Study by New UNCW Faculty Member Combines Holistic Modalities with Traditional Treatments for Patients with Anxiety and/or Depression

A new study is being conducted at the University of North Carolina Wilmington combining the practice of yoga and meditation with traditional therapies in patients suffering from anxiety and depression. The study, presented by Nasrin Falsafi, assistant professor with the School of Nursing, is in the beginning stages.Dr Nasrin Falsafi

Falsafi will conduct the one-year study, "Use of Meditation and Yoga with Uninsured and Low-income Patients with Anxiety and/or Depression," at a free clinic in Wilmington. A certified yoga instructor, a psychiatric clinical specialist, and a certified holistic nurse, Falsafi received a Richard Corbett Research Award to conduct the study.

While working in private practice as a psychotherapist, Falsafi employed holistic modalities alongside traditional psychotherapy treatments for her patients. She learned through these encounters, and her own experiences with yoga, that yoga and mindfulness meditation were great compliments to other therapies for patients suffering from both anxiety and depression.

"Since anxiety and depression have effects on one's body, it's important to also treat the body, and not use only psychotherapy and medications. Yoga is a meditative practice and can help the patients both physically and emotionally," said Falsafi.

Now, Falsafi hopes to show that these anecdotal findings are validated in a formal study. She points out that meditation and yoga and similar modalities have been practiced by, and studied in, populations such as students, veterans, monks and leadership groups, which are significantly different than the one she is investigating in this study.

Low-income patients without insurance show a large need for these therapies and may have not had access to such practices. This is especially helpful in that, if the study shows her theories may have some validity, these patients would have a new, life-long, and free treatment for themselves.

"It is easy to learn such practices, and after individuals learn the basics of these modalities, they can do it on their own. Once [the patients] have learned it, they've learned it," she said.

Falsafi hopes this study will be the groundwork for future studies including research into how yoga and mindfulness meditation may help patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), especially those returning from war, which is a population showing great need for these types of modalities.

Her one-year pilot-study will involve 20 patients all suffering from anxiety and/or depression. Whether these men or women are currently taking or have previously taken medication or tried other therapies will be noted in Falsafi's study, but nothing will change in their treatments except to add the meditation and easy yoga training taught by Falsafi. The participants will attend an eight-week training program.

Currently, Falsafi is a clinical faculty member for Nursing 329 (Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing). She also teaches Nursing 251 (Communication Skills for Healthcare Professionals). Outside of teaching students, Falsafi instructs a one-hour yoga class at the School of Nursing for faculty and staff on Mondays. She hopes to implement a Mindfulness Center on UNCW's campus, and provide an opportunity for mindfulness meditation, relaxation and needed tranquility for students.

By Sally J. Johnson '14 MFA