Expert Profile - Célia Soares
Dr. Célia Soares
MD, Integrative Psychiatrist
Co-Founder of The Mente Corpo
Completed Training Via the Integrative Psychiatric Clinic of Banner University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona, under the supervision of Integrative Pioneer Dr. Noshene Ranjbar
Dr. Célia Soares’s Bio:
Dr Célia Soares was born in a village in the north of Portugal in 1989. She finished medical school in 2013 and started the residency in Psychiatry in 2015, after one year working as a general doctor. Driven by a desire to understand mental illnesses through a mind-body-soul (a more holistic) perspective she has dedicated her career to building bridges between modern (conventional) and traditional medical practices. This led her to train in naturopathy, psychonutrition, and psychodrama. Dr. Soares believes that pain and suffering, when supported appropriately, can be the means to human growth, a deeper understanding of life, practicing compassion and meaning-making. Throughout her life and career, Dr. Soares has worked as a volunteer of Doctors of the World in a detention center in Porto, and has been exploring ancient healing techniques to deal with trauma spectrum disorders. She loves sustainable living communities, art therapy, mythology, and has practiced yoga and meditation for years.
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 do believe that the biggest challenge we face during our lifetime is the journey into fulfilling ourselves at our fullest and deepest dimensions. As an introvert explorer person who has structured her life around the values as the good, the beauty, divergent-thinking and life meaning creation, I faced several obstacles from the very early beginning of life: I was born as very premature child in a small rural village where emotional education and affection were scarce; I had to work at several other jobs before even applying to high school. Anxiety and depression visited me as early as in my teens. Later I found medical school rigid and discouraging, features which drove me to choose the specialty of psychiatry as a way to pursue a medical career grounded in a more humanistic, empathic, and existentialistic perspective. Soon after finishing medical school I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder together with the experience of revisiting old patterns of depression and anxiety. That was the icing on the cake on setting the cornerstones of a personal and professional path into understanding what is that to be healthy and what are the skills needed to get there.
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?
Those events have shaped me to believe that optimal health requires having the skills to fulfill our desires and aspirations while carrying the suffering one cannot change, amidst our biological and emotional vulnerabilities, past or present conditions. As a trainee psychiatrist I have had always been struggling with our fragmented dichotomist health system which segregates everything and cannot integrate different features of a body, a mind or a person as a whole. Within such a fragmented system, it is so easy to lose sight of the multiplicity of stories and dimensions one can have without labeling and reducing them to useless words. I deeply believe that seeing each person as an integrated whole being, woven within a complex integrated web of life, and approaching symptoms with an integrated and integrative perspective is the safest and most truthful place to support those seeking mental healthcare.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on practicing Integrative Psychiatry, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
The decision to practice integrative psychiatry was not a static moment but a dynamic process of going inward and emerging fully out. Driven by a desire to understand mental illnesses through a mind-body-soul (a more holistic) perspective I have dedicated my residency training to building bridges between modern (conventional) and traditional medical practices. This led me to train in naturopathy, psychonutrition, and psychodrama. I do believe that pain and suffering, when managed appropriately, can be the means to understanding life, practicing compassion and meaning-making.
During my training in psychiatry I have worked as a volunteer of Doctors of the World in a detention center in Porto, among other experiences abroad which helped me to go further into gathering knowledge to manage integration in my psychiatric practice.
The deepest and more meaningful of those experiences was the opportunity to do an observership in the Integrative Psychiatric Clinic of Banner University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona, under the supervision of an amazing woman, Dr Noshene Ranjbar. She was my master in gaining foundational skills to practice integrative psychiatry and put the seeds into my journey of exploring ancient healing techniques to work with trauma spectrum disorders, such as mind-body skills.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
As an integrative psychiatrist I use different skills such as: nutrition, supplements, aromatherapy, medications, psychotherapeutic approaches, art therapy, and a variety of mind- body skills. It is an ongoing journey of balancing the evidence based knowledge together with the values, culture, preferences and resources of each person to individualize a comprehensive integrative treatment plan.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
It strongly depends on each patient and each practitioner’s personal experience with integrative medicine. Overall I would say that at the beginning people tend to react with a mixture of curiosity and skepticism but once they experience or witness the results of being treated as a whole and offered a place of clinical shared-decisions they feel more optimistic, enthusiastic and passionate to more deeply pursue or practice this approach. I find holistically-minded practitioners generally more connected with themselves, their needs and vulnerabilities which becomes a strength regarding treating other people.