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Tools & Techniques in the News!
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Tuesday, July 24, 1994
Business was an idea he didn't have to sleep on
He had success with stress-reducing devices, so he opened a center. The rest, he says, is easy.
By Suzanne Gordon
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Once upon a time, Andy Dolan couldn't sleep.
He'd wake up at 2 or 3 a.m. and count sheep. Doctors prescribed sleeping medications, and he cut
out caffeine, but still he experienced sleepless nights.
His brother who was exploring ways of living longer - healthy eating, meditation and exercise -
introduced him to light and sound techniques used for relaxation.
"Right away, it worked: It put me to sleep," Dolan said.
So this former salesman, who had returned to school to study electronics when he had become
disillusioned with sales, decided to share his success with others by turning these light and sound
devices - popular on the West Coast - into a business.
This year, he opened Tools & Techniques for Mental Fitness, an oasis of cool and quiet located over
Michael's Pet Shop in Bryn Mawr, where stressed-out folks can go for a relaxation session or to buy
tapes, CDs and other paraphernalia designed to counteract high-pressure lives.
The doors are lined with foam egg-crate soundproofing to block out noise, the windows are covered
with shades, and one room is dedicated to furniture that helps clients relax, such as recliners and
musical body mats equipped with speakers inside.
For $20 an hour, Dolan will provide visitors with a nap, a light and sound show for entertainment, or
an introduction to the use of electronic stimuli to influence brain waves for a desired effect.
The methods he provides, he said, can reduce drug and alcohol abuse and other addictions,
encourage sleep, increase memory and the ability to focus, and help stabilize emotions. They also can
reduce pain and increase physical energy, he said.
Dolan said it was not hocus-pocus. But some medical authorities say they are not convinced that such
devices are necessary to reduce stress.
Norman Rosenthal, chief of the section of environmental psychology at the National Institute of
Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., said that he believed light and sound therapy worked for stress
management, but that no tests had proved particular gadgets were needed.
"Let's say you are feeling stressed," he said. "Sit back in your chair.
Put on some Mozart. Lean back and relax and shut your eyes. That might be quite helpful. You might
be feeling a lot better."
Robert Forman, an addictions counselor who is executive director of the Rehab After Work program
at Mercy Haverford Hospital's Detox Center, said stress reduction was used to help treat addictions,
but would not cure them.
"It's a great addition to traditional treatment approach," he said. ''Most treatment programs will help
let go and relax and will be a great help."
But "in and of itself," he said, "it will not touch any real addiction. It's useful as an add-on, but not as a
treatment in itself."
One customer, a mutual-fund manager, said he had turned to light and sound therapy to help him deal
with his high-stress career.
The manager, who asked that he not be identified, said that he had had trouble sleeping, and that the
normally recommended steps had not helped.
"I was very skeptical at first," he said. "I started doing this relaxation, and it's seemed to have a pretty
positive impact. Within a month I was sleeping regularly."
In his sessions, the manager said, he wears gogglelike glasses that provide flashing lights and listens to
calming music with a heavy bass tone and waterfalls and chirping birds in the background.
The electronic boxes with headphones that provide the relaxation sounds cost $100 to $300, Dolan
said. More elaborate systems can run higher.
Dolan, who often works nights as a sound engineer for bands and orchestras, said he sometimes had
trouble sleeping afterward and now could use the tapes to help him sleep.
Or, because he usually awakens by 6:30 a.m. even if he doesn't have to, he can use a "catnapper"
tape that he said allowed the equivalent of an hour's sleep in 20 minutes. And each time he does, he
becomes more convinced that he can sell the products to others living stressed-out lives.