I use an approach that is based on Dr. John Sarno’s TMS theory and Dr. Howard Schubiner's Mind Body Syndrome (MBS) approach to chronic pain. According to these physicians, chronic pain is often not caused by structural abnormalities, such as herniated disks, but rather by oxygen deprivation and faulty nerve pathways that are created by the brain. This is not to say that chronic pain is not real and “all in your head;” the pain the brain creates is very real and can be excruciating. However, because it is often not caused by structural abnormalities, Sarno and Schubiner argue, it cannot be cured by focusing solely on the body—in other words, surgery, manipulations, stretches, etc. cannot cure the pain because it originates in the mind, not the body. These hypotheses about the nature of chronic pain, once considered absurd by most mainstream medicine, have been slowly gaining credibility among physicians. This support has come through thousands of patient testimonials and a growing body of research that supports the mind/body connection and the efficacy of mind/body medicine. While both Drs. have a very high success rate with their patients with chronic pain, they note that people can only get better if they truly accept the the mind/body diagnosis, most importantly, the idea that their pain is created in the mind. Patients who find this diagnosis impossible to believe will not benefit from this therapy and should not engage in it. To learn about about Sarno's approach, click To see a brief video on Sarno's work, click There is also an excellent documentary on Sarno's work called Dr. Schubiner has written a book called "Unlearn Your Pain" in which he outlines his practical approach to healing chronic pain. Patients considering seeing me should consider purchasing Dr. Schubiner's groundbreaking book.
Based on Sarno’s and Schubiner's work, I begin with education about the nature of mind/body approaches to pain. I will encourage you to gently re-engage in activities that cause pain. My approach also involves a deep exploration of emotionally-painful experiences, especially those involving pent up anger, rage, and guilt. Most Mind/Body patients will not see themselves as having any rage inside them, so the process often begins by exploring the very nature of painful emotions. Clients will then participate in a number of activities designed to help them become aware of and experience powerful emotional content in their lives. These activities can include writing exercises, meditation/visualization, and emotion-focused therapy that is based on the principles of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP).
I also integrate mindfulness into my approach to chronic pain, which has been proven effective in reducing the symptoms of chronic pain. Cultivating mindfulness also allows clients to be more aware, attentive, and accepting of powerful emotions such as anger, rage, and guilt, which can lead to better outcomes in emotionally-focused therapy.
In addition to learning about approaches to chronic pain from my own experiences as a patient, I have spent considerable time studying mind/body approaches in order to effectively help others. I have continued to study Dr. Sarno’s and Schubiner's work along with several others who have extended their ideas. I have taken coursework in somatoform disorders at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and participated in a University of Rochester "Bridging Fellowship" in 2017 that allowed me to study chronic pain and somatoform disorders at URMC. I have attended seminars by leading mind/body practitioners, including Alan Abbas and Howard Schubiner, and I participate in a regular supervision and core training sessions with Marvin Skorman, a nationally-known expert in ISTDP. I have also engaged in my own mindfulness practice for over 15 years and I teach and study the use of mindfulness in psychotherapy.