Expert Profile - Will Van Derveer
Dr. Will Van Derveer
MD, Integrative Psychiatrist & Co-Founder of Integrative Psychiatry Institute (A Comprehensive yr Long Fellowship Program Allowing Psychiatrists to Become A Certified Integrative Psychiatric Provider)
He has been involved with several studies sponsored by MAPS investigating MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD, now in Phase III under break-through designation by FDA.
Serves as Medical Director of Integrative Psychiatry Centers, headquartered in Boulder Colorado, where he provides integrative psychiatry and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for treatment-resistant depression and PTSD.
Dr. Will Van Derveer’s Bio:
Will Van Derveer, MD is co-founder of Integrative Psychiatry Institute, which teaches doctors how to recognize and resolve an expanded spectrum of root causes of mental illness. His clinic in Boulder, CO provides integrative psychiatry and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for treatment-resistant depression and PTSD.
In addition to his clinical practice and teaching, he has been involved with several studies sponsored by MAPS investigating MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD, now in Phase III under break-through designation by FDA.
He regards unresolved emotional trauma as the most significant root cause of psychiatric symptoms in integrative psychiatry practice, along with gut issues, hormone imbalances, inflammation, environmental toxins, and other integrative medicine challenges. He is trained in Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, Internal Family Systems, and other psychotherapy techniques.
Dr. Van Derveer is a diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM). He earned his M.D. from Vanderbilt University and B.A. from University of Pennsylvania.
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 two of my patients died by suicide in the same week several years ago, I was devastated and wanted to quit practicing psychiatry. My response to these deaths was much stronger than just ordinary grief and loss. I reached out to an important mentor, Gabor Maté, who pointed out I was in no shape to make a big career decision. He encouraged me to go find out what was underneath my reaction.
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?
Although I had done hundreds of psychotherapy sessions prior to these suicides, my core trauma had remained hidden for decades. In the care of a therapist, I regressed to being an infant, left in a crib with no support or care. A substantial healing process unfolded from there. The next day I asked my mother if anything had happened around my birth that she had never shared with me. She said “Yes, as we got home from the hospital, I felt faint and was rushed to emergency surgery for internal bleeding. The weird thing was that when your father came to the hospital to pick me up a week later, you weren’t in the car. I asked him, ‘Where is the baby?’ and your dad said he had asked a neighbor in the apartment complex to check on you if she heard a baby crying.”
Before going to prison, my father was an alcoholic, whose catastrophic financial decisions endangered my family throughout my childhood. I didn’t say a word to him for most of my 20’s. My father and I worked hard to earn the close relationship we have today. I now comprehend that his own unhealed trauma (and his parents’ before him and so on) was driving how he behaved with us and that he was not trying to hurt us. I have made plenty of parenting mistakes myself, driven by my own unhealed traumas.
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 co-founded the Integrative Psychiatry Institute (www.psychiatryinstitute.com) and the Integrative Psychiatry Centers (www.psychiatrycenters.com), taking the stand that anyone, no matter how unwell, can achieve wellbeing when given the right support.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
We are teaching doctors how to recognize and resolve the underlying causes of mental illness, most especially undiagnosed trauma. Our goal is to train 10,000 mental health providers by 2030 with these skills necessary to help people discover the underlying causes of troubling symptoms and truly achieve wellbeing, rather than just sedating people with the drugs I was taught to prescribe as a psychiatrist. Our clinic provides the care that we teach doctors to provide at the institute. I am grateful for the important mission of #SameHere to break down the walls between the “well” and the “sick” redefining what it means to be normal in this society.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
I’m hopeful that together we can move our culture toward a community of inclusion where in the future no one will have to withdraw in shame for the challenges they face because we all experience trauma. My story is a story of hope that deeply hidden traumas, well beyond the reach of the conscious mind, can be excavated and thoroughly healed. I’m happy to say that after working through my root trauma, I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible to get the kind of help I needed to get well.