Brian Sparks, MD
I am a Board Certified psychiatrist with a private practice in the Johns Landing area of Portland, Oregon. I received my medical degree from St. George's University School of Medicine. Thereafter I entered Psychiatry residency training at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque. It was there that I was first introduced to Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) and tutored in the theory and clinical application alongside my psychiatric training.
After graduating residency in 2016, I pursued an additional training year in Psychosomatic Medicine ('psych' = mind & 'soma' = body) at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, California. During this training year I was immersed in the mind-body connection on both a deeply scientific and clinical level: this is a passionate topic I continue to learn about and use to aid in the treatment of patients. I've treated patients in a diversity of settings: inpatient medical/surgical hospitals, emergency rooms, medical clinics. I currently see patients at both inpatient psychiatric hospitals and my private practice clinic.
One aspect of patient care that has become increasingly apparent to me over the years is that emotional suffering and body symptoms can coexist in a vicious cycle. It is not uncommon, as well, for patients to have difficulties with a sense of detachment from their emotions... even their physical bodies. The mind-body connection is one of the strongest forces in our lives, yet it is very often taken for granted.
My curiosity with these 'psychosomatic' experiences was cultivated even before medical school (receiving undergraduate degrees in both Psychology and Biology). Fast forward to the present, and patients have shown me, over and over again, both the destructive and healing potential of the mind-body connection.
So is health as simple as being more logically informed of our mind-body connection? The quick answer is no. My experience shows patients do not benefit from a plain intellectual understanding of the factors causing their suffering. Though understanding is an important step towards health, patients must go beyond mere insight into the factors causing their illness.
Rather, I've found, ISTDP is well suited for the healing task at hand. We will focus on the bodily experience of emotions and anxiety. Our emotions too often get trumped by anxiety and defenses, which become a toxic combination pulling us into repetitive, unhealthy and ultimately harmful behaviors. Some of these behaviors are the most benign appearing (from the surface at least), yet cost us and our relationships dearly.
By working with emotions in an active manner, we have much more to gain than an intellectual understanding of our suffering. We can instead, in real time, become aware of the signals from our mind and body with completely new, healthy lenses. Only then can we hope to have an accurate understanding of what our emotional avoidance has cost us, and begin to change our behavior in ways that strengthens ourselves and our relationships.
In fact, patients are often surprised at how much innate healing capacity lies within their emotional core.