If someone had told me at the age of 10 that I would grow up to be a psychiatrist I probably would have said “ no way”. At that age just as many other young boys I was setting my hopes on becoming the next Willie Mays. In fact I loved Willie Mays so much that it felt at times that I was the great Say Hey Kid himself. At other times he was like a second dad or at the least a family member. We were connected in a way that is hard to explain. The relationship with Willie was what I considered to be mystical.
That otherworldly kinship fell right in line with another mysterious happening that took place even earlier in my life that to this day has remained in my body/heart memory. That was the wonderful nightly out of body experiences which were so delicious delightful and comforting. These sorties were even more than can properly be explained. They were so life energizing that my body remembers and still is eternally grateful.
As my life took on other interests it became clear that I would not become a professional baseball player. The precursive adult concerns about the future began to creep into my thoughts and I became challenged by the question of what I was going to be.
In high school I decided that I wanted to become an archeologist or an anthropologist. I even made arrangements to have an interview with a curator at the New York Museum Of Natural History. If my recollection serves me well I think that I met with Collin Turnbull. I don’t remember any details from that meeting other than he was encouraging. He certainly was not discouraging as others were that I would later encounter in my quest to become a physician and psychiatrist.
As I discussed my future plans to become an anthropologist with my father he said “ Why would you want to do that… you can’t make any money at that. Besides what is an anthropologist anyway?” So with that bit of advice I decided to follow in the footsteps of my older brother who from since his childhood wanted to be a doctor. Without either the conviction or the brain power of my brother getting into medical school was not nearly a sure thing. As a consequence during my senior year in college I came up with a contingency plan. I decided that if I didn’t get into med school I would go to Nigeria and study herbal medicine at the University of Ibadan. I began to learn the language Yoruba and began to learn about Nigeria from a professor who was married to Nigerian man.
Although I had set out on this alternate course I kept seeing myself sitting at a desk studying during brief but unexpected flurries of intrusive thoughts. I knew that it was a sign of things to come; and it was not going to be happening not in Africa. As it turned out I was right. The universe had in store for me the challenge of medical school. And a challenge it was for me on a number of fronts not withstanding the fact that I was and still am a vegetarian who believed in the natural course of things. Although my thoughts and ideas were not fully formed about health and healing I felt quite rebellious about some of the things I was taught at SUNY at Buffalo School Of Medicine. I know that the education was excellent, but it seemed that there was so much missing regarding the power of the individual’s ability to heal oneself both physically and emotionally and the patient’s responsibility in the role of prevention of certain illnesses.
My rotation in psychiatry was a memorable one. It gave me the opportunity to work very closely with a patient that I felt that I was able to have an impact on. I enjoyed that. From that point I believed that I had the ability to help others change their lives in a positive way. Also it appeared to me that there was a natural flexibility within the field of psychiatry that allowed a certain kind of therapeutic alliance to develop which held within it vast potential for self understanding and healing. I was and still am impressed with the opportunity for the generation of a powerful and creative process to occur with both the patient and therapist depending on the situation and the inclination of the individuals involved and the dynamics between patient and therapist.
It is most definitely this organic process together with a sincere wish to help bring psychological and spiritual openness and greater self-awareness to the people that I have worked with that has kept me in this work for nearly 24 years, despite the challenges of psychiatric practice in this era.
To date I a have worked in a number of settings which have included private office practice, in-patient hospital practice; including state hospitals, mental health center work, residential treatment center work with adolescents. Also I have worked in the correctional setting including jails and prisons as well as post release programs for ex-convicts. In addition I have done work in the field of occupational psychiatry and I am trained in conflict resolution and mediation.
As the use of psychotropic medications have become more widespread and complicated and diagnostic categories have evolved and mutated as the culture has demanded it to, I have found that my treatment of people has been distilled to a ever increasingly simple approach. Although problems that people have can be terribly difficult and painful and in some cases catastrophic, the solutions often are not complicated. Working with people that have the types of problems that call for psychiatric intervention often takes time and diligence and persistence. It also requires a therapeutic alliance that allows the patient and therapist to adequately assess the dynamics and pursue a course of treatment that allows the individual to the degree of freedom to change from engaging destructive and unhealthy patterns to more harmonious ones that can lead to success.
My approach is to use a combination of psychotherapeutic processes, psychopharmacologic strategies, mindfulness meditation practices, and exercise and dietary schemes in the treatment of certain disorders.
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