Healing Circle Interview

Dr. Chris was interviewed by Dr. Christina Tarantola who is a pharmacist, as well as a holistic nutritionist in the USA. Wonderful words of wisdom were shared about how you can heal from depression, anxiety, eating disorders and addictions. You can listen to the interview or read more below.

Question 1. I agree that in order to heal you need to become aware of and remove the cause. Pharmaceuticals seek to mask those symptoms, especially in the case of depression and anxiety. How do you help your clients understand what might be causing their depression, anxiety or addictions?

As Naturopathic Doctors, we seek to find the root cause of a health condition. When it comes to depression, anxiety and additions, I explain that there are three macro areas that need to be addressed: Neurotransmitters, the neuroendocrine or hormonal system and the organs of detoxification. Typically with depression and anxiety, the medical community is focused on the physical level of neurotransmitters but we have to bear in mind that every hormone, if out of balance, can affect one’s mood. I explain to patients that addressing some key micro areas that impact health treats these macro areas. These micro areas are based on the foundation of:

  • diet
  • sleep
  • exercise
  • stress

The next areas to address include looking at one’s:

  • thoughts
  • emotions
  • how you behave and react in the world
  • your environment (not only the environment you are currently in, but the environment you are raised in and also the quality of the food, air, water – i.e. toxic load that may affect your overall system)
  • spirituality

I explain how all of those areas need to be addressed with compassion and love for yourself because at the end of the day it all comes down to that.

Yesterday I had a new patient with chief concerns of alcoholism, depression, agoraphobia and anxiety. I asked her if she loved or liked herself and she said not at all. I said, well, we need to start there!

Question 2. I love the concept of the “ripple effect” that healing really starts from the spiritual layer then fans out to the mental/emotional and then the physical. What techniques and tools can people use to connect spiritually?

I think the most important tool is learning to pause, breathe and calm that stress response that often leaves people on the treadmill of the “rat race” – when people are stuck in this sympathetic stress cycle, it is hard to hear their inner voice/voice of wisdom/intuition – which I call the voice of your heart, spirit, soul or God that is there behind the scenes wanting to guide your life. So a relaxation or contemplative meditation practice is key. People have to find something that resonates with them – and it doesn’t have to be religion – it can be volunteering at a soup kitchen, becoming a Big Brother or Sister or creating a community garden. The key is it has to speak to you.

Ultimately we are social/spiritual beings and building that sense of community in one’s life is important because with depression and anxiety we often feel so alone with the thoughts that are plaguing us and we find it hard to reach out for help.

For me, personally, learning to recognize my thoughts, refrain from following them by relaxing into my body with my breath has been pivotal in my recovery. With patients I teach them about: the 4 question inquiry of Byron Katie; the 4 Agreements; The Heart quest, boundary work, emotional enquiry, Cognitive behavioural therapy, Gestalt language repositioning, thought reprogramming, mindfulness teachings from a variety of teachers (i.e. Jon Kabat Zinn, Eckhart Tolle, Jeff Foster, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra and Cheryl Richardson to name a few) – these are all tools I utilize with patients. Ultimately, I address the four key areas with patients: 1) the physical level with nutrition, nutraceuticals, botanical medicine and/or pharmaceuticals (as necessary) 2) the mental level 3) the emotional level and 4) the spiritual level.

Question 3. I enjoyed reading the analogy in your article on mental health titled “One of the Seven Levels of Depression” about throwing garbage out the window. You mentioned that if you continue to treat, there will be flies and the garbage will smell. If you clean up the problem, the flies will go away and there will be no smell! How can people begin to do this? What is the first step?

I usually explain to patients that I was on and off antidepressants/antianxiolytic & mood stabilizing medications for about 15 years and every time I would go off them, I would end up depressed & anxious and every time I was prescribed them, things would get moderately better. But the fact that I would get unwell again upon stopping them highlighted to me that I wasn’t dealing with the “garbage” I was just masking the symptoms. You have probably heard a similar analogy with a car- in that when the engine isn’t working right, a light will come on, but if you ignore the light by cutting the wire (which is analogous to taking medications), pretty soon the car may stop running completely because you never looked under the hood in the first place to determine what was wrong.

The first step is to recognize that the physical building blocks for forming neurotransmitters comes from food and that food is information to your body. I’d recommend working with a Naturopathic Doctor or a holistic nutritionist to get that foundation right. Once you start to feel better, then it is much easier to do look at the other areas I’ve mentioned (ie your thoughts, emotions, etc) and make the necessary changes in those areas. I will add that I am not anti-medication, but my mantra with respect to both nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals is minimum dose for maximum benefit. As I practice Orthomolecular medicine, the dosage I would recommend for nutraceuticals goes far beyond what you would find in a multi-vitamin.

Question 4. Ultimately there needs to be a willingness to change and heal. Our privilege as healthcare professionals and healers is to guide patients/clients – not force them into change. What advice can you offer for a new practitioner in the healing or health field in regard to this?

I have many suggestions for new practitioners in the healing or health field:

a) Ultimately, you have to meet patients where they are. For example, I completely understand how difficult it is to ask someone who is depressed to get outside and exercise. I can tell you there were days when I was depressed that that was ALL that I accomplished in a day – it may have taken me 8 hours to get myself out of bed, dressed, and out the door, but I can tell you that I never once felt worse when I came back. On the other hand, we have to recognize that people have come to us for guidance and they want advice on how to get well. I explain to patients that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but here is where we are trying to get too. Most wish Rome had been build last week, but the reality is the road to recovery may have bumps along the way – it might be 4 steps forward, 1 step back, 10 steps forward, 2 steps back – as you “peel the onion” and emotions come to the surface to heal. It can feel like you aren’t making progress but the overall trajectory in healing has been in a positive direction.

b) I’d also add that it is vital for you to do your own healing work – one mentor said to me when I asked him for advice: “when I learned to get out of the way of my patients, that is when the healing occurred”. Being able to see your own biases, judgments, issues, blocks, insecurities etc, and resolve those or set them aside when you are with a patient is vital to their healing, and yours.

c) Keep things simple, as it can be overwhelming at first to see a Naturopathic Doctor. I typically give them 2-5 diet changes that are easy to make – i.e. decrease coffee, no pop, increase water and eat a tryptophan forming food – and you’d be amazed at how much better people feel with such seemingly simple advice. I often focus on increasing healthy foods in the diet, versus eliminating entire food groups. I share with patients how overwhelmed I was after my first visit to a Naturopathic Doctor – I had to eliminate wheat, dairy, sugar, eggs and chocolate. And this was back in 1996 when it wasn’t trendy to go gluten-free. I didn’t even know what quinoa was, let alone how to say it or spell it. However, when I did eliminate these foods and cleaned up my diet, I felt incredible and the change was remarkable.

d) In essence, I help patients see that the first step on a new path is always the hardest to take. Make it a small one, and you will be surprised that, in time, you will be running down the road of recovery. Remember that there may be potholes along the road and it my feel like the journey is long and slow at times. Trust in the healing process, be patient and you will get “there”. There is no quick-fix solution to multi-factorial conditions. Everyone needs to find his or her own balance point in life. Don’t compare yourself to others. Trust in your own intuitive self and the inherent healing powers you have at your fingertips while at the same time working with experienced healthcare professionals. Most people have addictions, issues, and things to get over, learn or adjust to – life is about how we navigate the waves of our lives. It really is about the journey, not the destination. For most of my life, I lived for the destination while ignoring the journey. Now, I am learning to enjoy the journey as much as I appreciate the destination. I was recently asked to explain in a few words what I do. My response was: “I help people make peace with the present moment – piece by piece.”

e) In summary, for new practitioners, I would say:
– give people hope that they will get better
– listen and hear your patients – meet them where they are at, and gently show them the vision of Rome and how to get there one step at a time
– do your own personal work so you can make sure you aren’t getting in the way of the healing process
– Trust in naturopathic medicine (i.e. nutrition, botanical medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine/acupuncture, homeopathy, hydrotherapy) because it works.

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