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Integrative Psychiatry

Addiction, Trauma and Spirituality by Gabor Maté, MD

By January 19, 2021No Comments

Trauma is not what happens to us, but what happens inside of us. Check out this video with Dr. Gabor Maté as he talks about Addiction, Trauma and Spirituality.


Now, I will not spend too much time on a socially accepted view, except to dismiss it. And it’s, by and large based on the idea that addiction is a choice that people are choosing behaviors that are inimical to their health and socially retrograde.

Addiction is not a choice, it is a disease

It’s not a matter of choice. It’s absolute nonsense to say so.

So, let’s just be done with the choice idea, except that the whole legal system is based on it, which immensely complicates our work, because our clients are forever taken to court, under the assumption that they’ve chosen behaviors that are against the law, and for which they should be punished and that whole punishment modality immensely complicates. In fact, undermines the therapeutic work so much for the choice idea.

Now, the medical perspective and addiction is that it’s a brain disease. So, the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a chronic primary brain disorder, disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. And according to them, genetic factors account for about half of the likelihood that individual develop addiction is a fundamentally, it’s a largely genetically programmed propensity, that then develops into a chronic brain disease. So basically, what we’re talking about here is addiction is a neurological disease of the brain, largely potentiated by genetic factors.

Different layers of Addiction

One way to look at addictions then, and I’m looking at it from different layers. So, first of all, is an attempt to solve a life problem on a second level as actually self-medication of what we call concurrent conditions. So, if you deal with a population of stimulant addicts, and if you don’t screen them for lifelong ADHD, you’re just missing a big clue about the source of their addiction.

Trauma is not what happens to us, but what happens inside of us

Everything is said here the way at least if I don’t, if I’m not over interpreting it, the lack of a positive self-image, the lack of excitement, vitality, the presence of pain and threats, the lack of sufficient pleasure. These are trauma imprints.

Trauma is not what happens to us but what happens inside of us as a result of what happens to us, and that trauma is manifested in a disconnection from self, all of which these qualities that you folks brought up, represent as a disconnection from yourself.

Addiction is a response to trauma, and it’s an attempt to solve a life problem. It’s not the primary problem is the secondary problem. And ultimately, we have to address the primary problem to really help people recover from addiction.

Frederick Barrett is a cognitive neuroscientist with training in behavioral pharmacology, and the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Dr. Barrett has been conducting psychedelic research at Johns Hopkins University since 2013, and his research in healthy participants and in patients with mood and substance use disorders focuses on the psychological and neurological mechanisms underlying the enduring therapeutic and other effects of psychedelic drugs. In 2017, he received an NIH “R03” grant as Principal Investigator to investigate biological mechanisms of psilocybin effects, the first federally funded research since the 1970s administering a classic psychedelic to people with psychedelic effects as the primary focus. He has developed measures of subjective effects of psychedelic drugs, and has also published first-in-human studies characterizing the acute and enduring effects of psilocybin on the brain. He is currently leading clinical trials to investigate the use of psilocybin to treat patients with major depressive disorder and co-occurring alcohol use disorder, and he is leading a number of ongoing studies aimed at better understanding the psychological, biological, and neural mechanisms underlying therapeutic efficacy of psychedelic drugs.

Will Van Derveer, MD is co-founder of Integrative Psychiatry Institute (IPI), along with friend and colleague Keith Kurlander, MA. He co-created IPI as an expression of what he stands for. First, that anyone can heal, and second that we medical providers must embrace our own healing journeys in order to fully command our potency as healers.

Dr. Van Derveer spent the last 20 years innovating and testing a comprehensive approach to addressing psychiatric challenges which transcends the conventional model he learned in medical school at Vanderbilt University and residency at University of Colorado, while deeply engaging his own healing path.

He founded the Integrative Psychiatric Healing Center in in 2001 in Boulder, CO, where he currently practices. Dr. Van Derveer regards unresolved emotional trauma as the most significant root cause of psychiatric symptoms in integrative psychiatry practice, along with gut issues, hormone imbalances, inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and other functional medicine challenges. He is trained in Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, Internal Family Systems, and other psychotherapy techniques. His current clinical passion is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, which he mentors interested doctors in providing. An avid meditator, he has been a meditation instructor since 2004.

For the past several years Dr. Van Derveer has taught psychiatrists and other psychiatric providers integrative psychiatry in a number of settings, including course directing the CU psychiatry residents’ course as well as with Scott Shannon and Janet Settle at the Psychiatry MasterClass. In addition to his clinical work and teaching, he was co-investigator in 2016 a Phase II randomized clinical trial, sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). He continues to support this protocol, now in a Phase III clinical trial under break-through designation by FDA.

Dr. Van Derveer is a diplomate of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine (ABoIHM) since 2013, and he was board certified in the first wave of diplomates of the new American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABIM) in 2016.