Expert Profile - Catrina Luca
Dr. Catrina N. Luca, MD
Dr. Catrina Luca’s Bio:
Originally from Miami, FL, Dr. Catrina N. Luca earned her Bachelor’s of Science at the University of Miami and her Medical Doctorate from the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. She completed her Adult Psychiatry residency and a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry fellowship at the University of Florida. She is board-certified in both specialties. With a keen interest in an integrative approach to psychiatry, she earned an additional board certification in Integrative Medicine and a certification in Pastoral Counseling.
Over the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to train and work in multiple arenas including Job Corps, forensic settings, community mental health settings, and private practice affording me exposure to a wide range of clinical opportunities and creating a foundation of broad clinical experience.
The reason I practice medicine is because I believe in the power of the body to heal itself.
As an Integrative Psychiatrist, my role as a physician is not that of a miracle-worker but a facilitator of health, a guide or teacher of sorts. I am acutely aware that in Psychiatry, there are physicians who place too much value on prescribing medications and too little value on empowering people to heal from the inside out. I practice medicine with the focus of empowerment.
My role is to help people move out of their own way to allow their body to heal; that healing comes from the inside out.
I love to inspire and assist in creating joy-filled, informed, healthy families, one member at a time. We are not designed to do life alone, we are designed for relationship. It is in the context of relationship that healing occurs…mind, body, and spirit.
What life events or challenges that you’ve experienced (could be minor, could be major) – whether you’ve experienced them directly or via someone close to you, have had any type of impact on your desire to pursue a career in psychiatry?
When I look back over my life I can see the overt nudge towards mental health early on. I grew up in a military family and witnessed the impact of PTSD on multiple members. Those experiences, coupled with the trickle-down effect that PTSD has on those around the impacted person, I learned high levels of vigilance and “people-reading” to anticipate the unpredictable. While I was originally interested in OB-GYN as a medical profession, it was the patient connection and rapport inherent to Psychiatry that ultimately drew me. I found that people need to be heard, seen, and validated more than they needed to be pathologized and diagnosed.
How did those events impact you emotionally/morally? How, if at all did those events impact the way you view how our current system teaches us to treat patients with mental health challenges?
As I watched multiple members of my family seek out the much-needed mental health treatment, I was made aware of the limited cultural relevance they experienced. Part of building rapport with patients is the ability to give room for cultural differences influencing their presentation and ultimately their treatment. For example, not only were my family members, people of color, some were also military veterans, and victims of abuse with lifestyles that ranged from poverty to upper-middle class. Each one needed to be seen, heard, and accepted just as they were. Unfortunately, their stories of hurt and horror were often met with incredulity and discomfort on the practitioners’ part. In Psychiatry, we are invited into people’s very personal spaces and that is an honor I have learned not to take lightly.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on practicing Integrative Psychiatry, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
Based on the experiences above and coupled with my own autoimmune physical health journey, an integrative approach to health and healing just made more sense. We are not just the sum-total of our parts. Every system is intricately interwoven internally as well as interpersonally. Part of the joy of getting additional training as a Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist is that it afforded me the opportunity to explore the impact of family systems and their direct and indirect impact on the development and well-being of my patients.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
I am intentional and personalized in my approach: I want to use what will work well for the patient in front of me. Yes, evidence-based medication is included in this process, and I’ve also been known to “prescribe” water, coconut oil, and rest when that was what was needed.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
The demand for “something more” than the conventional approach to medicine (especially psychiatric care) is growing exponentially and not just among patients. Other physicians and practitioners are beginning to see the value in viewing patients as whole, complex, intricate beings. While there is no “cookie cutter” approach that works for every single patient, there can be an approach that enables us to systematically address our patients concerns, teaching them self-efficacy, self-advocacy, and empowerment along the way.