Dr Denise McDermott
Board certified adult & child psychiatrist. Authority multidimensional well-being. She is author of "Mental Health & How to thrive”. Her approach is to encourage people to believe in wellness not illness and to lead a balanced healthy lifestyle. www.drdenisemd.com She lives in Manhattan Beach, CA.
We are fortunate to be living at a time when the Mind, Body, Spirit paradigm shift in healthcare has been introduced and embraced by many. I honor and thank the Pioneers of Integrative Medicine that have paved the way for succeeding generations.
I am a board-certified Adult and Child Psychiatrist with 20 years of clinical experience and have 40,000 patient hours of service working with children, teens, and adults. I like to think of myself as a Doctor of the Soul. Did you know that the word “psychiatrist” translates in Greek to “Doctor of the Soul”—psych (soul) + iatros (doctor)? I couldn’t agree more.
I believe that reaching our highest soul alignment is a multidimensional path that integrates a spirit, mind, and body approach.
By setting intentions of love and compassion for ourselves and others, we can find health, happiness and inner peace. We are multidimensional individuals with thoughts, feelings, and perceptions that matter and have an impact on our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
There is no better time than at this moment in history where we as a collective society are taking it more seriously to truly embrace a Spirit—Mind—Body approach, with an emphasis of putting Spirit first.
His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama defines spirituality with great clarity: “In Ancient Wisdom, Modern World ‘spirituality’ is concerned with those qualities of the human spirit such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony-which bridges happiness to both self and others…”
The human spirit can be thought of as your intention to be the kindest, most loving and compassionate you. How can this approach be applied to the day-to-day interactions with children, teens and adults in need of mental health care?
A fundamental first exploration with my patients includes, “What makes you happy? “ It is important to know where each individual’s starting point is. In a warm and engaging manner, I find out how each child, teen, or adult views their health and wellbeing in the context of their developmental stage and Worldview.“Why are you here? How can I help you?” Questions are asked in a way that inspire self empowerment
from the start. “Your opinion matters to me.” It is important to make the point, “We all perceive and process the world in our own unique way.” This statement is a “shame-breaker.”
In Western Medicine we are trained to start with the chief complaint, “What brings you here today?” That is important, yet let’s take it a step further. When working in my practice, I ask my patients to think
about their goal for achieving their “chief success or aspiration of how they want to feel?” Do you feel the difference in the words? They are healing intentions. You are a fundamental part of activating your path to
I work with a lot of kids and parents who love it when we outline the steps towards wellness:
Step One: Spirit: Be Your Own Best Friend. Set the intention that you will be aligning with your highest self.
I collaborate, empower, and foster a trusting relationship with each individual that makes it known that they need to engage in the goal of starting their journey of health with the intention of “being your own best friend”.
I help my patients to want to shift from being in crisis, to stabilization, with the end point being “thriving”.
When working with children I state, “I am a feelings doctor.” I ask “What did your parents tell you about coming here today? Was it your idea to be here or your parent’s idea? Or both?” I validate all possibilities. I convey, “Your opinion matters to me. This is your health.” I ask, “Is there anything you want help with or want to feel better with?” Common responses from kids are “I want to focus more.” “I care too much about what other people think.”
Another question I often ask is, ”If you could design a school or family routine that was your favorite what would it look like to you?”
This approach engages the child into thinking about
what their best life would look like.
Step Two: Assessing the Mind. Essentially what are your thoughts like?
I interview with open-ended questions using the bio-psycho-social model taught in western medicine and determine a treatment plan with the current standard of psychiatric care.
I carefully choose words that promote wellness, not illness. I educate my patients as to why I use terms that allow for a “flight towards health and well-being”.
Here’s an example. If someone is struggling with an eating disorder such as Anorexia (as defined by the DSMV/Western medicine) the treatment plan is defined and aligned with a multi disciplinary
approach based on scientific data coupled with the collaborative “thrive plan” that each person and family system helps to create.
I quickly educate my patient that we will now be calling it your “nutrition issue” (a neutral reframe) or if a different term works for my patient I have them “coin their own term” and I coach them to phrase it in
a neutral or positive way.
Why? This promotes a cognitive reframe, sets the intention for wellness and shifts an individuals thoughts and actions into acting as if “I am already on my way to being healthy.” Not everyone is ready to
do this from the start. That is ok. It is a process. It happens at the pace it is going to happen.It is essential for each individual to know that their thoughts, word choice, and actions make a difference in feeling better.
Step Three: Assessing the Body. Essentially what is your Physical health like?
To honor your overall wellbeing you need to take care of your physical health and your nutrition too. I work closely with primary care doctors to make sure a physical exam and lab work has been done. Exercise,
Nutrition and Meditation/Mindfulness are all part of the assessment and treatment recommendations. I view the Spirit—Mind—Body Paradigm as the progressive evolution of what “OUR” Masterminds in medicine, science and spiritual leaders have been
restating throughout history.
Can you imagine a World in which all of OUR children begin their lives with the encouragement to strive for happiness and inner peace? I can. Love of self, healthy thoughts and physical wellbeing create
healthy individuals. When individuals thrive we all
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