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The Instinct to Heal: Curing Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Without Drugs and Without Talk Therapy Hardcover – February 21, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pointing to the stark statistic that more than 11 million Americans currently take antidepressants, Servan-Schreiber, psychiatrist and co-founder of the University of Pittsbugh's Center for Complementary Medicine, offers seven natural treatments for stress-related disorders. Honed by his travels as a Doctors Without Borders founder, Servan-Schreiber's holistic approach involves neither drugs nor traditional talk therapies (which he notes have never been proven effective), but relies on the brain's own healing mechanism. Combining solid scientific data, diagrams and anecdotal evidence in a highly accessible format, the author smoothly guides readers through alternative therapies, including acupuncture, dawn simulation, heart coherence and nutrition, "a field almost entirely abandoned" by today's mental health professionals, but of vital importance, he notes, to such conditions as postpartum depression and bipolar disorder. While admitting all treatments should ideally submit to a rigorous controlled study, the author laments the lack of economic interest on the part of pharmaceutical companies to study anything unpatentable. A final section, with tips and techniques on improving communication in personal relationships and integrating therapies into daily life nicely rounds out this valuable resource.
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Review

"David Servan-Schreiber has done a brilliant job of bringing together insights and information of vital importance for well-being. The Instinct to Heal is itself an instrument of healing."--Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence

"Written with grace and elegance, this book might well become the most important mental health landmark of this generation."--Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D., bestselling author of Flow, Being Adolescent, The Evolving Self, and Creativity

"The Instinct to Heal is a fascinating account of unorthodox approaches to treating the emotional brain and mind. I learned a lot."--Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science at New York University and author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self

"The Instinct to Heal will help anyone expand their concept of health and health care to a more majestic level."--Larry Dossey, M.D., bestselling author of Healing Beyond the Body, Reinventing Medicine, and Healing Words

"A brilliant, absorbing synthesis of science, experience, and thought, by an internationally known neuroscientist and clinician ... essential reading for all those who want to understand the frontiers of mind-body health."--Michael Lerner, Ph.D., author of Choices in Healing


David Servan-Schreiber has done a brilliant job of bringing together insights and information of vital importance for well-being. The Instinct to Heal is itself an instrument of healing.
(Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence )

Written with grace and elegance, this book might well become the most important mental health landmark of this generation.
(Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D., bestselling author of Flow, and Being Adolescent )

The Instinct to Heal is a fascinating account of unorthodox approaches to treating the emotional brain and mind. I learned a lot.
(Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science at N.Y.U )

The Instinct to Heal will help anyone expand their concept of health and health care to a more majestic level."
(Larry Dossey, M.D., bestselling author of Healing Beyond the Body )

A brilliant, absorbing synthesis of science, experience, and thought, by an internationally known neuroscientist and clinician ... essential reading for all those who want to understand the frontiers of mind-body health.
(Michael Lerner, Ph.D., author of Choices in Healing )
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (February 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579549020
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579549022
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D., is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and cofounder of the Center for Integrative Medicine.

Customer Reviews

I first read this book when it was published in 2003, from cover to cover.
C. Davis
The book is easy to read, yet filled with useful and practical information.
Thomas Taylor
You can't help but learn, and enjoy doing so, as you go through this book.
M. L Lamendola

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

136 of 142 people found the following review helpful By Ruth Edlund on April 13, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This paperback appears to contain exactly the same text as the hardbound version of the same book with a very different cover color scheme. (I thought the paperback version might be updated, but it appears not to be.)

The recommendations in this book really intrigued me, although some of them (e.g, EMDR) are likely to be controversial. I did some research on the author and he checks out. His credentials are real. I did some research also into his sources by checking with a physician who has a holistic bent. They check out too. He is drawing on known authorities in the areas of, for example, neurophysiology, and his research is drawn from peer-reviewed journals.

This book does not offer miracle cures but a series of remedies that seem likely to bring improvement in anyone's state of mind:

(1) "cardiac coherence," a sort of relaxation technique (oversimplified description)

(2) acupuncture

(3) EMDR

(4) exercise

(5) fish oil

(6) meditation and

(7) fostering social connections.

"Curing," however, used in the title, is a less skillful choice than the initial use of the word "heal." Anxiety, depression, and stress are chronic, or at least recurrent, states of the modern mind that are more to be acknowledged and managed than totally made to go away (not all stress, for example, is caused by bad things).

I was already using four of these remedies before I read the book. I learned cardiac coherence easily, I'm about to give acupuncture a try now, based on this book...but I'm still on the fence about EMDR.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Harold McFarland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"The Instinct to Heal" takes a combined look at healing through various non-traditional techniques and the most recent research in the interconnectedness of our various systems. Several relationships are examined in detail starting with neurobiology and the relationship between the emotional and logical brains. From there the author moves to the heart/brain relationship and how heart coherence affects so many parts of your emotional being. He also examines more surprising relationships like those involved in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing techniques. This particular technique uses rapid eye movement to quickly heal emotional problems. Other healing techniques examined include the energy of light, the power of Qi, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and the emotional brain, love, and emotional communication. This is a fascinating journey into the relationships between our various biological and emotional systems that shows how we have an instinctual ability to heal ourselves. This is a definitive work on new research in the relationship between the mind and body and a recommended read.
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68 of 74 people found the following review helpful By M. L Lamendola VINE VOICE on February 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Record numbers of people are on Ritalin and other behavioral drugs. Yet, they are not cured of what ails them. They simply get alleviation from the symptoms. Others have been in talk therapy for months, or even years, and yet still grapple with the problems that sent them there in the first place. Is there any hope for these people? After reading "The Instinct to Heal," one can only answer with a resounding "Yes."
Behavioral drugs treat only symptoms, and they carry undesirable side-effects. Talk therapy seeks to resolve the underlying problems, but it addresses our conscious thoughts to do so. And therein lies the problem.
The human brain is composed of two structures, one imposed over the other. These two structures are very different in construction. The logical brain--the one that contains our conscious thoughts--forms a sort of covering over the emotional brain. This emotional brain is composed of limbic structures--and these are the same in all mammals.
The key to effective healing is to "reprogram" the emotional brain. This may sound like an impossible job, but it's not. The emotional brain contains natural mechanisms for self-healing. Thus, Servan-Schreiber's "instinct to heal" concept.
Servan-Schreiber explains this concept in a logical, lucid manner. But, he does this in a way that allows us reach our own conclusions. Topics covered include brain structure, heart coherence, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, the energy of light, the power of Qi, the role of Omega 3 fatty acids (or lack thereof) in depression, the role of exercise, and emotional communication.
Throughout, Servan-Schreiber provides solid evidence, anecdotal accounts, research data, and even diagrams.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Michael G. Young on September 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
Dr. Servan-Schreiber has broke new ground in summarizing practical therapeutics for the treatment of the emotional brain. As a health care provider who has had to heal my own brain after two significant head injuries and related traumas I can testify to several of the therapies he recommends, and am interested in trying some of the ones I had not heard as much about. As an acupuncturist the other thing I would add is that these protocols are not just for treating anxiety and depression, but they have relevance for every other chronic disease that is prominent today, the interplay between the emotional brain and all of the things we don't want to get is enormous.
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