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When psychotherapist and author Dr. Earl Henslin first considered using SPECT imagery to help diagnose his patients, he was concerned that the scans would eliminate the need for other types of testing, possibly hurting the bottom line of his practice. But when a family member in need had their brain scanned, what they found changed Dr. Henslin’s method of practice forever. In the first episode of a series about the brain and psychotherapy, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are joined by Dr. Henslin to discuss his introduction to brain imaging.
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 amenclinics.com.
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 brainmd.com.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to a very special week with a very special guest, Dr. Earl Henslin. Before I introduce Dr. Henslin, I want to ask you this question: what if everything you thought you knew was wrong? And that's how I met our guest. Dr. Henslin is a psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist. He went to Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology, which is part of Biola. He's the author of 10 books, the coauthor of three. He has led seminars and retreats for laypeople and professionals nationally, internationally. He's involved in coaching executives to become brain-healthy organizations.
He and I have worked closely together for the last 25 years. He's one of Amen Clinic's best friends. He has his own group practice in Brea here in Southern California. But he's just... He's so smart, and Tana and I wanted to have him on with you this week. This week, we're going to go over how imaging changes everything, how the brain and psychotherapy really go together very nicely, and we're going to share some inspirational stories along the way.
Welcome, Dr. Henslin.
Tana Amen: Yes, welcome.
Dr Earl Henslin: I'm delighted to be here with both of you, my two favorite people.
Tana Amen: You're certainly one of ours.
Dr Earl Henslin: It's been so exciting the last 25 years.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I know. It's hard to believe. It's kind of, "Wow."
Dr Earl Henslin: [crosstalk 00:02:40] like that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When I asked the question, "What if everything you thought you knew was wrong?" what did that bring up for you?
Dr Earl Henslin: Well, it brought up to me that first seminar that I was at. At that time, there were so many patients coming in on ADD medication, and I had read literally five or six books. After a while, they all just sound the same. Nothing was new. But then your brochure came across the desk on ADD, but it was showing pictures of the brain. That just excited me. So I knew there'd be something different here.
I'm so thankful today that that one choice back then led to me meeting you. While I was sitting in this room with probably about 250 to 300 other professionals, I was just stunned as you went through slide after slide after slide after slide because several things hit me all at once. The first one was that if I was going to jump into this, I would have to be ready to rethink every model of psychotherapy that I used, whether it was individual, marital, or family, that I would have to rethink that because all the models of therapy that I had been trained in assumed there was such a thing as a normal brain. They didn't take into account brain chemistry, brain function, and so on.
The second thing that hit me is that if I took this step, I was estimating I would probably lose about a third of my practice income because at that time... I have a strong background in forensic testing and so on. So when people come in, they would probably take anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 worth of tests to get a good report with a diagnosis and plan. I had psychiatrists, physicians just refer people to me just for that, even medication recommendations at that time and so on.
But I knew then that when people came in in crisis, I couldn't look at them anymore and say that was the best use of the money, because when people are in crisis, they're motivated to do whatever it takes to change. I knew I could get more information that was user-friendly with one picture than with the hours of retesting and report write-up and so on.
So I sat there. "I have a good practice. Things are going well. Things are going smoothly. If I do this..." But then I realized, what if 5 years from now or 10 years from now or 20 years from now this is the norm, and I missed out on an opportunity to help people in an entirely new and different way?" That's why I went up during a break and met you and encouraged you to start a clinic in Southern California.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah. You are the reason that we expanded from our small clinic in Northern California. Our second clinic was here in Orange County.
Tana Amen: I don't think I knew that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah. No, it's totally Earl because all of a sudden-
Tana Amen: [crosstalk 00:05:42].
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, all of a sudden, 25% of our patients came from Southern California because of Dr. Henslin.
Tana Amen: So we owe our relationship to Dr. Henslin?
Dr. Daniel Amen: We do.
Tana Amen: Oh. Wow.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because I definitely would not have met you if I'd have stayed in-
Tana Amen: You would not have.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Northern California.
Dr Earl Henslin: God works in wonderful and mysterious ways.
Tana Amen: It's so true.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And then you started sending me patients, and then you came yourself. Then I started scanning people in your family. One of my favorite stories is of Jessica. So right after we opened our Orange County clinic, your niece came. Want to tell that story?
Dr Earl Henslin: Oh, sure. Jessica had a congenital [inaudible 00:06:33] problem since birth. What that meant was, every year, she'd go up to John Hopkins for all kinds of invasive procedures because they were waiting for her to get older before they did the surgery to correct that. So she's needle-phobic.
What I'm watching is a little girl growing up who has all the signs of looking autistic. She'd have problems with anger, panic attacks, and it was affecting the whole family. It took me two years to convince my brother-in-law to get his little girl scanned.
When Jessica came here, my sister was with her and Mike, who's a wonderful guy to... works here to this day, who's great at sticking. I mean, he draws blood; it makes it like it's not even happening. Well, she saw that needle, and she started screaming and wouldn't even let her come near. And then she said to... Gentle soul. She said, "Do you have children?" She's all of five years old. And he goes, "Well, no."
She says, "Well, what makes you think you can help me?" So he walks out of the room shattered, and I... To this day, if I run into Mike, all I've got to do is say the word "Jessica," and it's a PTSD reaction. So then they eventually called Uncle Earl to come down. I race down here wondering, "What in the world am I going to do to help motivate this little girl to get a scan?" My sister and I were in there talking to her, and my sister pulls out a $100 bill-
Tana Amen: Oh, that's so funny.
Dr Earl Henslin: ... and says, "Will you do it for this?" And she goes, "No." And then [Sandy 00:08:16] goes, "Well, what will it take?" "A puppy."
Tana Amen: Oh, she was... Oh.
Dr. Daniel Amen: She's smart.
Tana Amen: Smart. Working it.
Dr Earl Henslin: Because her dad had said there'd never be a dog in the family. And, of course, my sister says, "You got it." She sat there perfectly still when they injected the [Ceretec 00:08:33] and got the scan. And then it showed a ring of fire, which is... It's like the whole brain is lit up and like anything can trigger anger or panic and things like that.
You and I talked for about an hour and decided on Topamax because it hits that left and right [inaudible 00:08:54] and helps stabilize the temporal lobes, which has a lot to do with mood regulation. And, literally, it was like 72 hours after that first dose of Topamax that my sister heard the words "I love you." And then, when she asked Jessica to pick up her toys or do something like that, she would do it rather than it being a big war.
I had so many experiences like that because say if they brought in a Jessica to my office, well, we'd look at it as a family systems problem. It does affect the whole family-
Tana Amen: Oh, for sure.
Dr Earl Henslin: ... no doubt about it. But the intervention is different because then, if you balance out the brain chemistry, then you can actually make some changes to therapy. What happened was, several years later, they were out here for my son's wedding. I was bothered by the fact that she was two years behind in school. Her anxiety, anger, all stayed managed, but yet she wasn't learning. I knew she was an incredibly bright little girl.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, as evidenced by the puppy.
Dr Earl Henslin: Exactly. So we scanned her again. What was so fascinating... And also, at five years old, she was diagnosed with arthritis. So she was on an anti-inflammatory for that. But it showed still a lot of activity over the whole brain. But what it did show was that there's so much frontal cortex activity, hyperfrontality, that that's why she wasn't learning: because she's putting all her energy into managing the pain of the arthritis, and there's nothing left over to actually learn to get new information in or retrieve the information.
At that time, Dr. Renee Thomas had been talking to us about omega-3 fatty acids. She had a clinic in Boston then. My sister is in Virginia and took her up to... The whole family went up to see her, and Renee put her on a pharmaceutical-grade liquid fish oil and took one month to work up to one tablespoon. And then my sister dropped the Vioxx 50% with no return of pain.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr Earl Henslin: Month two, got her up to two tablespoons, which was like the equivalent of 14 to 16 grams per day, her completely off the Vioxx with no arthritis pain coming back. So that anti-inflammatory effect of the fish oil took care of that. Within month three, dropped the Topamax 50%. No return of anxiety. Month four, no return of anxiety, her completely off. So now it's just strictly nutrition with high levels of omegas.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr Earl Henslin: And then we re-scanned her. By that time, you'd opened the clinic in [Reston 00:11:48]. And I've always been so grateful because that was essentially an hour drive for my sister now. On that scan, you got a normal-looking brain. The ring of fire is completely gone. It showed a little bit of a dropout in the front part of the brain, which showed the need for, maybe, a stimulant. But her learning skyrocketed.
Tana Amen: Oh, wow.
Dr Earl Henslin: I mean, she was at grade level and beyond. Just last year, she called me up and she said, "Uncle Earl, I want to thank you for never giving up on me." Still gets me.
Tana Amen: That's so sweet.
Dr Earl Henslin: She graduated on the honor roll from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in psychological economics, behavioral economics. She's looking at graduate schools.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr Earl Henslin: She'll say to me, "Do you think I can do this work?" And I say, "Well, Jessica, your grades are better than mine ever were." She says, "What better person than someone like me who's lived it to do it?" I said, "You got it, Jessica. You'll be great." So now she's looking at graduate schools.
Tana Amen: That's amazing.
Dr Earl Henslin: Yeah.
Tana Amen: I have a question.
Dr Earl Henslin: Sure.
Tana Amen: Did your practice... Did you end up losing a third of your business?
Dr Earl Henslin: No.
Tana Amen: I was just curious.
Dr Earl Henslin: No, no. It grew because then it was like, at that time, my oldest daughter was running the office, Rachel. And she told me, "Dad, do you know you have a reputation for being the place to go when you've lost hope?"
Tana Amen: Oh, interesting.
Dr Earl Henslin: I said, "Really?" She said, "Yeah. A lady called up. They'd been to three different therapists, two different treatment facilities, numerous physicians, and she asked if I thought it was going to be too big of a problem for you. I just laughed and I said, 'No. For my dad, everything's just an interesting problem. He'll sort through it and you'll get better. It'll be okay.'"
Tana Amen: Oh, what a great compliment.
Dr Earl Henslin: Yeah, yeah, particularly from your daughter. So that's the reputation that's built. Now, we've had families from Hong Kong, Korea, Europe, all across the United States, many families from Canada that will call. We've worked with them in getting their history done, and now there's eight Amen Clinics to send people to. I've referred people to every clinic in the country, which has been exciting.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When we come back, we're going to talk about how you use the information from the brain, from the scans, in doing psychotherapy with patients because it's not just hardware. It's how you integrate hardware and software together.
Dr Earl Henslin: You bet.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us.
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