Yale Stress Center provides alternative options for patients

Treatments draw upon years of research of the ‘science of stress’

Yale Stress Center: Yale Stress Center staff, seated (l-r): Keri Tuit, PsyD; Ann Dutton, MA, RYT; and Ather Ali, ND, MPH. Standing (l-r) Matthew Stults-Kohehmainen, PhD; Mary Savoye, RD; Ania Jastreboff, MD; Dr. Sinha; and Rachel Hart, MS, LADC.

The Interdisciplinary Yale Stress Center opened its doors to patients recently to provide a variety of treatments that are new to Yale Medical Group, including acupuncture, biofeedback, mindfulness meditation and yoga.

The patients typically are seeking treatment for chronic stress or stress–related diseases, and all of the center’s treatments are the result of an improved understanding of how stress affects personal choices, said Rajita Sinha, PhD, director of the center and a Yale School of Medicine professor with an international reputation for pioneering research.

“We are learning, at the cellular and neuroscientific level, how our habits take over and contribute to the development of illness. This is important, because stress is a contributing factor for virtually every form of chronic disease,” Sinha said. “We are applying the science of stress to treat its damaging effects on the brain, mind and body.”

The Stress Center draws its treatments directly from research supported by a $23 million grant the Yale School of Medicine received from the National Institutes of Health in 2007. Sinha and her colleagues at the center have been researching the effects of stress on health for several years, and conducting clinical trials since 2010. “The best impact of the research is that we can now offer clinical services that help people improve their lives,” says Keri Tuit, PsyD, the center’s clinical director.

Sinha’s studies have shown how stress and adversity increase desire for addictive substances such as alcohol, illicit drugs, and high-fat foods, and how chronic use of these substances, along with obesity, can alter biological stress responses.

Patients seek help coping

Anyone can make an appointment at the clinic. Patients have come in seeking help with such stress-related medical complaints as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, anxiety and a long list of other conditions. The Yale Stress Center also works with other YMG programs to offer specific stress treatments for patients, such as interventions to address addictive behaviors, anxiety, cognitive problems, chronic pain, depressive symptoms and sleep difficulties.

Jan Juris, a resident of West Haven, visited the center last year for a clinical trial, after she lost her 35-year-old daughter, a mother of two, to breast cancer, and her father, and realized years of caring for her family had contributed to her weight spinning out of control. She enrolled in a 12-week program at the center that included counseling, nutritional coaching, yoga, meditation and group sessions with others who were also struggling with overeating.

A year later, she said, “I am much more aware of what I eat, how much and how fast. I learned to stop, breathe, relax and pay attention while eating. I eat slower, chew longer and don’t gulp food down.”

First visit is comprehensive

The first visit includes a comprehensive evaluation, typically with blood tests and other types of diagnostic screenings. Results are used to customize a treatment plan to the patient’s particular needs. Patients can also inquire about direct access to specific therapies without a comprehensive evaluation.

A treatment plan typically will incorporate individual and group therapy, biofeedback, weight loss, acupuncture, yoga and mindfulness meditation in whatever combination a patient needs. In addition, doctors may prescribe medications such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to improve mood and anxiety, and/or recommend supplements such as B vitamins, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids and coenzyme q10.

The Yale Stress Center is located in the Doctors Building, 2 Church Street South. Physician referrals are accepted, but not required. Services may are may not be covered by insurance. The center also recruits people to participate in clinical studies focusing on stress. For more information,visit the Yale Stress Center website at www.yalestress.org, or contact the center at 1-888-Y-STRESS (1-888-978-7377 or stress@yale.edu.

Read more about the Yale Stress Center at http://yalemedicalgroup.org/stress_center.