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Mental Health Practitioners Slowly Turning to Holistic Practices

Published: Tuesday, July 06, 2010, By Brie Zeltner, The Plain Dealer

Mental health care in Northeast Ohio is opening its doors, albeit slowly, to an integrative way of practicing medicine, blending traditional medicine with holistic therapies.

Until now, complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, for mental health care has been offered in only isolated pockets. Two recent changes signal a shift locally: A private-practice psychiatrist in Fairlawn recently opened a full-service integrative wellness center, and the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine has added staff to offer holistic psychotherapy.

Dr. Lynn Klimo, who had been practicing psychiatry with Summa Health System in Akron since 2006, decided to strike out on her own and launch an integrative practice seven weeks ago.

She had been planning a holistic practice for a long time, and she took two years after her residency at Summa to study functional medicine -- a patient-centered practice that focuses on the fundamental causes of illness rather than symptoms.
"This has been my dream for years," she says, having realized that treating mental illness with medication alone, or even a combination of medication and talk therapy, wasn't enough for many of her patients.

Complementary and alternative methods have been used in a variety of specialties over the years, from cancer to pain management. Klimo's private practice introduces the method to mental-health issues. Her Center for Integrative Psychiatry and Wellness, includes another psychiatrist, an acupuncturist, an addiction-recovery specialist, an energy medicine practitioner and reiki master, clinical counselors, a social worker, a neuromuscular therapist and a nutrition counselor. The team now works from a temporary space in Akron but will move into a permanent suite of offices in August. Klimo plans to add a family medicine doctor to her practice in the future.

About two-thirds of Klimo's patients followed her to the new practice, even though she no longer bills insurance for her services. She says the fee-for-service model has allowed her to practice the type of medicine she knows her patients deserve.

"I get to do what's right for the patient without having to worry about the politics," she says. "So if I need an hour with the patient, I can be there an hour."

None of her patients has balked at the new system, she says, because the practice places value on wellness and prevention, like most others in integrative medicine. The belief is that the cost of treating people with this kind of medicine is much lower over time.

"When you're in the illness model, you make someone dependent on you, where you have to come back every week or month for your medication," she says. "We have an up-front cost where you come in, you get balanced, and then essentially you get to go and live your life."

Klimo says that few psychiatrists in the area have embraced the holistic model. Overcoming the barriers to practice this way is even more difficult at large institutions where old habits die hard, she says.

University Hospitals has psychiatric and psychological services in many departments, and in the department of obstetrics and gynecology for two decades. Relaxation methods, acupuncture, nutrition and physical therapy are regularly incorporated into women's and cancer care, says Dr. Robert Ronis, chairman of the department of psychiatry.

Ronis says that many others in the hospital system, including a few psychiatrists, use CAM methods. They tend to be in isolated pockets, but he sees that changing in the future.

CAM "is now becoming a little more popularized and is, perhaps, coming out of the closet," he says. "I think at one time, the lay perception would be that this was fringe kind of stuff. Now it's being recognized as very effective, and in some ways safer than the medications that we often end up using."

The Cleveland Clinic has led the expansion of evidence-based holistic practices since it opened the Center for Integrative Medicine in 2001.

In May, the Center welcomed its first holistic psychotherapist, Zivia Bairey, to its staff of 15 physicians, acupuncturists, yoga and reiki practitioners, naturopaths, mind/body coaches and massage therapists.

Bairey, who arrived in Cleveland from a private practice in New Rochelle, N.Y., seven months ago, began exploring complementary and alternative treatment methods when she was treated for a pituitary gland disorder in 1989 and then breast cancer in 2004.

"I always felt that just healing the body was not cutting it," she says. "I began to ask myself, 'What's missing?'"

After getting certified in hypnosis, she studied at the Wellness Institute in Seattle, which offers training in hypnosis, breath work, meditation and energy healing.

She says the best thing about treating patients with these methods is they often make breakthroughs quickly.
"In three or four minutes, people can really access the core event that brought them to a certain belief, or the source of an illness," she says.

Bairey also uses elements of transpersonal psychology, which focuses on exceptional human abilities, the nature and meaning of spiritual experiences and non-ordinary states of consciousness (such as dreaming).

"I was very scared of all this weird stuff before I got into it, but I'm finding that clients are finding this to be very healing, and it's making sense," she says. "A lot of times people are seeking something that will fulfill them spiritually, and we do a lot of work on that in our sessions."

In September, Bairey will be starting a weight-management program that uses a Zen Buddhist approach to address the emotional and spiritual sides of overeating.

"This won't just be about losing weight, or the technicalities of how to eat," she says. The goal is for participants to understand what is causing their weight problems.

Getting to the root of any illness, whether it is mental or physical, is the key to healing in the holistic model.
And healing what really ails you may be the best preventive medicine there is.

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