Bastyr University Student Researches Natural Approaches to ADD/ADHD

DeNae D'Auria
DeNae D’Auria is one of three recent Bastyr University health psychology graduates who submitted their senior research projects to the Washington State Psychological Association (WSPA) Poster Session. At the poster session, members of the WSPA and the American Psychological Association (APA) will review the top research conducted by undergraduate and graduate students in Washington.

“I’ve received a great response from my research so far,” says DeNae, including being asked to present her findings at a seminar for special education teachers in Tucson, Arizona. “If my research is chosen for the WSPA poster session, I plan to bring copies of it and have a dialogue with conventional psychologists about alternative approaches to ADD/ADHD.” Another benefit to having her research chosen, she says, would be the chance to include that on her graduate school application.

DeNae’s project examines alternative (non-Ritalin) approaches to attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) in children. Her research shows that alternative treatments significantly reduce symptoms of ADD/ADHD. “The study confirmed my conviction that much more research needs to be done in these areas,” says the 23-year-old. “Right now, little data is available on many of the alternative treatments and their effects on ADD/ADHD.”

The treatments DeNae studied were divided into four sub-categories. The categories are: alternative treatments provided by an alternative health care provider (acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese herbs, chiropractic adjustments, homeopathy, and nutrition); behavioral modifications (exercise, biofeedback); time spent outdoors; and alternative education.

“I found that all of these methods reduced the symptoms of ADD/ADHD in children enough that they no longer fit the ADD or ADHD diagnoses under the DSM IV manual,” She explains. “And six of the methods were either more effective or equally as effective as Ritalin. These methods included acupuncture, Chinese herbs, biofeedback, exercise and nutrition.”

DeNae’s enthusiasm for her research subject is palpable, and indeed, she has followed this interest for awhile. In 1998, DeNae taught exercise and nutrition to K-5 children at a school in Tucson. “I had a few children with ADD/ADHD, so I experimented with providing more tactile learning for them, giving them time outdoors, setting boundaries and giving them positive reinforcement. In time, the children stopped exhibiting ADD/ADHD behaviors.”

Then when DeNae began her undergraduate studies at Arizona State University, she majored in exercise science and nutrition, and planned to do her research project for ASU’s honors program at ASU on exercise, nutrition and ADD/ADHD. When transferring to Bastyr, she broadened her research focus to include other areas of treatment. “I am passionate about ADHD, ADD and children in general,” she says. “I want people to know that alternative modalities work. My long-term goal is to do non-prescription drug psychiatry.”

DeNae’s own health problems led her to become interested in complementary and alternative medicine. “I had very mainstream beliefs until I became ill. Then I was dragged to an acupuncturist because nothing else worked. I became healthy again, but my philosophy on health and on life were forever changed.”

DeNae than moved from Arizona to Seattle because she had always wanted to live in Seattle. She enrolled in University of Washington’s psychology program, but did not feel satisfied with the program.

A friend suggested Bastyr’s health psychology program to her. When DeNae then looked at Bastyr’s Web site, she knew she had found the right school. When she visited the beautiful, tree-lined campus, her decision was confirmed.

While at Bastyr, DeNae has appreciated the chance to do research in holistic mental health, but also to take interesting electives. “Along with the research I had the opportunity to do, the electives I’ve taken have made my time here very worthwhile,” she says. DeNae took Illness as Initiation, Shamanic Ways, Buddhist and Taoist Psychology, Ecopsychology, Whole Foods Production, the Myths and Rituals series and Healing Practices series (including art therapy). While at Bastyr, DeNae has become so interested in natural health that she is currently preparing to enroll in Bastyr’s naturopathic medicine program. She considers it another major step on her journey toward becoming a holistic mental health professional.

Bastyr University offers degrees in health psychology and other natural medicine programs. For more information, visit Bastyr’s academic programs page.

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