We are all engaged in the same process of healing and change which incorporates our body, mind and spirit.

Dr. Gary Ruelas

How Psychotherapy is Changing the Practice of Medicine


published 1/27/2010 | Volume 30 No. 1

During the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference this last December, I was brought back to those days when I attended Dr. Erickson’s seminars. Erickson was breaking through ceilings and shattering molds that had been thought to have been cast in cement. Erickson had total faith in individuals’ inherent ability to heal themselves. He sought to utilize the inner resources of each individual, and believed strongly that doing so would empower them. His intrigue into physiological reaction of the mind and body foreshadowed our present understanding of mindbody medicine. Soon to follow were individuals from various disciplines that would embrace his work, such has Kay Thompson, DDS, or David Cheek, MD.

As I presented in previous issues, from my position as both a clinical psychologist and a family practice physician, I experienced Erickson as a pioneer in the field of Integrative Medicine. I am
using the word Medicine in its original definition as the science and art of dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation or cure of disease: something that affects
wellbeing.

Erickson’s was an evolving paradigm in the same way that ours is an evolving profession. The Evolution of Psychotherapy conference was such a wonderful event, the keynotes given by Drs. Sopolsky, Beck, Chopra, Weil, Minuchin amongst others highlighted an integrative approach that we as mental health professional are best positioned to embrace.

Dr. Sopolsky’s emphasized the role of stress in our lives and its effect on our immune system and bodily function and how chronic stress plays a significant role with illness. Dr. Chopra focused on consciousness and the effect that our mind and soul has on healing represented this idea well. He presented the benefits of the mind “consciousness” and its role beyond “preexisting” conditions and even genetics. Dr. Chopra made it a point of balancing between the wonders of technology while emphasizing the strength of human nature. Dr. Amen spoke on the neuroplasticity of the brain and the effect that each individual can have on changing brain function. He mentioned modalities such as hypnosis and it power as a form of treatment. Dr. Weil encouraged the medical community to move outside of traditional paradigms to find multimodal approaches to healing, including meditation and psychotherapy.

These keynote addresses served to emphasize what other keynote presentations were also addressing. For example, Dr. Minuchin, author of the classic earth-breaking book on Psychosomatic Medicine, gave a moving address on the progression of psychotherapy. Ernest Rossi expanded his concept of psychoneuroimmunology. All of these addresses place us as mental health professionals at the crest of health care change. No longer is the word “medicine” something we are not a part of. We are in the center of this movement and the evolution is here.

The very fact that at the Evolution Conference we had keynotes from an endocrinologist, cell biologist, family medicine physician amongst others attest to this change. But the most remarkable part is that medicine is looking more toward the power of the mind for healing. Yes there will always be fundamental aspects of traditional medicine that are essential to our health, but chronic stress and emotional health are significant factor of our well being. There are increased numbers of medical residency programs in integrative medicine, more journals on integrative medicine and board certification in integrative medicine. Every day we hear and read about how the mind is effecting health, changing brain function assisting our immune system. The integrative medical approach is becoming viewed as a mainstay of a total health model where perhaps the mental health profession that uses the power of the mind is leading the field.

The mental health professional is in a special position to influence the next stage of healthcare as more and more discover that conventional western medicine lacks many of the components that
assist in prevention and healing. The Evolution of Psychotherapy heralded the call to embrace the public’s realization that the bridge to the mind and soul are so essential to our health and
wellbeing.

Irrespective of whether you consider yourself a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, a Systemic Therapist, a Brief Therapy provider or Problem Oriented/Evidence Based Therapist, we are all engaged in the same process of healing and change which incorporates our body, mind and spirit. It is clear that our chosen methods are portals of entry to the larger essential elements of healing.

Thank you Dr. Erickson for your foresight and Dr. Zeig and the Foundation for organizing and spearheading this conference and underlining this movement.

Gary P. Ruelas, D.O., Ph.D.
Integrative Medical Institute