By Jerry Morris, PsyD, MsPharm, MBA

MB (Marc Braman, MD, MPH):
Welcome to our introduction to Lifestyle Medicine psychology. Dr. Morris, welcome. Very good to have you with us.

JM (Jerry Morris, PsyD, MsPharm, MBA):
Marc, I’m very excited about being here in this area of healthcare.

Let’s jump right in and get straight to the heart of things. The biggest issue with Lifestyle Medicine is that we do differently than we know we should. I like to say that the weight of evidence is that 70% or more of lifestyle medicine is really psychology. Everyone knows they shouldn’t smoke, they should eat more fruits and veggies, they should avoid fast food, and so forth. But fast food restaurants keep popping up all over the place. We sit on our couches instead of going for a jog and so forth. So our biggest problem is in our heads but we don’t even know what to call this thing, and it’s so confusing out there in media-land. There is behavioral health, psychology, health psychology, health coaching. What should we call this really important field or component of lifestyle medicine? Would lifestyle medicine psychology perhaps be the best term or label for this?

Yeah, I really like that, Marc, because it fits with what’s happening in both physicians and the psychologists who are interested in this area. We are getting increasingly close in studying the body, mind, brain and personality in an integrated fashion and so, that captures that concept very well and increasingly. Now, we have options with the new Affordable Care Act and the evolution of the science to all work together in similar primary care and hospital settings to advance the long-term health of patients and not just to do short-term health interventions.

So, how is this lifestyle medicine psychology different from what we typically think of when we think of mental health or psychology or psychiatry? Laying on a couch, seeing a shrink, or is it primarily pills and procedures, or is it something else?

Well, that’s pretty exciting too, Marc. One of my jobs as a consulting medical staff member in a local hospital and four primary care centers, is to run programs where we not only treat the traditional mental health problems and substance abuse problems, but I go actually into the primary care physicians offices and exam rooms and do 15-minute behavioral and motivational interventions to coordinate the long-term health adaptation and benefits as the physician is dealing with some of the short-range problems. So, it’s pretty exciting new era. And actually, in the Affordable Care Act, they have funded some pilot grants and projects which I’m involved in in healthcare homes to show how effective this is and how it works.

Would you agree that the primary organ we’re treating in lifestyle medicine is really not the foot or the hand or the stomach even, but is really the mind or the brain?

I most certainly agree and we’ll do some later programs on the brain, the personality, and the mind and how they’re interrelated and have to have interventions at all levels to be successful.

So what is the take home, Dr. Morris? Can you give us a brief recap?

Well, pretty exciting two take homes I would emphasize. One, in past years, we set up a healthcare delivery system that was based on limited science and basically science that was focused on a few disorders. There’s been an explosion of the science and the ability to validate techniques, and now we have to integrate that great body of science that tells us that we can affect longevity, well-being, we can affect change in areas where previously we didn’t understand we could. The second take home point is that now there are tried and tested validated technologies that if we have the right kind of staffing and philosophy and configuration in healthcare, we can transfer these technologies by training and interventions to the patient that can affect their overall well-being, health lifestyle, and some of the major diseases that have been so expensive to treat in our system.

Excellent. And in the future, we’re going to be getting into many very interesting and exciting topics. I know I’m really looking forward to them. Stress, relationships, motivation, how placebo effect is bigger than medication effects most of the time. Serious mental illness that actually doesn’t work how we thought and there’s actually other options for and so forth. Dr. Morris, thank you so much and until next time.

Glad to see you, Marc. Bye-bye.

Buddaha’s Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation. Davidson, R. J, & Lutz, A. (2008). IEEE Signal Process Mag. Jan 1, 25(1): 174-176.

Stress in the Wild. Sapolsky, Robert M. (1990). Scientific American. 262. 106–113.

Three Seductive Ideas. Kagen, J. (1995). Cambridge Press, Cambridge Mass.

Jerry Morris, PsyD, MSPharm, MBA

Dr. Morris is former President and current Executive Director of the American Board of Medical Psychology. He has owned and operated mental health hospitals and community centers and has run residency-training programs. He has managed clinical programs that treat lifestyle related diseases and is a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

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