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Raising a self-healing child with verbal first aid

—Judith Acosta, LISW

Using Words as Medicine  

We are surrounded by words. We are saturated with media all day long, sometimes even when we sleep. Most of us give little or no thought to the messages being sent our way, no less the extraordinary ways in which we receive them.

Much of what we hear today has to do with fear, the last or latest incoming catastrophe, and the avoidance of some imagined one. The messages are subtle, repetitive, and penetrating—whether we are conscious of them or not.

What we hear, what we imagine is important in ways that affect us at a multitude of levels. Marketing and advertising professionals know this. So do the political and legal systems. Words are used to motivate behavior on a regular basis. And it does this by affecting us in fundamentally physical ways. We see cheesy lasagna being served in an ad, and our gastric juices are increased. We see someone suck on a slice of lemon, and our lips pucker involuntarily. We hear the words, “Your zipper is open,” and in milliseconds our adrenal system has been called into play.

Words move us—mentally, emotionally, and physically. They can be used to sell. They can be used to harm. But—most importantly—they can be used to heal.

What Every Parent Needs to Know: The Power of Verbal First Aid™

Verbal First Aid is the intentional use of words to help others (and ourselves) heal. By using words judiciously with a person in crisis, we can speak directly to the person’s body to facilitate healing. It is a protocol that began with first responders and medical personnel many years ago and is based on this simple equation: What we hear (say) = what we think = what we feel = how we heal.

When we are hurt, afraid, in pain, or shocked, this equation is squared. Because we go into an altered state during a crisis, what we think in those moments gets translated via our autonomic system into a physical response almost instantaneously.

In Verbal First Aid, we call this altered state the “healing zone” because it is a state of great opportunity and suggestibility.

The following scenarios are an example of how this state can be utilized in two ways—one in which fear takes the helm and the other in which Verbal First Aid gently but quickly moves the child toward healing.

The Flying Fairy

 The first scenario without Verbal First Aid: A small girl is pretending to be a fairy, and in a moment of glee, jumps from the couch with her arms wide open and finds out that her imagined wings were no match for gravity. She lands squarely on her knees and then bangs her chin against the rough carpet. Shocked, she runs to her mother, only vaguely aware that she has already begun to bleed from both her knees and her chin. She looks up to her mother for help and leadership.

Without knowing the power of words—only knowing that her child is hurting—the mother becomes frightened. “Oh, my God, what did you do? You’re bleeding all over the place!!! Oh, God, where’s a towel? Maybe I better call the hospital. Are you okay?” In her anxiety, the lead she has given her child has been fear. And naturally, the child begins to cry, and the bleeding continues even more profusely.

The second scenario with Verbal First Aid: The little fairy flies off the couch again, only to find her old nemesis, Gravity, a stronger opponent than she had believed possible. She lands, as before, and scrapes her knees and her chin, both of which start bleeding immediately. She gets up, stunned a bit, and walks into the kitchen where her mother is working on the computer.

“Mommy, I fall,” the little fairy pouts.

“Oh, dear, I can see you did. You must have been surprised at how big and grown up you’ve gotten and how hard it was for your wings to hold you up…”

The little fairy tilts her head at the mention of the words “big and grown up.”

“If you help me clean the owie, you can pick out the Band-Aid you want on it, so you can stop the bleeding right away…How does that sound?”

“I want the color Band-Aid!”

“There…” Mom says as she holds a clean paper towel to her daughter’s chin. “You hold that there real good, just like that, now…and you can stop the bleeding while I get the box with the Band-Aids.”

The tears that had threatened to overcome the little fairy had been diverted by a task (choosing the best Band-Aid) and a new concept of herself as “big and grown up.” By the time Mom returns with the bandages, the bleeding has stopped, and the healing has begun.

Within a few seconds, a little girl went from crisis to calm, from shocked to soothed, from bleeding to comfortably choosing a bandage.

Words are medicine, and they CAN literally heal.

And as we said before, they can also harm.

The following is a true story (with details changed to protect the identities of the individuals) in which a few words caused years of discomfort and shame.

A patient with chronic pain in her left arm reported a fall she’d taken when she was quite young. She’d disobeyed her father’s express orders by playing on a trampoline without adult supervision. She was six years old and threw herself into the jumping and tumbling with gusto. As she took a particularly high jump, her father stepped out of the house and onto the porch, took one look at her, and yelled, “Damn it, Jackie!!! I told you stay off that trampoline…”

As she came down, she landed on her wrist and broke it in three places. As her father drove her to the hospital, frustrated and frightened for his daughter, he reminded her more than once of how she had been foolish to do what she did and “see how she’s going to pay for it now?”

As she told her story to me so many years later, the wrist, which had never fully healed, began to throb. She held it and wept, still feeling the sting of her father’s anger, her shame, and her belief that the pain was the punishment she deserved.

The Science of Self-Healing in Children

According to Ernest Rossi, one of the world’s most well-respected authorities of the psychophysiology of healing, when we are under stress, our biochemistry changes (Rossi, Ernest. The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing, WW Norton, N.Y., 1993). These changes, he writes, “can direct the endocrine system to produce steroid hormones that can reach into the nucleus of different cells of the body to modulate the expression of genes. These genes then direct the cells to produce the various molecules that will regulate…the immune response in sickness and health…Mind ultimately does modulate the creation and expression of the molecules of life!”

The research being conducted in the field of epigenetics is confirming this concept. What we say, think, and feel all generate cascades of chemistry, altering not only our current physical states, but our genetic expression and our children’s genetic inheritance. What we say—to ourselves and to others—today has an impact right now and for years to come.

How do children profit so much from Verbal First Aid?

One, children are simply far more open to possibility than adults, even though we can use these principles, too. Grown-ups, as a rule, have been conditioned to deny and modify the ways our bodies respond. Children have not yet acquired those defenses, and the effects of our words are more readily translated into their bodies.

Two, their imaginations are far more active and freer than those of adults. Children are less likely to let so-called “facts” ruin a great story, and they are a lot more likely to suspend disbelief than we are. As a result, they are generally more susceptible to suggestion. As quickly as they can imagine a monster under the bed, they can picture a cut magically healed, get their bleeding to stop by seeing a faucet in their mind and turning it off, or transform pain from something horrifying into a variety of more subtle and manageable sensations—warmth, tingling, or a signal that tissue is being restored.

Their openness and imagination helps them to easily and effectively utilize the skills for self-healing they were born with.

The Self-Confidence in Self-Healing: A Future for Children All Over the World

Verbal First Aid is not only a tool that can help facilitate healing in the here and now, but can give all children emotional and mental resources for a lifetime. The research shows that we all have within us the innate capacity to help ourselves heal by altering our words, our thoughts, and the beliefs we cultivate about ourselves and our futures. Our children also have this capability, and it can be enhanced and nurtured by the adults around them, so they grow into calm, compassionate, confident adults, assured of their ability to heal and handle crises.

When you use Verbal First Aid with your children, they are learning by your example to use it for themselves. Your calm, confident, healing voice becomes the voice they hear within themselves when they are hurt, frightened, or challenged—either emotionally or physically. The healing you facilitate in them by the words you use when they are hurt becomes a self-replenishing well of mental, emotional, and physical skills they can use for a lifetime.

By teaching them that they can change their perception of pain, alter an immune response, or soothe themselves when they’re scared, we also teach our children that they have the capacity to self-manage. From the earliest ages, we can give them the experience of self-control. They can have mastery over what they think, how they feel, and how to utilize the images in their minds to their highest good.

Judith Acosta, LISW, is a local holistic psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, and grief. You can find out more about Verbal First Aid for children and her latest book at Or you can go to her Web site for more information on her practice and CD’s at

Court rules in favor of Placitas Doctor

On April 1, 2010, the New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed regulations adopted by the Board of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine last year that restricted the prescriptive authority of New Mexico doctors of oriental medicine licensed for expanded practice. The Court also reversed regulations that created new fees for such licensure. Chief Judge Cynthia A. Fry, in her Opinion, stated “in our notice, we proposed to reverse and set aside the regulations as not having been adopted in accordance with law. The Board has timely responded. We have considered its arguments and, not being persuaded, we reverse.”

The appeal was filed by Dr. Glenn Wilcox and was supported by The Oriental Medicine Association. Dr. Wilcox represented himself without an attorney. He lives and has a clinic in the village of Placitas.

D.O.M.s in New Mexico, after completing additional training, may become licensed for expanded practice that includes injection therapy, intravenous therapy and bioidentical hormone therapy. The evolution of oriental medicine expanded practice in New Mexico began two decades ago and during that time there has not been a single disciplinary action by the Board against a D.O.M. licensed for expanded practice.

On September 16, 2009 the Board adopted the new regulations that eliminated thousands of substances authorized for expanded practice use by the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Practice Act and that had been safely and effectively used for almost a decade. The board, at is rule hearing, provided no substantial evidence and no reasoning for adoption of their regulations.

Voting for the illegal regulations were Board members Barbara Maddoux, D.O.M., Caroline Colonna, D.O.M., Alix Bjorklund, D.O.M. and John Pieper, a pharmacist who is Dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of New Mexico. The regulations were opposed by Angelique Cook-Lowry, D.O.M. and Cynthia Archuleta, a public member on the Board.

Chief Judge Fry, in her Proposed Summary Disposition Notice, stated “we are concerned that the formulary adopted by the Board may be in conflict with the statute authorizing the substances that may be prescribed, administered or dispensed under the expanded practice authority. The Board has authority only to promulgate regulations that implement or interpret a law enforced or administered by the Board. The board has no authority to promulgate a regulation that conflicts with a statute.”

The Court of Appeals recently denied the Board a rehearing of the case.

For more information about oriental medicine in New Mexico visit the Association’s website at For more information about Dr. Glenn Wilcox visit his website at

Healthy Geezer

The Healthy Geezer

—Fred Cicetti

Q. I’ve been very thirsty lately, and someone mentioned to me that this is a symptom for diabetes. Is that true?

A. An intense thirst is one diabetes symptom. Here are others: frequent urination, strong hunger, fatigue, unintended weight loss, slow healing sores, dry and itchy skin, numbness or tingling in your feet, and blurred vision. However, some people with diabetes do not have symptoms.

Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases characterized by high levels of blood sugar. Diabetes can create serious health problems, but diabetics can control the disease.

If you have diabetes, your body can’t produce insulin or use it properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps control the sugar in your blood. Insulin is made by the pancreas, a large organ behind the stomach.

Your body converts most of the food you eat into a form of sugar called glucose, which is our main source of energy. If your body does not make enough insulin or the insulin doesn’t work the way it should, glucose can’t get into your cells and remains in your blood.  

High levels of glucose in the blood damage nerves and blood vessels. This can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and lower-limb amputation.

About 18.2 million Americans have diabetes. More than 8 million people 60 years or older suffer from the disease.

A small percentage of diabetics have type 1 diabetes, which usually occurs in people under age 30. Diabetics with this form of the disease can not produce insulin.

About 90 percent of Americans with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. It is most common in adults over age 40, and the risk of getting it increases with age. With this form of diabetes, the body does not always produce enough insulin or does not use insulin efficiently. Being overweight and inactive increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.  

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented in people who are at an increased risk or have pre-diabetes, a condition in which glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with pre-diabetes are more likely to develop diabetes within 10 years and are also more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

A recent study showed that people with pre-diabetes can sharply lower their chances of developing the disease through modest weight loss with diet and exercise.

That same study showed that changes in diet and exercise were especially effective in curbing the development of diabetes in older people. In fact, the development of diabetes dropped by 71 percent in adults 60 and older who were enrolled in the study.   

Because type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, especially in people who are overweight, doctors recommend that anyone 45 years of age or older be tested for diabetes.

If you have a question, please write to

Concerns over health care fraud

—Bob Moos, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
The vast majority of those who work in the health care field are honest people who only want to help patients and follow the law. But as in any other industry, there are a few bad actors out to cheat the public.

Every day, con artists bill Medicare for made up health care services or unnecessary medical equipment. It’s not a victimless crime. Each dollar a criminal steals from Medicare is a dollar that doesn’t pay for cancer care or kidney dialysis. Fraud drives up everyone’s health care bills.

Scams now cost the health care system billions of dollars a year. With so much money on the line, the crooks have become better organized and their schemes more sophisticated.
In one recent case, two former hospital executives used kickbacks and coercion to turn homeless people into hospital patients. Until authorities caught up with them, the fraudsters were charging Medicare for treatments the patients never got, never requested, or never needed.

As con artists become more aggressive, the government is cracking down harder. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have formed a task force, called Project HEAT, to target cities where suspicious billings suggest a high probability for fraud.   

Medicare strike forces—composed of federal, state, and local agents—now operate in seven cities, including two in this part of the country—Houston and Baton Rouge. Beyond following up on tips, the teams sift through claims data and zero in on billings that seem out of the ordinary.

Investigators discovered, for example, that the Miami area had two percent of Medicare’s home health patients, but 90 percent of the home health patients were receiving more than $100,000 in care each year.

The stepped-up coordination and the cutting-edge technology are paying off. The strike forces’ work has already resulted in the indictments of more than 500 defendants, more than 270 convictions, and more than $240 million in fines, penalties, and restitutions.

But you don’t have to be in law enforcement to join the fight against fraud. If you’re fed up with crooks stealing from Medicare, here are four steps you can take to stop them in their tracks:

Protect yourself from identity theft. Treat your Medicare number as if it were a credit card number. Don’t give it to anyone who calls you or comes to your home uninvited and tries to sell you something. Carry your Medicare card only when you know you’ll need it, such as to doctor appointments or hospital visits. If you think someone is misusing your personal information, call Medicare at (800) 633-4227 or HHS’ inspector general hotline at (800) 447-8477.

Watch for red flags. As clever as con artists may be, they sometimes give themselves away. Be wary of people who call you, claiming to be conducting a health survey and asking for your Medicare number.  Or sales people who offer you a free piece of medical equipment and only need your Medicare number for their records. Or businesses that insist you use only their doctors to certify you need that power wheelchair or scooter. More than likely, they’re up to no good.

Check your Medicare Summary Notice for errors. Keep a record of your doctor visits, tests, and procedures, and compare it with the Medicare summary you receive by mail every three months. Look for any services your doctor didn’t order or you didn’t get. If you spot a discrepancy, ask the health care provider about it. It may just be an honest billing mistake. But if you think otherwise, report it to Medicare or the HHS’ inspector general.  

Volunteer for the Senior Medicare Patrol. The program’s 5,000 volunteer watchdogs tell Medicare beneficiaries how to protect themselves against scammers, and if they suspect wrongdoing, how to report it. The volunteers sit down with seniors individually or give group presentations. By spreading the word, they’ve helped uncover more than $100 million in fraudulent billings. If you’d like to join the patrol, call (877) 808-2468, or visit

To learn more about what’s being done to prevent scams and punish swindlers, visit The goal of the fight against fraud is to make the chances of getting caught so great and the consequences so high that crooks get scared away.






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