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The Instinct to Heal Book Review

Updated on February 17, 2015

Behavioral drugs can have lasting side effects on your mind and body. Furthermore, drugs can be addictive.

In talk therapy, the psychologist takes you into your unconscious mind, which is a long and tedious process.

Then, how to deal with stress, anxiety and depression?

David Servan-Schreiber has the answer.

The Instinct to Heal: Curing Stress, Anxiety and Depression Without Drugs and Without Talk Therapy by David Servan-Schreiber is one of the most widely read self-help books. In The Instinct to Heal, Dr. Servan-Schreiber shares his personal and professional experience on dealing with stress, anxiety and depression, and gives insights into alternative ways to deal with stress and stress related conditions.

Book cover of The Instinct to Heal scanned by Vinaya
Book cover of The Instinct to Heal scanned by Vinaya

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The Instinct to Heal by David Servan-Schreiber

Dr. Servan-Schreiber suffered with brain cancer for 20 years. He has shared his experience and knowledge in numerous books, audio books, lectures, journals, and articles. The Instinct to Heal: Curing Stress, Anxiety and Depression Without Drugs and Without Talk Therapy is critically acclaimed book by David Servan-Schreiber. First published in 2004, it has now been translated in numerous languages and millions of copies sold worldwide. The Instinct to Heal is a fascinating account of the author’s research.

Many people opt for anti-depressant drugs and talk session with psychologist while dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. Dr. Servan-Schreiber gives alternative treatments to psychological conditions of human mind, and provides easy to follow steps to balance body and mind, and live happily.

The Instinct to Heal is about the brain’s natural predilection to heal. The therapeutic approaches to mental health and quality of life elucidated in the book go beyond traditional psychology. Most importantly, alternative medicine explained in the book is backed with neuroscience research. The Instinct to Heal explains about the role of the body and mind in healing process. Dr. Servan-Schreiber’s arguments are not baseless, he gives evidences from true accounts and scientific research along with diagrams.


  1. Founder, Doctor without Borders, USA
  2. Founding Director, Centre for Integrative Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  3. Founding Board Member, Environmental Health Trust
  4. Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh
  5. Lecturer, Université Claude Bernard Lyon, the Faculty of Medicine


  • Healing Without Freud or Prozac
  • Anticancer: A New Way of Life
  • The Instinct to Heal: Curing Stress, Anxiety and Depression Without Drugs and Without Talk Therapy

About David Servan-Schreiber

Physician, psychiatrist, neuroscientist and the author of numerous books and journals, Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, was born in France, in 1961, and died of brain cancer in 2011. He has been instrumental in promoting mental health and quality of life. He is remembered for his contribution on the prevention and treatment of cancer and self-healing approaches.

David Servan-Schreiber taught in many universities and regularly contributed in magazines. He also volunteered as a physician in Iraq, Guatemala, Kurdistan, Tajikistan, India and Kosovo. His books have been translated in more than 35 languages and millions of copies sold worldwide.


Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society Presidential Award for Outstanding Career in Psychiatry, 2002

The Instinct to Heal Book Review

In The Instinct to Heal, Dr. David Servan-Schreiber does not offer a magic wand to heal your mind but explains healing methods that will have positive effects on your mental health. The alternative approaches to healing explained in book are drawn from scientific research and author’s findings. Dr. Servan-Schreiber analyses non-traditional healing techniques and explains about the connection of the brain and the body, and the heart and the brain. He gives detailed analysis of logical brain and emotional brain from the neurobiology point of view.

Author offers numbers of healing techniques. Some of the methods explained in The Instinct to Heal are:

Contents in The Instinct to Heal

  1. Caveats
  2. The Heart and Its Reasons
  3. Living with Heart Coherence
  4. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  5. EMDR in Action
  6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Feed the Emotional Brain

Logical Brain and Emotional Brain

The human brain is composed of two basic structures: Logical brain and Emotional brain. Logical brain and emotional brain tries to dominate each other. The main thesis in The Instinct to Heal is to reprogram the emotional brain. Dr. Servan-Schreiber explains how to reprogram the emotional brain to make it adaptive to new social and emotional conditions, and get away from the painful past and acclimatize to the present situation. According to the author, the emotional brain contains natural mechanisms for self-healing.

Cardiac coherence: According to the author, the heart affects mental well-being. When you are showered with love and appreciation, your heart experience warmth and the heartbeat becomes coherent. By instigating warm feelings in the heart, stress level can be lowered.

Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a Chinese healing method in which sterilized needles are used on different points of the body to release self-healing hormones.

EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) technique uses REM (Rapid Eye Movement) to heal emotional problems quickly.

Exercise: Brain is connected with the body. Healthy body promotes healthy brain. Author explains how exercise helps to cure stress, anxiety and depression.

Fish oil: Eating Healthy food is necessary to remain healthy. Fish oil contains Omega-3 Fatty Acid, which has wonderful healing properties. Omega is beneficial to the heart and the nervous system.

Meditation: Meditation is a mental exercise to empty thoughts. When the thoughts are emptied, mind becomes calm. Author gives insights on how to practice relaxation meditation.

Fostering social connections: Social connection is necessary for mental health. Author explains how communication can be used to decrease stress.

My Rating

5 stars for The Instinct to Heal

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The Instinct to Heal: A Must Read Self-help Book

Little bit of motivation inspires people to live life better. That is why self-help books are the best sellers in many cultures and societies. The methods explained in The Instinct to Heal are practical and can be practiced by anyone without needing an expert. The book will teach you how to take care of your mind and body.

After reading the book, you will not remain confused about where to begin, because the author provides a practical guide on how to begin healing process. At the end of the book, Servan-Schreiber gives a nine-step approach to healing.


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    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      @LKMore, situation in our country is more or less similar. There is an an increasing number of people taking behavioral drugs. Thanks for reading.

      @wish-list, health insurance is concept has not still taken form roots in Nepal. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • LKMore01 profile image


      6 years ago


      This may be an exaggerated statistic but I recently read and heard that 70% of all adult Americans are taking some type of prescription drug. That blows my mind. That is a huge dependence on substances rather than really focusing on what is causing the anxiety and stress. This is a great review. Thank you for sharing. Voted up and useful.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal



      Thank you very much for reading and commenting. I hope you benefit from this book as much as I have benefited.


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Vinaya,

      I am happy to hear that your father was able to cure his depression naturally.

      I believe that we should treat the mind and body as a whole. The body has the ability to heal itself but conventional doctors are pushers for the drug companies.

      Voted up, awesome and sharing

      Have a good day. :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      This book sounds like a fount of excellent knowledge on healing! Thanks for sharing it, Vinaya!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      @Maria, my father suffered from chronic depression and heavily depended on behavioraldrugs. However, when he began practicing, alternative healing, he was able to cure depression. Thanks for your wonderful thoughts.

      @Faith, your story of survival is a miraculous story. I also believe in faity healing. In fact, I try to cure anxiety by worshiping my god and meditation.

      @Rayne, I will be glad to know your view on this book after you have read it. Thanks for reading and commenting on this review.

      @Arun, thanks for stopping by.

      @Frank, this book arrived in American soil after being popular in Europe. Thanks for your comment.

      @Cyndi, I'm sure you will love this book. Thanks for your comment.

      @Radha, it is true most of the healing ideas in The Instinct to Heal were already popular in other cultures and countries. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      @Nellienna, Dr. Servan-Schreiber has proved through his research that our brains have natural predilection to heal. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic.

      @Tillsontitan, you are wonderful. Thanks for your amazing comment.

      @always exploring, according to Servan-Schreiber mind, body and heart are interconnected. We need to balance these to remain healthy. Thanks for your feedback.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Vinaya, This is interesting. I am a firm believer in ' mind over body ' I have been thinking about acupuncture for celiac disease, the problem is finding a Doctor who believes in the practice. I want to read this book. Thank you for the great review....

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Well Vinaya, you have again written a hub containing information many of us are unaware of. I don't know how you do it! This was very interesting on so many levels. We can always use help in handling stress and when it comes from someone who has lived through what Dr. Servan-Schreiber has, we know there is veracity.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      6 years ago from TEXAS

      Hooray! I believe in the body/brain's natural ability to heal itself. When we realize that our entire 'selves' developed from single, almost microscopic cells into the whole bodies we are, with all the systems working, is it any wonder that there are built-in systems for dealing with whatever may assault them?

      Certainly much in our environment conditions people to seek another kind of 'take' on it, and no one would deny the benefits of some of that.

      Yes, of course, brain is connected with the body! We're 'all of a piece', one might say. When we care for health in one part, the whole system benefits, from exercise to healthful foods and thinking.

      Thank you! I'm happy to be introduced to Dr. Servan-Schreiber's book. Sounds as though he has some excellent 'prescriptions' (for want of a better word) for handling life's challenges without resorting to chemicals & other extreme measures.

      P.S. - I can't help but pass along something tragically amusing I heard on TV earlier. Describing the bargain afghan, the person mentioned that it was made of "natural man-made materials". My jaw dropped at that one.


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      He has some treatments that alternative medicine offers already, but some people might find this helpful if they do not know much about alternative medicine. Dr. Sarano, M.D. works with people who have pain who were helped by understanding what was stressing them and bothering them. Pain was manifested when the person did not deal with the problem. He found some people had to go for psychotheraphy to get help. I think there is a mental dimension in most health conditions.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      This was an excellent review. I'm not familiar with the book or the author but what you have shared in your review makes it worth looking into since I'm always interested in reading more about natural ways to combat illness and disease.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      Ive never heard of this book nor the author but I think it is something I'd look into Ive heard of talk therapy, and alternative medicine.. and you reviewed this book wonderfully.. makes me want to view a copy thanks Vin..:)

    • ARUN KANTI profile image


      6 years ago from KOLKATA

      I am amazed at your prowess to review a good book unknown to us. Thank you very much for the useful hub nicely prepared.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have in all honesty never heard of this author nor his book. However great hub and information.

      I am trying to load the videos but my pc is acting up so I will try again later.

      I will have to read that book, when I am finished all mine.

      I am going to California this summer with a friend so I will take it with me then

      thank you


    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      6 years ago from southern USA

      Dear Vinaya,

      Thanks for the great book review here.

      This is very interesting and useful.

      I voted for talk therapy, as I consider praying to my Lord God as talking to my best friend. Praying and mediating on His Word, helps me to live a stress free life!

      When I found out I had DCIS breast cancer, I immediately began praying and talking with my Lord God, and His peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding fell down upon me, and I had no stress at all with the cancer. In fact, He healed me of the cancer. As it was there showing up on the mammogram and the biospsy, and then a week later they couldn't find a thing, but still insisted I have a lumpectomey and radiation, when nothing was showing up!!! I know I was healed without a doubt of the cancer. He tells us in His Word to think on things that are true, pure, excellent, worthy of praise, etc., and our minds will be kept in perfect peace.

      Voted up ++++

      Peace and blessings, Faith Reaper

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Vinaya,

      This hits close to home as I was born the same year as David, 1961.

      His life journey, especially after being diagnosed with cancer, is inspirational and his legacy is mighty.

      The videos are wonderful, helpful and eye opening. Much of our health and wellness depends on our contribution, with healthy eating and an exercise, movement routine.

      I am a firm believer in EMDR...For me, the trust I had in my therapist combined with the EMDR technique, assisted me in putting traumatic memory in the far recesses of my mind. I cannot say that therapy is never necessary but I will say it is not always necessary.

      Excellent book review and I plan to check out...Voted UP and UABI.


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