Included in encephiatrics would be talk therapies and even literary approaches, such as poetry therapy, according to Pies.
"I believe there are many ways of influencing the brain for the good. The brain is a kind of funnel that takes in all of these different stimuli. I see psychiatry as moving into that very comprehensive and all-inconclusive direction. There is a risk of becoming distracted by all of these opportunities to change the brain function. [But] I believe we can surmount that and become a truly comprehensive, brain-healing discipline."
Many Interests, Many Talents
Multitalented, Pies has many varied interests. He has conducted research, taught, written journal articles and literary works, and served on editorial boards. A long-time member of PT's editorial board, Pies received the publication's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. While he is well known for the "Clinical Puzzles" and "Psychiatric Medicine" columns that have been published for years in PT, Pies' first submission to the publication was a short story. In 1985, he saw an ad requesting contributions, nonfiction or fiction, for the newly created publication.
"The very first piece that I sent in to John Schwartz, M.D., was a short story, "Hyman Gleeber Buys a Friend." The story was based on a teaching in the Talmud, which has been a great source of inspiration and interest to me," Pies said. "To my surprise, since PT was ostensibly a psychiatric newspaper, John liked the story and it was published. That launched my fiction career, and to that extent, I owe John a lot."
Pies has a rich literary and philosophical life. In 2004, he wrote Zimmerman's Tefillin, a collection of short stories (PublishAmerica). His poems, such as "Spellcheck for a Malformed Fetus," "Congestive Heart Failure," "Return to Brooklyn" and "The Golden Years" have appeared in JAMA. He also has published poetry in numerous literary journals and anthologies and has written on the therapeutic uses of poetry and the nature of poetic language. Last year, a collection of his poems, Creeping Thyme, was published (Brandylane Publishers, Inc.).
"Robert Frost defined poetry as a 'momentary stay against confusion.' In that sense, it may be broadly therapeutic for me. I see it as a way of delving into language in such a fashion that it creates a small piece of order in a chaotic universe," Pies said, adding that writing poetry is "part of the broader artistic impulse to seek out and create beauty and order."
In 2000, Pies the philosopher wrote The Ethics of the Sages: An Interfaith Commentary on Pirkei Avot (Jason Aronson Publishers, Inc.).