Phyllis J. Heffner, MD, FAPA, IFMCP
Holistic Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist
I am a Maryland based Psychiatrist who specializes in holistic and integrative strategies to treat both mental and physical health conditions, I am double Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. I graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA in 1982, and Penn State/Hershey College of Medicine in 1986. My General Psychiatry Residency was at UNC-Chapel Hill. I continued my training with a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at the University of Maryland/Sheppard Pratt Hospital Joint Training Program. I am Certified in Functional Medicine through the Institute For Functional Medicine and also Certified in INtegrative Pediatrics. I have completed all of the required courses for MAPS (Medical Academy for Pediatric Special Needs). I have over 24 years of experience in conventional psychiatry. I transitioned to integrative, functional medicine after developing a chronic autoimmune disease, and later Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome from mold exposure, that were not able to be adequately diagnosed or treated by conventional medicine. My goal is to pass on the knowledge I gained in helping to heal myself to my patients by applying integrative, holistic methods to Mental Health conditions.
As a Psychiatrist, I am trained and understand that Mental Health Challenges are related to Physical, Psychological and Social Factors. This fact is acknowledged in conventional as well as integrative Psychiatry, but often the conventional Psychiatrist focuses on the symptoms alone without searching for the underlying factors that have caused the symptom to occur. Subsequently, the conventional Psychiatrist’ initial Psychiatric Evaluation mainly stresses the current psychiatric symptoms and their development, along with a more superficial exploration of the person’s medical and social history. The major cause of mental illness is considered to be due to an imbalance in the neurotransmitters in the brain; as a result, the main treatment the Psychiatrist offers is psychiatric medication management. These medications can be helpful for some conditions, but often result in significant side effects or negative interactions with other medications or supplements. In addition, long term use of these medication have neither been studied to determine their safety or benefits. Unfortunately, it is all too common for a person to be started on medication and kept on it for months to years to the rest of their life, and if the initial medication is not helpful either another medication is added to or replaces the first one. When another form of talk or behavioral therapy is indicated, the person is usually referred to another therapist.
Recent research has discovered that there is a strong relationship between inflammation and both physical and mental health symptoms. The primary physical factors that modify a person’s genetics and cause inflammation and dysfunction are: 1) allergens; 2) infections or imbalance of the microbes in the gut; 3) toxins; 4) diet and nutrition and 5) lifestyle and stress. Inflammation can result in digestive distress, asthma and allergies, heart problems, skin conditions, mental health symptoms (such as depression, anxiety, autism, and attention problems), cognitive impairments, autoimmune diseases, thyroid and adrenal problems, sex hormone imbalances, and many others. In addition, the microbes in the gut produce a large amount of neurotransmitters – including more serotonin and dopamine than in the brain! As a holistic and integrative Psychiatrist, the importance of evaluating the function of the brain, the body and the behavior, along with the Psychological, Social and Spiritual factors for each person, is critical in order to result in true health.
The integrative treatment plan is individualized based on this initial evaluation and can include nutritional and dietary modification, herbs and nutritional supplements, lifestyle changes, stress reduction/mind-body techniques, biofeedback, essential oils, biomedical treatment of physical health problems, psychiatric medication, detoxification treatments and other integrative methods. I always strive to reduce, and possibly even be able to eventually discontinue, the use of prescription medication as health is restored.
The goal is always to help the person improve their functioning to reach their highest potential so they can thrive and be happy!
2020 Women In Medicine honoree as Top Functional Psychiatrist
2020 Marquis Who’s Who Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award
2020 Continental Who’s Who Pinnacle Professional Member