The Brain & The Mind: What’s The Difference? with Dr. Earl Henslin

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Our society has developed a habit of using different terms to delineate between the organ that occupies our heads, and the collection of thoughts we experience moment to moment. But are these really separate entities, or are they manifestations of the same thing? In the last episode in a series with author and psychotherapist Dr. Earl Henslin, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen explain why it’s crucial for us to understand that the way we think about the organ between our ears shapes how we take care of it.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our Podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Welcome back to our last day with Dr. Henslin. It's been wonderful this week, having with you. And Dr. Henslin talking about the brain and how you use the brain and incorporate it into psychotherapy. He's our friend, and he's our colleague. And you're involved in our foundation. And it's been so wonderful hearing your stories. So today we want to talk about the brain. What did you want to ... You wanted to incorporate that into?
Dr. Daniel Amen: The mind, because people think of them as separate. When you do the work that you and I have done for so long, you realize they're not separate. And that if your brain's not right, your mind's not right.
Dr. Earl Henslin: Exactly.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You have a doctorate degree in psychology. You're also a marriage and family therapist. How much of your training to optimize and heal the mind, how much did you get about the brain?
Dr. Earl Henslin: Absolutely zero.
Tana Amen: Really? How is that possible?
Dr. Earl Henslin: There was one course on neuro anatomy, which I did take, but the book was lousy and the professor was boring.
Tana Amen: Seriously?
Dr. Earl Henslin: I fell asleep, but now I read that stuff for leisure. But no, no emphasis. There was like one class on psychopharmacology, but then that's taught in a traditional way, and to me it's useless for all psychologists.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, this is no surprise.
Tana Amen: It's a surprise to me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When I do lectures, probably you too, and I go, "How many of you therapists, psychologists had courses on brain function, brain health?" nobody raises their hand.
Tana Amen: I'm in shock.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's insane that the organ they're working on is not the mind. It's the brain and the mind together.
Dr. Earl Henslin: What's scary for me, and I saw this in the first seminar. It was then I began to realize if I didn't change the assessments that I was doing, that really it was malpractice. Because the traditional testing and assessments, there is a place for them, but they yield psychological or something we call psychodynamic kind of information, but they don't yield brain chemistry things and what to do to help each system of the brain. And to me, I always think it's kind of humorous when people try to separate, like you're saying, the brain from the mind. I mean they're-
Tana Amen: Yeah, that seems odd to me. I can't-
Dr. Daniel Amen: That your mother's mind was in pain because of her brain.
Dr. Earl Henslin: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And when you helped her to balance her brain, she became the person she always wanted to be.
Dr. Earl Henslin: Exactly.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And that's why I hate the term personality disorders because it's like, "Well, what's the Oregon of personality?" It's your brain.
Dr. Earl Henslin: Exactly.
Tana Amen: It's also esoteric and like out there otherwise.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We have shamed people. We've blamed people, and I'm embarrassed by it for my profession. We need to do better. And what I love about you, I mean many things, but it's you actually take this and put it into a busy psychological practice where you help people every day, and then you taught all the other doctors in your practice to do the same thing.
Dr. Earl Henslin: Exactly. To give you a specific example of what we're talking about between the brain and the mind, it'd be like ... You have wonderful material in all your books on automatic negative thoughts. And those are those thoughts that pop out of nowhere that just say, "I'm bad," or, "I'm worthless," or, "I'm a failure," or whatever. Now, cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to work with those thoughts. The problem with looking at it strictly from a cognitive behavioral theory in therapy is that when the basal ganglia, left and right basal ganglia, is lit up and when that singulate is way over-active, they can't make that shift from the negative thought to a positive cognition.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And the ants beat them up.
Dr. Earl Henslin: Exactly.
Tana Amen: I am so confused by this. Because as a neurosurgical ICU nurse, right?
Dr. Earl Henslin: Right.
Tana Amen: We deal with the brain. People's behavior changes radically right in front of you. So I'm having a really ... I mean maybe because it's so radical, they're not counting that? I don't understand. But how do you not think that the brain and your behavior are connected? I'm completely confused by that. I didn't realize you guys-
Dr. Daniel Amen: But you can try and kill yourself in every major city in the world, and virtually no one will look at your brain on a routine basis.
Tana Amen: But I mean, someone comes in. They have brain surgery. The next thing I know, they're singing La Cucaracha for three days straight, and they won't stop, or they become incredibly violent, or they're seeing things crawling on the wall because they've hurt certain parts of their brain, or they scream nonstop. How can you not think the brain is connected to your behavior, and what you see, and how you feel, and how you think.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And one of the big lessons ... I'd be interested in your take on this. One of the big lessons I've learned ... And I didn't know it. And I'm an army trained psychiatrist, which means we thought about head trauma because there was a lot of it in Vietnam. And 40% of the patients who come to Amen Clinics for mental health reasons had had a significant brain injury in their past, 40%. And that mild traumatic brain injury is major cause of psychiatric problems. So just like with your mom, that injury can set off a cascade of negative effects. It doesn't just affect her, but it also affects her husband. It affects your babies. It affects the psychology of her babies, which then impact how they parent. And you can see how that board breaking and those 50 stitches and the shaking of her brain. It's not just about her, it's about generations of her. And don't you have the same-
Dr. Earl Henslin: Exactly.
Tana Amen: And healing. You talked about ... Before we got on here, you talked about the healing that occurs in different families, and that's just amazing. That's what we love to see is the healing, the generational healing.
Dr. Earl Henslin: Yeah. No, there's children and grandchildren, great grandchildren are experiencing a grandmother that's fully present, and they don't see her as an angry person or anything like that. I mean, it's beautiful. There's no pins and needles.
Tana Amen: When that happens, do you notice with some of your patients? That when the patient starts to heal, they suddenly feel sad and guilty, and they have a lot to deal with from all the years?
Dr. Earl Henslin: Exactly. They do, and that's common.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And that's a psychotherapy issue.
Tana Amen: Right, but now they're able to do it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Forgiveness is so important.
Dr. Earl Henslin: Yeah. You're right on the money. There's like this grief reaction because it all clicks, "Oh my, what have I done? And what have I missed out," on and so on.
Tana Amen: That happened with my sister. There was suddenly a lot of sadness.
Dr. Earl Henslin: Exactly.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And that's important to talk through.
Dr. Earl Henslin: It is.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so we are not opposed to psychotherapy. We love psychotherapy.
Tana Amen: Yeah, of course.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We think psychotherapy is so important, but you want to do it with hardware that works.
Tana Amen: Right. It needs to be effective.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You want to do it with a brain that works correctly. It's just so powerful. One more story before we have to stop. Is there one on the top of your head that-
Dr. Earl Henslin: Yeah, one that kind of illustrates everything we've talked about. A pastor and his family referred their son-in-law to me, a veteran from Afghanistan and was disabled 100% because the Humvee ahead of him, and they're all friends, got hit with an IED. And he watched the vehicle explode and everybody burn to death. And then his huge firefight, where he did manage to save the lives of three or four people in his group. But the PTSD, and he'd been through extensive treatment at the VA. And the family had paid for a lot of treatment out of their pocket. And then they called me because he was getting worse and becoming suicidal himself.
So, I called my friends because they didn't have the money for this. And they donated the money to get him a scan. And he lives on the east coast. So, came in on a Friday morning, got the scan, got read. They sent me the pictures because by the end of the day, they were back in my office. And so I have this two, three hour block to go over the scan and decide on what to do now. And he'd already in his history been reactive to just about every medication. You could just tell it was mood stabilizers or anti-anxiety, anti-depressants. He overreacted to everything. And so I suggested they use a combination of NeuroLink and GABA Calming Support three to four times a day. Because when I was looking at his scan, I could see if we could just lower that basal ganglia a little bit, then maybe he wouldn't hyperfocus, turn those thoughts over and over.
And his wife is an RN, and she was sitting right there in the session. And then I take him through ... I have him take the supplement right then and there. And then took them to a thought field therapy exercise. And he had ... You rate these things on a scale zero to ten. A 10 being horrible, zero being neutral. And just thinking about the picture of that, he rated 5,000. I mean, it was just that bad. And so I took him through the sequence of tapping. I was using acupressure points. Pain came out, the fear came out. But with that anxiety center just a little bit lower, he could ... That front part of the brain could click in, and he could actually process it and talk about it.
And so we spent a couple of hours going through that. And then I taught the wife, I said ... Because they were headed up to the mountains. Somebody was loaning him a house. It was just God's timing because it was going to be quiet and things like this. And I taught her how to do this thought field therapy because if this happened, because it wouldn't be unusual for more to come back, to do that up at the calmness in the mountains. And I got the loveliest voicemail the next day where they called to let me know that he got up there and all. Oh yeah, it was also restless sleep. Restful Sleep, the supplement that is produced here is excellent, so I had him take that at night too. And he slept all the way through the night, didn't wake up one time. It was the first time since he'd been back from the Middle East that he'd been able to sleep. And so he had ... Everything kind of collided together where you got to look at the brain. We were able to do something to help the brain to calm down so it could processes this horrible trauma he'd been through. And then he was able to actually go to bed and sleep all the night through.
A year later, I get a email from him. And that he'd gone back to college. Because he was close to finishing college, but then he had to drop out because of all the trauma. And he graduated with his bachelor's degree, and now was going to be working as an elementary school teacher. And this guy is going to be one of those men that's going to be that father figure to so many kids and is going to be healing because he's such a gentle spirit, but ... And he's still taking the supplements to this day.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So healing is possible.
Tana Amen: It kind of reminds me of the story of Denny, one of the people I rescued. It was like I adopted.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That the foundation paid for.
Tana Amen: The foundation paid for, right. Same thing, his vehicle hit an IED in Afghanistan, and he watched his three friends die in front of him. And he was hurt really badly. And he, over the next few months, went through that sort of rabbit hole to hell that they go through when they get back, and woke up one day with a gun in his mouth. It's just terrible. But now, he's so much better. He's learned so many skills. He's been able to learn those skills because his brain's better, and he has full custody of his daughter. He's just doing amazing.
Dr. Earl Henslin: Oh beautiful. That's exciting.
Tana Amen: He's married. Oh, it's incredible.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We have to thank you so much for being on the podcast with us.
Dr. Earl Henslin: Thank you guys.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You are one of our favorite brain warriors, Dr. Earl Henslin, One of his books, Brain on Joy.
What'd you learn today? Post that. The thing I learned is the brain and mind are totally connected, and they can be better, but you have to work in concert. So, post where you learned on any of your social media channels and #BrainWarriorsWay. Also, go to or Apple Podcasts. Leave a review, and we will enter you into a drawing for Tana's cookbook, The Brain Warrior's Way. Also, leave questions, and we'll answer them on weeks that we don't have a guest. I hope you've enjoyed Dr. Henslin as much as we have loved him over the years. Excited to have you back next week.
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Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain-healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code Podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at or a 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.