Seligman Medical Institute
A medical research foundation devoted to the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of Tension Myositis Syndrome and other mind-body disorders. 

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About the Seligman Medical Institute (SMI)

Facts about the Institute

What Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) Is

TMS is a painful but benign condition that causes or perpetuates physical pain in the back, neck, and other areas. It is, however, psychologically induced and can be psychologically cured. Its root cause is usually strong, unexpressed, negative emotions that we are afraid to feel consciously. The subconscious mind (via the brain) causes the muscles to tense, creating pain to divert our attention from the threatening emotions. Hence we also call it "distraction pain syndrome (DPS)." Although it can be both debilitating and extremely painful, it involves no tissue damage and can disappear quickly without any permanent residual effects. The theory of TMS was developed by Dr. John Sarno, Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU’s medical school and author of three popular books on it.

SMI Programs

Practiced by only twenty or so doctors worldwide, TMS diagnosis and treatment is not taught in either mainstream or alternative medical education, leaving millions of people, who could be mobile and pain-free, to suffer for years, or even decades. At SMI, we believe that TMS treatment will more likely become standard practice once its effectiveness has been demonstrated by proper scientific studies and experiments. Accordingly, SMI did both research and education.


The most frequent objection raised by mainstream medical practitioners against TMS treatment practice is that it has never been scientifically verified. To fill this gap, SMI is:


Both Drs. Schechter and Smith lecture on the subject of TMS for both health care professionals and the lay public. If the expected audience is large enough, SMI may pay the cost of making either of them available to speak for your organization.

About John Sarno, MD, Discoverer of TMS

Some people follow the trails of others; others blaze a new one. John Sarno is one of the latter. An innovator, successful clinician, and author, Dr. Sarno has agreed to be the Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board for SMI.

While practicing as Director of Outpatient Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU’s Rusk Institute, Dr. Sarno noted that talking to his back pain patients about tension and stress often proved highly effective. He noticed patterns of personality traits in those with persistent pain, and found that teaching them to acknowledge their emotional tension often alleviated their physical symptoms. In this, the diagnosis of TMS (tension myositis syndrome) was born.

About Our Staff...

David Schechter, M.D., Principal Investigator

Having been a patient, student, and research assistant of Sarno’s while a medical student at NYU, Schechter is considered the foremost authority on TMS on the West Coast. His own contributions to TMS treatment include a home program for patients, which includes The MindBody Workbook and a three-hour audio program. In addition to his work at SMI, Schechter has a private practice in the West Los Angeles area. He is Board-certified in both Sports Medicine and Family Medicine, and he has a clinical appointment at the USC School of Medicine and staff privileges at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Visit his Web site to review Dr. Schechter’s TMS site, including links to other sites, educational materials, etc.

Web: (TMS information site),
or (medical practice site)

Arthur Smith, Ph.D., Foundation Coordinator

The son of two physicians, a cancer survivor, and the husband of a 30-year lupus patient, Smith wrote one of the few doctoral dissertations ever written on mind-body medicine (The Power of Thought to Heal, Claremont Graduate University, 1998). In addition to his work with SMI, Smith gives lectures and seminars on mind-body medicine throughout North America for the Noetic Health Institute (Orange County, CA) where he also serves as director. Visit his Web site to view his writings and learn about his seminars and consulting services.