Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for the ‘Community Resources’ Category

MOA: Mokichi Okada Association-Wellness In a New/Old Way

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on December 5, 2011

The Mokichi Okada Association, , started in Japan in the 1930s to help people “live in harmony with nature.” There are three principles of the “Okada Wellness Program.”

1. Organic natural farms which produce healthy chemical-free foods for the community.

2. Art museums and therapies relating to the arts promote emotional and cultural wellness through increased contact with beauty.

3. Okada Purifying Therapy (OPT), a traditional Japanese healing art designed to strengthen the body’s natural healing processes and increase the kidney’s purifying function to eliminate toxins.

   Today, two residents and I, took part in all the above. We started our morning with OPT. We each had a volunteer meet us, ask us how our bodies were feeling and then they told us to lie down on our side while they were going to hold his/her hands over our bodies. Normally, this takes 50 minutes, but because we were limited on time, we got the thirty minute version, or fifteen minutes on our left side and then another fifteen minutes on the right side.  For a moment, the volunteer asked permission to touch us, and then they gently pressed in our kidney area and that felt very good. Mostly though, they did not touch us, but they stood over us, while we were instructed to close our eyes. I did not fall asleep, although I could imagine how one might. t was a wonderful experience, better than a nap. This volunteer (in her eighties, I was later told) was a soothing presence, although we hardly spoke to each other. I felt she cared about her work and that made me feel both important and relaxed. I would be happy to go back tomorrow.

   Then, we were escorted to the flower room, where another sweet elderly volunteer, told us to pick flowers out of a vase. She later explained that these flowers were from her garden. In broken English (she was Japanese) she taught us that by taking care of something pretty, we will feel pretty ourselves. She was right. We each picked a different flower and then chose a vase from an assortment that she laid out for us. When we went to put the flower in the vase, she reminded us that this flower is alive and so we must treat it in a gentle fashion. We should not shove it into the vase. The resident said “I failed.” That same resident took a second flower and put it in a second vase. The other resident accused her of trying to get extra credit. We were then told to take our flowers to the next activity as we needed to bond with the experience.

   Finally, we had a Japanese tea ceremony. Five of us sat around a wooden table, while one young Japanese woman prepared the tea. Our male middle-aged Japanese guide explained the intricacy of the ceremony. He reminded us that the ceremony creates a focus on the present where we can be together without distraction. He explained that a tea ceremony, by having certain rituals, creates an internal calmness. Many people come weekly, or even twice weekly, just for the ceremony because it helps them feel better. That makes sense to me. Rules and order and beauty, along with a particular focus, creates inner peace.

  Of course, my residents needed to know how patients (who they call participants, since the word patient suggests passivity) can access this center. Surprisingly, it is a pay what you want, meaning there are suggested fees, but participants can pay more or less. In other words, no cost barrier. “What about Spanish-speaking?” I ask, expecting them to look at me cross-eyed. “Oh, yes, we have Spanish-speaking staff.” Surprise! They then gave us plastic containers so we could take our flowers home. That was nice.

  This is a great resource for participants, those wishing to volunteer time or money, and for those looking to guide friends or family to a wellness opportunity. Spread the word.


MOA Wellness Center Los Angeles MOA Wellness Center LOS ANGELES
4533 S. Centinela Ave.,
Los Angeles, CA 90066
1-310-574-9900 1-310-574-9901



Posted in Community Resources | 1 Comment »

Community Psychoanalysis

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 2, 2010


Helping the community is a challenge for all mental health professionals. Many of my colleagues wonder how we can join forces with community organizations to help the underserved. Our psychoanalytic skills are useful in one to one sessions, but on a broader level, they might also be useful to community mental health clinics, schools, and social service agencies. Father Boyle,, is my inspiration. Developing relationships with people who have limited resources can be a game changer in their lives. Understanding the value of a therapeutic relationship can, theoretically, and practically in the case of Father Boyle, have a huge impact on vulnerable folks. This impact takes the form of giving people hope; people who had none at all. This hope is hope in themselves; the hope to change their own lives. Transformative relationships might be a better term than community psychoanalysis to impart how change happens. Psychoanalysts, as experts in the challenges of therapeutic relationships, are in a unique position to inspire and to teach  volunteers, case workers, and clergy to help the community.

Today’s mental health clinics are focused on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT); a treatment which many say is “evidenced-based,” meaning that there are randomized controlled trials to demonstrate the efficacy. Although CBT is very useful, it does not substitute for the inspiration that a therapeutic relationship provides. Yet, money is tight; government which often hands out the money, wants to put their resources into something that shows efficacy. However, what if nothing demonstrates efficacy? What if CBT demonstrates results, but these results are short-term? Sometimes, intuition has to play a role; even in government funding. People dedicated to helping others, who know how to form a relationship with people in distress,  is a good place to put resources.  Transformative relationships; that is where we need to focus.

Posted in community psychoanalysis, Community Resources, Psychoanalysis | 8 Comments »

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