Healing and the Mind: By Bill Moyers – The Art of Healing (5 of 6)


In ‘Healing and the Mind’ Bill Moyers talks with physicians, scientists, therapists, and patients – people who are taking a new look at the meaning of sickness and health. In a series of fascinating and provocative interviews, he discusses their search for answers to perplexing questions: How do emotions translate into chemicals in our bodies? How do thoughts and feelings influence health? How can we collaborate with our bodies to encourage healing?” In the fourth part of the series, Bill Moyers examines two therapies – Buddhist meditation and group psychotherapy – that involve neither drugs nor surgery.

The fourth part in this series focuses on the real effects that a patient’s mental, emotional and spiritual well being can have on their health before, during and after a medical procedure. We are introduced to doctors and hospitals who provide holistic care to their patients and through this, are able to achieve extraordinary levels of measurable success.

When patients feel better, they tend to get better

Bill Moyer’s helps us to understand that the mind-body-spirit approach is so successful because it is ‘patient-centred’, whereas conventional medicine is ‘disease-centred’.

Uncertainty is a terrible illness

anxiety before surgery
Not having enough information makes patients and their carers anxious

One way in which doctors can achieve better results from major procedures is to give the patient and their families as much information as possible.

The interviews examine both the positive and negative effects that a person and their family’s collective mental state has on their ability to handle the stress of a surgery.

Often, doctors do not give patients and their carers enough information and assurance … the resulting fear and anxiety can compromise how a patient fares during and after the procedure. Studies show that patients who are better educated by their doctors, fare better during their post-operative recovery phase.

Great doctors address people as people

Sometimes, science can get in the way and the processes in hospitals can become overly mechanical and transactional. It is important that patients don’t simply become body parts on a assembly line.

There has to be an emotional connection, characterised by caring touches and empathy, between doctor and patient (and their families/carers). People want a healing presence and therefore it is essential that doctors ‘acknowledge personhood’ and can share in the emotional state of the patient.

Holistic healing approaches to complement modern medicine

1. Doctor vouches for integrating native American healing techniques in treatment

mind, body, spirit
The spirit is an integral part of the person, and requires just as much attention

Moyers interviews a devout Baptist Christian chief of medicine who says that using Native American healing techniques has tremendous benefits. He says that alternative medicine like that used by Native Americans for spiritual healing, can help to calm patients; the spirit must also be considered a part of the body.

2. Community plays an important role in healing

In inner city hospitals in Texas, doctors have begun to work better with patients in the Hispanic community by understanding why they go to local community healers and what treatments they get from them.

Some of the alternative treatments (floral teas, for example) contain the same chemicals that Western medicine would have prescribed and by connecting with the patient’s community, doctors can calibrate their prescription accordingly. Indeed, the best place for mind-body-spirit medicine may be the community, rather than the hospital. Understanding the patient’s community background and faith and then building on those strengths is good medical practice!

3. Stress affects even newborn babies

In the premature baby ward, Moyers finds out how stress affects even new-born babies and how the nurses provide care to both the babies and their anxious parents. They become ‘2nd mothers’, sharing in the parents’ joy when things go well and in their grief when circumstances take a turn for the worst. They are almost as emotionally invested in the babies’ well-being as the parents and this, they say, help in the babies’ development at such a critical, precarious stage.

4. Hospital incorporates mind-body-spirit techniques

Mid Columbia Medical CenterMid-Columbia Medical Centre (MCMC) is another place, where many of the mind-body-spirit techniques are regularly practiced, and their wonderful results quietly celebrated. As Hippocrates said thousands of years ago, “we have to heal the soul” through music, laughter and massage.

Such therapeutic techniques are consistently implemented at MCMC, based on the insight that fear contributes to the perception of pain and negative emotions can counter the positive effects of medication.

  • MCMC makes the physical environment as welcoming and comfortable as possible.
  • There are no visiting hours, so families and especially children can be at their loved one’s bedside whenever they wish.
  • They provide pull-out beds in each room so that carers can stay the night if they choose to.
  • Each ward comes with a private kitchen so carers can cook ‘comfort food’ for the patient and give them that extra sense of familiarity in what can otherwise feel like an alien place.

Cure & Care

These examples show that the mind-body-spirit approach, which focuses on simple values and uses common sense, can very easily and comfortably complement modern medicine, to reap real rewards for doctors, patients and their families alike.


  • How can you have better and more relevant discussions with your doctors?
  • What are the right questions to ask them? Can you draw up a list with the help of a knowledgeable person?
  • How can you incorporate the mind-body-spirit approaches in your treatments, with the support of your doctors?


Healing & The Mind‘ by Bill Moyers


vidyaAfter obtaining a degree in Psychology, Vidya felt her subject learning had been limited since it stopped with the study of the mind. Believing that humans are “whole” beings, she decided to pursue a discipline which appreciates the inter-connection between body-mind-spirit. She qualified herself as a Clinical Hypnotherapist from the California Hypnosis Institute of India (CHII). Vidya now works with cancer patients on a daily basis as a Treatment-Coordinator/ Therapist at the Ojus-Sampurnah Integrative Medicine Clinic in Bangalore and practices as an independent Hypnotherapist as well.

More from this series

Title About the article
1. Introduction to Healing & The Mind In this landmark series, Bill’s aim is to present his answers to the ever-perplexing questions : How do emotions translate into chemicals in our bodies? How do thoughts and feelings influence health? How can we collaborate with our bodies to encourage healing?
2. The Mystery of Qi In this part of the series, Bill Moyers, with the help of his guide, David Eisenberg, (MD from Harvard Medical School), travels through Beijing and Shanghai, exploring Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and its approach to healing through ‘Qi’ (pronounced ‘chi’), the vital energy force.
3. The Mind-Body Connection How do emotions translate into chemicals in our bodies? How do thoughts and feelings influence health? How can we collaborate with our bodies to encourage healing?
4.Healing From Within In the third part of the series, Bill Moyers offers new insights into how the mind and body are intimately interconnected.
5.The Art of Healing In the fourth part of the series, Bill Moyers examines two therapies – Buddhist meditation and group psychotherapy – that involve neither drugs nor surgery
6.Wounded Healers In the final part of the series, Bill Moyers aptly completes the circle by focusing on real people and their real stories and emphasising the ‘human connection’ that is so crucial in the doctor-patient relationship.



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