Back to the Mental Health Basics

At 14 years old, I became interested in the psychiatric field when my brother, Don, (14 years older than me), entered the field after completion of medical school. The notion of the healing power of listening and being a better “friend” (than the world provides) captured me. Since I loved being around people and hearing their stories, I thought this could be something I could do too. But I was in middle school. A career was a long way away.

Throughout high school and into college, I remained intrigued by the power of connection and conversation. I found much more delight and healing in connecting with my student peers and even non-student citizens in Ann Arbor and Detroit where I attended university. How was I going to be able to take advantage of my interest and skills moving forward? It was so much more interesting to me than the didactic portion of higher education.

In 1980 I worked at the State Hospital in Pontiac, Michigan as a Child Care Worker III. While at medical school, during the summer, I kept that job and “moonlighted” in the Child/Adolescent Unit under the mentorship of Derek Miller, MD. An extraordinary psychiatrist and communicator.  

During that time, I developed a distaste of the management of children in the hospital setting. The dependence of medications to “calm” children down when “agitated”, and to “slow” children down when “hyper” was increasing. This struck a chord with me and seemed like a big price to pay to get the results that the adults wanted. Sucking the livelihood out of these unfortunate youth seemed harsh. I believed my communication skills and my ability to connect with others could serve a purpose. To challenge the mediocre and temporary results that this intervention was affording us. So I went into a psychiatric residency.

I achieved profound results when deep listening and creativity were applied. These “sick” and “dangerous” children altered their ways drastically and they became remarkably beautiful, as if what was really being missed was their need to be heard. This resonated with me.

Photo by    Sammie Vasquez    on    Unsplash

In 1988, as I was nearing the completion of my medical training from Northwestern University in Chicago, the field shifted drastically towards psychopharmacology. Over the next 20 years, SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) medications — with Prozac at the lead — atypical antipsychotics, alternative mood stabilizers, and expanded benzodiazepine variants entered the scene in a beautifully choreographed sequence. Unheard of diagnoses were arising at increasing rates and were coupled with newly designed treatments.

More disturbing things occurred. Ancillary disciplines (psychology, social work and a variety of therapists), entered the mental health scene in droves. If you wanted to talk to somebody about your problem, you would see one of those specialists. But if that did not work or if you wanted to bypass that pathway, you would see a psychiatrist for an evaluation to determine if medications were indicated for your condition. In order for the doctor to be reimbursed by insurance, giving a diagnosis of some type was very highly encouraged. And medications were nearly always available for anyone who felt they were in need. It soon became clear that the only reason, to see a psychiatrist at all, was to have your medication evaluated. Medications would be added, increased, or changed to address worsening symptoms. Even non-MD’s could make official diagnoses in many cases, without a medical doctor’s assessment. Never were psychiatrists taught or trained to stop medications. I wondered if the medications were sometimes a cause or at least a key exacerbation of the symptoms. Now I was looking straight down the barrel of a highly distressing possibility.

Over the last few years, I have had great success when I drastically reduce or eliminate these medications from my patient’s regimens. Although the medications may give the patient a sense of improved wherewithal — it comes with a huge cost — Aliveness!

The medications and the nature of the diagnoses leave the patient in a truly suboptimal state. Patients often believe that it is never going to get better. They are sure they have a mental affliction. They’ve never considered that their distress may be alterable — by a simple conversation. And, perhaps the medications are causing symptoms that they are marketed to treat.

This is too big a price to pay.

So now I am back to where I started. Back to the healing power of communication and creativity, self-expression and listening, connecting with others and/or a higher purpose. This is the best psychiatric intervention that there is. And it comes with zero side effects. Zero drug interactions. Zero overdoses. And, oh yes, it is free.

We are not much different from each other when we really get honest with ourselves.

Photo by    Mario Purisic    on    Unsplash

Welcome to Humanity.

Welcome to the return of non-medicating Psychiatry.

Welcome to life.

Let’s live it empowered.

All of us.

Want to learn the Creative 8 methodology that hundreds of my patients have used to overcome their “diagnosis” and live more full, creative, and self-expressed lives? Grab your copy below. It’s completely free and you can begin implementing it today— in less time than it takes your Keurig to brew a cup of coffee.  ;)