Even though we recognize that physiological processes hugely influence cognition, emotion, and behavior, too many therapists still tend to practice as if treatment should focus entirely on the mind, says functional medicine psychiatrist Robert Hedaya. There’s a need to analyze the body as well as practice traditional psychotherapy, he says. “Learn to keep your ears open to nutritional, bodily, or energy complaints,” he explains. “Therapists can do a tremendous amount if they just expand their thinking.”

In this interview with Networker Editor Rich Simon, Hedaya explains how therapists can save their clients time, stress, and money by educating themselves about nutrition and hormones, and proposing alternatives to medication such as diet changes and meditation.

As Hedaya notes, a comprehensive physiological evaluation is often needed before determining if a client’s issues are purely psychological or if a medication trial is needed. “Antidepressants have a role in clinical practice, but they are grossly over-utilized,” he says. “We rely on drugs as a solution rather than deal with root causes of illness, and the pills are generally not as effective as we would be led to believe by the pharmaceutical companies.”

Psychopharmacology is just one tool in our toolbox. Whether you’re working with clients opposed to taking medication, unresponsive to it, or you’re just curious about alternative interventions, helping your client change lifestyle habits that affect the body may be the right choice for you. Take a look at some of our other articles on psychotherapy and the body, below, and let us know what you think.

Rich Simon

Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day. 

Robert Hedaya

Robert J. Hedaya, MD, DFAPA, is often referred to as the “thinking person’s doctor” because of his comprehensive data-driven approach to mental illness. A diversely trained and experienced psychiatrist, he is on the faculty of the Institute of Functional Medicine and is a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University. Dr. Hedaya is the author of Understanding Biological Psychiatry, The Antidepressant Survival Program: How to Beat the Side Effects and Enhance the Benefits of Your Medication, and Depression: Advancing the Treatment Paradigm, as well as a chapter in the Textbook of Functional Medicine. He makes frequent presentations across the country, and has frequently been an expert consultant on Fox TV as well as appearing on the Today Show, CBS Evening News, 20/20, MSNBC, and CNN.