University of Vermont

Magdalena Naylor

Professor of psychiatry, M.D.

Magdalena Naylor

Jeff Toon suffered so from his chronic pain that he couldn't turn the pages in a book. Now he bikes, sails and swims. Lee Rosenberg now very rarely takes medication for her chronic pain condition.

"When I think of these people," says Naylor, a professor of psychiatry, "I get goose bumps." For 13 years, Naylor has been using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to help patients like Toon and Rosenberg manage — and reduce — chronic sensory and emotional pain that stems from sources including back problems, arthritis, migraine headaches, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia.

More on Naylor's work ...

Naylor's approach includes 11 weeks of cognitive behavioral group therapy focusing on techniques in meditation, mindfulness, coping skills, self care, exercise, and how to recognize stress factors. Participants, on average, have experienced chronic pain for about 11 years.

Treating the whole person

"Our patients have both sensory and emotional aspects to their pain, and they may also have high stress levels, depression, obesity and insomnia. Our focus is on health — not just physical pain. It's about making lifestyle changes, and teaching strategies to support and maintain change."

Naylor, who in addition to her M.D. degree holds a doctorate in cardiovascular physiology from Warsaw Medical Academy and a specialty in psychiatry from Duke University, can understand pain from both sides — she suffers from chronic lower back pain as the result of a car accident six years ago, which she mollifies with her own pain relief techniques.

If there are skeptics to this mind-body approach to managing chronic pain, their numbers are dwindling. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have funded Naylor's MindBody Medicine Research Clinic, and currently provide over $3 million for her neuroimaging research and her voice response relapse prevention program.