Expert Profile - Chanel Heermann
Dr. Chanel Heermann, MD
Board certified integrative psychiatrist and faculty member at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, Saybrook University, and University of Colorado
Author of The 7 Foundations of Health and Happiness: Building a Bridge to Balance and multiple peer-reviewed articles, including “Perinatal Depression: An Evidence-Based Review of Integrative Treatment”.
Creator of MHDirect, online telemental health directory: http://www.yourmhdirect.com/
Consultant at MH Freedom, telepsychiatry private practice consulting: https://www.mhfreedom.com/
Director of SynerGenius Telepresence, integrative telepsychiatry services in CO, AZ, NM, WY, NE, SD, and ND: http://www.
Dr. Chanel Heermann’s Bio:
Chanel Heermann, MD, is an integrative psychiatrist who founded SynerGenius to empower individuals to create health and happiness by developing harmony in their lives. Dr. Heermann helps people create a holistic recovery plan for their unique emotional challenges, using the best of conventional and alternative medicine.
Dr. Heermann is the creator of MHDirect, an online telemental health directory serving both integrative and conventional practitioners. (www.yourmhdirect.com) She also serves as a consultant for psychiatrists starting their own telepsychiatry private practice through MH Freedom (www.mhfreedom.com).
Dr. Heermann received her medical degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and went on to complete her psychiatry residency at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Dr. Heermann was one of the first 121 physicians in the world certified by the American Board of Integrative Medicine. Graduate of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine’s fellowship program, Dr. Heermann is board certified in both Psychiatry and Integrative-Holistic Medicine.
Dr. Heermann serves on the national faculty for the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, as guest faculty at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, on the faculty of Saybrook University’s College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences, and as an assistant professor at the University of Colorado’s Department of Psychiatry.
Dr. Heermann an expert in women’s mental health, with years of training and experience helping women in all stages of their lives. She has completed the Maternal Mental Health Professional Certificate Training through Postpartum Support International and the Psychiatric Disorders in Women course by Massachusetts General Hospital.
Dr. Heermann has extensive training in a variety of natural approaches, including the advanced nutrient therapies taught by the Walsh Research Institute, the effective use of multi-nutrient formulas (such as those offered by Truehope and others), and has completed training with the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), as well.
Dr. Heermann is the author of The 7 Foundations of Health and Happiness: Building a Bridge to Balance, several published, peer-reviewed articles, including “Selected integrative medicine treatments for depression: Considerations in women” and “Perinatal Depression: An Evidence-Based Review of Integrative Treatment”.
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?
I originally went into psychiatry after having a close family member struggle with panic attacks. It interfered with their ability to work or maintain a social life or even fulfill basic household obligations like returning phone calls. I was really struck by the impact that mental health symptoms can bring throughout someone’s life.
For myself, I was already in psychiatry and actively studying integrative medicine when I was affected personally, but I had a really difficult time with postpartum depression. I kept functioning only through sheer grit and willpower, pasting on a smiling face for my baby, forcing myself to get anything done at home, just wanting to sleep all the time and eat junk. I kept going to work because my patients needed me but I was not getting any enjoyment or satisfaction from any of it. My doctor at the time wanted me to go on medication, but I was breastfeeding, and back then we didn’t know if that was safe or not. I begged them to give me one month of trying integrative medicine first before we went the pharmaceutical route. I exercised every single day, meditated and did infant massage with my baby, and started a powerful nutrient supplement to support the biological side of things. And I asked for help – calling friends, going to therapy. And when the month was up, I was better enough to keep following the integrative path and stay off meds.
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?
It was really scary. It feels powerless and hopeless at times, and just taking a pill felt like a band-aid that wasn’t addressing what was really causing my pain.
That experience actually affected my career choices for a long time. The whole thing was so traumatic that I’ve only recently started returning my focus to my prior passion for women’s mental health. I had to set that aside until now when my kiddo is in high school. It was just too triggering to focus on working with moms before because listening to the stories of their own postpartum struggles just took me right back to that dark time in my own life. I feel like I have enough distance now to be of service while staying objective and supporting my own wellness journey.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on practicing Integrative Psychiatry, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
I was first exposed to integrative medicine during the year before I started medical school. I had been working in a call center that wasn’t very busy on the weekends, so I picked up stacks of books from the public library and read when there were gaps. I just happened to pick up Bill Moyers’ “Healing and the Mind” and Andy Weil’s “Spontaneous Healing”. Realizing there was real science behind this and that “real” doctors were taking this seriously was a huge shift for me and changed the whole course of my career.
Of course, after having my own experience of recovering from postpartum depression without medication utilizing a combination of integrative treatments just solidified my conviction that this was the right path for me, and that everyone needed access to the same tools.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
I use a whole variety of techniques, and the treatment plan is individualized – created in partnership with the patient. I use anything from supplements to herbs, to mind-body techniques, to movement or dietary interventions, and more.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
It’s much better these days! When I first started, I was greeted with a lot of skepticism. But nowadays, with all the positive research findings plus the official academic and board-certification recognition of IM as its own evidence-based specialty, I find it’s much more common for colleagues to be asking my opinion on the topic, rather than doubting its effectiveness.