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Singing in the Waiting Room

Dr. Mona Gupta, a pre-eminent Raleigh psychiatrist, agrees wholeheartedly that there are many approaches to health and healing.

Dr. Gupta

“For example,” she says with a smile, “in our office we play music, and for setting a mood, it is so effective. I’ve gone to so many other offices, of all kinds, where they play elevator music. But when people come to us, they’re in a psychiatric office, and when patients hear a fairly rapid, upbeat type of music, it tends to transport them psychologically to a different place.

“Often, we play music from the ’90s—and people in our waiting room will sing along with the beat and the lyrics. It seems certain to me to have therapeutic benefit. The message is, ‘Life is short, be happy,’ It’s uplifting for both patient and provider.”

She points out that there are a great many highly effective, non-medical approaches to support our mental and physical health. “Yoga for some people, for example, is hugely beneficial,” she says, and she is speaking from personal experience.

“And sometimes it’s difficult to get to a yoga class or have a regular teacher. So, I simply advise my patients who are so inclined to go to You Tube and look up ‘yoga for anxiety.’ That will produce a great variety of 10-minute yoga workouts. What I find—for myself and many of my clients—is that when you start the yoga sun salutation, you may feel stressed, and at the end of that activity you are likely to be in a different, more relaxed place. For many, there’s a sense of relief and letting go of stress. Our computers and a variety of apps can be therapeutic in many ways, including leading us in guided meditation. For many of us, it’s really difficult to just start mediating. Now there are apps and computer programs that can be immensely helpful in guiding the meditative process—another approach to healing.”

Relieving Anxiety

Artistic expression is an example of a practice that can be highly therapeutic, notes Dr. Gupta. “I’ve had a patient for some time who was suffering with extreme anxiety. She didn’t want to leave her house, hated her job but went to work every day and did her level best to perform at a high level.

“She is young—only now in her mid-twenties—single, beautiful, and anxious. She loves to exercise, to use her body. But her problem is that she either exercises excessively, or not at all. She works too hard at her job or not at all. She is lacking balance in many parts of her life.

“I engaged her in conversations about how she could develop more balance in her life. Eventually she agreed to pick up a brush and put paint on canvas. It was transformational. And she has real talent! Painting, she told me later, was the only time in her life that she could be totally engaged and not think about anything else. She said, ‘When I paint, I’m not worried about work or about how much I weigh. I’m just totally immersed in what I’m creating. That has really changed my life.’ And the change has sharply altered our professional relationship. She no longer needs medications to help her sleep. She understands the concept of balance more deeply, and that is becoming quite evident in all parts of her life.”

Peace and Balance

In her own demeanor, and in her office setting, Dr. Gupta strives to create an ambience of peace and balance. “People like going to certain doctors because they feel authentically listened to,” she says. “That certainly is part of the art of healing that we practice here. Patients often tell me that they like coming to our office because it is a calm and peaceful environment, and they feel a sense of deep personal connection.

“If someone comes to me because they are having trouble sleeping, I don’t simply say ‘Here’s a medication that will help.’ Scientifically, that medicine may be very appropriate for the patient, to address a chemical imbalance. But I want to understand the cause of the sleep problem. What is going on in their life? Are they exercising? Are they taking care of themselves in other ways? Are they working too much? Are they balancing all parts of their life? Do they give themselves permission to play?

“I find myself very frequently encouraging people to find hobbies to help heal their hurts, beyond what we can offer in medicine and therapy. It’s not an approach I was taught in medical school, but after more than a decade of listening to and working with people who are in pain, and out of balance in some part of their lives, I often find that creative play that people truly love is powerful therapy.

“This connects to my observation that people who have some kind of psychiatric disorder are often—very often—unusually creative. They’re naturally good in sports or dancing or art or music. Several of my patients are passionate about rugby. This is a creative profile that fits perhaps eight out of every ten patients I work with. And without exception, when they are engaged in this activity of choice, all of their stresses and troubles and depression melt away. Such activities, it seems, give us that natural endorphin boost that we all are seeking. I talk with many of my patients about that sensation a good deal. And when they’re experiencing their creative high, they uniformly say they are feeling wonderful.”

Healing Path

The daughter of two physicians—her father is a gastroenterologist, her mother a psychiatrist—Dr. Gupta felt destined at an early age to be in the healing arts.

She went to Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, in Florida, emerging as an osteopathic physician. “It’s true that osteopaths emphasize the importance of the musculoskeletal system, holistic medicine, proper nutrition, and environmental factors in maintaining good health,” she notes. “Osteopaths are known for using a hands-on approach to medicine and frequently manipulate or palpate as part of diagnosis and treatment.”

After her Nova training, Dr. Gupta completed her four-year residency in psychiatry at the Baptist Medical Center at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC.

Dr. Gupta has an eclectic practice, working with adolescents and adults no matter the nature of their health issues. “I work with such challenging problems as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia to scores of people who are challenged by events in their lives. I really do empathize with patients who are dealing with such every-day issues as anxiety, questions of self-image, depression and perhaps health challenges. Every one of us has a period in our lives when we are challenged and need support and guidance.”

Dr. Gupta has a network of counselors and psychotherapists who are well-qualified to work with clients who need on-going support. “I work with professionals who are very adept with PTSD patients, for example, and others who are excellent marriage counselors and therapists. It’s quite remarkable how often a rocky marriage is the root cause of depression and anxiety.”