David Spiegel, MD

Watch an excerpt from Dr David Spiegel’s episode in the Conversation Series

Willson Professor and Associate Chair of Psychiatry & Behavioural Sciences

Medical Director, Center for Integrative Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine

Dr. David Spiegel never meant to stir up a storm when he published a study in The Lancet. He had found that women with breast cancer who attended a support group lived twice as long as women who didn’t.

Dr. Spiegel took women who had metastatic breast cancer and randomly divided them into 2 groups. They all had the same chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, but in addition one group of women met in a support group once a week for a year to talk about what it’s like having breast cancer. Five years later, when he looked at his data he was stunned at the findings. He’d started out expecting to find that the groups didn’t affect thier logetivity but that it did improve their quality of life. Instead, women with women with cancer who participated in professionally led support groups lived twice as long as those who didn’t.

Dr. Spiegel’s pioneering study secured his place into mind body medical history, inspiring a new wave of medical research looking at the role our mind plays in our health. The research done by the members of Dr. Spiegel’s team at Stanford’s Center on Stress and Health has resulted in 12 books and more than 400 scientific journal articles and textbook chapters on hypnosis, psychosocial oncology, stress physiology, trauma, and psychotherapy.

“It is very different to worry about dying at 3am in the morning by yourself than it is to talk about it at 3 in the afternoon with 9 other women who have the same problem you do. It makes the stress different. I have no doubt at all that it helps people live better and I think the evidence is accumulating that it helps them live longer as well.”

Dr. Spiegel has been featured on Oprah, the Emmy Award-winning PBS series by Bill Moyers, Healing and the Mind and the TV show Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer to demonstrate the benefits of hypnosis.

“The power of group support makes tremendous sense to me. We’re social creatures and the brain enables us to form connections with others and build networks of support that help us stay alive, that help us deal with threat, that help us nurture our young and, and create stable and relatively safe cultures. And that social connection, especially in the face of illness, I think is a very powerful ally. It helps us manage our stress responses, help our bodies do better, and help one another get through life-threatening situations.”

Dr. Spiegel is also renowned in the field of hypnosis and the use of hypnosis in clinical settings.

Additional Links

Stanford’s Center on Stress and Health

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