Top Five Things I Learned in My First Year of Mindful Medicine. By Michael Barness, M.D.

Mindful Medicine has been open for over a year and I could not have imagined the positive impact we’ve had on such a large amount of people. I want to thank every person who made the decision to get treatment with us. Often, the most difficult part of dealing with mental illness is initiating the process of getting help. However, as difficult as it may be, it’s also the most important step.

Reflecting on the past year, I gained some remarkable insights from the people I worked with. Here are the top five things I learned in the first year of Mindful Medicine:

  1. Doctors should shut up and listen. It’s amazing what you can learn by simply paying attention. Fighting the urge to speak has proven to be invaluable. Giving people the time they need to properly express themselves is the key to achieving long term results. Nothing is more critical to a clinician than what a person verbalizes and expresses. We should be listening more than talking, and empathizing more than advising.
  2. People are stronger than they think. Many times there is a stigma that those seeking mental health treatment are weak or incapable. This could not be further from the truth. Seeking mental health treatment requires a tremendous amount of strength. Nothing worth achieving in life comes easy. By committing to the treatment process, despite existing struggles and stigmas, individuals prove they possess resilience and inner strength.
  3. People recognize and value good care. The most common complaints reported are long wait times, not having enough time in a session, feeling rushed, or not being heard or understood. People value a clinician who identifies and addresses these concerns. By offering both medication management and psychotherapy services, treatment becomes more seamless and produces positive clinical benefits. Mental illness is almost always a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and social stressors. Thus, treatment should also be multifactorial. Additionally, offering concierge services like home visits and telepsychiatry makes treatment more accessible by considering a person’s needs and lifestyle.
  4. Feeling better is contagious. We are witnessing individuals conquering fears, overcoming adversity, and taking back control of their lives. Although the impact on the individual seeking help has always been the foremost goal, it doesn’t stop there. Feeling better also impacts others. When treatment is working, not only do you improve, but so do the people around you. When you’re proactively working on yourself, your relationships with others improve. You also lead by example. That inspires those around you to improve as well.
  5. Less is more. Unfortunately, psychiatry has turned into psychopharmacology. If one medication is good, then two must be better, right? Well, not always. My experience has shown that minimizing the role of medications can actually enhance their effects. I call it “addition by subtraction.” Putting more emphasis on lifestyle changes, therapy, and mindfulness, strengthens medication treatment. It minimizes adverse effects and interactions. More importantly, it empowers the individual to develop and use their own tools to better themselves. This, in turn, creates a recipe for real and permanent changes.

We are now entering the next phase of our evolution and growth as a leading mental health provider. I anticipate that as Mindful Medicine grows so will the above list. I am humbled and grateful for every patient to join us on this journey and for allowing us to be a part of their treatment.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my article.