With Friends Like These…

fewer pharmaceutical solutions and more personal solutions—as in people, and friends in particular.

Honestly, I believe that many of us need fewer pharmaceutical solutions and more personal solutions—as in people, and friends in particular. Yes, a certain portion of the population needs professional care, but I am totally convinced that the vast majority of us simply need friends who care about us to take the time to listen.

Think of what most counselors do. Even if you haven’t been to one, you’ve seen movies. The patient sits on the comfy chair (or the stereotypical couch) and talks about his or her problems. The counselor listens, makes appropriate active-listening comments, and then asks questions. The patient thinks it over, answers, talks some more, and the cycle repeats. I’ve seen some stats that indicate many modern counseling models have patients speaking as much as 90% of the time, with the professional saying very little.

What’s going on here? In some cases, it seems as though most of what happens is that the patient gets stuff off his chest that he isn’t telling to anyone else. Take a moment and ask yourself, when is the last time you were truly open and vulnerable in a discussion with a friend where you shared what’s on your heart? When’s the last time you played the listener while someone shared like this with you? If you’re like me, I bet it’s been far too long.

In an era where we’re supposedly more connected than ever before, all too often our connection is a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s hard to dig into your deepest heart, motives, fears, and dreams on FaceBook!

The stats of Americans on pharmaceutical treatments for depression and seeking professional help continue to do nothing but rise. And again, there are times this is totally valid, warranted, and vital—I’m not in any way disparaging this type of care or those who need it. I’m very glad it exists! But I wonder…of the people seeking these solutions, how many simply need a good, listening friend or two? How many of us just want someone who will listen when we’re hurting, depressed, or afraid? Without getting into researched stats, I can tell you what my gut tells me: most of us don’t need to pay for a professional, we need to talk meaningfully with a friend.

In these blogs, I talk a lot about Functional Medicine, the state of healthcare, nutrition, exercise, and a whole lot more. But I believe we are beings with three parts—a body, a mind, and a spirit. Just like my patients aren’t a walking set of symptoms for me to puzzle out, they’re also emotional, spiritual beings who have needs that go far beyond the physical.

I’ve prescribed antidepressants and other pharmaceutical treatments for many patients over the years, but I hate simply throwing drugs at any problem—especially one as sensitive and variable as mental and emotional health. Human beings have deep, intricate, and highly individualized needs, and you can’t simply write a script and expect to solve their problems with what’s in a bottle.

But if the solution isn’t on a prescription pad, where is it? I speak to many patients about their moods, depression, and related problems, and it’s incredibly important for me as a healthcare practitioner to know when someone needs more services than I can offer in a wellness visit.

I am obviously not a mental health professional, but I’ve done clinicals that taught me many of the basics. We all recognize that patients who’s experiencing suicidal thoughts or seems highly likely to hurt others needs to be referred to more help immediately. Lives can hang in the balance, and some of these cases can very clear cut. But what about all the gray areas? That’s why I’m taking the time to talk about these subjects with you. Let me know what you think!