Expert Profile - Richard Brown
Dr. Richard Brown
Dr. Richard Brown’s Bio:
Dr. Brown co-founded Breath-Body-Mind with Dr. Patricia Gerbarg. A certified teacher of Aikido (4th Dan), yoga, Qigong, and meditation, he provides Breath-Body-Mind workshops to active duty military, veterans, healthcare professionals, mass disaster survivors, first responders, school teachers, and patients with psychiatric and medical conditions. Dr. Brown uses his unique fusion of ancient warrior techniques and modern medicine to heal physical, psychological, and traumatic brain injuries, dissolve pain, and optimize cardio-respiratory fitness. Co-author of over 100 scientific articles, chapters and books, including and The Healing Power of the Breath (2012), he co-edited with Dr. Gerbarg and Dr. Philip Muskin, Complementary and Integrative Treatments in Psychiatric Practice (American Psychiatric Association Publishing 2017). His neurophysiological theory exploring effects of breathing practices in treating anxiety, depression, PTSD and stress-related medical conditions has been validated in clinical trials. He is Eric Kussin’s personal Integrative Psychiatrist, and Eric credits him as THE practitioner who put him on the path toward healing.
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 father was a military officer with a deep intuitive understanding of individuals and groups and bringing out the best in them. My mother and grandmother were master NYC teachers who brought the best out in their pupils whether disabled, gifted, or “normal”. Discussions and books at home led to understanding human beings more deeply. From 5-8 years old, we lived in Germany. I met people from many countries and learned to attend to their emotions, body language, and culture. My father’s father was a master mushroom healer in the Appalachians of Kentucky. I observed him healing in his mushroom clinic as a boy. Soon after, visiting my sister in Wyoming for many summers, I saw medicine men healing with herbs, singing, drumming, dancing, sweat lodge meditation.
By the age of 16 years when asked to write an essay on what I would be in life, I wrote I would be an herbal psychopharmacologist. No one knew what that was at the time.
As an intern in NYC, I developed a severe back disc problem. I chose not to do extensive surgery or high dose steroids, but acupuncture. The latter was rapidly effective and very inexpensive with no side effects.
A separate thread was being beaten up by gangs of Neo-Nazi white supremacists in 5th and 6th grade. I was only saved by an older friend who had learned some martial arts. In 9th grade I began learning first judo/jiu-jitsu, then later karate, then aikido from different masters. Breathwork and meditation were required.
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?
These practices have become a central part of how I empower people to be the best they can be. The quality of our minds determines the quality of our lives, but mind-body-spirit must be in balance.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on practicing Integrative Psychiatry, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
When I began in psychiatry, a revolution had begun to shift the emphasis from psychoanalytic therapy to psychopharmacology, biology, and chemistry in this exciting specialty. I established myself as a physician, a clinical researcher, and a teacher.
Then I began to introduce complementary approaches, along with good conventional approaches. Many consumers have wanted more than pills. They need ways to heal, to be empowered, often in a more natural way. Initially, academic doctors and pharmaceutical companies fought hard against a more holistic approach. However, younger doctors, more women doctors are more open to this approach. Acceptance has grown in the last several years.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
My wife (also an Integrative Psychiatrist) and I are committed to teaching consumers how to use herbs, nutrients, mind/body practices alone, or in combination with the best biological and psychotherapeutic approaches to achieve the best results.
Using the Healing Power of Groups to heal our damaged minds and world is a particularly different aspect of our approach.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
Some patients will only accept conventional approaches. A few will only accept an alternative. Most will accept what works with the least side effects and empowers them to achieve their dreams and play a central role in their recovery.