Expert Profile - Omid Naim
Dr. Omid Naim
MD, Integrative Psychiatrist
Recipient of the 2009 NAMI Exemplary Psychiatrist Award.
Founder of Hope Integrative Psychiatry, Headquartered in Sherman Oaks, California.
Founder and Executive Director of the non-profit La Maida Project, whose mission is to rewrite the story of mental health and well-being. La Maida has worked with organizations such as Mckinley Children’s Center, to bring forth communal and integrative healing models to improve mental health.
Dr. Omid Naim’s Bio:
As a Western-trained psychiatrist, I saw the need for more holistic, spiritual, and community-based approaches to health care seeing the limitations of our current model. I completed Adult and Child Psychiatry residency at the University of California San Francisco and went on to work in community psychiatry with the most high-risk and severely traumatized youth in the county coming out of foster care. Drawing on the emerging field of Interpersonal Neurobiology I lead in the establishment of new integrative models of psychotherapy in our clinic, focusing on healing trauma through mind-body therapies and programs that promote resilience within individuals, families, and the larger community. The most severely ill in the community were able to reduce or even stop all psychoactive medications and thrive for the first time in their lives with self-reliance. For this work I received the award I am most proud of, the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from NAMI.
The interest in more holistic approaches led me to further studies in Integrative Medicine as a Bravewell Scholar at the University of Arizona, under Dr. Andrew Weil. In the clinic I have formed since then, Hope Integrative Psychiatry, we have designed a complete recovery model that focuses on skill-building, lifestyle change, and healing trauma to promote resilience and personal transformation. Most recently I am the Founder and Executive Director of a non-profit called the La Maida Project whose mission is to rewrite the story of mental health and well-being. By showing communal and integrative healing models can have better outcomes with chronic mental suffering, we are researching and standardizing practices for preventive health care models.
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?
As a young child, my family fled the Iranian revolution to come to the U.S. This alone was a very traumatic experience for myself and my parents, and then the years here in the U.S. proved to be even more stressful as cultural challenges and financial challenges were a day to day challenge. However, we also had the gift of being part of a large extended family here in the U.S. that played a vital day to day role in our capacity to cope and survive. Witnessing health and healing happening in the natural environment of family and community is what made me who I am today as an Integrative Psychiatrist.
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?
The experience of how family and community play such a pivotal role in an individual’s survival and mental health is the basis of the model I work in today in Integrative Psychiatry. The focus in my practice is on building up people’s natural resources and supporting our innate capacity to heal under the right conditions. Being part of a period of suffering within a family you witness the deeper purpose and meaning of our emotional lives, to be the basis for how we show up for each other, and in doing so, how that brings out the best in us as well.
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 study Integrative Psychiatry after working several years with high-risk foster care youth in the public mental health system. There was a total denial of the underlying trauma and grief that was the true root cause of so much suffering and I discovered a much more effective model for helping youth than using medication. As I learned trauma-informed principles and how to employ a somatic approach to therapy for trauma, it was amazing to witness the turnaround, seeing youth recover completely off medication and with a more inspiring and hopeful view of their own story.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
In our practice, we use herbal and nutritional remedies for symptom relief and functional system support, such as herbal remedies for adrenal fatigue and gut health. We then create a personalized plan that believes in people’s innate capacity to heal from trauma as the most important part of the process. We employ somatic therapy in our clinic, as well as functional medicine services and lifestyle coaching. We also use ketamine treatments for treatment-resistant individuals such as chronic depression or PTSD.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
The most common response I find is both one of feeling this is so much more hopeful and inspiring as well as the recognition that it also is common sense. I find most people feel deep down the truth of unresolved trauma and grief are the real cause of their symptoms, and when presented with a way of seeing these struggles through a hopeful lens that believes in our ability to heal and recover fully, there is a great willingness to make the vital lifestyle and relationship changes needed to do so. When we work as a team people change.