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Progoff Wellness Newsletter
Life Histories |
Dialogue House would like you to get to know some of the people who help
us further the work of Dr. Ira Progoff and the Intensive Journal Method.
The current feature is Dr. Jacek Mostwin of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
Dr. Mostwin is currently working on a proposed study to evaluate the effects of the Intensive Journal
Method on prostate cancer patients. Click
here for a summary of the study.
Dr. Jacek Mostwin of Johns Hopkins Medical
Tell us a little
about yourself. What you do at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions?
I am currently a Professor of Urology at Johns
Hopkins University School of Medicine. Iíve been with the department
for 28 years. My expertise is in lower tract physiology including
prostate cancer and incontinence. Since 1992, Iíve been involved with
providing medical support to the community of Lourdes in France. Iíve
become Director of a physicians in society course (ďPatients, Physicians, &
SocietyĒ) at the School of Medicine. I am a lifelong resident of
Baltimore, except for the time when I have been away in training at medical
I understand you also
have a D.Phil. degree. What project did you do your dissertation on?
Well, the degree is a Doctorate of Philosophy, but
it was actually a doctorate program in pharmacology. I did my project
on the urinary bladder of the guinea pig.
Have you attended the
Intensive Journal program? What do you think of the program?
Iíve attended three retreats where I have done all
three program modules each time. I have a high regard for the
programís potential and I think it fulfills many of the promises and
expectations outlined by Dr. Progoff. Through my own experience, I
think that the kind of growth and self-discovery that the workshop offers
actually takes place in the experience of a workshop setting. One can
use this for working out psychological issues, exploring issues creatively,
and re-centering oneís own life in any stage of life. I think itís a
very flexible tool. I do think it requires motivation on the part of
the participants, but I think if you start out with any small amount of
motivation, the experience will show its value and keep people coming back.
As a urologist, what
are some of the non-medical issues people deal with when diagnosed with
Depending upon the kind of cancer, there may be
immediate life threatening issues or there may be transitional life
experiences where there are no immediate life threatening issues. Either
way, they redefine their meaning of life. Illness in general creates a
change in oneís sense of mortality and destructibility and brings on home
the reality that everyone has to deal with but faces with an illness.
Adjustment is a major aspect of dealing with a major illness.
Do you think the
Intensive Journal program would benefit patients who are being treated
for cancer? Why?
I certainly do think the
Intensive Journal program would benefit patients. There are many
aspects of life change and adaptation that are not addressed by other
aspects of treatment such as surgery and radiation. There are other
support groups that one can use but they are public and involve a great deal
of personal disclosure. They do not offer the anonymity and sanctuary
Intensive Journal workshop. I think the journal workshop can
offer the special form of supportive intervention not currently offered by
any other aspects or forms of intervention.
I understand you will
be a conducting a pilot research study utilizing the Intensive
Journal method. What are you looking to determine?
We are looking to see if
cancer patients entering a workshop anonymously, as would any citizen or
person, would experience some form of meaningful support from the process.
This could be manifested in their general attitudes and well-being, their
outlook on life, and possibly the solution of practical problems.
Describe how the
study is structured. Will patients be attending workshops?
How will you be monitoring their experiences?
At this point, weíve created
an advisory board of medical faculty, support staff, and patients, who will
hear a presentation from a certified leader (John McMurry) about the
Intensive Journal Program and will discuss it within the context of
cancer care. After this, we will formulate a proposal, to look at the
effect of workshop participation on the overall well being of cancer
patients. Initially, we plan to have the workshop take place in its
normal setting so that participants can enter in an anonymous way as we hope
not to alter the workshop experience. The actual journals that the
patients produce in the workshop will be kept private as they always are.
We are looking into the effect of the experience, not reading the journals.
What outcomes do you
expect to see from this study?
We would initially formulate
a hypothesis that an intervention would produce an improvement of quality of
life measurements. We would use quality of life tools administered
before and after to look at the differences. In addition, we would
look for further leads in open-ended interviews and additional writings and
written comments that the participants provide including narrative
descriptions of their experience. I will be looking from the
quantitative and qualitative point of view.
Is there anything
else you would like to tell us?
Iím very optimistic about the
potential of the Intensive Journal method to help patients solve
problems of meaning that serious illness brings up. Because of the
unique aspects of the Intensive Journal method that include
structure, feedback, and group support, I think there is greater potential
of longer lasting improvement than from other group experiences. It
will also be complementary to other group support.