Expert Profile - Tanya Azarani
Dr. Tanya Azarani
MD, Integrative Psychiatrist, Board Certified Psychiatrist & Psychotherapist
Certified facilitator of Mind-Body-Skills Groups through the Center for Mind Body Medicine.
Practicing Hatha yoga and Zen meditation for the last 20 years
Previously served as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at NYU Student Health Center and completed the Adult Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Program at Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Research & Training
Dr. Tanya Azarani‘s Bio:
Dr. Azarani is a Board Certified Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist in Brooklyn, NY with training in conventional and alternative medicine. She has experience in college and medical student mental health and treats adults with trauma, professional burnout, anxiety, depression, insomnia, relationship difficulties, gender and LGBTQI sexual identity concerns. Working from a holistic, integrative psychiatry framework, she offers medication and psychotherapy treatments which incorporate meditation, journaling and art exercises, dietary modification, exercise, herbs and nutritional supplements. She has given workshops to other clinicians at the American Psychiatric Association, Institute on Psychiatric Services about how to treat people with trauma and severe mental illness using the creative arts and a holistic mind-body approach. She has been practicing Hatha yoga and Zen meditation for the last 20 years and is a certified facilitator of mind-body skills groups through the Center for Mind Body Medicine.
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?
Growing up as a multicultural kid in Brooklyn was challenging at times. My father, an immigrant from Iran, and my mother, an Italian, Albanian American, struggled to navigate conflicting culturally rooted gender roles. Interparental culture clashes were difficult but led to a deep appreciation of my parents’ strengths, and the richness of my Middle Eastern and European heritage. As an adolescent, I struggled with social anxiety and autoimmune disease, Ulcerative Colitis. Meditation, yoga, and creative arts helped me cope with these challenges. At the start of medical school, I assumed that my artistic abilities would best translate to a career in surgery, however, I was delighted to find an even better fit in psychiatry. Just as art had shown me the beauty of the human body, psychiatry had shown me the beauty of the mind, and the profound connection between the two. Integrative psychiatry became a powerful tool of self-awareness and healing. It allowed me to make sense of the difficulties of my childhood, and how to turn those adversities into advantages to help myself and my community.
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 knew that crises in life often brought opportunities, and in order to discover them I had to turn towards and not away from my pain. My father and mother, though radically different in their upbringings, shared a passion for spiritual truth-seeking. They introduced me to meditation, yoga, and Buddhism as a teenager and these practices became spiritual anchors in my life. Hatha Yoga and Zen Buddhist meditation allowed me to develop a new relationship with my emotional and physical pain, and to feel safe and grounded in my body. I later learned that these practices were so effective because they restored parasympathetic predominance to the nervous system and improved mental health symptoms exacerbated by trauma and chronic stress. I was saddened to find these vital self-care practices missing from my medical school curriculum.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on practicing Integrative Psychiatry, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
My personal experience of healing mental and physical illness through conventional psychotherapy/meds and art, yoga, meditation, and nutritional supplements inspired me to become a Holistic, Integrative Psychiatrist so I could share these transformative tools with my patients.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
Rather than simply mitigate psychiatric symptoms, my goal is to optimize my patients’ wellness by giving them tools they can use to heal themselves, prevent symptom relapse, and create a life worth living. I use conventional psychiatric medications and psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy) with complementary evidence-based treatments including herbs, supplements, meditation, guided imagery, yoga/movement, drawing, and journaling exercises.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
My patients are happy to have a variety of conventional and complementary treatments to choose from. They appreciate my conservative psychopharmacological approach and are satisfied with the high efficacy and low side effect profile of herbs, supplements, and mind-body practices. Ultimately, everyone is unique and my treatment plans are tailored to each persons’ individual needs.