You can extend the span of your life

“You can extend the span of your life by only so much. With meditation, however, you can expand the scale of it- two-, three-, fourfold. So, if you live for 60 years but you lived twice as “big” in each moment – it will be like living 120 years. This is not some impossible state of attainment. It is something that any ordinary person can do.” ~Shinzen Young

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Resilience Training 2012


RT 2012 is July 12- Aug 30, Thursdays @ 7:00-9:00pm

The Original Resilience Training included sessions in: Psychiatry, Therapy, Exercise Physiology & Nutrition.

Colorado Grant Health Psychodynamics Resilience Training includes sessions in:

Psychiatry, Therapy, Exercise Physiology, Nutrition, Massage Therapy, Quantum Biofeedback, Neurofeedback, Lifestyle Enhancement, Stress Reduction, NOR Brain Training & MORE!

Nutrition: Kelly Calabrese, CN

Exercise Physiology: Cindy White, MS

Massage Therapy: Emilia Courtright, RMT

NOR Brain Training: Jim Frazier

Psychiatry Therapy, Quantum Biofeedback: Laurie Grant, PA-C, MBS

Friday, June 15, 2012

Meditation & Mental Ruts

Meditation May Get You Out of Mental Ruts

Date: 13 June 2012

Meditation is often thought to help open up the mind, and new findings suggest it can steer people away from the mental traps that drag out problem solving.
Meditative techniques could help not only help negotiators and managers find novel solutions to challenges, but perhaps also help people who are depressed or suffer other mental disorders who can't see ways out of the problems that bedevil them, researchers said.
The psychologists found that, after only a few weeks of training, volunteers who learned "mindfulness practice" were better at switching strategies for problem-solving than volunteers who were not taught the technique. 
Meditation is often thought to help open up the mind, and new findings suggest it can steer people away from the mental traps that drag out problem solving.
Meditative techniques could help not only help negotiators and managers find novel solutions to challenges, but perhaps also help people who are depressed or suffer other mental disorders who can't see ways out of the problems that bedevil them, researchers said.
The psychologists found that, after only a few weeks of training, volunteers who learned "mindfulness practice" were better at switching strategies for problem-solving than volunteers who were not taught the technique. 
Meditation is often aimed at expanding the limits of consciousness. Scientists in recent years have discovered that various forms of meditation can alter their minds in a variety of beneficial ways, such as freeing the mind from distractions, boosting attention span, relieving pain, enhancing mood and mental toughness, sharpening the mindand even improving sex.
The researchers, three members of the psychology department at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, noted that meditation training often stresses that one should live in the present and avoid dwelling on the past. As such, they reasoned meditation could help people steer clear of rigid, myopic thinking. Their findings appeared online May 15 in the journal PLoS ONE.
Einstellung water jar task
The research began with the so-called Einstellung water jar task. Einstellung means "attitude" in German — in this case, it refers to the creation of a "mechanized" state of mind, a propensity for solving a given problem in a specific manner even though there may be better answers lying right under one's nose.
Volunteers were first shown the images of three jars on a computer screen. Each jar was described as capable of holding a certain amount of water. The participants had to pour a specific amount of water into a cup by using these three jars in the simplest, shortest method possible.
The first of their tasks was best solved by following the formula "jar B minus jar A minus two times jar C." For instance, jar A may have held 22 units of water, jar B 57, and jar C 10, with the goal of pouring 15 into the cup. If one started with B, or 57, and subtracted both A and 2C — 22 and 20, respectively — the result would be 15. [10 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp]
The volunteers then were given versions of the problem that could be solved either with that same formula or more simply: with either the strategy "A plus C" or "A minus C." For instance, jar A may have held 18, jar B 48, jar C 4, with the goal of pouring 2 into the target. If one started with B, or 48, and subtracted both A and 2C — 18 and 8, respectively — the result would be 22. However, the result also would be 22 if one used the simpler, shorter solution of adding A and C — 18 and 4.
The simplest solution
The participants in this experiment included 12 volunteers with at least three years of experience in a form of Buddhist meditation known as Vipassana, plus 15 people with no meditation experience. The researchers found that experienced meditators were significantly better able to switch strategies — for instance, using the simplest of the two successful strategies in the example given — than people without meditation experience.
"The results demonstrate that mindfulness makes us less automatic, less blinded by our habits and past experiences, and enables us to better consider alternatives, to experience things in a fresh way, and with more of a 'beginner's mind,'" said researcher Jonathan Greenberg.
In another experiment, Greenberg and his two colleagues took 64 participants with no meditation experience and randomly put them into two groups of equal size, one of which was given six weeks of meditation training. At the end of this period, they were all tested with the water jar task, and those who received meditation training were significantly more able to switch strategies than those who did not. Since neither group had prior meditation practice, this sort of study was able to pinpoint meditation as being responsible for the effect, as opposed to, say, whatever factors might drive one to seek meditation in the first place.
"Mindfulness practice changes the way we think within just a few weeks of practice," Greenberg told LiveScience.
Thinking outside the box
In addition to potentially helping people with depression and suicidal thoughts to move away from repetitive, potentially harmful ways of thinking, mindfulness practice may help people in everyday situations, the researchers suggest. [10 Most Destructive Human Behaviors]
"A married couple that repeatedly gets into the same quarrels and arguments may be able to break the cycle and look at things in a fresh perspective," Greenberg suggested. "Clinicians may be better able to offer new ways of looking at a clinical situation. Negotiators may be better at finding novel ways to settle disputes. Managers may be better able to think 'out of the box' and replace existing non-adaptive procedures with new and improved ones."
"This difficulty of letting go of old, habitual and non-adaptive ways of responding for the sake of better ones may underlie many of our everyday difficulties," Greenberg added. "Findings of the study demonstrate that improvements with such difficulties may be achieved within just a few weeks."

Monday, May 21, 2012


Probing Question: What is mindfulness?   PhysOrg - May 21, 2012
Ancient wisdom tells us to "stop and smell the roses" and to "live for the moment." Given our busy lives, it's no surprise that this advice is often easier said than done. Many of us multitask not only our physical chores, but our mental ones as well.
Douglas Coatsworth, Penn State associate professor of human development and family studies, says this type of mental multitasking can distract our attention from some of the most important things in life. Most of us have driven somewhere in an automobile while so deep in thought that we barely remember the journey, notes Coatsworth. This is a good metaphor for the effect of mental distractedness on the journey of life, including our relationships with those closest to us, he explains.
"We think that being mindful -- which simply means bringing your attention to what's happening in the present moment -- can have a profound, positive impact on interpersonal relationships," says Coatsworth, whose research focuses on the effects of mindfulness on relationships between spouses, between parents and their children, and between teachers and the children in their classes.
"We've all had these moments in relationships when you just were not heard, when the other person's attention was somewhere else," he says. "And it feels bad. It feels like you're insignificant at that moment. In our work at Penn State's Prevention Research Center, we are trying to bring mindfulness into these everyday interactions as a way of helping people to be truly present and, therefore, to enhance the quality of their relationships."
Coatsworth says that meditation is the most commonly known way of becoming mindful, and he encourages people to engage in it. "Essentially, meditation is a way of practicing bringing your attention to the present moment," he says. "There is some very good scientific evidence that meditation can reduce people's suffering and reduce stress and the physical manifestations of that stress, such as psoriasis or anxiety."
Although Coatsworth himself spends about 40 minutes a day meditating, he says that meditating for just a few minutes a day or using other kinds of contemplative practices can bring significant benefits to relationships, especially when performed during transitions in daily life, such as just before going into the office in the morning or into the house after work.
Besides formal meditation practice, other informal techniques also can help people focus on what's happening in the present moment. For example, Coatsworth says people can learn to become aware of less intense emotional states and take actions to prevent the escalation to more intense states.
"Imagine that you're seeing a situation with your kids unfold and you're beginning to feel that knot form in your stomach or that tension building in your shoulders," he says. "You know you are about to explode. What can you do at that lower level of emotion to help you avoid overreacting?"
One thing you can do, Coatsworth explains, is take several deep breaths and try to focus on those breaths. This practice, he says, has a natural calming effect.
Another thing you can do, he adds, is look at a situation in a nonjudgmental and compassionate way. He calls this practice using the beginner's mind, or seeing things as if for the first time in order to avoid getting caught in an automatic cycle of reacting.
"Our emotional world often overrides our ability to think about options and to respond appropriately. It floods us in a way that doesn't allow us to parent or teach or interact with intention in the present moment. We in the Prevention Research Center believe that if parents, teachers, or couples practice some general mindfulness skills, the likelihood of these escalating cycles of negativity happening will be reduced and their relationships will be more positive, loving, and compassionate." To that end, Coatsworth and colleagues Tish Jennings and Mark Greenberg have established the Program on Empathy, Awareness, and Compassion in Education or PEACE, a program that build mindfulness skills and practices for children, parents and teachers.
With so many of us juggling busy work and personal lives, slowing and calming our thoughts and reactions is not a cinch, concedes Coatsworth, but the rewards are well worth it. As 17th century poet Robert Herrick advised, "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may," -- and after you gather them, don't forget to stop and smell them too.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Seven Roots of Resilience

We humans are complex beings with many aspects, all of which can be impacted by depression and anxiety. Yet we are incredibly resilient and remain capable of restoring our selves throughout our lives, even when illness has kept us down. The Resilience Model offers seven interconnected pathways to recovery, which we call the Roots of Resilience.
The first three focus upon our physical selves, the body and what it requires to function as it is meant to. They provide the foundation for resilience, like the three legs of a stool, providing a stable platform for cultivating the rest of one’s self. The three areas are interconnected, of course. If you improve your diet, for example, you will not only improve your brain chemistry, but you will have more energy. And if you exercise, you are also likely to sleep better, and so on.
The final four roots are reflections of the mind and soul, which comprise our inner selves. The fourth and fifth factors deal with thoughts and emotions—different aspects of the mind. Unhealthy thoughts and feelings are the source of much of our distress. The focus is on doing less harm to ourselves by being conscious of our thoughts and feelings, and not reacting to them in a way that makes things worse. Becoming more conscious of what we are thinking and feeling, and more skilled at calming the mind and facing the emotions allows us to release ourselves from their grip. It is possible to step away from much of the distress that they cause.
The sixth and seventh roots, cultivating a good heart and creating deep connection, take us beyond our attempts to feel better. The focus here is upon developing positive, healthy inner qualities that build upon strengths that we already possess. They open us to the life we are longing for, where we feel more alive and engaged, more and more like the self we would wish to be.
It feels so much better to live like this that it leaves little room for unhealthy fear, stress or anxiety.
(adapted from The Chemistry of Calm by Henry Emmons, MD)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Capturing Calm

Capturing Calm
Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
Updated: November 19, 2010 - 2:54 PM
A Minnesota psychiatrist and author is trying to shake up how people think about mental illness.

Several years ago Dr. Henry Emmons spotted a bumper sticker while driving his teenage son to a soccer game.
"Surely," it read, "joy is the condition of life."
At the time, Emmons, a psychiatrist, was preparing a talk on depression. But the quote -- from Henry David Thoreau -- got him thinking.
In psychiatry, "we focus almost entirely on what's wrong," said Emmons. "I began thinking about joy." And about how he might help patients in the midst of life's setbacks get it back.
Today, Emmons, who lives in Northfield, Minn., is doing his best to do just that -- and to change the way people think about mental illness. In the past four years, he's written two national books of self-help therapies for anxiety and depression and created a "resilience training" program that's gaining national attention.
"Henry takes the perspective that depression is a holistic disease," said Lori Knutson, executive director of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing in Minneapolis, where Emmons works two days a week. "It's not about mental illness. It's about mental health."
In 2006, Emmons made a splash with his first book, "The Chemistry of Joy," a guide to overcoming depression. The book explores how diet and lifestyle affect people's moods and offers a road map to healing through a mixture of science ("Understand Your Brain") and spiritual beliefs ("Buddhist Wisdom, Which Type are You?").
His second book, "The Chemistry of Calm," debuted last month, billed as a "powerful, drug-free plan" for overcoming fear and anxiety.
Emmons is quick to say that he's no anti-medication zealot. He does prescribe antidepressants and other medications if he thinks they're needed.
But he believes patients are desperate for other solutions. "When people come to see us," he said, "they've tried the usual methods. They've been on medication, maybe they've even been in therapy." Yet they're frustrated. "They say, 'I just want to know what I can do for myself.'"
Shifing gears
Emmons, 52, calls himself a "holistic psychiatrist," and in some ways, he has never felt completely at home in the medical mainstream. In the 1990s, he worked at two large Twin Cities clinics where the emphasis was on prescribing medication rather than talk therapy. "It felt too limiting," he said.
In 1998, he quit his primary practice and took a fellowship to study natural therapies -- herbs, diet, meditation. "That was my graceful way to shift gears," he explained.
Emmons began writing and teaching workshops on mind-body medicine. Then, out of the blue, a literary agent called from New York and suggested he write a book. "I thought it was a joke," he said.
Not long after that first book came out, Emmons was in yoga class when a classmate recognized him. It was Lori Knutson from the Penny George Institute. She asked if he'd like to join the clinic, which specializes in complementary medicine.
"He looked at me in his dead bug pose, and said, 'I would love to.'"
At the clinic, Emmons and his colleagues created an eight-week program known as "resilience training." For $900, patients get a series of individual appointments -- with him, a nutritionist and an exercise specialist -- and eight weeks of group sessions to learn what he calls "healthy emotional and mental skills."
The group sessions, he said, are key, because they teach people how to help control their moods, through meditation and other means, and avoid falling into the same emotional spirals over and over. "It is really a skill that you can learn, just like any other skill," Emmons said.
Andrea Een, who took part last summer, said the training was a lifesaver for her.
"I think what I was looking for was a way to manage depression for the rest of my life," said Een, a music professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield. "And I love the concept of resilience."
Scientific evidence?
Some of Emmons' strategies -- such as exercise and coping skills -- fit right into modern psychiatry, says Dr. Barry Rittberg, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, who studies depression.
At the same time, he said, there's little scientific evidence that vitamins or resilience training, for example, really make much of a difference. Sometimes, he said, "what seems to be just common sense really may not be true."
Rittberg worries, too, that the self-help message can backfire on patients if they try it and don't succeed. "It just makes them feel like they're a failure, that they didn't try hard enough, that there's no hope for them," he said.
So far, the Penny George Institute has published just one study on 38 patients --all employees of its parent company, Allina -- showing that those who went through resilience training had lasting improvement. But Emmons said they hope to do larger studies, and may get a federal grant to transplant the program to other parts of the country.
And Emmons' newest book continues to draw interest. Last month, fans lined up at a book signing in Minneapolis, eager to tell Emmons how much his first book meant to them -- how they passed it around, like a shared secret, among friends. One, philanthropist Penny George, the benefactor of his clinic, carried six copies of the new book, planning to give them as gifts. "I've been waiting for this," she said. "I just know him by reputation -- and by the number of people who come to me who tell me 'He changed our lives.'"
Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384

Some tips from Dr. Henry Emmons on overcoming anxiety and finding a calmer way to live:
• Eating better will always improve your health, including the health of your brain. It is inexpensive and risk-free.
• Your best investment is regular exercise, which not only protects the cells but also makes them better energy producers.
• Quality sleep helps us recover from our daily stress and is a cornerstone of resilience.
• Our lives all have external sources of pain and stress. It is our minds that create worry, anxiety and much of our unnecessary suffering.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Resilience Training

Easing the burden of depression with resilience training
Dr. Henry Emmons
In 2003, Todd Stitt was able to deal with his depression. The 37-year-old computer programmer from Minneapolis worked as a contractor. “I was clear with my employer that I had depression. When I worked, I got paid. When I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid,” Stitt said.
But then everything fell apart. Overwhelmed by depression, he could no longer work. “I think I got out of bed every day. But there were days when that’s all I did,” Stitt said. “I didn’t have any energy.” And his depression was so severe, he depended on family and friends to do the basics — shop, clean, and do his laundry.
Stitt saw a psychiatrist who prescribed a combination of medications that eventually started to help. He began meditation and mindfulness, the practice of calm awareness, as ways to manage his depression. And although able to work part-time in 2006, he still felt hopeless and continued to struggle. “I was dealing with my mind not working well, and I got frustrated with that,” Stitt said. “Everything seemed monumental — making phone calls, even getting out of the house.”
Then he heard about the resilience training program at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing in Minneapolis. The program, inspired by holistic psychiatrist Henry Emmons, blends nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness meditation to manage depression, anxiety, and stress-related mental health conditions.
“The program changed my life,” said Still, who is now working full time, exercising regularly, and feeling more connected to everything around him. “I have better life skills…and I think that’s a lot of what resilience is about — developing healthy habits. So, when there are challenging times, a person can cope.”

Resilience training (RT): an approach that works

After working for more than 20 years as a psychiatrist, Dr. Emmons realized the traditional approach to treating depression and anxiety wasn’t very effective. Treatment as usual for depression and anxiety — that is medications sometimes combined with therapy — leaves a lot to be desired, Emmons said. “It’s not sufficient to the problems people face and it’s not very effective at helping lead them to recovery. Rates of recovery [from depression] are really poor.”
Indeed, data show that fewer than 10 percent of people diagnosed with depression are better to the point of remission a year later, according to Minnesota HealthScores (, a non-profit Web site that provides information on the quality of health care in Minnesota and surrounding areas.
But outcome data from the RT program are remarkably better.
A recent study that used the same depression survey reported by Minnesota HealthScores, found that more than 60 percent of RT participants achieved remission at the end of the eight-week program. Equally impressive, these remission rates persisted twelve months later.
“We’re not increasing medications. Sometimes we’re reducing them,” Emmons said. “But we’re offering people skills that they can take with them. And we’re seeing people, even those who have had depression for years, even decades, reaching full recovery.”
“Medications tend to lose their effectiveness the longer people take them,” Emmons said. “With this program, the benefits hold for people in this program who practice what they’re taught.”
In his book, The Chemistry of Joy, published in January 2006, Emmons described holistic ways to overcome depression. But after his book was released, he saw the next challenge — creating a program that would help people practice and apply his recommendations.
Emmons envisioned a more integrated way to help people with depression. Rather than focusing solely on brain chemistry, psychology, or spirituality, he wanted a holistic approach that recognized the impact of depression on the whole person.
The subsequent RT program, first offered in 2007 at the George Institute, embraces three key principles — fitness, nutrition, and the psychology of mindfulness. It includes eight weekly group sessions with a trained facilitator along with individualized guidance from a psychiatrist, clinical nutritionist, and exercise physiologist.

RT participants: experiences and goals

Most people in the program have a major depressive disorder, several have chronic anxiety, and almost everyone is on medication therapy. The majority has struggled with depression and anxiety for years and has not gotten better. “They’re usually feeling as though there’s no where else to turn — that they’ve tried everything,” Emmons said.
Although medications are not the main problem interfering with recovery, medications are often part of the problem. The medications may hold them back and make them a little worse, Emmons said. Medications can make people tired, flatten the mood, or interfere with sleep.
At the beginning of the program, participants usually have one of two goals in mind — they want their depression to get better or they want to get off their medications.
“I almost never recommend that [participants] stop their medications or come off them completely, but very often I will have suggestions about how to simplify or fine tune their medication regimen,” Emmons said.
Mary Jo Keefe, a 66-year old office worker from Bloomington, Minnesota, has struggled with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder for decades. After more than 10 years of medication therapy, she saw the RT program as a way to get off her medications. But after going through the program, her outlook changed. “I finally got the message — that some people need to be on medications and not to be hard on ourselves if we need to stay on medications,” Keefe said.
It’s common for people to want to get off medications. And I almost always try to change that goal for them, Emmons said. My goal is to find the lowest effective medication dose, reduce medication side effects, and get medications working again by adding other holistic changes.
When Stitt started the program, he wanted to get off his medications. But he had a bigger goal in mind — he wanted to be cured of his depression.
“I distinctly remember thinking, ‘Okay, we have eight weeks. When I get out of here, I want to be cured, fully functioning, and ready to work full time,’” Stitt said. “Then halfway through the class I remember thinking, ‘Boy, I don’t know that I’ll be fully functioning by the end of eight weeks.’” And as his depression improved, he realized his goal was changing.
“I’m learning to live with depression, not be free of it,” Stitt said. “That desire to be fully cured — I still go through that sometimes. But I’m more balanced. Some people need to live with diabetes and some people need to live with other challenges [like depression], and they do. And I am.”

Learning resilience: an integrative model

When Emmons started this area of work, he thought of resilience as the ability to endure stressful events and bounce back to baseline. Although he still believes that’s part of resilience, his definition has expanded.
“I think that one of the deficits of the medical model is that we focus exclusively on disease and recovery from disease,” Emmons said. “But when it comes to depression and anxiety, one of the things that is most preventive is to live in a way that is so full and vital that depression has little chance of coming back.”
Central to this approach is self acceptance and creating connections with others.
“The notion of self care is usually that a person has to do everything right — they have to exercise, they have to eat right, they have to take their supplements — it’s a lot of work,” Emmons said. “But I think it’s more preventive to feel as though you’re living your life in a way that gives you a sense of fullness and vitality. It’s having a strong sense of connection and community…We try to help people go beyond having a sense of recovered, to a sense of living more fully than they perhaps have before.”
The RT program is unique in that it combines eastern and western approaches to health, said Susan Bourgerie, a licensed psychologist who has worked as a RT group facilitator for more than three years. “It really is the only program that I know of in the country that integrates of all the pieces — the body, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual.”
And Emmons has found a way to make the eastern ideas very western friendly, said Bourgerie, who has cared for people with depression and anxiety for more than 25 years. “[Participants] get it in a way that both opens their mind to something new but is not so foreign that they feel put off by it.”

Components of a comprehensive program

The RT program provides tools, practices and education to support resilience. It’s an integrative skills building program that embraces nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness.
“At first glance, I think that it can be a little overwhelming to people,” said Carolyn Denton, a licensed nutritionist who works with the program. “But, we stress that we’re trying to lay out some strategies that you can come back to. And in fact, that’s what life is all about. You get derailed. The most important thing is how do you get back on track…and the program provides some solid strategies.”
At the beginning of the program, many people don’t see the relationship between food and depression, Denton said. “Many people have alcohol dependence or it’s in their family. Many people are hooked into the sugar. And some people aren’t eating enough or aren’t getting enough protein…A lot of it is trying to simplify things for them so that they can get started on something — to make one change.”
Food, exercise, and down shifting out of a stress response are like a three-legged stool, said Denton, who meets individually with program participants and talks about nutrition and sleep during one of the group sessions. If exercise and meditation are in place, but food choices are sabotaging them, the other two legs of the stool will be wobbly. Nutrition fits in as a piece of a larger strategy that has to be simultaneous, Denton said.
Susan Masemer, an exercise physiologist who meets with each program participant, tries to understand people’s thought processes and their relationship to physical activity. Some people are afraid to exercise. Some have had bad experiences with exercise. And some have used exercise as punishment, Masemer said. “I do a lot of work helping them reframe exercise as something that’s more nurturing.”
At the beginning of the program, most people are not exercising on a regular basis, Masemer said. Often they’re not exercising because they’re depressed and don’t have the energy to exercise. She starts there — helping them understand that if they exercise, they will probably have more energy and feel better.
And after the initial 90-minute fitness session, everyone leaves with a plan. “The key is meeting them where they’re at and motivating them to do just a little more,” Masemer said. “We want people to have a very high quality, joyful, productive life. And I’m just one those pieces that can help people accomplish that.”

Mindfulness is the third critical component of the program.

“I think the most important part of the program is the different relationship people now have to their mind, their thoughts,” Bourgerie said. “They feel much more empowered to see that landslide of thought and emotion, and not get all consumed by it or descend into the depths with it.”
For Stitt, mindfulness and meditation has become a powerful way to deal with his depression. “Some mornings I wake up and think, ‘Wow, this is going to be a horrible day.’ And then I meditate and shift that thought pattern — I come out of it feeling energized and alive.”
The more we reinforce unhealthy patterns of thought, the stronger it gets. And if we stop unhealthy patterns of thought, they get weaker and have less control over you, Emmons said. “We might not be able to stop the thoughts, but [people] can learn to notice the thought, stop ruminating, and not let it control them…The brain is very resilient — it’s very good at making new connections as long as we do other things to help it.”

Lessons learned

“I always felt as though we were on to something from the beginning with this program. I really believed in this integrative approach,” Emmons said. But there were two things that I didn’t really appreciate were as important as they are — self acceptance and the importance of community.
The biggest stumbling block for real recovery from depression is self derision — where people hold themselves in a very harmful way with how they think and feel about themselves, Emmons said. “And it is such a turning point for people, if they can honestly get to that point of accepting themselves more fully.”
Feeling connected to a community is also powerful, Emmons said. Probably the most healing element of everything we’re doing happens because we are bringing these people together and creating a safe and open sense of community where they can talk about depression with others. They learn they’re not alone. Depression is not unique to them.
“It’s strengthening to be with others in the group,” Stitt said. “You don’t have to explain depression to others who are experiencing it. You learn about tools you didn’t consider in the past, like supplements. You hear other people’s successes. And there’s a unique bond.”
Before starting the program, Keefe felt isolated. And meeting with others in the resilience group helped her deal with the isolation. “I didn’t have to explain what I was going through with depression,” Keefe said. “I look around in that group and everyone’s struggling with it. It’s very clearly not our fault. We didn’t do something that caused this. And that’s the beauty of a group. Nobody gets it like they do. And everyone has so much to offer. We’re so different and yet we’re all alike.”
This sense of community is so important that Stitt and Keefe attend a monthly follow-up group that provides ongoing education and for people who went through the RT program.

Challenges to resilience training participation

Despite success of the RT program in helping people with depression and anxiety, barriers can get in the way of participation.
“It’s kind of a cruel irony that depression, really recovering from it, requires so much good self management and yet the illnesses itself really knocks out the motivation to do it,” Emmons said. “Being ready for change and then sustaining the motivation over the long term is a real challenge.” And although the program is designed to help with this, the lack of motivation that often accompanies depression is a stumbling block for many people.
The other issue is financial. Currently, the program is not covered by most insurance plans. “We’ve made it as affordable as we can. But the cost is still substantial — $900 total. [Cost] is a barrier for some,” Emmons said. “But I have been surprised at how many people will make it happen. Even if it’s a stretch, because they are so hungry for something like this.”
Paying for the program was a stretch for Stitt, and he was able to do it only because his older sister helped him. “At that point, I was living on money that I was borrowing,” Stitt said. “It would be nice if everyone who could use the training could get it without worrying about the finance part.” Beginning 2011, the cost of the program will be less of a barrier for some — it will be a covered medical benefit for employees of one major Minnesota health care organization, Allina Hospitals & Clinics. This benefit change occurred because the program is cost-effective, according to a recent unpublished study. In the study, a workplace productivity and impairment questionnaire measured presentessism, that is being present at work but not productive, in employees with moderate depression. A 59 percent decrease in presentessism was seen in employees who completed the eight-week RT program compared to a 25 percent increase in employees who did not participate. The estimated cost savings from improved presentessism was more than $1,600 for each RT participant.

Resilience as an approach to life

Stitt finished the RT program in June 2007. He returned to full-time work six months later and was married in 2009. Today, he takes medications for his depression, attends the monthly RT follow-up group, meditates, exercises and practices others skills he learned.
“The RT program teaches a lot of techniques and tools, but the practitioner needs to incorporate these into their life,” Stitt said. “Exercise only works if you get out there and do it. Diet is the same way. Using meditation to work with the mind — you need to practice it. And it takes a lot of patience and practice.”
And he sees resilience as a way to approach life. “It’s not about making ourselves perfect, [it’s about] living with the situation we have. Not giving up. Life doesn’t have to be perfect,” Stitt said. “Life is challenging for everyone — even for people who on the surface seem to have a great life.”
Resilience training is a way of life that enables people to live with the suffering that comes with being human, Bourgerie said. It’s not just self improvement, symptom relief, or relapse prevention. And this program can help anyone, not just people with depression, to have more resilience and more ability to live.