Dr. Chris Bjorndal is a naturopath who treats patients through orthomolecular psychiatry paired with mindfulness training and other mental health counseling modalities. In the following interview, she discusses her own diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and how Western medicine failed to treat her. After a suicide attempt left her in a coma, Chris decided to look elsewhere for treatment and found an orthomolecular psychiatrist.
Eventually, Chris went back to school for naturopathy and began a practice with her husband. Chris talks about building her practice in Edmonton, Alberta, through patient referrals, professional networking, social media, and print and online writing. Dr. Bjorndal also shares some of the challenges of being a naturopath in a society where convenience and pharmacology are cultural standards.
[2:56] Chris explains how she became a naturopath. She discusses her own diagnosis of depression and bipolar disorder, and how mainstream pharmaceuticals and psychiatric care failed to treat her. She woke up in a coma after a suicide attempt. A friend lent her the book “Return to Love,” which changed her attitude around mental illness, and opened her mind to other forms of treatment.
[5:04] Chris states how she contacted an orthomolecular psychiatrist, who examined her diet, and introduced supplements to support her mental health. For the first time in years, she did not feel anxiety or depression. Chris returned to high school, attended university, and later naturopathic school.
[8:26] Chris discusses going to the Canadian Health Food Association trade show in Vancouver, with the intention of starting an organic baby food company. Here she learned about Dr. Hoffer, the orthomolecular psychiatrist who treated her.
[10:27] Chris explains the nutritional supplement regime Dr. Hoffner put her on at the onset of her treatment. She explains how tryptophan is converted into serotonin, a major brain chemical related to depression. She talks about learning to prepare the right foods for her body while in naturopathic school.
[13:32] Chris talks about the mental and spiritual shifts that she undertook alongside the physical regimen with Dr. Hoffner.
[14:04] Chris describes her practice in Edmonton specializing in mental health. She talks about her training in several mental health counseling modalities: mindfulness training, cognitive behavioral therapy, and compassion focused therapy.
[15:13] Chris details the history of her practice, composed of herself, her husband and two other naturopaths. She talks about the kind of patients she sees, treating bipolar disorder, addictions, schizophrenia, and eating disorders. Chris also works with pregnant women. Her philosophy around medication is “minimum dose for maximum benefit”.
[17:35] Here Chris talks about building her business in three ways: patients referrals; networking in the medical community; publishing articles in newspapers and online. She talks about writing a welcome letter that invites new patients to spread the word about her practice, through referral.
[19:54] Chris talks about her work schedule and how many patients she sees in a week, 30 on average. She discusses building her client base in Fort McMurray, in northern Alberta, where there were no naturopathic doctors, then moving her practice to Edmonton; many of her patients followed her south.
[22:02] Christ explains how she took over a colleague’s practice in Fort McMurray, and about the health care situation in Canada—naturopaths are not generally covered, and this can be an obstacle.
[23:18] Chris speaks on how she connects with other health care professionals, by looking at her patient intake forms. When others refer their patients to her, Chris reaches out to them, often visiting their offices.
[24:33] Chris talks about her writing, and how it influences her business (blogging, newsletter, email lists). Christ asks her patients to sign up for her newsletter, and participates in some social media venues (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook).
[26:35] Chris explains how her time breaks down: she sees clients Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, all day. She works on her book on Mondays, and Thursdays are for administrative work and social media tasks. She takes weekends off.
[27:46] Chris discusses the book she’s writing. She talks about the three macro-systems in the body that she treats in patients, and how she views the major foundations of health. She says, “Genes load the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger.”
[30:20] Chris talks about meeting the patient where they are, not just what she wants them to know.
[30:43] Chris believes the best business advice she received was to get out of her own way. In a client-patient relationship, it’s not about you—the more you can heal, the more you can help your patient. The biggest challenge, for her business, is to get people engaged with naturopathy. Too many people are addicted to convenience, not willing to cook every day or commit the time to their health.
[31:22] Chris offers some business advice: you don’t need to do everything yourself. Hire somebody to help with areas where you’re not strong. Hiring a good office assistant pays off.
BIO – Dr. Chris Bjorndal – Edmonton, Canada
Dr. Chris Bjorndal is one of the only licensed NDs in Canada who is considered an authority in the treatment of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, ADD/ADHD and schizoaffective disorders. A gifted speaker and writer, she has shared her personal story and philosophy of wellness with audiences across Canada. Dr. Chris has helped many patients navigate through labels and stigma towards mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Dr. Chris is especially exceptional about sharing her motivational speeches about how to overcome barriers in life and to encourage others to achieve their full potential. She loves her work and balances it with a full, active lifestyle with her husband and son. She is currently completing a book on mental health. www.naturalterrain.com
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