For me, leadership stems from authenticity. Leaders who inspire and motivate people are those who are inspired by a vision of a better future themselves. Authentic leaders believe in themselves, believe in their people and believe that change is possible. I have come across many leaders who think leadership is a game and try to manipulate people. Such leaders eventually meet their downfall sooner or later. Authentic leaders usually spend considerable time on self-reflection and self-improvement and are open to feedback. They have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of their tribe and they take time to get to know their people, no matter how big the organization is. Authentic leaders are also not afraid to try new things or accept their mistakes. They are transparent and down to earth. They lead from behind and remember their roots always.
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Dona Biswas, author of ‘The Quantum Psychiatrist: From Zero to Zen Using Evidence-Based Solutions Beyond Medications and Therapy’. Dr. Dona Biswas specialized in Psychiatry in India, where she practiced for a number of years before moving to Australia. After gaining her Fellowship in Australia, she worked in several reputed public hospitals in Sydney, before moving into her own private practice at Blacktown. While in private practice, she realized the limited impact that conventional psychiatric treatments were having on her clients’ lives and began to train in several cutting-edge interventions to help her clients. She has gained expertise in modalities like neurofeedback, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), emotional freedom technique (EFT) and RESET therapy among others and integrates these modalities with conventional treatments in her practice. She is also an experienced energy healer, being a Reiki Master for more than 15 years and a Seichim Master as well. Her passion is to help people not only overcome their mental illness, but also encourage them to fulfil their untapped and unlimited potential.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in India and as my father travelled a lot, I spent several years abroad, and got to travel to many countries. This experience helped shape my global outlook, while maintaining strong roots in my cultural heritage. As I grew up, I became very interested in psychology and the power of the mind. I was an avid reader and devoured books like there was no tomorrow! Yet, socially, I was very awkward and self-conscious and absolutely dreaded public speaking. It took me years of working on myself to overcome my self-consciousness and accept myself completely.
I developed debilitating asthma toward the end of high school, which affected my school years significantly. My father, frustrated by many trips to the doctor, took me to a homeopath, who prescribed me some homeopathic remedies which drastically reduced my asthmatic attacks and allowed me to continue my studies. This was the beginning of my passion for holistic healing. I explored alternative and traditional modes of healing and went into medicine to pursue my passion for healing. I was particularly drawn to mental health and decided to specialize in Psychiatry, hoping eventually to explore the power of the mind in physical and emotional healing. Yet, I became frustrated by the limited therapeutic options available in mainstream Psychiatry, mainly medications and psychotherapy.
I moved to Australia a decade back to continue my search for better therapeutic modalities here. I realized that conventional Psychiatry is quite limited worldwide, and I needed to walk down the path less travelled in order to realize my goals. I have been very fortunate to have had opportunities to train in many different modalities of mental healing and integrate them into my clinical practice.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
As a teenager, I read ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by the American psychiatrist, M.Scott Peck, which had a tremendous impact on me and inspired me to take up Psychiatry later on. It is a classical and inspiring book on Life’s meaning, developing a higher understanding of self and spiritual growth, and it left a deep impression on my mind.
Peck believes that the spiritual path, or the ‘road less travelled’, is rockier and more dimly lit than the regular highway of life, yet, the rewards are enormous. But unlike many self-help books today, he emphasizes that this path is long and difficult and requires a lot of self-discipline. As a young adult, I often questioned what most people accepted as ‘normal’ or ‘usual practice’. Sometimes I was afraid of the repercussions of my questions, but this book was the beginning of my journey into authenticity and I learnt not to be afraid to ask the tough questions.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Psychiatry is usually a somber profession as we mostly get to see the vulnerable side of people, so it is rare to find humor on a daily basis. As a female psychiatrist, I have learnt to work in a man’s world and take it in my stride, but sometimes I get thrown off by unexpected incidents, like one session in which the client actually proposed to me. It was awkward, to say the least, and I tried to dismiss it as a joke. That client never returned for another session; I guess he was embarrassed about his faux-pas too! From a client’s perspective, it is easy to develop feelings for one’s therapist, as they show their most vulnerable side to us. I wish I had not dismissed it as a joke but rather discussed his feelings openly and why it was common in a therapeutic relationship, so that he could feel comfortable and continue to get help.
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
The idea for my book, The Quantum Psychiatrist, came to me in 2019, a few years after I started my private practice. At that point, I was researching a range of new and effective solutions for mental health problems and wondering why I had not heard of these techniques during all my years of training. It struck me that many mental health professionals would be in a similar situation like me and might not be aware of many effective treatment options that they could be offering to their clients. I thought that all mental health professionals as well as people with mental illnesses deserve to know about some of these amazing techniques which can impact their lives. I wrote The Quantum Psychiatrist to spread awareness about a range of treatment options available to address mental health problems, which you won’t find in mainstream psychiatry or psychology literature. I hope that there is an increased uptake of these techniques among mental health professionals as I believe these techniques can be absolute game-changers in the mental health arena. Today’s psychiatry practice is to focused on pharmacology and I hope to stimulate research into non-pharmaceutical options to heal mental illnesses.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
By far the most fascinating technique I have come across and trained in is RESET therapy for PTSD, developed by Dr. George Lindenfeld, a Clinical Psychologist in the US. I did a single session of RESET therapy for a young girl who had experienced sexual assault in school and was distressed by nightmares and flashbacks about it. After the session, when I asked her to visualize the event and rate her distress, she said “I can’t see it anymore!’ Her nightmares and flashbacks reduced drastically after this session, she was happier and ready to move on from the traumatic experience. I have not seen such quick results with any other therapy in my career! Such effective methods deserve a wider audience.
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
It was 2017 and I had just started part-time private practice. There were a number of clients who had experienced severe childhood trauma and were coming to me for help. I felt that conventional treatments like medications and psychotherapy were inadequate to address many of my clients’ problems. I was beginning to get frustrated by my lack of success with these clients, yet I felt stuck.
In December, I had an accident and broke my right elbow and was forced to take a month’s leave from my otherwise hectic schedule. I truly believe the Universe wanted me to slow down and reflect on my practice. I spent most of my month reading and I came across Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s book, The Body Keeps The Score, where he described a range of lesser known interventions for developmental trauma. I also devoured books by Dr. Norman Doidge, a Canadian psychiatrist who talks about harnessing the power of neuroplasticity to heal mental illness. I heard about techniques like neurofeedback, which used the brain’s neuroplasticity to create deep and lasting healing. My first response was ‘Why wasn’t I taught about these techniques during my training?’ I began to train in a range of techniques which were rapidly gaining evidence of efficacy in treating mental illnesses.
I realized that most people, including mental health professionals, were not aware of many of these techniques which were worthy of getting into mainstream mental health treatment. This inspired me to bring awareness to the public and inspire people that change is possible, no matter how chronic or difficult the illness might seem.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
In my book, I share stories of a number of clients who have been impacted by these little-known therapeutic techniques. One of my clients had severe treatment resistant depression and a lot of childhood trauma. She had been seeing me for a couple of years and had tried a range of antidepressants and mood stabilizers without improvement. She was frequently suicidal and struggled with even the simplest chores. Her family life was severely affected by her illness. On my advice she started neurofeedback and in 6 months she had made progress that she had not seen in the last 10 years. Her depression was in sustained remission, she was functioning well and was able to work towards goals she had only dreamed off, like holding a job and learning how to drive. I don’t believe she would haveseen these changes if I had only stuck to conventional methods like medications and psychotherapy.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
I think the community as well as political leaders can do a lot to help address the root problem. The root problem is not that there are not enough effective treatments for mental health problems, but that there is not enough awareness of the different techniques available. Since these techniques are not usually available in the mainstream mental health system, innumerable people with mental illnesses are deprived of the benefits. Individuals who try to spread awareness about these options are met with skepticism. Most of the research today is on medications, which is backed by significant funding by pharmaceutical companies who stand to profit from these medications.
Unfortunately, many of these novel and inexpensive therapeutic modalities do not have the funding and backing required to produce high quality studies, and research is limited to case reports, pilot studies or small trials, which are then dismissed by ‘experts’ as inadequate evidence. It is important to realize the politics of healthcare and if our society and politicians are truly motivated to find effective solutions to vexing mental health problems which costs the economy billions of dollar, they can help in the following ways:
1. Help create an awareness about effective mental health solutions, whether through websites, social media and other platforms. Provide accurate information to consumers so that they can make an informed decision about which modalities they would like to opt for.
2. Encourage and fund more research into these novel modalities of treatment. Many of these techniques are backed by anecdotal evidence or small trials but would benefit from more robust research to gain acceptance in the mainstream.
3. Governments and insurance companies should not discriminate against mental health providers who want to provide these treatment options at their practice. Currently, funding is skewed to only mainstream modalities, but this limits the ability of providers to impact clients more meaningfully through cutting edge tools and techniques.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
For me, leadership stems in authenticity. Leaders who inspire and motivate people are those who are inspired by a vision of a better future themselves. Authentic leaders believe in themselves, believe in their people and believe that change is possible. I have come across many leaders who think leadership is a game and try to manipulate people. Such leaders eventually meet their downfall sooner or later. Authentic leaders usually spend considerable time on self-reflection and self-improvement and are open to feedback. They have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of their tribe and they take time to get to know their people, no matter how big the organization is. Authentic leaders are also not afraid to try new things or accept their mistakes. They are transparent and down to earth. They lead from behind and remember their roots always.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I am a true believer in unlimited human potential and it pains me to see people accepting a limited life due to constant negative societal messages. I wish people appreciated the power of words and how they can impact others. Messages like ‘You can’t’ or ‘You’re not smart enough’ or ‘You’re not good/old/young/capable/intelligent enough’ when repeated often, can limit people and make them resigned to a mediocre life. So here are five things I wish I had been told when I first started out in my profession:
1. Dream with your eyes open: Dreams are not what you see in your sleep, dreams are what you conceive of with your eyes open and make into your reality. Where people ask “Why?”, ask instead ‘Why not?’. All progress that humanity has made has been because people had the courage to dream of something that wasn’t conceivable to others. Daydreams are the stuff the future is made of, so dream on!
2. Make your passion your purpose: When you love what you do and do what you love, work will be a ball, not a chore. Too many people work at jobs that are not aligned with their purpose to pay their bills. When you focus on your passion and grow it, the money takes care of itself.
3. Take the path less travelled: The need to conform and the need for social approval often limits our potential. Be brave enough to march to a different drummer and be who you are!
4. Be a bubblegum brain: People who do extraordinary things are people who have a growth mindset. They are not afraid to learn new things and explore new solutions, even if it means moving out of their comfort zone. Life is a mystery that keeps unravelling, no matter how much of it we solve, so keep challenging yourself and keep expanding your mind! You don’t need to be perfect, just curious.
5. There is more to truth than meets the eye: In this age, we are being bombarded with information constantly, whether it is on TV, written media or social media. People are constantly vying for our attention and it might seem reasonable to pay attention to those that shout the loudest. But sometimes the truth is not so obvious and often the truth is tucked away in a corner waiting to be found out. So don’t accept everything at face value, but do some digging yourself to find out the truth!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite poet is Robert Frost and my favorite life lesson quote is from his poem ‘The Road Not Taken’. It goes as follows:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The quote, of course, is also the title of the book by M Scott Peck, which had a great impact on me since my teens.
Growing up, I was always questioning and contemplating why things were the way they were. And I felt like a misfit because I was not interested in the things other kids my age were, and found it difficult to conform to societal standards. This quote gave me hope and inspired me to follow my heart rather than the herd. And that truly has made all the difference to my life.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Well, there are many thought leaders who inspire me and it is difficult to pick just one person! One person I wish I had met, but unfortunately has passed on, was Dr. Wayne Dyer, a truly inspirational figure in the mental health sphere. I do hope to meet Dr. Deepak Chopra one day, as his work inspired me on my journey into healing. His book Quantum Healing is truly a masterpiece. He is a prolific writer and original thinker and I would love to someday have a chat with him!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My book ‘The Quantum Psychiatrist” is available in paperback, Kindle and audiobook formats from all major book retailers. My website www.thequantumpsychiatrist.com has more information about my work, including my blog and my online courses. You can also subscribe to my newsletter on my website to follow my work online.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!