Practitioner Spotlight with Peggy Finston, MD
We are speaking with Peggy Finston, MD, a psychiatrist who provides integrative psychiatry, treatments that combine conventional and holistic medicine in treating emotional disorders when it is not sufficiently improved by medication and psychotherapy alone.
Tell Us a Story About a Patient with an Emotional Disorder and How Your Integrative Treatment Helped
Three years ago, Ella, a 32 year old recently widowed mom of a pre-teen daughter, came to me after her seventh hospitalization for bipolar depression. The last five admissions were for suicide attempts in the past two years. Ella brought a long list of prescribed medications she was on for her emotional disorder. She could not sleep, was exploding at co-workers at her part-time jobs and became paranoid. Her medical issues included moderately severe Raynaud’s (a circulation problem) in her feet, where purple cold flesh was visible through her sandal straps.
Initially we met monthly to work on fine-tuning Ella’s medications, and addressing her explosiveness and paranoia. For each session, I used acupuncture to first balance her energy fields, since medications seem to do little if energy fields are blocked. And while her toes were frozen stubs of purple, her face was fiery red. The goal was to move the excess of energy in her head down to her feet. This would have the effect of unblocking meridians involved with chronic illness and her emotional disorder.
Ella was eager to follow home treatments and fortunately, was diligent about following directions and complying. I realized that despite her stressed finances, family mental health history, and limited education, she was optimistic, motivated and had a remarkable trust in relationships.
The Turnaround of the Emotional Disorder
With our routine sessions, Ella’s life became less erratic and a little more predictable. We were able to meet less frequently, having sessions every 2-3 months. We gradually were able to decrease the doses of her medications. My acupuncture treatment shifted to using her ears. Noticeably, I could see her depression lift when inserting the needles. Her features became more fluid, her laugh more frequent, and her outlook more hopeful. And another upshot of the holistic treatment was that about a year into acupuncture, her feet were no longer purple or felt cold. Her energy was no longer stuck.
Ella started taking classes at Community College, enrolled as a full-time, student. She was managing to also take care of her daughter and a niece whose parents were burnt out drug addicts. Yet Ella, a survivor of a severe emotional disorder, took on this difficult situation with great empathy because no one else would and she could see how her niece’s life would go. Despite these challenges, for the past three years now, Ella has had no hospitalizations. Her medications are fewer and the dosages are much lower.
Why and When Did You Choose the Holistic Path?
In my late 40’s, my car was rear ended in traffic. The impact herniated discs in my neck. That led to severe chronic pain unrelieved by surgery and less aggressive treatments. I had to look elsewhere for help. My desperation opened the door to holistic care.
A weekend workshop in acupuncture introduced me to a different way of understanding health and illness. I learned the mind and body are not just connected, but one. I believe there is a healing synergy or enhancement when balancing both the energetic and physical aspects of ourselves. That’s why I combine physical (chemical) drugs with energetic balancing of acupuncture in my practice.
Where conventional mental health focuses on helping with symptoms and attempting to quantity behavior in their limited categories, therapy that incorporates a more holistic approach can help people access their best selves. When the world spells doom, it is this therapy that balances energy and clears out obstacles. It opens up a path in the mind, body and soul that encourages optimism, willingness, trust, and an ability to help others. What a blessing.
What Lessons Have Your Work and Personal Experiences Taught You?
Humility has been my basic lesson. I continually learn it. When I forget it, life always provides a refresher course.
I’m not in charge, no matter my best efforts. In treating others, I can’t take credit for healing. If I do, I make what happens about me and lose my capacity to provide whatever the energetic arena is for someone to heal.
We live in scientific/healthcare culture that worships technology. I have learned to resist the unrelenting pressure that embraces yet another new “magic bullet” cure. My best “instrument” is myself and the quality I can bring to healing is the quality I cultivate in myself.
What Would You Like Your Patients to Know About Your Services that They May Not be Aware of?
However I may help someone is a small effort compared to what an individual must do to live a better life “from within.” No matter what one’s pain is, leaving it may be just as hard if not harder than living with it.
I combine medication with psychotherapy and acupuncture because I believe illness, physical and emotional disorders, are present in our emotions, physical bodies and energy fields. Addressing these aspects of illness at the same time may enhance treatment effectiveness. This is my impression and has not been proven, nor could it be proven by today’s science.
I knew I wanted to become a psychiatrist in childhood. I found that minds were fascinating, including my own. My dream was fueled by the 1950’s idealism absorbed from television shows. Hard work, scholarships, jobs and destiny made it happen. Anything could, I believed then. But my first child stopped babbling and making eye contact at 18 months. I reached for and help bumped into the invisible limits of medicine. 20 years later, an MVA led to failed back surgery and severe pain.I was back at that boundary. Wisdom is learned from what does not conform our rules.
Acu-Psychiatry Peggy Finston MD
Peggy Finston MD
208 Monmouth Road, Ste 2,
Oakhurst, NJ 07755