The Frida Center To Close

Posted by Ginevra Liptan, MD
Medical Director

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia will close on March 28, 2013. Although we have explored and exhausted every option open to us, the realities of working within the contemporary health-insurance framework cannot sustain a traditional independent practice model. This has been a very difficult decision for all involved.

As for now, our providers are in process of setting up their next practice locations. Your provider will contact you by mail when she has more information on this. Our goal is to make this as seamless a transition as possible for each of you.

Should you not be able to follow your Frida provider to her next location, we will gladly work with your PCP on a plan of care. We recommend you schedule an appointment as soon as possible with both your PCP and your Frida Center provider to establish this transfer plan. Please see the “Frequently Asked Questions” below for more details.

It has been an honor to be a part of your care. Cheryl, Val and I look forward to contributing more to your health, to fibromyalgia research, and especially to training more clinicians to treat this misunderstood illness. We are gratified that The Frida Center has been able to contribute in some small way to this community.

From the entire staff of The Frida Center, we thank you for your support and wish you the best of health.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do you have to close?
As you know, fibromyalgia is a misunderstood condition, and no one understands it less than major insurance companies. The reimbursements we receive for providing your care are not sufficient to cover our costs. All of us truly love working with our patients, and this has been a heart-wrenching decision.

2. What if I can’t schedule an appointment with The Frida Center or my PCP before March 28?
If you aren’t able to schedule an appointment with your provider here, we will transfer your medical records to your PCP and will work with him or her to maintain your continuity of care. If you aren’t able to schedule an appointment with your PCP before March 28, just make an appointment with him or her at your convenience to discuss your options.

3. How will I obtain refills on my prescriptions?
Prescription refills will be managed on a case-by-case basis. Please consult with your Frida Center provider.

4.I have a pain contract in place with my Frida Center provider. How will your closing affect that?
Again, please talk with your provider. We want this transition to be as stress-free as possible for you.

5. Will you still accept Medicare until you close?
Yes. We will continue to accept Medicare through March 28, 2013.

6. Where are Val and Dr. Liptan going?
Val and Dr. Liptan are exploring options to develop a practice that allows them to serve patients and not insurance companies. Details to follow.

7. Where is Cheryl going?
Plans are still in process, but Cheryl will continue to care for her current patients at her next practice location. Patients will be contacted by mail as plans settle.

8. What about disability/employment paperwork?
Unfortunately, we can no longer complete any disability or employment paperwork. Please speak with your PCP if you need assistance.

9. What about classes in The Studio?
The Studio will remain open through the end of February 2013. Individual classes may end sooner based on the instructor’s discretion. We will update our website as details become available.

10. What about myofascial release therapy?
Spencer Leek will continue his private practice as Broadleaf Healing; information on his new location will be available soon on his website:

11. What about the support groups?
Unfortunately, we will no longer be able to host any support groups after March 28, 2013. Please visit the Portland Fibromyalgia-ME/CFS Group online at to learn more about the group’s new meeting site. The Men with Fibromyalgia Support Group has already ended.

12. Where can I get more information about all this?
New information will be available on our website,, as it becomes available. We are committed to providing you with as much transparency about and confidence in this process as possible.

Free Classes at The Frida Center!

The staff and instructors of The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia are delighted to announce the following:

Effective July 1, 2012,
all classes offered by The Studio
will be free to all participants.

It has always been our goal to open participation at The Studio to as many of those living with fibromyalgia as possible, and we are working hard to eliminate the barriers that inhibit such participation. Offering free programming is fundamental to our mission.

As part of this transition, we are doing away with the Mindbody computer system that we have been using to manage registration, payment, and participation. Classes will be first-come, first-served – just show up. The first time you visit us, you will be asked to complete some simple paperwork, and after that you’ll simply sign your name when you arrive. That’s all.

Activity schedules will still be available online and at The Frida Center. You’ll still be able to reach us by emailing or by calling (503) 477-9616, x112. We’re removing barriers to participation, not creating new ones.

We do know that for many of you, there are physical obstacles that prevent you from joining us here. Please know that we’re working diligently to get online programming up and running, and we hope to have our first offerings available online this winter.

If you have purchased sessions of our programs that you have not used yet, don’t worry: your money will be refunded. Checks will be sent out to all those with unused sessions during the first week of July.

Thank you for all your support. We are so grateful to be part of such a vibrant community, and we look forward to serving you all for many, many years to come.

Introducing Val Cashman, PA-C

The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia is delighted to welcome Val Cashman PA-C as a provider. A graduate of Pacific University’s School of Physician Assistant Studies, Val worked in neurosurgery and as a hospitalist before joining The Frida Center in March.

As a physician’s assistant, Val diagnoses conditions and illnesses, prescribes medications, treats patients, and provides follow-up care. She works directly under the supervision of Dr. Ginevra Liptan. This partnership brings both efficacy and efficiency to the patient-centered health care model practiced at The Frida Center. This relationship takes on other forms, too: for instance, Dr. Liptan and Val are currently collaborating on a fibromyalgia treatment guide for primary-care clinicians.

Val is particularly interested in the brain/body connection. She’s chosen to focus on fibromyalgia management because she feels that fibromyalgia is indicative of a larger problem: “Modern life is killing us!” Many of us lead hectic, fast-paced lifestyles, with dramatic results for our sympathetic nervous systems – and often for our overall health. Fortunately, contemporary research has provided evidence on many useful techniques for “unwinding” these learned responses to stress. In her work at The Frida Center, Val strives to incorporate the most advanced therapeutic techniques from a variety of sources, combining the latest medical research with new insights from alternative treatments like yoga, meditation, and myofascial release.

An aspect of fibromyalgia care that fascinates Val is that patients tend to be highly motivated to improve their health. She finds it both gratifying and rewarding that individuals living with such profound physical, mental, and emotional pain can still work so hard to find solutions that will help them lead vibrant, active lives.

To Val, fibromyalgia is like a journey to an unexpected destination. Imagine that you are traveling to England – but instead, the plane diverts to Holland, and there are no connecting flights. So how do you adjust to living in Holland instead of England? What changes do you need to make to your life that will help you live more comfortably in your new home? In the same vein, Val works with patients to help them discover new ways of living with fibromyalgia: an unfamiliar territory, full of challenges – but also full of opportunities.

In just a short time, Val has shown herself to be an indispensable member of our team here at The Frida Center, and we are grateful for her dedication and devotion to her work. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship together.

New Members of Team Frida

The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia is delighted to welcome two new staff members, Hannah Harbaugh and Melissa Smith.

Hannah joined us in early February as our new receptionist; when you arrive for your next appointment, you’ll see her smiling face! A native of New Hampshire, Hannah has lived in a number of states and overseas, owing to her father’s career in the United States Air Force. So far, Hannah’s favorite part of working at The Frida Center is her co-workers’ friendliness and collegiality. In private life, she is planning a 2013 wedding and enjoys video games.

Melissa SmithMelissa became part of our team in March, when she was hired as a medical assistant. Melissa’s approach to caregiving is informed by her background in naturopathic medicine. A Portland native, she enjoys her work because it gives her the opportunity to help improve patients’ quality of life. She is a mother of three and a vocalist who performs in local venues.

We are extremely happy to have such talented professionals working with us here at The Frida Center.

Introducing an Instructor: Debbie Liptan

Welcome to our ongoing series, “Introducing an Instructor.” From time to time, our instructors write about their work here in The Studio and discuss ways in which these programs can help participants manage their fibromyalgia symptoms. Today’s guest writer: Debbie Liptan

Let’s start by clearing up any possibility of confusion: I’m not Dr. Ginevra Liptan! She’s my daughter-in-law: my son Jamie is the Executive Director here at The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia. So it’s safe to say that my family and I are intimately familiar with the challenges and opportunities living with fibromyalgia can provide.

I was born and raised in the Portland metro area. I have nine younger siblings, so I’ve always seen myself as a caregiver and a protector – my mission in life is truly to care for others. Although our family is Catholic, I explored various spiritual traditions in my youth and have been an active practitioner, scholar, and teacher of Nichiren Buddhism for over 40 years.

Eight years ago I was working full-time in a stressful corporate environment. Around that time, my husband became gravely ill with the first of a series of debilitating conditions. It was a challenge, to say the least, to reconcile caring for him with the demands of my employment. Shortly afterward, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

It has been a difficult journey since then, but I have found comfort in my spiritual traditions. The ancient maxim, “Illness gives rise to the resolve to attain the way”, has profoundly transformed my views on life and wellness. This resolve has given me the strength I need each day to care for myself and for my husband, for whom I remain the primary caregiver.

As part of my journey, in 2006 I co-facilitated a multi-day conference: “Overcoming the Sufferings of Birth, Aging, Sickness, and Death.” It became clear to me that helping others facing similar struggles is part of my mission, and I have worked ever since to find new opportunities to expand this role in my daily life.

This is why I am so pleased to be offering a free course at The Frida Center: “From Illness to Well-Being.” Our primary focus will be to address the final paragraph in Dr. Ginevra Liptan’s book, with particular emphasis on the last sentence:

“Our lives should not be defined by our illness or diagnoses. Learn as much as you can about fibromyalgia and use the most effective therapies available. Then focus on living a bold and purposeful life, whatever that means to you.”

Fibromyalgia often forces us into new life patterns – new (or no) work, new (or fewer) relationship structures, new (and largely unpleasant) changes in body and mind. It’s no surprise that so many of us find it difficult to retain our pre-diagnosis identity, our self-esteem, our sense of self. Many of us feel helpless, worthless, lost. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

This course will help participants reclaim their lives and identities through a re-evaluation of their true potentials. We’ll explore our capabilities and capacities, turning each week to a different theme. And we’ll find new ways to define ourselves that include – but do not prioritize – our fibromyalgia.

We know that the mind-body connection is real: our thoughts, emotions, and attitudes can affect our physical well-being. When we begin to value and appreciate ourselves for all of the abilities and strengths that we still have, we’ll uncover new tools for managing our physical symptoms throughout our lives.

I invite you all to join me for this exciting journey.

Debbie’s free course, “From Illness to Well-Being”, will begin May 9 in The Studio. For more information, please contact Debbie at or The Studio at

What Is Yoga? Insights for People Living with Chronic Pain

By E.B. Ferdig, Big Yoga Yoga

Just mention that you have chronic pain and everyone (including your doctor and her dog) are likely to suggest that you “do yoga.” After all, yoga has firmly established itself in popular American culture and has taken root in modern medicine. But what does “doing yoga” actually mean? There are so many different kinds of yoga, ranging from the austere spiritual discipline of yoga’s earliest days to the gymnastics-inspired practices we see on the covers of magazines. So how do you know which yoga might be right for you?

Let’s start by examining what yoga really is before we explore how it can be useful in managing chronic pain.

Yoga was developed and has evolved as a way for people to find more ease and comfort in their lives through harnessing the natural, human fluctuations of the mind. First and foremost, it is a mental practice. We call it a practice, because whether we are living with chronic pain, stress or just living life, it takes lots and lots of practice to begin to control these fluctuations.

The word yoga actually means “to yoke” or “to join.” These days, it’s more commonly translated as “union.” Although this “union” was originally understood as between a person and God, we can also think of it as being a personal connection with ourselves – a connection that chronic pain can jeopardize.

When we view yoga through the lens of chronic pain, we can break it down into four useful categories:

The yoga of breath (pranayama): We can use breath practices to help regulate the nervous system, which can get caught in a sympathetic pain loop – a recurring, revved-up fight-or-flight mode. By calming the nervous system through breath, we can access a relaxed, parasympathetic state, in which the body allows healing to occur.

The yoga of philosophy: Yoga philosophy offers many ideas to ease the mind when we are feeling distressed. Its foundational texts, particularly the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, remind us of universal ideas that can provide solace for daily living, such as the virtues of truth, non-harming, discipline and letting go.

These writings also remind us that we are human and that humans have always struggled with challenged bodies and minds. The isolation that chronic pain often imposes can make it difficult to remember that all of us have suffered at some points throughout our shared history: taking the time to recall this can help us to feel less alone.

Yoga philosophy has a long history, but it also benefits from new interpretations and is reinforced by emerging findings in neuroscience. And because it is not a religion, its teachings adapt with those who practice it. Yoga can be a great complement to any religious or spiritual practice, but it does not require any spiritual component or beliefs.

The yoga of movement (asana): This is what most of us think “yoga” is – and where most of us get stuck. Have you ever told yourself, “I don’t look like those photos in the magazine” or even, “I used to do yoga, and I know what it is, and I know that my body will not tolerate that now”? But there is so much more to yoga than the postures we have learned to associate with yoga. By moving the body, we can start to learn and understand what it needs, what it is capable of, and how we can respect its limits and its potential. With a compassionate, partnership-oriented teacher, you will find poses, adaptations of poses, and newly-created poses to fit your own body and your energy level on any given day. Yoga emphasizes the balance of effort and ease, or the comfort of the posture – not whether you’re doing the pose “right” or “wrong.”

But movement itself is truly not essential to yoga. My teacher, Molly Lannon Kenny, once practiced yoga with a military veteran who was paralyzed from the neck down and was on a ventilator to help him breathe. Over a period of weeks, they worked with breath, visualization, and philosophy. Molly helped him find his center and make peace with his body, mind, and life circumstances. She ultimately helped him transition peacefully out of life. This is a fantastic example of how yoga can provide unlimited possibility for healing, no matter what one’s capabilities and capacities might be.

The yoga of meditation (dharana and dhyana): Meditation, concentration and mindfulness can also be important tools in your kit for reducing pain and managing your reactions to pain. The mind plays a significant role in the pain experience. Chronic pain is never the fault of an individual, nor is the pain “all in your head.” However, we do know that by learning to control the mind, in a dedicated practice, we can develop greater control over our emotional, and eventually physical, reactions to pain.

The prevailing Western conception of yoga is at odds with both yoga’s historical roots and its therapeutic potentials. In fact, yoga presents immense opportunities, particularly for those who live with chronic pain. To learn more, find a teacher who can help you find your own balance between effort and ease – someone who has experience and training working with people with these conditions. Look for a guide who can help you connect with your best self and help you unfold into the developing person you want to be. Yoga offers so much to each of us, and because its breadth and depth are so unlimited, it can meet each of us, exactly as we are – helping us to discover that we are perfect and whole, wherever we are on our life path.

E.B. Ferdig is a certified yoga therapist and is the president of the Northwest Yoga Therapy Collaborative. She works with individuals using the method Integrated Movement Therapy® and teaches classes both at The Studio at The Frida Center and at Big Yoga Yoga. Her current programs at The Studio include Yoga for Myofascial Release, Gentle Stretching & Deep Relaxation, and Chair Yoga. For more information, please contact E.B. at or The Studio at

Fibromyalgia and Life Changes

By Elaine Merryfield

Hello again! My name is Elaine Merryfield, and I very much enjoy being an instructor at The Studio at The Frida Center.

A few months ago I told you about my journey with fibromyalgia and how it has affected my personal life; today I’d like to discuss the role fibromyalgia has played in my professional life.

Although my 20-year nursing career was spent in a variety of settings, my favorite roles always incorporated teaching: hospital inpatient education, occupational health consulting relating to hazards of particular industries, outpatient alcohol treatment, and stress management.

The latter proved particularly important. In 1987, I spent six months training in biofeedback techniques and subsequently began to teach these tools myself. Just one year later, I sustained significant injuries in an auto accident and later developed fibromyalgia. Fortunately, my experience with biofeedback and stress management had given me strategies I could use (and still do!) to cultivate mind and body relaxation.

I left nursing as I’d known it in the mid-90s, when I finally began to come to terms with my body’s new limitations. But I needed to find a way to earn an income while living with fibromyalgia – to create a new way of working for myself. Fortunately, I was able to utilize my nursing skills in two part-time positions: helping a young family and assisting an older couple. Working with such disparate age groups required me to rely on different strengths and sources of energy, and I sensed that this would also serve to refill my emotional reservoir: I really found joy in working with such different ages! I also slowly began seeing clients individually and in small groups in a private stress-management business. In this way, I was able to have more control of my day-to-day schedule and to have much more flexibility in balancing my fluctuating energy needs.

By 2000, I was ready to return to a more formal healthcare position. For the next ten years, I was a health educator at a local hospital’s community education center. My classes included fibromyalgia education as well as a support group, chronic disease self-management, and of course, stress management. Over time, I found I had enough energy to teach mindfulness-based stress reduction to undergraduates for two fall semesters at Pacific University – again, I relished the opportunity to work with people of all ages.

In spring 2010, I retired from these various commitments. And this year I began teaching periodically at The Studio. This is work I love since it is so close to my own heart. I also maintain my stress-management business and am available to work with individual clients in their homes, especially around areas involving fibromyalgia and chronic pain.

It’s important to me to share the stories of my evolving work life, because I know from my own experience that things can get better – even with fibromyalgia. I left nursing, closing a chapter of my life, but I have found deep fulfillment from all the subsequent chapters I have opened. I learned many things about myself and found personal assets I did not realize I possessed during the course of this forced change in my life. Without fibromyalgia, I would be a very different person today. Over time, I hope you find this to be true in your own life as well.

I’ll be away from The Studio much of this summer, but I am teaching two exciting programs this spring, and I’d like to take a moment to describe them.

Although change is the one constant in life, it can be one of the hardest things for us to face. My two-day course, Navigating Life Changes, will focus on the various stages of coming to a place of acceptance when living with a life-altering condition like fibromyalgia. In four hours spread over two Saturdays, we’ll learn new tools to help us in the struggle toward acceptance and talk about ways of caring for ourselves so we can navigate these new paths with less suffering and more skill.

Those of us who have lived with fibromyalgia for many years, as well as those who are newly diagnosed, all have one thing in common: we all feel sometimes like fibromyalgia has taken over our lives! My workshop Introduction to SoulCollage® provides an opportunity for some playtime. You’ll use scissors, glue, and all sorts of images to construct your personal deck of cards to use as a wellness tool: when you look at them, they’ll remind you how rich and multi-faceted your life truly is – putting fibromyalgia into perspective as just a single piece of the whole.

I hope you take the opportunity to join us for one (or both!) of these springtime activities, and I look forward to meeting you soon!