Getting Well frames the art of healing 

On the mantle, masks of self-discovery seem to lean against each other for support. Others adorn the close-quarters walls; more hang in hallways. One is peaceful, flower-bedecked with a gazing Third Eye. Another is bisected between the gaiety of Harlequin and the blackness of an HIV diagnosis.

Symbolically appropriate, the two-storied cottage that houses Getting Well, Orlando's internationally acclaimed behavioral medicine center, looks out on its oak-shaded street from the east -- the direction of enlightenment. Founded a dozen years ago by therapist Deirdre Davis Brigham, the program combines the mind-body paradigm with a participant's existing allopathic medicine protocol.

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In the last six years more than 1,000 people from around the world have healed their spirits, and often their bodies, in Getting Well's 28-day course. They arrive with diverse life-challenging conditions, to identify their shadow-selves, excise the deep imprints that fester into illnesses and connect with their divine healing core. They depart in life-altered condition. The journey is facilitated, among other ways, with painting, drawing, imaging, journal writing, noncompetitive play, laughter, exercise, even juggling.

In "Imagery for Getting Well" (W.W. Norton), her highly praised primer for practitioners and patients alike, Brigham defines the purpose of her work as being "all about creating the image of meaning in despair, finding joy in crisis, and imaging hope in tragedy."

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It is, she says, a prototype for healing in the next millennium, combining traditional sources and tapping into the physician within. Utilizing both resources, "People really increase the probability of unexpected remissions."

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In the front room, the body portrait of a bipolar man is barely contained within its black outline. Its energy fills the paper, the wall on which it hangs, the room, tumultuous in red-orange vitality, its enormous heart spilling.

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Jasper Becker, M.D., is the medical director at Getting Well and has revised his ideas about disease. "I used to think disease was cause-and-effect. Science would find the cause and cure. Now, I think a disease has [countless] causes and factors. Many illnesses surface because of what we hold in our mind, and most of that is in our subconscious. Change your mind, change your life. Getting Well helps a person look intensively inside to discover unhealthy thinking that is affecting their well-being."

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Dublin, Ireland, psychiatrist Dr. Sean Collins agrees that Brigham's approach to psychoneuroimmunology is cutting-edge, and, with other high-profile physicians there, is conducting hard-science research at Trinity College, Cork University Hospital and the National University of Ireland. "These studies are completely influenced by Deirdre Brigham and Getting Well. Our combined objective is to get a study worthy of publication in something like Lancet."

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Becker and Collins have both been Getting Well participants, Becker for depression, Collins for heart disease and depression over the death of a son.

Nonprofit Getting Well is supported solely by donations and fees and has one annual fund-raising event: an art auction, including many works by people who have healed their lives through the center's program. A $10 donation to the Saturday, April 17, event provides a preview, heavy appetizers, wine and the auction.

Reflecting a policy steeped in spirituality, Getting Well has never turned away a single person because of financial reasons.

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