REFLECTIONS ON INTEGRATING MIND AND BODY: A
CONCEPT RELEVANT TO PSYCHIATRY?
Dr Nicki Crowley
Clinical progress in psychiatry is dependant upon academic acceptance of peer
reviewed, scientific research. This commonly revolves around the randomised controlled
trial as the means of determining whether, for example, a pharmaceutical agent holds
therapeutic potential, and which in itself therefore assumes a biomedical model of
Not surprisingly, therefore, the treatment of severe and enduring mental illness is
currently practised within a strictly dualistic framework, one in which mind and body are
irrelevant to each other, often situated within a neurobiological framework.
My experience of working in liaison psychiatry is that this dualistic approach
produces much frustration. Often co-existing physical and mental distress does not fit
into conventional psychiatric categorisation, yet our clinical evidence-base is firmly
rooted within it.
I feel there is a need to explore beyond the current framework and look at other
therapeutic models that assume a greater integration. For instance, the fulsome
integration of the mind with other processes within the body is becoming profoundly
recognised in pure scientific research looking at the neurological systems that coordinate
mental functions. We can no longer look at the mind and body as separate
entities. It is probably safe to say that by 2050 a sufficient knowledge of biological
phenomena will have wiped out the traditional dualistic approach of body/brain,
body/mind and brain/mind.1
This view of an organism as an information network departs radically from the old
Newtonian, mechanistic view. The concept of a network, stressing the
interconnectedness of all systems of the organism, has a variety of paradigm breaking
applications. Mind does not dominate the body, it becomes coterminous with the body –
body and mind are one. Bodymind, a term first proposed by Diane Connolly, reflects the
understanding, derived from Chinese medicine, that the body is inseparable from the
mind.2 Many scientific academic establishments are now shifting towards a greater
model of integration.
Historically, the scientific approach that began to be applied in medicine around
the 1860’s is a mechanistic one, which has evolved into the technological advances
currently seen in surgery and pharmaceuticals. Larry Dossey defines this as Era 1
medicine. Era 11 medicine, which has been called psychosomatic medicine, began
some 50 years ago and is now known as mind-body medicine in the US. This refers to
any intervention using one’s consciousness to affect one’s own body, including
biofeedback, imagery and positive thinking. We already have sufficient scientific
knowledge to support this approach and theoretically could apply practical treatment
schedules through a hospital based multi-disciplinary team.
However, as models of greater integration are becoming accepted within the
scientific community, the concept of Era 111 medicine has become apparent. This
defines another level of integration towards a non-local, transpersonal aspect of healing
through time and space. We are cautiously beginning to accept that the causality of
disease (or dis-ease) does not solely rest with one person but lies throughout the
community, stretching out to the perspective of the global mind network.3
Therefore negative as well as positive transpersonal factors could be considered
as important in the disease process and prognosis. Spiritual awareness, function and
ritual may have a greater role to play in our communities’ health and well-being than the
modern rationalist paradigm would suggest.
In order to entertain such a concept from this standpoint, I am concerned to
explore our own current knowledge of these aspects, within the psychiatric community of
which I am a part. Before we can have any clear understanding of transpersonal (and
therefore spiritual) approaches to the psychiatric arena, there needs to be a firmer
concept of the level of integration that is occurring between body, mind and spirit.
Therefore I have viewed this particular meeting of the SIG as a way of bringing forward
mind body concepts as a foundation for a greater understanding of a level of higher
integration, which must encompass the spiritual dimension.
Each of the speakers who contributed to the SIG meeting on July 5th, encompass
a broader understanding and practice than is common in the standard, dualistic medical
model we are used to. In this context we have been able to talk about concepts such as
‘healing’ and ‘spirit’ and ‘consciousness’, not merely in abstract or esoteric terms, but in
their work as directly applied within NHS medicine and psychiatry.
1. Damasio, A. R. (2002) ‘How the brain creates the mind’. Scientific American
Special Edition: The Hidden Mind. Vol.12, Number 1, 4-9.
2. Pert, C. (1997) Molecules of Emotion London: Simon and Schuster
3. Lawliss, F. G. (1996) Transpersonal Medicine. Boston and London: