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Press Release

Press Release

Internationally Renowned Physician Herbert Benson, MD To Lecture on Spirituality and Forgiveness at MSPP in West Roxbury

October 25, 2003

West Roxbury, MA – Herbert Benson, MD, a cardiologist who helped pioneer the field of mind/body medicine, will present “Emerging Issues of Mind and Spirituality” at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP) on Monday, November 3 at 6:30 pm. The event launches the school’s new forum on Psychology and Spirituality, an initiative designed to explore and appreciate the importance of spirituality and religion in people’s lives.

Renowned for his development of the relaxation response and his best selling book of the same name, Benson has in recent years become interested in the healing effects of forgiveness and faith. Spirituality, he believes, shares many of the same attributes as the relaxation response, which he and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School have studied for a number of years.

The relaxation response occurs when a person engages in a repetitive prayer, word, sound or phrase and at the same time disregards intrusive thoughts. Research has proven that these types of activities result in decreased metabolism, heart rate, rate of breathing, and distinctive slower brain waves. These physiologic changes were named “the relaxation response” because they are the opposite of those induced by stress, and this widely-used technique has been demonstrated to be an effective therapy for a number of diseases ranging from hypertension to chronic pain.

Work surrounding the relaxation response led to consideration of the healing effects of spirituality, since research later established that people experience spirituality as a result of eliciting the relaxation response itself. Moreover, spirituality has been associated with fewer medical symptoms.

During his talk at MSPP, Benson will discuss the importance of forgiveness within the realm of spirituality. Guilt and resentment can exacerbate health problems, but studies have shown that the act of forgiveness can result in less anxiety, less depression, and increased self-esteem. Like spirituality in general, forgiveness elicits the relaxation response and its associated benefits. Benson’s lecture will present the scientific data as well as the spiritual perspectives on forgiveness and its relevance to present day society. The course will also identify future empirical research on the healing aspects of spirituality and forgiveness in medicine.

Over his 35-year career, Benson has written and co-authored more than 170 scientific publications and eight books, including the 1975 bestseller, “The Relaxation Response,” and this year’s highly popular “The Breakout Principle.” In 1988 he founded his Mind/Body Institute which is based in Chestnut Hill and has satellite programs throughout the nation. Each year, the Institute provides relaxation-based programs to thousands of people and offers training programs for all types of health professionals and medical students.

One of medicine’s great visionaries, Benson’s research extends from the laboratory to the clinic to Asian field expeditions. His work serves as a bridge between medicine and religion, East/West thought, mind/body issues, and belief and science. In addition to his work with the Mind/Body Institute, he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“Emerging Issues of Mind and Spirituality” is opened to the general public; psychologists, social workers, nurses, educators, and other mental health professionals attending the lecture can earn two continuing education credits. Benson’s lecture will be followed by a panel discussion to include MSPP President Nicholas Covino, PsyD, MSPP faculty member Hilary Bender, PhD, and MSPP doctoral student Natalie Wimberly. Paul Lipsitt, PhD, of the school’s board of trustees will serve as moderator. The lecture will be held on the MSPP campus at 221 Rivermoor Street in West Roxbury and the registration fee is $25. To register or obtain additional information call 617-327-6777.

Founded in 1974, MSPP is one of the first and largest schools of its kind in the United States. Offering a wide array of programs, MSPP now has 700 alumni across the nation and plays an important role in the mental health environment of Massachusetts. Despite its growing popularity and reputation, the school endeavors to stay true to its founding mission: to improve quality of life by training and educating psychology practitioners so they are capable of providing high quality, compassionate human services.

Updated 10/1/07

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