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ISMA - Past and Present

The International Stress Management Association is the oldest continuous association dedicated to the study and remediation of stress. ISMA’s US Branch is a section of the Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. Today ISMA has branches around the world including Australasia, Brazil, France, German Speaking Europe, Hong Kong, India, Japan, The Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom.

ISMA began in the U.S. as the American Association for the Advancement of Tension Control in 1973. Edmund Jacobsen, MD. PhD. asked F.J. McGuigan with the assistance of Professor Marigold Edwards to develop an Association for the Advancement of Tension Control. Jacobson modeled the title after the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It was an interdisciplinary effort which encompassed the fields of dentistry, education, medicine, physical therapy, psychology and speech pathology. The broad purpose was to facilitate the acquisition, discrimination, and application of sound “tension” related knowledge for the benefit of society worldwide.

ISMA went through numerous incarnations as the International Stress and Tension Control Association and then to the International Stress Management Association (ISMA). International meetings were held in 1979, 1981, 1983, 1988, 1992, 1995, 1996, and 2001.

The goal of the Association is to facilitate the acquisition and decimation of scientifically sound knowledge about stress management. ISMA encourages the public and practitioners to use approaches which have been scientifically validated.

The initial methods of validation were electromyographic. Hence the title tension control. It was noted that with the reduction of muscle tension, patient’s complaints were reduced or eliminated which provided clinical validation. Electromyography (EMG) remains a very helpful technique for stress management. In recent years a number of biofeedback techniques have been developed which provide equally, if not more useful methods for psychophysiological intervention to reduce stress. These include thermal, End tidal carbon dioxide (ETCO2 ) where the carbon dioxide is measured during expiration, and heart rate variability biofeedback.

It has also been increasingly realized that behavior, thoughts, attitude, personal organization skills, habits as well as work and social environments contribute to stress. The role of stress to inflammation, chronic disease, cancer and heart disease is now being explored by a number of laboratories. The relief of stress and improvement in a number of physiological parameters has been demonstrated in a number of studies for mindfulness based stress reduction, meditation, yoga, exercise and the arts, and a number of other methods.
As our and our patients lives become more scattered and pressured the way we manage stress will take an increasingly important role in ours and societies’ health and well being. ISMA-US and our international partners will be at the fore front

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