Josh Short MD
Clicking ourselves to death
"We headed south down the forested island after eating dried dates lightly drizzled in LSD. The day was windy with feathered streaks of clouds. Warm in the sun, cool in the shade and lulled by the rhythmic susurrations of small waves, we alternately laid around or wandered erratically. We explored an area of the island that was formerly developed, now reclaimed by the ocean and walked a short section of broken sidewalk with off-kilter fire hydrants and random pieces of twisted and broken metal. Vibrant swamp grasses pushed through cracks in partially submerged concrete. As the tide rose, the southern end of the island became nearly cut off from the rest of the island and we took some time to lie about letting the experience of the place wash in and out of our bodies like the tide itself. The half moon hung in the daytime sky like a pregnant belly and with my eyes closed, the sounds of the sea were overwhelming. I felt the presence of the ocean and its immensity. I felt its necessity and its disregard. I felt that surrender and curiosity are more powerful tools than strength or cleverness. I felt that walking a giant black Clydesdale up and down a deserted beach was a strange thing to do, but there was a woman doing that.”
Excerpt from “This isn’t Texas” by Ryan Martin
Marketing is a soul-sucking quagmire, especially when it comes to healthcare. Here we are, trying to trade people medical care for dollars, but it’s the process of acquiring dollars that’s usually making them sick. This is even more true in mental health, when your “customers” are there because their brain and their heart aren’t exactly cooperating with one another. Advertising could easily be predatory in that case. So, when we sit around with our business consultant and accountant and have to talk about marketing, outreach, sales, and other capitalistic nonsense, it makes us all a little unhinged. Lately, we have been tasked with improving our “branding” and some of that at least involves talking about colors and pictures which is more fun than most meetings. But it has also forced us to ask ourselves; how do we really explain to the world what we are about?
The long version would say something like: We are an integrative psychiatric practice that seeks to diminish the use of pharmaceuticals for mental health by focusing on the individual, their story, and their surroundings. We use western medical approaches from highly trained and well-experienced providers and we also use tarot cards and didgeridoos. We offer the highest standard of care in psychedelic therapies and weave nature connection through all of our therapies. Our workplace is nonhierarchical and embraces the entirety of a person, not just their “work self”. We laugh and cry in our meetings and we genuinely give a shit about each of our clients and share their journey as a team. It’s the only medical practice you’ll go to where one of your providers might have cleaned the toilet or chopped the firewood stacked next to the fireplace. We are trying something totally new. We make mistakes and admit to them as quickly as possible.
But how do we show people all of this with a branded color palette and scheduled social media posts?
It is beginning to become clear to us that “connection” is a theme that weaves together much of who we are. Our location brings us into connection with the land and seasons. We have to get a fire going in the office on cold mornings. Our workplace culture is designed around being able to genuinely connect with everyone we work with, even when that takes some extra time and introspection. We like to meet our clients in person and outdoors when possible. We book extra time for appointments, just in case there’s more to talk about. We like to use psychedelic therapies, primarily because they can help people connect more deeply with themselves, with others, and the world outside of themselves. We like to focus on nature connection, not just because we are shameless tree huggers, but because so many of our problems stem from cutting ourselves off from the natural world. We prefer in-person, live events to digital outreach because standing in the same place as another human matters sometimes. We find that, in both our approach to business and medicine, we are striving desperately to increase connection to self, others, and the environment.
Now we just need a mascot and theme song or whatever passes for marketing these days. Do we make a youtube channel about connecting? I’m pretty sure that watching videos on a laptop is a barrier to connecting to the outside world. How do you promote the idea that connection is vital to health when so many of the ways we communicate inherently create isolation?
In a recent meeting about marketing, it was suggested that “Maybe we need a full visioning day just sitting by a waterfall”. It made me think of the passage quoted at the beginning of this blog, “I felt the presence of the ocean and its immensity. I felt its necessity and its disregard. I felt that surrender and curiosity are more powerful tools than strength or cleverness.” I see in this passage elements of connection to self, others, and the world around us. It is not psychedelic medicines, nature therapy, or doctors appointments that create health. These are all pathways to connection, and connection is what promotes life in every place we find it on this rarest of planets.
So, this is mainly a rant about one of the many incongruities that we find between succeeding in medicine and succeeding in business. We want people to know who we are and what we do. We don’t want to be one more thing to scroll to and click on, because that sort of thing is bad for you. It’s tricky. Please come connect with us in person and see for yourself what we are about. We are having an open house this weekend for providers and clients alike and the registration link is below. Parking is limited, so please register, carpool if possible, or teleport if you have access to future technologies.
Open House at Asheville Integrative Psychiatry