gordon, psychiatrist, founder and director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington D.C. and clinical professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at Georgetown Medical School

  • Bill_Woods

    Nitpick: “Newtown, Massachusetts”?

    • David

      The tragic school shooting occurred in Newtown, Connecticut.

      • Bill_Woods

        Yes; I was surprised that Krasny misspoke/misremembered.

  • cloudskimmer

    To be fair, you ought to include links to Quackwatch sites about Dr. Gordon. It would also be nice, perhaps on another program, to have a science-based person to address his claims and their validity instead of credulously accepting them.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    Mr. Krasny – Dr. Mack didn’t believe people were *possessed* by aliens, that they were abducted (as your guest is clarifying right now).

    Many people have these very high-strange experiences of interaction with non-human beings which, as Dr. Gordon points out, changes them and their lives radically. Two good books for checking out this phenom: Beyond the Light by PMH Atwater on near death experiences, and Cosmic Consciousness by R. Bucke on mystical experiences due to a variety of stimuli (or even no discernable stimuli at all). Jacques Vallee’s classic book Dimensions goes into the phenom of encounters with various sky and earth being thru the ages. steph

    • Mrs. Eccentric

      hmm. i’m not sure why i received some down votes – i clarified a fact, and provided some further references in case anyone is interested. I’m not trying to advocate, just wanted to provide some information if people are interested in pursuing these topics and thinking about it themselves. steph

  • thisismyaccount

    Two separate things: mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, etc. have good clinical results. However “Alternative Medicine” (chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, etc.) does NOT have valid science that supports it.

    His book “Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression” is endorsed by Mehmet Oz, nuff said. If it walks like a duck…

  • Ben Rawner

    Going to these wartorn or disastrous areas must be traumatizing itself. How do u let go of the trauma from seeing these places and also seeing the lack of possibility for these people.

  • cloudskimmer

    It’s a little annoying to hear Dr. Gordon complain, and Mr. Krasny accept those claims, of being attacked. The important issue is about the evidence supporting so-called alternative therapies. The fact is that “alternative” often means “made up” and lacking any evidence to support their use. People who sell such therapies are willing to make money by making unsubstantiated claims, while at the same time being unwilling to conduct research which could confirm those claims. Because it would also refute them, alternative practitioners don’t want to investigate, but prefer to keep making money. There is really no such thing as alternative medicine. If it works, it is incorporated into medical practice. If it doesn’t, it ought to be discarded. And it is unethical to charge people for unproven “treatments.” Quackwatch and ScienceBasedMedicine are great website for addressing this issue.

    • Menelvagor

      you are wrong. alternative does not mean “made up” except in small minds–brainwashed minds. It simply means willing to see things in ways other than the mainstream sheep who never really consider anything other than what the corporate oligarchy is selling you–the true snake oil salesmen are the big pharma companies and most doctors in america–who care only about profit. Mainstream, “established” medicine is based on many many unsubstantiated claims.

      If i go to a NHS for example, a universal health care clinic–i know the doctor gets paid regardless whether he sells me designer drugs or finds ways to operate on me (including dentists), but in an American system on can be sure they want to sell me something and push drugs on me and insist on operations or therapies that make him money but not necessarily solve or aid my problems. Profit motive is not medicine.

      Well done Forum for looking into this!

      The comment above is ignorant and irritating.

  • Bob

    Dr. Gordon is prevaricating to say that the evidence for homeopathy is “not so good”. From basic scientific principles homeopathy is useless. 30X homeopathic “treatments” are literally just water, lacking a single molecule of any other substance. I would like to see the sources of Dr. Gordon’s claims for the validity of treatments like acupuncture. Not all science is created equal, and his refusal to explicitly denounce homeopathy casts doubt on his other statements.

  • KL

    How do you help younger children, who are not ready for or open to the more adult-oriented Mindfulness approaches?

    • SuzD

      Mindfulness approaches are easily adapted for younger children. Trauma-focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based treatment for children which incorporates mindfulness. Children learn mindfulness through art, play, movement, etc.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    The goal of developing a single treatment that works for millions seems like making a shoe that comforts every foot. That’s the thought that occurs to me at the end of the hour. Also, for local folks, UCSF has a full slate of alternative treatments thru their relatively new and shiny Osher Center on Divisadero Street. However, insurance does not cover it! I was an office manager 20 years ago for a physical therapy practice based on one hour of Iyengar yoga, one hour of weight training, and counseling. Insurance companies and worker comp would only pay for the first hour of treatment of the two to three hour sessions.

    My personal observations are that we had great results with patients/participants who were typically middle aged, sedentary folks who, being ‘real’ people – not acolytes or gym-rats – took at least 2 to 3 months to really learn how to change their lifestyles to get away from recurring back pain without drugs or surgery. Because insurance companies did not pay for any treatment longer than an hour, and the program was two hours, three times per week for two months, it was a constant fight with insurance companies. They have no way to measure avoiding surgery and actually decreasing cost of standard medical treatments over time. So alternative treatments – including the excellent, effective ones – are CASH-based for wealthier folks. And that disappoints me then and still now.

  • SuzD

    Dr. Gordon,
    Thank you for your work and discussion on mind-body medicine. As a psychologist in training, as well as long-time practioner and benefit recipient of mindfulness meditation, I work with indigent and marginalized clients who present with a complex constellation of symptoms and adaptive behaviors common with complex trauma. I provide psychoeducation on trauma and mindfulness interventions to maximize treatment gains. Clients express their relief of symptoms and reduction in feelings including shame and guilt. Too bad Complex Trauma was not included in the DSM V- but that is a topic for another discussion. Best to you.

  • Davide

    Quackwatch is about the biggest quackery out there… all ego driven opinion, it drives me crazy sometimes that people trust that unvalidated site, yikes. As Dr. Gordon mentioned, they were invited to speak in Washington and only one presented and nothing valid was presented. I urge people to not speak to things you don’t know anything about. I’ve experienced Dr. Gordon’s work and it is profoundly healing and life-changing and there is published evidence to support it’s use in trauma healing. It is simple, basic self-care and stress reduction taught in a humanized format. In fact, I might say it is beautiful based on the experience I had with it. Also, unless you’ve read the evidence and massive scientific literature of mind-body medicine and psychoneuroimmunology, and have experienced the work at the same time, then shut up. This discussion is not about homeopathy nor about acupuncture, which are not part of the mind-body model; and it is not about “alternative” medicine either. Mind-body medicine is not even remotely “alternative”. If that is how you see it, then you don’t know a thing about the solid scientific evidence of the individual modalities of it.

  • sl45tr

    A lot of the comments on this article are talking about acupuncture and homeopathy, etc. The mind-body medicine program uses group processing, movement and breathing techniques, meditation, and art therapy components all of which have been documented via research as having positive correlations in healing. I know this as I have participated in a mind-body medicine group.

  • ma Buhl

    i enjoyed this interview, and would like to add my support to dr gordon’s work, as one of the mental health professionals who has participated in his level one training. i am convinced that one of the most valuable aspects of this work with communities who have suffered trauma is community trustbuilding. I am happy to hear Dr. Gordon raise this. He has brought his own impressive professional credentials and experience to bear in developing cross culturally applicable methodologies for:
    a. bringing communities in distress together to share their personal experience with others who have also suffered the trauma; building trust between individuals & groups
    b. training and empowering local community leaders e.g. teachers, religious, etc.who already have a trust base within the community to facilitate individual and group work
    c. empowering and enhancing the self awareness/agency of individuals participating in these groups via the self care techniques identified, (movement, meditation, reflection, drawing, sharing), which have their own efficacy as discussed.
    d. and in so doing essentially human values have been promoted and are enhanced worldwide. crises begetting opportunities… wonderful work from my perspective.

  • Lisa Schiller

    I was a disappointed that Dr. Gordon did not explain his program more explicitly. I know for a fact that the Center for Mind-Body Medicine has had very good success with people in Haiti in terms of helping them suffer less symptoms of the stress they experienced with the earthquake and the daily stresses that threaten to send anyone over the edge. Life is so difficult in Haiti and techniques like mindfulness, meditation, tapping, physical movement and sharing with a group have, in my experience there, alleviated much personal suffering. I have worked in Haiti the past two summers and spent time with some of the staff at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Port-au-Prince. Based on personal observation, I would commend them for their work. There might not be statistical/scientific validation but the anecdotal evidence is clear and real.
    Lisa Schiller, New York

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