60 seconds with Dr Meg Van Deusen
Hi Meg, great to have you for 60 seconds. Tell us a little bit about how you got into psychology and what you love about it?
Thank you for having me. After college I was teaching English as a second language, freelance writing for a local newspaper and volunteering at the Suicide Hotline. I discovered that out of the three things I was doing at the time, working at the Suicide Hotline was the most rewarding. I was interested in interpersonal connection and found that the work there rendered the most pure form of human connection. In fact, that is what I love most about psychology and psychotherapy in particular is that it creates a space for people to be authentically connected to themselves and others. It fosters healthy relationships and I think healthy relationships are what make the world go round.
What's the most interesting thing you have learned about the mind and human behaviour?
The most interesting thing I've learned about the mind and human behaviour is how vast and flexible it can be. We are far more capable of growth and change than we sometimes realise.
I have an interest in the human microbiome and human health and really enjoyed your blog Could Your Gut Be Causing Your Anxiety and Stress?
I don't take for granted that people's mood states are solely the result of their childhood experiences or psychological makeup. The mind and body are interconnected and we really shouldn't look at one without being curious about the other. As burgeoning research is telling us, stress can cause gut dysbiosis and gut dysbiosis can affect the stress regulating systems of the body.
What insights have you learned from research into the gut microbiome and how has this altered your approach with patients?
Depending on a person's presenting symptoms, I will sometimes refer them to MDs or NDs to get a better understanding of what is happening systemically and how that may be affecting their ability to regulate stress or a stress-related mood state, like depression.
I loved your blog on Nature as a Stress-Reliever. What practices or protocol do you follow or suggest to others to help manage stress?
Two things are important here: creating secure attachments and setting boundaries. Establish a healthy relationship to yourself so that you are aware of your needs and know how to respond to them. Mindfulness tools can help you do this, but so can understanding your relationship history with compassion. If you learn to nurture yourself, I mean truly care for yourself, you can set appropriate boundaries with others or with technology or work and, therefore, reduce the effects of stress. Yes, being in nature is similar to be mothered, hence the term "Mother Nature." It reduces cortisol, gives us a break from the plethora of stimuli we navigate on any given day and helps us feel connected to something greater which can reduce the tendency to ruminate. Anything that fosters authentic connection with others, like looking people in the eye, being honest, helping others, cultivating hope can all reduce stress as our connections with each other help create resilience in the face of stress.
Check out Meg's website - http://www.sightonstress.com
Twitter account - @drvandeusen