The Role of the Mind in Healing - Northport VA Medical Center
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Northport VA Medical Center


The Role of the Mind in Healing

Northport VAMC conducting a tai chi class

Northport VAMC conducting a tai chi class

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In recent years, medical science has started to measure the effects of Mind-Body Modalities. The health benefits are becoming more evident, to the extent that many health insurance companies encourage their members to participate in yoga, tai chi and meditation as part of a well-rounded healthy lifestyle.

As more emphasis has been placed on the role of the mind in healing the body, as well as the ways the body can help to heal the mind, major medical centers have started to offer guided imagery, relaxation therapy and reflexology to their patients. These modalities are often called Complementary and Alternative medicine, (CAM), but a more accurate term might be Holistic therapy or Integrative healthcare, that is, working with both the mind and body to achieve healing outcomes.

Northport VA Medical Center received a grant from VA’s Office of Cultural Transformation to train professional staff in various Mind-Body Modalities. The grant author, Richelle Rapaport, RN, MSN AHN-BC, is a board certified clinical specialist in psychiatric mental health nursing as well as board certified in advanced practice holistic nursing. With the support of the grant, she has been able to bring to the Northport VAMC several nationally respected experts in Reiki Relaxation, Tai Chi Easy, Clinical Meditation and Holistic Nursing to train VA staff, who have been very receptive to learning these new skills.

In order to help the clinicians incorporate these skills in daily patient care, the grant included the hiring of a contract Integrative Holistic Healthcare Coordinator, Mary Chereskin, RN MSN, who is also a board certified clinical specialist in psychiatric-mental health nursing.

Ms. Chereskin works directly with the newly trained staff to provide guidance and encouragement to build competency in these mind-body skills. In addition, she maintains communication with other VA centers offering CAM therapies to veterans. Also, Ms. Linda Hacker, a certified yoga instructor and Reiki practitioner, was hired as Program Assistant, to manage the inventory of equipment and supplies purchased to assist in implementing the grant. Linda is presenting 8 yoga groups a week to our veterans in outpatient and residential mental health programs at Northport.

Northport VA Director Phillip Moschitta initiated a facility wide effort to bring improved service to veterans in a friendly environment based on the internationally recognized program Planetree. The grant was part of this effort and has led to several renovations to increase mental calmness through relaxing visual additions, healing music, and aromatherapy. Each of the holistic therapies is important in addressing the stressors that often cause illness, and the symptoms of disorders such as pain, anxiety and insomnia. The modalities included in the grant are Clinical Meditation, Integrative Imagery, Reiki Relaxation, Aromatherapy, Music Therapy, Reflexology and Tai Chi Easy.

The modality is selected by the practitioner and the veteran, noting personal preferences. Relaxation is the primary goal. Some veterans preparing for surgery can benefit from listening to an audio guided imagery session to reduce anxiety. Veterans who are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or pain are taught clinical meditation that allows them to “hit the pause button” when feeling overwhelmed so they can regain control. It has been documented that regular practice of Tai Chi can improved balance, reduce hypertension, and improve joint function for those with arthritis, to name a few health benefits. It also helps to quiet the mind and improve focus.

The next phase of this grant will be to collect data and evaluate the effectiveness of our innovations. Come to Northport VAMC to heal body and mind!


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