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Breath-Mind-Body Practices for Social Workers to Address Stress, Anxiety, Depression & Trauma
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When: June 18, 2016
Where: Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, Room 201
2180 Third Avenue
New York, New York  10035
United States
Presenter: Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD and Richard P. Brown, MD

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Breath-Mind-Body Practices for Social Workers to Address Stress, Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, Military Trauma and Mass Disasters.


The workshop includes simple practices, primarily Voluntarily Regulated Breathing Practices (VRBPs) with coordinated movements, that are easily learned for relief of stress, anxiety, depression and PTSD.  The practices were derived from yoga, qigong, martial arts, meditation, and modern neuroscience and can be modified for different settings--private offices, clinics, hospitals, groups, schools, military bases, and disaster sites. 


Dr. Gerbarg will report on the research evidence that specific VRBPs in combination with other practices resulted in significant rapid improvements in psychological and physical symptoms in studies of generalized anxiety disorder, veterans with PTSD, healthcare providers, bowel disease and survivors of mass disasters: The research includes experiences relating to the 2004 Southeast Asian Tsunami, 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, Gulf Horizon oil spill, and war and slavery in Sudan. In addition, the Chemung County Project will be reviewed in which an economically disadvantaged community is developing successful Breath-Body-Mind programs for children in schools, after school programs, and mental health facilities. Preliminary data from a mass resonance spectroscopy study of effects on brain GABA levels in patients with depression will be also presented.


The presentation will include developments in understanding how VRBPs rapidly improve sympatho-vagal balance, emotion regulation, and symptom resolution in a wide variety of disorders and patient populations. The evolving neurophysiological theory incorporates concepts of Polyvagal Theory (Stephen Porges), interoception, interactions between the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) pathways, emotion regulatory circuits, neuroendocrine response, and social engagement networks.


Polyvagal theory asserts that physiological states characterized by increased vagal influence on heart rate variability (HRV) support social engagement and bonding and inhibit defensive limbic activity. A specific feature of trauma-related disorders--disconnection, disruption of bonding--will be explored.


Dr. Brown will guide participants through rounds of movement with VRBPs, including Coherent Breathing and Breath Moving.  The gentle movements can be done standing or sitting, and are suitable for adults and children. Awareness and mindfulness of breath and changes in mental and physical states is cultivated. Attendees enhance learning by participation in group processes.


In addition, clinical issues, indications, contraindications, risks, benefits, and guidelines for augmenting psychotherapy with VRBPs will be included. Cases illustrate restoration of connectedness/bonding through VRBPs that shift the individual from states of fear and immobilization to states of safety and bonding. Cases include a victim of sexual abuse, a former US Air Force U2 pilot, and a second generation Holocaust survivor, and a healthcare worker in Sudan.


Resources for skill development are given. 


Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD

Assistant Professor in Clinical Psychiatry, New York Medical College


Richard P. Brown, MD

Associate Clinical Professor in Psychiatry

Columbia University College of Medicine, NY


6 CE Contact Hours


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