Q&A: Is reading a TMS or PPD book just as effective as going to a practitioner? Should I do one over the other?

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Is reading a TMS or PPD book just as effective as going to a practitioner? Should I do one over the other?

All, I read a lot in these posts about people saying it is a process and can take days, weeks, months or even years. Seems like most people have read the books but I don't see a lot that have seen Dr. Sarno or one of the TMS practitioners. In Dr. Sarno's book, he talks about 4-8 weeks and a very high and permanent success rate. Here's my question:

Is it more effective to go see a practitioner if you are able to?

I've read Healing Back Pain and The Mindbody Prescription and made good progress over the past few months. But, half the symptoms are jumping around and only half are going away. I totally agree that I have TMS and believe what I read in the books. But, I'm wondering if I should go see a practitioner since there is one in my area and I can afford to see them. Thanks!


Answer by Alan Gordon, LCSW

An image of Alan Gordon, LCSW
Alan Gordon, LCSW

Alan Gordon's Profile Page / Bio Page / Psychophysiologic Disorders Association (PPDA) Board Member/ Miracles of Mindbody Medicine / Website

That's a great question. In my experience, for most people there are two distinct parts to recovering from PPD symptoms:

The first is recognizing and accepting that the cause of the symptoms are psychological, not structural. This is very important, as it's quite difficult to get past the pain if you still believe that the cause of your pain is physical.

The second part is figuring out what unconscious emotions (anger, sadness, etc.) are being repressed, when, and even why. Often pain is a defense against these emotions, so understanding what exactly the pain is protecting you from is important as well.

I've found that Dr. Sarno's books are very helpful for the first part. They provide lots of evidence, anecdotes, etc. that can help people accept that their pain is in fact psychological.

The books themselves are limited with regard to the second part. Self conducted programs, such as the wonderful program included in Howard Schubiner's book (which incorporates specific forms of journaling, self-exploration, and mindfulness exercises) are sufficient for some people to figure out what's going on underneath.

But being your own therapist is a lot like cutting your own hair: it's possible, but a lot easier if someone else is doing it; after all, they can see things that you can't.

Some (the lucky few) are able to eliminate their pain simply by learning that it isn't structural. Some need to take the next step by conducting their own emotional exploration to get beneath the pain. And some need to take the next step by working with a therapist to help them with that exploration.

How do you know which step you need to take? Simple, the pain will tell you. If you still have symptoms, or your pain is jumping around, that's an indication that you need to take the next step. The pain is your guide, and it will let you know when you've sufficiently addressed what it wants you to address.



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