Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend the reunion of one of the mind/body groups I had led. The group has since ended and almost every member is either a recent mom or going to be a mom through pregnancy or adoption. Today, one of the group members sent out pictures taken of me, sitting on a couch, holding one infant and surrounded by five or six others (only one of whom was screaming at the time!). Although the pictures are wonderful, the mental picture I have of their very happy mothers is more poignant. I remember so well the first session of their group, when each group member introduced herself, and told the group what had prompted her decision to join the mind/body program. Some had had a recent pregnancy loss, some could not remember what it felt like to be happy, several knew they needed to learn some basic coping skills, some were there at the recommendation of their physician, and all wanted to pursue their dream of motherhood in a healthier way. Fast forward a bit more than a year and the transformation of their lives is unbelievable. Here we sat, munching on sandwiches, while I listened to them compare notes on breastfeeding, car seats, and baby toys.
How was such a transformation possible in such a short time? I don’t want to sound blasÃ©, since this was in fact an incredibly moving experience, but most if not all mind/body groups end up with reunions like this one. Every new psychologist I train to run these groups has the same reaction; it is incredible that women can feel so out of control and distressed at the first session, and by the tenth and final one, they are laughing so much and have so much to say that the group leader can barely get in a word edgewise. It all comes down to the power of the skills the participants learn. The group leader is not making these women well; instead, they are learning new skills and using them to make themselves well.
I have been running mind/body groups for almost 23 years and the end result never ceases to amaze me. Pregnancy or not, baby or not, every participant has the capacity to heal, thrive, and giggle. A drooling, toothless and adorable outcome is simply a nice side effect.
ABOUT ALICE DOMAR, PhD
Alice D. Domar, PhD is a pioneer in the application of mind/body medicine to men’s and women’s health issues. She not only established the first Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health, but also conducts ongoing ground-breaking research in the field. Her research focuses on the relationship between stress and different women’s health conditions, and creating innovative programs to help women decrease physical and psychological symptoms.
Dr. Domar received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Health Psychology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Ferkauf School of Professional Psychology of Yeshiva University. Her post-doctoral training was at Beth Israel Hospital, Deaconess Hospital, and Children’s Hospital, all in Boston.
She has conducted research on infertility, breast cancer, menopausal symptoms, ovarian cancer, and premenstrual syndrome. Dr. Domar has earned an international reputation as one of the country’s top women’s health experts.
She is currently the Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF. She is an assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and a senior staff psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Dr. Domar has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments as a best-selling author, media authority and sought-after public speaker. She is the author of numerous books, on the advisory board for Parents Magazine, Health Magazine, Conceive Magazine, and Resolve, and on the Board of Experts for LLuminari. Two of her books have been finalists for the Books for a Better Life Award. She was also the Series Editor for a series of mind/body books by Harvard Medical Publications/Simon and Schuster. She is the narrator of the DVD’s “Stress and Relaxation Explained” and “Infertility Explained”, both of which won silver Telly Awards. Dr. Domar has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dateline NBC, CNN, PBS, and the CBS and NBC Evening News, to name a few. She presents lectures and conducts workshops throughout the US and around the world and went on tour with Oprah in the spring of 2004 and 2005 with the LLuminari team. Dr. Domar was named to the prestigious list of 15 “Women to Watch in 2004″ by Lifetime TV. Her newest book is “Be Happy Without Being Perfect” (Three Rivers Press, March, 2009) and she is currently working on a new book, co-authored with Dr. Susan Love, called “Live a Little” (Crown, December, 2009). She is also a featured expert on the new online social health network BeWell.com.