Expert Profile - Lila Massoumi
Dr. Lila Massoumi
MD, Integrative Psychiatrist & Chair of the American Psychiatric Associations Caucus on Integrative Psychiatry.
Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Michigan State University
Contributing author, Complementary & Integrative Treatments in Psychiatric Practice.
Author, American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry, 7th ed, Complementary & Integrative Treatments
Founder of Michigan Integrative Holistic Psychiatry, for which she has been the recipient of Hour Detroit “Top Doc” award, Vitals “Patient Choice Award”, and Health Grades “5- Star Award”.
Dr. Lila Massoumi’s Bio:
Dr. Massoumi was inspired to become a psychiatrist at age 18 while reading “The Road Less Travelled” by M Scott Peck, MD. She is drawn to the field of mental health to humbly assist others on their path towards greater self-awareness, self-actualization, and spiritual evolution.
In addition to her commitment to patients, Dr. Massoumi’s mission is to change the way Psychiatry is practiced in the United States. She is the author of several textbook chapters, including the first ever chapter on Integrative Psychiatry for the American Psychiatric Association (APA) textbook of General Psychiatry. As chair of the APA Caucus on Integrative Psychiatry, she advocates for the use of herbs and supplements, and for the implementation of findings from research institutions that the soul survives the body’s passing.
She has been awarded by Hour Detroit Magazine as “Top Doc” for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018.
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?
My desire to pursue psychiatry did not stem from an isolated personal or witnessed experience. Rather, I was inspired to become a psychiatrist while reading the book “The Road Less Travelled” by psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, M.D. I was struck by the author’s definition of ‘love’ as the act of putting someone else’s spiritual growth ahead of one’s own happiness. The author’s definition of love resonated with me and that is when I first realized that I wanted to become a psychiatrist. That I was supposed to become a psychiatrist. This epiphany helped explain everything in my life up to that point. I came from a long line of physicians and had wanted to follow suit since I loved Science, nature, and helping people. I was spiritually-inclined from the time I could first read. I was aware since early childhood that I differed from my peers by being so painfully self-aware and self-analytical. “The Road Less Travelled” wrapped up everything up for me – my differences, preferences, and family history suddenly culminating into a career that made sense of it all.
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?
I entered medical school to become a psychiatrist. Ironically, during my first two years of medical school, I became clinically depressed and suffered from other additional diagnoses. I saw several psychiatrists and was frustrated that none of them seemed to “get me”, connect with me, or prescribe for me in a way that made me feel better. I vowed to be different than the psychiatrists I encountered.
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 decided to become integrative while in medical school once I became disillusioned by my conventional medical education. I was receiving little to no formal training on how lifestyle factors could mitigate the progression of disease or prevent it from developing in the first place. Disheartened, I took a two-year leave of absence from medical school to consider whether Medicine was what I really wanted to pursue, vs for example becoming a psychologist. During my hiatus I learned about the American Holistic Medical Association, a professional group of (then) doctors who felt the same way I did about Medicine – e.g. by defining health as the attainment of optimal health instead of as absence of disease, and by subscribing to other tenets that resonated with me including the importance of the strength of the relationship between doctor and patient, that the body should be supported in its ability to heal itself, etc. I re-entered medical school a closeted believer in Integrative Medicine.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
I integrate conventional psychiatric care with evidence-based non-mainstream therapies, including herbs, supplements, electromagnetic treatments, and lifestyle practices. I help patients navigate the potentially overwhelming array of treatment choices available by prioritizing those with the greatest effect size, i.e. those likely to
result in the greatest degree of improvement. I also educate patients on how their childhood/adolescent experiences may have been experienced as a trauma that is still affecting them today. Trauma does not occur solely from abuse. Trauma can come from a relationship with parents who are otherwise well-intentioned and loving. One of the ways I elicit a trauma history is by asking my patient during their evaluation “Did you grow up feeling like your parents understood you, appreciated you, and supported you for what makes *you* unique, or did you grow up feeling misunderstood and/or alone at times?” If the answer is “misunderstood/alone” for even part of their development, then there is a high likelihood that the patient experienced a trauma which could benefit from counseling.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
Patients who have been disappointed by the conventional medical system are relieved to learn that there are other options. As far as doctors, most conventional physicians that I have encountered do not seem to know what “integrative medicine” means. In fact, my own doctor was leery of the supplements I was taking and encouraged me to discontinue them. Conventional doctors’ suspiciousness of supplements stems from a lack of education on how to evaluate supplements for efficacy and quality. The reality is that there are ways to locate supplements of pharmaceutical grade.