May 17, 2012
PPD/TMS Peer Network  May Newsletter
mustache man and doctor
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The last month has been a very busy and exciting time for our movement. As I mentioned several months ago, the PPDA will be cohosting a conference in October with the NYU Postdoc in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Registration for this conference has begun, and you can sign up for the NYU conference at the PPDA's new website. Thanks to inspired leadership by Fran Sommer Anderson, Eric Sherman, and the rest of the organizing committee, I think that this conference will be a landmark in the growth of our movement. It will introduce new practitioners to our approach and build vital relationships with the New York psychoanalytic community.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the Thank You, Dr. Sarno project. In the end we had over 70 contributions, and the book itself was over 100 12"x12" pages long. Reading the contributions was very touching, and the end result is something that I think Dr. Sarno and his family will cherish for years to come. If anyone missed the chance to participate, there are directions below for being included in the second volume.

Finally, in addition to a very thoughtful Q&A answer by Alan Gordon, I've included in this newsletter a personally meaningful essay inspired by a story I heard on NPR. I feel like I've learned a lot in my three years of almost full time advocacy, and this essay captures some ideas I think are important to our movement.


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In This Edition
  1. Adversity to Advocacy in the PPD/TMS Movement
  2. New York Conference Update
  3. Thank You, Dr. Sarno
  4. Q&A with an Expert: Is it PPD or a structural issue (response by Alan Gordon, LCSW)

Adversity to Advocacy in the PPD/TMS Movement

I’d like to share something that I learned about myself and about our movement over the last year or so.

Since last fall the PPD/TMS Peer Network has held a weekly drop-in chat room where individuals can receive support from peers who have recovered from PPD. While the meetings last just one hour once a week, a PPD therapist has confirmed to me that their patients have attended and found the meetings very helpful in realizing that they aren’t crazy or alone.

The Peer Network started these meetings as a form of outreach to help other people, but what has been fascinating to me is that in addition to helping others, both I and the other moderators have learned a tremendous amount about ourselves. While I have been out of pain for a while, I think that PPD can be a signal that there is other work to do, and I find myself more enthusiastic than ever to do this work. My girlfriend has observed these changes and sent me a link to an interview on NPR’s Here and Now with Robin Young about San Francisco Newscaster, Jeff Bell, who is an OCD patient turned advocate.

After overcoming his OCD, Jeff Bell wrote a book about his experience and started an organization called Adversity to Advocacy or A2A. A2A is entirely peer led in that its volunteers have all suffered from the “adversity” that their “advocacy” relates to. Much like the Peer Network, it mentors people challenged by adversity on how to become advocates and help other people in similar conditions. In the interview Bell discusses the positive effects volunteering as an advocate can have on a patient/peer’s recovery and the unique role peer organizations play in turning adversity to advocacy. Bell says, “As I shared my story, I found I was becoming stronger and stronger, and the people I was networking with had this common thread.”

It struck me how much this resonated with my own experiences. A2A serves as a terrific example of what peer organizations bring to the table. Their mission and model is defined in the following statement: “By being of service to others with adversities similar to our own, we apply our empathy in a way that provides a powerful sense of purpose and fuels our resilience.”

As a completely peer led organization, A2A embodies the very activity that it promotes. By giving peers an important voice, A2A is empowering the people it helps. This is very similar to what the PPD/TMS Peer Network seeks to accomplish. In PPD it is the person with PPD’s courage to accept the diagnosis or open themselves up to psychotherapy that is they key determinant of a successful treatment. To insist that we need a practitioner led organization to lead us in our advocacy fundamentally misunderstands the “powerful sense of purpose [that] fuels our resilience,” as described in A2A’s model, above.

As Peers, we take pride in the deep sense of ownership we feel in what we are creating, and this pride can be therapeutic. This idea is represented in the Peer Network through the composition of our board and through the vitally important words, “Peer Network.” Most of us don’t see ourselves as patients, but rather as peers. To turn us into patients is disempowering and subtly suggests, by the very vocabulary, that we only exists in relation to an omnipotent MD or therapist. This deprives us of a sense of self-determination that can be so therapeutic in our long term recoveries.

Through the composition of it’s board and it’s well defined identity, the PTPN authentically represents all peers with PPD and in so doing we empower people by giving them a sense of ownership in the organization. With this clear identity, we can best support the other practitioners, researchers, authors and nonprofits that are helping to create this movement.

This is, in part, the reason Doug Lynch, the PR consultant who helped develop the term PPD, recommended having a two organization model, where one focuses on practitioners and the other serves as a clearly defined grassroots peer organization. By being the peer led organization, the PTPN is playing a crucial role in the overall PPD movement, and have the ability to truly empower people to overcome their symptoms and encourage others to try the approach.

One of the most gratifying parts of my job with the PTPN is seeing someone go from being in pain to helping others recover. The peer network has become very good at integrating new people into the organization. We are developing clear job descriptions for volunteers and have extensive training materials and mentors for new comers.

If you know of a patient who you feel would benefit from gaining the self-esteem by turning their adversity into advocacy, through the assistance of a truly peer/patient identified and led organization, feel free to give them my email( It is always a pleasure to speak with potential new advocates and help them learn about what they can do to raise awareness of this debilitating but eminently treatable condition.

Thank You, Dr. Sarno

The first volume of the Thank You, Dr. Sarno book has been printed. We received a wonderful out-pouring of support for the project and the submissions are very touching. You can view all of the submissions on our special tribute website at

If you, or any former patient, still wishes to contribute to this project feel free to send your message to Even though the first volume of the book is printed, we would love to add thank you messages to the website. We also hope to make a second volume of thank you messages, and present it to Dr. Sarno in October. If you did not have a chance to participate in the first volume, send us your personal thank you message anyway, and we will include it in future volumes we produce.

I want to personally thank all of the members of the Thank You project team. These members are:

Rinkey (Team Chair) (nonpractitioners are listed by their preferred pseudonyms for privacy reasons)
Frances Sommer Anderson
Eric Sherman

Without the wonderful help all of these individuals, we would not have been able to create such a moving tribute to Dr. Sarno.

New York Conference Registration

I am pleased to announce that registration for the conference, When Stress Causes Pain, which is co-sponsored by the PPDA and the NYU Postdoc in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis is open for early registration. The fees are as follows:

  • Early Professional Registration (Ends after July 31): $160.00
  • Regular Professional Registration: $195.00
  • Student Registration: $110.00
  • Include Lunch: $15.00

Keynote Speaker:
Raja Selvam, PhD.


  • Lewis Aron, PhD, ABPP – Director of NYU Postdoc
  • Frances Sommer Anderson, PhD, SEP – NYU Postdoc
  • Sharone Bergner, PhD – NYU Postdoc
  • David D. Clarke, MD – Oregon Health & Science University
  • Mary-Joan Gerson, PhD, ABPP – NYU Postdoc
  • Alan Gordon, LCSW – USC
  • Spyros Orfanos, PhD, ABPP – NYU Postdoc Clinic Director
  • Evelyn Rappaport, PsyD, SEP – NYU Postdoc
  • Forest S., MA, MS – Boston U.
  • Howard Schubiner, MD – Wayne State University
  • Eric Sherman, PsyD – NYU Postdoc
  • Peter Zafirides, MD – Ohio State University

To register and learn more about this important conference visit .

Q&A With an Expert

Alan Gordon, LCSW, recently submitted a new response to the Q&A with an Expert program. Gordon has extensive experience working with TMS clients suffering from back and neck pain, RSI, fibromyalgia, IBS, tendonitis, pelvic pain, chronic headaches, and other pain disorders. He serves as a guest lecturer at USC and has presented on the topic of pain treatment at hospitals, mental health facilities, and pain centers throughout Southern California. He is also on the board of the PPDA and organized the 2010 LA Mindbody Conference.

Quesion: I am going back and forth like a mad woman - One minute I believe it's TMS then I revert back to thinking it’s structural. Why does this happen? And how can I overcome it?

Answer: I think that everyone who’s had PPD has waged this internal battle at some point.

There’s two ways to answer this. The more straightforward explanation is that our brains are wired to associate physical pain with physical injury. So even in the face of plenty of logical evidence to the contrary, our primitive brains think, “Sitting makes my back hurt. I better not sit because that might make my back worse.”

One of the best ways to overcome this is by bombarding your primitive brain with the opposite message. Write up an evidence sheet (MRI was clean, sat that one time for 2 hours without pain, history of other PPD symptoms, etc.) and throw it up on your refrigerator. Tell yourself daily, with confidence, “I know this is PPD, and here’s why...” With time, it’s possible to override this more primitive voice.

There’s a deeper answer to this question, though.

The pain isn’t the real distraction from painful unconscious emotions. The real distraction is the preoccupation around the pain: the fear of whether it will ever go away; the monitoring of whether it was better or worse than the day before; and the psychological struggle over whether or not it’s PPD.

This struggle, this back and forth between the PPD diagnosis and the structural diagnosis is actually part of the PPD. Your brilliant mind is keeping you preoccupied with the terrifying uncertainty of what to believe.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: “Wait, if it’s really PPD then why would it hurt more in hard chairs?” “Hold on a second, if it was structural then why would it move to different parts of my back?” “But then again, if there’s something wrong with my spine, it’d make sense for different parts of my back to hurt...”

This whole thing, this whole internal struggle is all part of the distraction. Your mind is keeping you preoccupied by pulling you back and forth, accumulating evidence on one side one day and the other side the next.

It’s like an evil genius, actually using thoughts about PPD as part of the PPD. You had no idea your unconscious was so clever.

So here’s what you do. See what’s going on. Recognize that your mind has an ulterior motive to pull you back and forth, and actively avoid engaging. Say to yourself, say out loud, “I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to pull me into a state of anxiety by making me stress over what’s causing my pain. I’m not going to buy in.”

To quote a 29 year old Matthew Broderick movie, “The only way to win is not to play the game.”

Extensive commentary and feedback on this topic can be found in the corresponding post in the Peer Network's forum.

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