Holistic Psychiatry: Possibilities Beyond Conventional Psychiatry

Like Columbus who sailed to the “end of the earth” and showed that the earth was neither flat nor empty beyond those limits, holistic psychiatrists have journeyed beyond the continent of conventional psychiatry and found another realm of possibilities-amazingly rich and promising-in replenishing and restoring the mental health of patients. While the field of psychiatry is still a small, flat world to most conventional psychiatrists, predominantly consisting of psychotropic medications and psychotherapy, the additional tools available to holistic psychiatrists allow healing to go beyond what had been possible to unimaginable possibilities.

What is holistic psychiatry? It is integrative medicine done by a physician, knowledgeable about psychotropic medications, who chooses to integrate additional tools for healing such as orthomolecular/functional medicine and energy medicine. Orthomolecular/functional medicine uses nutritional supplements and detoxification to optimally assist the body’s healing process. It is the “biochemistry of healing” and requires a great deal of training in understanding the biochemistry of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and proteins. Energy medicine, on the other hand, is the “quantum physics of healing.” Its goal is to support the healthy flow of energy throughout the body. Examples of energy medicine are acupuncture, acupressure, Emotional Freedom Technique, Tapas Acupressure Technique, meditation, and creative visualization.

As a holistic psychiatrist, integrating orthomolecular and energy medicine into my practice, I have successfully treated patients with depression, postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder without the need for medications. In some patients, the horrifying symptoms of these formidable, “chronic” conditions melted away in one week without the need for any medications. For those who had already been placed on medications, or had been ill over many years, the recovery period required more time, but could still lead to complete recovery. Despite all that I have learned, however, there is yet more that needs to be learned-until that day when mental illness is nothing but a memory within society and all will know how to prevent it from happening.

Healing with the least amount of harm is the goal of every doctor. But not all doctors are willing to put this goal above their allegiance to the traditional tenets of psychiatry. The first being: psychotropic medication as the first line treatment for mental illness. My incentive for taking my first tentative steps in integrative medicine was a patient with bipolar illness in her late 20’s, who came to me on heavy dosages of medications and yet remained unstable and unwell. Because of her medications, she required diapers. Her medications made her emotionless, and left her with darting eyes, severe tremors, and a deep pain in her muscles. For her orthomolecular treatment, I was guided by a nutritional company who manufactured supplements designed to heal bipolar illness. The treatment helped-a lot. Not only did the patient heal quickly and dramatically, it changed my fundamental understanding of mental illness and treatment entirely. Although I was left with more questions than answers as I observed her rapid clinical progress, I could see that nutritional supplements not only had merit in her case, but were superior to medications in her healing.

A year later, I added energy medicine to my tool kit. With energy medicine, healing could occur without a pill. To understand energy medicine, one must begin by building a bridge from our current understanding of how energy functions in our body (e.g., biochemical, electrical, magnetic, and mental) to an appreciation of how energy can be manipulated to serve healing purposes (e.g., acupressure, intention, visualization). I build that bridge in my first session for my patients, as I demonstrate to them the connection between their mind and their body, showing them the effects of their thoughts on their muscle strength and endurance. Energy medicine is extremely powerful. It is the only approach that I know of that could get rid of a person’s phobia in 20 minutes. Even with nutritional supplements, the process would require at least a few days to a few weeks.

Just within the past month, I got an e-mail from a patient that stated:

“In the twelve short days during which I’ve been using EFT (specifically the “power tapping” method), the changes in my life have been nothing short of miraculous. After having slept only one to four hours a night for the past two years, I now sleep over eight hours a night, an improvement that began the first day I utilized EFT. Psychological issues and trauma are quickly melting, and I’m simply in awe of these changes (not to mention being completely shocked by them!)” J.B.

My patient went on to thank me for all that I had done, and added that she was feeling so well and so empowered by her ability to use energy healing techniques at home that she no longer needed to continue to meet with me regularly. Hmmm . . .

You see, this 34 year old patient who began working with me on July 25, 2008 had been literally “bed-bound 99.9% of the time,” was dependent on phenobarbital, couldn’t take any nutritional supplements without a bad reaction, and had a list of symptoms over a page long. She had been tried on just about every medication, but she could not tolerate any of them anymore except for phenobarbital. But in approximately four months, she was off her phenobarbital, sleeping well, and feeling much better-all without needing orthomolecular interventions. Her recovery truly exceeded my expectations.

Stretching our imaginations to embrace new possibilities-that is the first step for all of us, as we make our first tentative voyages like Columbus to see if there is anything beyond the edge, into the unknown. There is. There is life beyond the edge-more life than we had ever imagined possible, or thought we deserved.

Alice W. Lee, M.D.