Environmental Sensitivities: Non-Physical Approaches


Roy Fox, M.D.
Nova Scotia Environmental Health Centre, Dalhousie University, Fall River, Nova Scotia. Canada

It is obvious that in nature, of which man is a part, there is no single cause of any phenomenon, and that a causal network or causal web of factors in the environment and in the body interact to effect health1.

We have found that one of the most important aspects of a patient’s attendance at the NSEHC is validation of their illness experience. As we begin to help the patients with the many issues and challenges that they face in their lives, most of the patients are able to progress from the perception of being ill and disabled to one of being healthy but environmentally challenged. Although initial stages of therapy for the most ill inevitably result in some isolation and withdrawal from the workplace and society, the patients must be helped to move forward from this as soon as is practical. At this time people are helped by a holistic approach by competent professionals trained to work with the environmentally sensitive.

Treatment options
Treatment at NSEHC include physical and non-physical approaches, which are determined on an individual basis. Patients may be offered the opportunity to participate in individual or group sessions depending upon interest, accessibility and availability.

Group experiences include Wellness workshops (an experiential process for recovery and well-being), Expressive Arts Program (interactive ways of dealing with long term illness using art and music): Body Mind Awareness Program (a combination of body awareness exercises including yoga and qi gong, together with meditation and based upon the work of Jon Kabat Zinn2,3) and Feeling Good Group (facilitated by a psychologist trained in cognitive therapy and based upon the work of David Burns4). The patients have developed a self-help support group which explores spiritual issues.

Since stress plays such an important role in environmental sensitivities all patients are offered the opportunity to attend Freeze Frame® workshops5. Some patients choose to work with this approach and attend a small group on a longer term basis.
Some patients are not ready or able to attend groups and may work with various health professionals on an individual basis. Such therapy includes counseling and counseling together with other modalities such as cranio-sacral therapy, balancing and therapeutic touch.

Even when patients are attending for education on life style changes or sauna therapy, they are supported in the important changes that they are making in their lives. The milieu created within the Centre either for individual therapy, for physical or nonphysical approaches promotes recovery of health and wellness. Many of the patients when first seen are living from moment to moment and because of their ongoing sensitivity see survival as their main goal. Helping people get in touch with their own values, and resolving some conflicts enables them to go beyond survival and once again explore spiritual issues. Identifying such issues as grief, loss and values conflict and helping the patients to deal with them improves psychological well-being, supports healing and enables the individual to deal with their persisting sensitivities6.

1. Crawford-Brown, DJ 1997 “Theoretical and Mathematical Foundations of Human Health Risk Analysis”. Kluwer Academic Publishers. Boston Dordrecht London
2. Kabat-Zinn, J 1990 “Full Catastrophe Living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress.” Delacorte Press.
3. Kaplan KH, Goldenberg DL, Gavin-Nadeau M 1993 “The Impact of a Meditation Based Stress Reduction Program on Fibromyalgia.” General Hospital Psychiatry 15: 284-289.
4. Burns, David D. 1989 “The Feeling Good Handbook” Penguin Books New York, New York.
5. Childre, Doc 1998 “Freeze Frame®.” Planetary Publications, Boulder Creek, California.
6. Coldwell S, Fox RA & Joffres M 1999 “Rehabilitation of the Environmentally Sensitive Patient.” Submitted for publication.