The Mind of Health

Cutting Edge Updates for Clinicians and Patients, Bridging the Divide Between Mind and Matter

Month: July 2016

It’s Not All in the Mind (So It’s All in the Body?)


xin (heart & mind)

The Mandarin word for heart and mind, “Xin”

I was really intrigued when I saw this blog post on chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is not all in the mind . It reminded me of the great pianist and improviser Keith Jarrett, who suffered CFS for a whole year. He couldn’t play, he couldn’t get out of his room.

The researchers found that there was abnormal gut bacterial micro biome, leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms.

This hints at the potential of uses dietary modifications and pre-biotics and probiotics intervention. (see previous post on Is Your Gut the Second Brain?)

But I worry about people making a wrong conclusion. “If studies are showing physical symptoms, then it is the CAUSE of the problem.” “If brain scans shows abnormality for a depressed person, therefore, it is the CAUSE of major depression.”

Cognitive scientists and social psychologists calls this the attribution error . In other words, we make the mistake of thinking reducing something as a the cause.  Statisticians like to say, “Correlation does not mean Causation.”

Such reductionistic thinking is everywhere. Take the following story:

“A man was lying injured on a couch with his legs in a cast.
He says to wife, “ You know, you were there yesterday when i fell off the roof. 
You were there when i had the car accident…
You were there when I injured my back while lifting the heavy object…
Now that I think of it, you are BAD LUCK.”

The current study about CFS is a useful example. If you dig into the original article, researchers state, “The cause of ME/CFS is unknown, but gut dysbiosis could be contributing to some of the symptoms and their severity.” There were astute enough not to make an attribution error.

Learn to Listen to Our Body

Keith Jarrett came out of the shadows of CFS, and these were the first piece that he played, “I love you porgy.” Take a listen:

It’s mind over matter, only when the matter doesn’t mind.

The thing is, the mind and matter work as one.  I think it’s useful to borrow from my  Chinese culture, as we call mind and heart as “xin” There is no differentiation. (see image above)

Perhaps our minds are there to take care of both mind and heart.

Related article:

The Music of our Emotions: Why it is Important to Listen 

Is Your Gut the Second Brain?


Daryl Chow, Ph.D.


Three Surprising Facts About Psychotherapy You and Your Doctors Need to Know


boy hearing for the first time (w hearing aid)

With the help of a hearing aid, boy hears for the first time.

This is for those who are thinking about seeking help. Maybe you are wondering, unsure of who to go to and what to look out for. Or maybe you just need a reason to give a shot at therapy/counselling before you take a psychotropic drug for your emotional problems.

Here’s what you need to know.

Effectiveness of Psychotherapy

Based on more than 50 years of psychotherapy outcomes research, the average treated person better off than 80% of those who did not receive treatment (Miller, Hubble, Chow, & Seidel, 2013; Wampold & Imel, 2015). This is equivalent to an effect size (i.e., magnitude of change) of 0.8, which is considered as a large effect.

Conventionally used in evidence based medicine, the number need treat refers to the number of patients needed to receive treatment in order to experience a positive outcome relative to untreated patients. To put into context, here are the following NNTs for various treatments (Note: smaller numbers indicate more effective a treatment):


Surprising Fact #1: Psychotherapy is more effective than most medical treatments and has lesser side-effects.


Psychotherapy has been shown to reduce the use of medications, consultations with primary-care physicians, length of inpatient stays, and general health care expenditures by 60% to 90% (Chiles, Lambert, & Hatch, 1999; Kraft, Puschner, Lambert, & Kordy, 2006).

More recently, based on a real-world study of over 22,000 clients in a five-year period, the data suggests outpatient psychotherapy has a large reduction of work disability days (41.8%), hospitalisation days (27.4%), and inpatient costs (21.5%). In terms of long-term effects, the researchers found that the year after therapy, the number of work disability days was lower (23.8%) (Altman et al., 2016).

From an investment standpoint, for every dollar spent in terms of care, $2 to $3 are returned! And for every dollar spent in terms of care, it resulted in 3 to 5 times of benefit for health returns (Chisholm et al., 2016). It’s hard to find any other area in healthcare for such returns, with few side-effects.

Are you spinning  by now?

Here’s the gist:  Psychological treatment is an effective treatment, when delivered in a manner that is cogent with the person, by someone with expertise in a given domain (e.g., depression, anxiety, trauma related, relational issues, psychosomatic complaints). Continue reading

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