AN Overview of Rudolf Steiner Health Center:
The two-week intensive therapeutic retreats offered by the center give participants the opportunity to focus on their physical, spiritual, and emotional health with the help and expertise of an anthroposophic therapeutic team. Participants from all over the country come to experience the healing environment provided by the center.The Rudolf Steiner Health Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan is a unique center for anthroposophic therapies.Although anthroposophic therapy centers are fairly common in Europe, the Rudolf Steiner Health Center is the first such center in North America. Spreading awareness and access to anthroposophic medical treatment in America is one of the primary goals of the center. Patients who previously had to travel to Europe to receive intensive anthroposophic treatment now have the opportunity to attend a center in the United States with English speaking, anthroposophically trained doctors, therapists, and nurses.and education. The center was founded in 2003 and is based on similar therapy centers in Germany and Switzerland.
Patients suffering from a wide variety of illnesses including, but not limited to stroke, eating disorders, recovery from surgery, chronic fatigue, Lyme disease, and simply the stress of everyday life, attend one or multiple retreat sessions with exceptional results.
The reason patients see such dramatic changes to their health and well-being in just two weeks is because of the extreme care and attention paid to the individualized treatment plans for each patient, as well as being immersed in an environment that emphasizes the rhythms of the day, the importance of diet, rest, and community. The center also focuses on teaching patients how to adapt their lifestyle towards healing and restoration of inner vitality. The effects of the therapeutic sessions continue when patients return home equipped with the knowledge and motivation to lead a healthier, more meaningful life, despite the challenges of chronicillness.
The typical day starts with singing in the large living room. Many patients have an initial reluctance to sing with others, but by the end of the retreat, they don’t want to miss a session, and the songs and rounds follow them home! The rest of the morning is filled with the nursing treatments, therapies, and perhaps a doctor’s visit. The anthroposophic therapies are all carried out with doctor’s guidance, and follow a particular sequence which is determined by the therapy/nursing/doctors circle which meets every morning to discuss the patients’ needs.It is remarkable how important aspects of a patient’s illness can be revealed in eurythmy or spacial dynamics, rhythmic massage, art or color light therapy, which then give direction to the next days’ work with that patient.
For many patients, the midday meal is the most important one. All of the food is ovo-lacto-vegetarian, or sometimes vegan, and everything is prepared fresh and from scratch on the premises. The health center is fortunate to have many local sources of organic food, including the Community Farm of Ann Arbor which supplies them with biodynamic vegetables. Lunch begins with a warm soup to ready the liver and intestines for the meal. It is often possible to serve the grain of the day (rice on Monday, for example) with a sauce, accompanying greens and vegetables, and later, a light fruit dessert. Although some patients are used to eatingheavy meals or meat at home, they are very satisfied after a few days with a new routine and high quality meals.After many years of clamor for recipes, the Health Center Cookbook is finally available to all.
After lunch, most patients receive a warm liver compress while resting in their bed. This aids in the further digestion of the meal. After compress time, there are more therapies. If time allows, some patients may take a walk through Eberwhite Woods across the street, browse through old bookstores, or visit some of the many other interesting stores and activities a university town can offer.
On many evenings optional lectures on anthroposophic medicine, a concert, or a demonstration of nursing care are offered. Especially beloved are the two talks by Molly McMullen-Laird, MD on the principles of nutrition and the practical aspects in the kitchen, so that the patients can continue eating healthy meals at home.
The middle Sunday of the retreat is a free day. Often patients and staff members will visit a local event such as a concert in the afternoon or evening. By Monday morning it seems like much has changed in a week! It is important to plan how to go home and how to communicate with the patient’s home doctor and family, in order to keep the changes the patient has newly acquired intact.
An interesting effect of our scheduling (all the participants come at the same time), is that a small community forms amongst the patients, which, for many, lasts into the future. They have developed a common language about the therapies and meals, and may talk or write to each other about their current experiences for many years. Some even plan return visits to the center at the same time.
The Rudolf Steiner Health Center is fortunate that some of its supporters are also able to donate to a fund which supports patients who cannot pay the full amount required to receive care. The fees are quite reasonable when compared to other centers, but nevertheless, more than some can afford. The non-profit status makes it possible for those who donate to receive deductions on their income tax.
For patients in the Midwest who are interested in anthroposophic medical care, the Rudolf Steiner Health Center is not the only resource available. Community Supported Anthroposophic Medicine (CSAM) is the organizational backbone for the creation of the Rudolf Steiner Health Center, and is dedicated to supportingpatients interested in receiving anthroposophic outpatient medical care. CSAM also provides care for the longest running anthroposophic Patient Organization.
For members of the Patient Organization (PO), healthcare is much more meaningful than an occasional visit to the doctor’s office. Organization members form a close community of individuals and families interested in the ideas and philosophies of anthroposophic and community supported medicine. The driving force behind thePatient Organization came through looking at anthroposophic medicine as a whole and incorporating not just physician care, but everything that should be included in taking care of someone over a long period of time. This includes preventive care, education, nursing, therapies, and encouraging patients to use more healthful bodycare products, over-the-counter, and home-care remedies. Furthermore, members of the Patient Organization support each other, both financially and as a community. The PO decides as a group which services it wants, and members are actively involved in the organizational structure. There is a sliding scale such that each member is conscious of whether he or she is supporting others, or being supported by others. In this way each member contributes to the health of the community, and in turn, the community supports each member. Art classes, gardening days, and lively focus groups foster a sense of community and support for all of its members.
The governance of CSAM is in the helpful hands of a volunteer board of directors. At a recent board retreat, they were encouraged to work more with young people. As a result, the Learn-Work-Share initiative for young people from around the country was held for the first time this year. The program begins with an introductory anthroposophic medical and therapeutic conference and then moves into a hands-on portion where students gain practical experience by assisting staff members in giving anthroposophic care to patients during the week long Support Retreat. During the third week, students help run a health and wellness camp for pre-teen girls,with an emphasis on learning how to cook healthful meals and solidify their self-esteem, with plenty of singing and games, as well as a good dose of simple healthcare guidelines to last a lifetime. Throughout the program, students are housed at the Rudolf Steiner Health Center and work closely with the staff, patients, girls, and fellow students as they learn and work with the anthroposophic care concepts.
Since its beginning in 1997, CSAM and its founding physicians, Molly McMullen-Laird, MD and Quentin McMullen, MD have been unwaveringly dedicated to their mission. By providing access to anthroposophic therapies, physicians and nursing care, research, economic structures, and education for their colleagues and students, they have made remarkable contributions to the anthroposophic medical movement in North America.
If you are interested in reading more about Community Supported Anthroposophical Medicine or attending a session at the Rudolf Steiner Health Center, please send an email to [email protected] or call (734) 663-4365.
This article appeared in the Lilipoh Magazine Winter 2013 issue