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Mental Health Practitioner: Tyler Woods, Ph.D

Cathy Sivak, NaturopathicSchools.com Contributing Writer

Her Career

What factors in your social services career drove you to return to school to pursue mental healthcare opportunities outside of traditional western medicine?

I discovered that social services think mono-dimensionally. They do not encompass the mind-body-spirit connection, and humans are multi-dimensional by nature. I burned out after realizing that nothing really changes in social services.

Tell us about your experiences during your career shifts from social services to psychotherapist to holistic mental health practitioner. What led you to give up your clinic work to concentrate on your private practice, the Mindhance Wellness Clinic?

So many people in the field seemed more concerned about malpractice suits than client care. Therapists were talking about how to protect themselves rather than how to help their clients. They were stressing about how to please the behavioral health board and working with clients as if they were very fragile because of the fear of getting sued.

I once worked at a clinic with a client who was depressed and felt lost spiritually and who did not want to go on drug therapy. I suggested Omega fatty 3, and we talked about ways in which the client could get in touch with the spiritual self. The client called the clinic to thank me, and my boss called me to say, “You cannot suggest alternatives to our clients.” I knew at that point that I had to leave the field. I retired as a psychotherapist and put my Ph.D. to use.

Who (or what) are the biggest inspirations for your career?

I facilitate the Survivors of Suicide group. It is a group for people who have lost a loved one to suicide. Several people told stories of their loved ones’ depression, and how traditional drugs made things worse. One survivor said to the group, “if only they would have talked to him instead of drugging him.” That story had such an impact on me.

But my biggest inspiration came from a friend of mine who was bi-polar. Her psychiatrist had her on nineteen different medications. She had tarda dyskinesia, her speech was impaired and the quality of her life was horrible. Each time we talked, her psychiatrist had changed her medications. One day she called and said she was feeling a little better; once again her medications had been changed. A few days later, I received a call that my friend had committed suicide. She had used her newest medication to accomplish this action. She remains my biggest inspiration.

What do you enjoy most about your holistic role in patient care?

This is simple. Watching them get better and heal.

What unique challenges and rewards come from working with your patients in an independent holistic care setting? With your facilitation of the Southern Arizona Survivors of Suicide group?

There is a great deal of challenge working in an independent setting because it is just that, independent. With that said, the rewards are wonderful. I can pick and choose the modalities that best suit the people I work with. I do not have to follow the guidelines of some clinical director. I can allow and encourage the client help direct their own care and listen to their feedback. Many times, the client just needs to be heard.

With Survivors of Suicide, well, mainly the rewards are sharing with these people that grief and loss is holistic period. It encompasses the mind body and spirit and that the journey is about looking for the possibilities through tragedy. Many Survivors of Suicide have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because they found their loved one’s body. Medication is often used to treat PTSD. Approaching PTSD holistically helps the survivors realize they have a variety of options available to treat their PTSD symptoms such as meditation, guided imagery, certain herbs for sleep, and amino acids for anxiety and stress. Survivors like knowing they have a choice because when it comes to losing a loved one to suicide, their choice in the matter had been taken from them.

What are some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future?

A goal I am currently working on is starting a general wellness program and incorporating it into the mental health system. If people only realized that what we eat impacts depression, that exercise aids in anxiety and depression, and that self-confidence and self-esteem decrease mental health issues. In our current mental health system, we treat and street. We drug people. The government gives them money to live on, and the psychiatrist instructs them to come back every three months for a med check. No one teaches these people proper diet. No one tells these people that exercise is simple and helpful. No one allows people in the mental health system the chance to achieve overall wellness. So my current goal is to finish writing the wellness program and then try to incorporate it into existing mental health programs. Funding seems to be the real issue, so who knows what will happen, but it is a goal.

I also want to write a book. I am in the middle of a book now, but it has nothing to do with holistic health. It is actually a comedy about being born deaf and then getting my hearing back and learning how to be a real person in a hearing world. It�s actually quite funny. Eventually, I want to write a book about holistic mental health. I believe holistic mental health is all about choice.


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