New Frontiers of Psychotherapy

unknownOn March 13th, the Family Therapy Institute of Santa Barbara sponsored a workshop with nationally known child psychiatrist Scott Shannon, M.D., entitled The Future of Psychotherapy: New Frontiers in Complementary & Alternative Treatments for Kids, Teens, & Families. The seventy plus attendees were riveted by the wealth of experience and information Shannon packed into three short hours. Many, including the whole FTI staff, have already requested further training.

A Challenge to Traditional Psychiatry

images-2Scott’s presentation began by laying out many fundamental assumptions underlying traditional psychiatry, and then he proceeded to challenge them, one by one. At every step of the way, he backed up his positions with dozens of research studies. First, he debunked the theory that mood disorders are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. He explained that no neuroscientist of any stature holds to that view any more.

Unknown-2Next, he showed how our current diagnostic system (yes, the esteemed DSM-5) is wildly unreliable and not useful in formulating treatment plans. The most provocative (even shocking to many) part of his presentation was the abundant evidence questioning how, for the majority of patients, the long-term use of psychiatric medications is neither as safe nor as effective as approaches using alternative treatment strategies.

Unknown-1Due to selective publication by drug companies, discovered through the Freedom of Information Act, Dr. Shannon presented the results from studies NOT published, leaving the public—and many or most mental health professionals—with only the data showing positive effects. The screened-out studies on commonly prescribed antipsychotics, antidepressants, tranquilizers, etc., showed either little or only temporary effectiveness when compared to placebos OR showed how most patients stopped taking the recommended drugs before the research was completed due to their negative side effects.

images-5Alternative Treatments Can Be Safe AND Effective

The last myth Dr. Shannon challenged was that treatments other than psychotropic meds have not been validated by research. He discussed some promising effective alternatives, (yes, double-blind, evidence-based), using numerous herbs, nutrients, vitamins and nutritional approaches to depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia—safer treatments with fewer troublesome side effects.He included procedures using family therapy, parent training, sleep, exercise, EMDR, various body psychotherapies, mindfulness approaches, neurofeedback, and on and on.

UnknownShannon did not throw the baby out with the bath water—he acknowledged that he still prescribes medication and sees its helpfulness, particularly in more severe cases. But, at the same time, he offered numerous case examples of complicated patients who were only helped when their problems were addressed holistically—body, mind and spirit.

We are constantly reminded—and told it is what is ethical–to refer patients with depression and anxiety to psychiatrists. If the vast majority of physicians are still relying solely on the research supported by drug companies, are we REALLY doing what is in our clients’ best interests? Or is there something wrong with this picture?

Videotape of Workshop Available!

2e7f578For those of you who missed this incredible workshop, you can watch it on DVD’s available for self-study (3 CEU’s) via You can be certain that we will do our best to bring Scott Shannon back to Santa Barbara again. Attendees’ surveys requested a workshop dedicated to alternative approaches to ADHD as well as other innovative approaches. We hope to see more psychotherapists exploring the new frontiers with us!




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