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MVWHA Annual Meeting 2008
Written by Paul Farrington
July 2008

Imagine how good you could feel having a team of professional health care providers working toward optimizing the health of your body, mind and spirit. Tackling not just those little things that bother you, but encouraging a sense of physical and mental wellness that reminds you of how you once were, how you could be. This was exactly the case for a volunteer client at the annual meeting of the Martha's Vineyard Whole Health Alliance (MVWHA). The members made quick work of the business of electing board members before getting down to the real business of improving health and wellness for islanders.
The MVWHA is a group of energetic practitioners of conventional, complimentary, and alternative medicine. The stated mission is to educate the Vineyard community about healing practices, which contribute to the well being of the whole person through integration of mind, body, and spirit. In an open meeting at the Howes House in West Tisbury, the MVWHA presented a case study for integrating the health care processes of several providers serving the same client. To advance that mission, they held a second annual presentation of a case study in which four practitioners each meet with the same client. Each was to have an initial session, gather information, provide services, and make recommendations in their varied ways and areas of specialty.
For this meeting a client volunteered to undergo this powerful and personal process. She is healthy, but like most of us has a few lingering concerns, things which could be better but aren't deeply troubling. In addition, she had recently become pregnant. Thus, in addition to a few minor aches, stiffness, and emotional considerations, the client and the professionals focused their attention on a healthy pregnancy and the best circumstances for growth of a healthy baby.
The panel of health care providers brought a wide array of experience as well as compassion to the client at this event. Dr. Oceana Rames, a naturopathic physician (, began with an in-depth discussion of dietary, metabolic, and blood level balance considerations. The rapport between the client and Dr. Rames was evident as she recommended some tests and other avenues she'd like to investigate, including emotions surrounding food. It soon became clear that changes in some dietary understanding and habits were already creating positive change for the client.
Immediately following her was Amanda Cohen. Having a multi-faceted practice, Amanda ( chose to practice Mayan Abdominal massage before the client became pregnant, and then Body-Mind Counseling influenced by the Hakomi Method of Experiential Psychotherapy. She focused her presentation on how together they challenged and shifted some of the emotionality and core beliefs the client was holding regarding food and her own body-image. According to the client, their process brought a tangible release of some of the conflicting energy related to some of the physical changes that pregnancy brings. Very quickly, a notable overlap became apparent. Both of the first two practitioners engaged some of the clients inhibitions and beliefs about food and her body image, which were likely creating some physical health problems. Amanda and the client locked eyes, still relishing the release of some long held struggles.
As Francie Desmone began to relate her observations, the participants and the others in audience began to sense even more of the special cooperative synchronicity in the integration of these experiences. An acupuncturist, Francie deftly weaves together the details of the client's reports, her observations, family history and the unique and complex perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The TCM perspective sensibly connects the kinds of symptoms, physical characteristics, and causes that may seem separate to traditional doctor or to you and I. By now, the overlap in the insight and treatments of the different providers is becoming clear under the scope of several perspectives. Francie reemphasized blood sugar regulation, along with a family history of diabetes and hypertension, and the emotional impact of certain emotions on the client’s physiology.
I rounded out the panel with a discussion about the workings of neurofeedback ( and how it could specifically benefit the client. Neurofeedback is a precision relaxation technology that facilitates a re-patterning of the brainwaves. That is, any long-term, or recent stresses, whether physical, mental, or emotional can cause a cascade of psycho-physical reactions which leave the body more ready for emergencies, and less attuned to resting, healing, digesting, or cell growth. Most often, this complex reaction is not appropriate to the moment, but rather a response to fears, beliefs, and past hurts. There is a wealth of research demonstrating the benefits of stress release to everyone, and also to a developing fetus. After one neurofeedback training, the client admitted a turning point in restful sleep, which had been difficult to attain during the early pregnancy so far. This too, seemed to leave the client with a residue of relief and confidence for the days to come.
After an emotional moment of expressed gratitude and for the care, guidance, and practical support, the client appeared to bask in both the wonderful mystery of her pregnancy and the care of, by this time, everyone present. And that emotion was matched by the enthusiasm of the participants and the awe of all present for the gifts received and the potential of a collaborative model in health care. The real gem of this event, is the recognition of how the combined perspective of multiple professionals can really clarify for the client where their unique vulnerabilities lie, where their efforts are best spent, and what the underlying source might be for the troubles they are experiencing. It was hard to not be impressed with the knowledge, professionalism, and experience displayed by the members on hand. Each brought significant expertise into empowering the client to help herself and to facilitate her own body’s innate ability to perform its own functions as well as possible. Everyone filled the remainder of the meeting with a lively discussion. Ranging from further recommendations for the client to the need for political action, it was a hopeful sign of things to come. The MVWHA has been around for fourteen years, but there seems to be a new energy and inspiration within its membership. They are actively engaged in making the alliance more helpful to its members and to consumers alike. Unveiling a new website ( and a streamlined process for collaboration with the traditional medical profession, this is a group with big ideas that is sure to make big things happen.

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