Expert Profile - Maia Love
Dr. Maia Love
MD, Integrative Psychiatrist
Wellness Program Consultant
Founder and Director of BrainTalks at The University of British Columbia
Awarded University British Columbias Psychiatry Significant Contribution to Research Award
Recipient of BCMJ McDermott Annual Award for Best Writing and Contribution
Dr. Maia Love’s Bio:
Dr. Maia Love is a practicing psychiatrist in Canada. Well being, longevity and a balanced lifestyle have been passions of hers for many years. Originally trained in ballet and modern dance in a degree at the Simon Fraser School for the Contemporary Arts, and in a second degree in Physics and Biology at the University of British Columbia, she later completed her medical training and then five year psychiatric residency program in British Columbia, Canada. She is board certified and has additional certifications in mindfulness, addiction, yoga and meditation. Much of her clinical work has been trauma informed, initially working with people from all walks of life, and then gradually growing into a private practice specifically working with public safety personnel, health care providers, and high level executives. Her wellness and educational programs have evolved over the last ten or more years to help people support lifestyles that prevent burnout in the face of stress and vicarious trauma. She has won awards for her writing for medical journals and her contribution to psychiatric research.
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 career in psychiatry evolved from a desire to live a truly vibrant life. At a young age, I personally learned about the mysteries of life and death through a near death experience and several losses, as well as being exposed to many different cultures and how they create meaning in life. I thus became deeply curious about how to live a meaningful life. I have studied how to achieve a vital state of being and true physical health – how to create an energized body, an emotional state of love, strength, kindness and generosity, a balanced nervous system with an intelligent and agile brain, and a deep knowing of one’s authentic expansive purpose. I love seeing people come to life – their eyes shining, their expressions animated, as they tap into their true passion. Like everyone, challenging life experiences have led me to understand the universality of human pain and suffering, yet the wisdom, strength and beauty that can meet and transmute pain. I recently read a passage on the beauty of the oyster that designs the pearl. What was once an irritant to the oyster, first causes the oyster to create a luminescent lining. Then, layer upon layer, this reaction to pain develops into a rare and unique pearl. In the yoga tradition, a god named Shiva takes poison and turns it into nectar. These biological and mythic metaphors speak to our capacity to take pain and, instead of having ongoing suffering, use this pain to metabolize transformation. Like the oyster, we can layer on skill after skill until what was once painful becomes a pearl of intelligence. We thus develop a mastery with which to face the darkness in our lives.
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?
When challenging events have impacted myself emotionally and morally, this has led me to seek greater understanding, both of myself and of others. Exploring the range of emotions in my arts training, I created works on how to restore calm where there had been chaos, and uplift from despair. As I moved into psychiatry and worked with people individually or in groups, I learned an even broader emotional range as I listened to people’s stories. Then, I noticed more subtle emotional states while observing the power of mindfulness to heal. I have felt honoured to be privileged to hear people’s truths, and in this way I feel like a journalist of the heart. I believe that for true healing, the brilliance of each individual soul needs to be called forth so that the person has a strength to face emotional challenges, a light to shine into the darkness. In this way, my work then becomes that of a soul whisperer. In each person, I see the struggles of humanity. Which of us has not felt loss? Which of us has not felt despair? Which of us has not felt deep fear and anxiety? These experiences are those of a shared common humanity. From these experiences, we can uncover our brilliance and then work towards creating a better world. I believe that we are all in this together, so that there is no ‘us versus them’, there are simply people in different roles trying to solve the problems that cause suffering and bring more and more light into the world by ideally unveiling the brilliance within each individual, and within our connections to each other.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on practicing Integrative Psychiatry, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
Integrative psychiatry gradually evolved for me over time. Motivated by a curiosity about what it means to live one precious human life, I learned from many different healing modalities before I entered medical training, so my deep dive into the realm of the brain and behaviour during psychiatric training was coloured by other teachings. As I love to feel vibrant, adaptable, agile and calm, the integrative practices that have supported me to evolve also informed my integrative and holistic practice, where I focus on skill building to develop a self-sustaining approach to emotional challenges. I am passionate about building a profound biological health. This can be created with a lifestyle design informed by the science of: healthy eating for mind and mood, exercise, natural settings, adequate vitamins and minerals, excellent sleep habits, understanding the brain as one might an engine or a horse so that it can be well run, connecting with others in a beautiful way informed by the science of the electromagnetic heart, and asking the deeper questions about why you are here, and what you would like to create with your one precious life. Given my athletic background in ballet, modern dance and gymnastics, I have recognized that a profound biological health is developed both through a physical practice and an athletic approach to a meditation practice. So, in my talks and with my clients, I train an athletic approach to the emotions and mind for greater emotional intelligence and well being.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
In my wellness services, I offer education on lifestyle intervention, neuroscience and neuroanatomy education, meditation and yoga for burnout prevention and recovery. During talks, workshops and retreats, I teach skills and tools for manifesting a dream of well being into a measurable physical reality. I developed a technique called FutureSelf ™ that, after a process of deep relaxation, allows for a vision of an ideal future self. Like an inner vision quest, this technique is backed by the science that, when we have a positive vision of the future, we now carry that memory of that vision in our subconscious, leading to more optimism, positivity and resilience. I also, many years ago, developed a method called The Reset Method ™ that can bring a person back to a sense of their true self. In my interest to support greater well being and resilience, I have also developed wellness programs for corporations. I recently developed an online program to help staff create resilience in the face of vicarious trauma. I am currently creating an online platform for individuals to enhance well being through a blend of neuroscience with ancient techniques of yoga and meditation. In my private psychotherapy practice, I use a range of techniques from psychodynamic psychotherapy to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to more classic cognitive behavioural therapy. In therapy, I focus on rebalancing the nervous system through a specific kind of mindfulness informed by cutting edge research in neuroimaging, trauma research, psychotherapy and consciousness research.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
People have been really enthusiastic. Clients feel like they get their life back. They get into better physical shape. They learn how to meet stress and anxiety with specific tools custom made to how they view the world, and that play to their strengths. They mend their intimate relationships. People find their true purpose which allows for more success and abundance. The aspects of life that can feel like a living hell when people are suffering, start to dissolve. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder fade. Many clients say that they are very grateful as they now have the tools to manage emotional challenges in their lives. People have spoken to my deep compassion and kindness. Residents and medical students, as well as clients, have spoken to a deep feeling of calm when they are in my presence, saying that I have a very zen space that is enjoyable to be around. To me this proves that, in addition to the approach, it matters how I cultivate my personal emotional and mental space, so that I show up with an integrity that impacts how I share my holistic approach. Colleagues have also reacted with curiosity as to whether I might evolve a new form of psychotherapy connected to yoga, specifically to Yoga Nidra. Colleagues have been incredibly and beautifully supportive, and I have been welcomed to speak at several conferences, summits and corporations. I am deeply grateful for, and humbled by, the appreciation.