Doctor K is a psychiatrist and streamer whose work focuses on helping to encourage mental health within the gaming community. From a burnt out pre-med student with a video game addiction to a meditation student at an ashram in India and eventually now a streaming doctor who is renowned for helping gamers, it’s fair to say that Doctor K has taken an uncommon route in his career and life. His work ties together his experiences practicing meditation, studying Western medicine, and a long history playing video games to provide unique mental health coaching for gamers specifically directly to his audience on Twitch.
This episode Mike and Doctor K cover a plethora of topics from the organic way Doctor K’s Healthy Gamer has grown to his philosophies on mental health. They discuss the unorthodox way Doctor K found himself in the field of psychiatric medicine as well as his own struggles with mental health and video game addiction. Doctor K talks about how his experiences in India influenced how he looks at mental health and where he believes the American psychiatric system can grow and adapt to better meet the changing needs of patients, the trials and tribulations of living in a technology-filled world, and how to responsibly adapt Eastern ideas with Western medicine. For more from Doctor K, check the links below to check out his Twitch, Twitter, and join his communities on Discord and Reddit.
“After working with gamers for a couple years, I started to realize that a lot of what they need is not necessarily therapy but just understanding. There’s just so many basics about how technology interfaces with your mind that we don’t understand as a society.” – Dr. K
“In the West we have formal education in subjects like mathematics and science. Soo every kid is taught mathematics and science. But even if you look at our formal study of psychology, we don’t teach you about you. We teach you about general principles of populations.” – Dr. K
“What I really discovered in India was a formal education in the self. So how does a human being work? Where do thoughts come from? What’s the relationship between thoughts and actions? Where do desires come from? How does one overcome your desires? Why do we give into our desires? All that basic stuff. And I thought it was fantastic. So we take that approach. Understand yourself in a very practical way if you want to improve your life.” – Dr. K
“People can’t wait 10 years for a solution, even if it’s the most beautifully produced solution. So there was a real sense of urgency. People’s lives were being ruined one semester at a time. People can’t wait 10 years let alone 10 months and let alone 10 weeks. People need help today.” – Dr. K
“So we started on Twitch because that’s where my people are and the people that I was trying to help. And by my people, I mean gamers.” – Dr. K
“When I started streaming on Twitch, I didn’t anticipate having a company. We may have incorporated by that point, so we did some due diligence there, but that was just to separate out my clinical practice from the entity that does Twitch. So some diligence there, but we didn’t plan on becoming a thing. If 5 people show up, that’s a win in my book.” – Dr. K
“One of the big things I learned in India is that we attach ourselves to some kind of fiction. The big problem with plans is that we make them in the beginning, but in the beginning is when we understand the least.” – Dr. K
“I don’t consider the [generational] disconnect a bad thing, if that makes sense. I’ve just acknowledged that I’m not going to understand half of what goes on on Twitch. Every year that goes by, I’m going to understand less and less. And that’s okay. And so part of what I love about Twitch is that Twitch helps me understand. So if I don’t understand something, which is happening more and more, I will literally, I want to say once a week or once every other week, I will just ask Twitch.” – Dr. K
“That’s the big lesson that we’ve learned, mental health and mental illness are not things that you need to carry alone. We can come together and support each other as a community. Use tools like peer support to discuss traditionally taboo topics because everyone is suffering from it and we’re not talking about it.” – Dr. K
“I remember when I was a kid, I always got the feedback that I need to focus more. I would do so much better, I would live up to my potential if I could focus more. And my parents would tell me to focus more, my teachers would tell me to focus more. But no one ever taught me how to focus. They just said you need to be better at it. They never sat me down and said here is how you get your mind to focus on one thing for an extended period of time. And that’s what I loved about India. They were like, by the way, here’s how you ride a bicycle, except the bicycle is your mind. Here’s how you get your mind to go in the direction that you want it to go.” – Dr. K
“I don’t think that 95% of people that meditate, or even teach meditation or mindfulness for example, really understand the roots of the practice. They just teach what they were taught.” – Dr. K
“Generally speaking, I think that meditation is focusing your mind and then transcending the mind… There are a lot of ways that we can step beyond the mind, and I think that finding the right technique is really the goal.” – Dr. K
“I think that there’s certainly a lot of pressures to being a content creator, but I think in our case the reason the feeling hasn’t changed is because we started this because what I saw is that there’s a generation of people who are struggling with their mental health. And the stories that I heard were kind of scary… I don’t mean this as an indictment of my field, but what we really saw is that psychiatry was getting too slow, too expensive, and too old. ” – Dr. K
“Instead of criticizing [the American psychiatric system] on the sidelines, let’s see if we can make a difference. And that’s where we started. That was at the top of my mind the first time I streamed on Twitch. It’s at the top of my mind when I’m going to fly to Twitch Con tomorrow: How can I help people today?” – Dr. K
“I hope to live in a world one day where I am no longer needed. That’s my goal. Where I don’t need to explain to people how to meditate because everyone knows. So honestly, my long term content goal is to no longer need to make content. That’s the goal. I should be completely obsolete.” – Dr. K
Highlights This Week:
- Doctor K talks about how he ended up in the niche world of mental health in the gamer community, starting with a personal interest in video game addiction and how he took that to public platforms online.
- Doctor K talks about how his own struggles with video game addiction gave him a unique perspective on and interest in working with mental health and video games.
- Mike asks Doctor K about how his time studying with monks in an ashram in India helped to inform his life and philosophies.
- Doctor K explains he ended up on Twitch, using streaming to approach the issue of mental health as a population issue. With the traditional route to research grant funding being too slow, Doctor K thought streaming helped address these problems with real urgency.
- Mike asks Doctor K if he always had aspirations to help people. Doctor Z explains the long road to his career now and how his upbringing as a second generation immigrant initially created an expectation and desire to become a doctor, but how his experiences with a guru in India helped him realize that he needed to build a valuable life devoted to helping people.
- Doctor K explains why he doesn’t have long term goals and how his efforts to help people naturally grew into the Twitch he has today, even without a plan.
- Doctor K and Mike discuss the process of developing his coaching program and building his stable of coaches, including his philosophies on teaching and how the program allows him to collect and measure outcomes for research.
- Doctor K discusses how being a “boomer” on Twitch and the generational disconnect between him and the Twitch community creates a positive feedback loop, where he and his audience can learn from each other.
- Mike and Doctor K discuss the potential dangers of sharing too much on the internet and how Doctor K helps to create boundaries with his guests on his livestreams.
- Doctor K shares a story about a surprising place online he found inspiration and community, and why Internet communities and support can be a powerful tool in combating shame and mental health struggles.
- Mike asks Doctor K about his guide to mental health and how he’s making his ideas easily accessible to people. Doctor K explains how his guide to mental health features both clinical ideas as well as Eastern and more spiritual ideas like dharma, karma, and finding purpose.
- Doctor K discusses where he sees Western medicine embracing Eastern ideas and where he doesn’t as well as the pros and cons of it.
- Doctor K discusses the many types of meditation, how there are many ways to reach meditative states, and how difficult but rewarding it is to find the right type of meditation for you.
- Mike asks Doctor K to break down how the Healthy Gamer team of producers, editors, coaches, and others was put together, grown, and developed.
- Doctor K talks about why he thinks mental health is getting worse because the psychiatry system is now too slow, too expensive, and too old despite the efforts of good people and doctors.
- Despite being against long term goals, Doctor K talks about where he wants to expand his content and where he’d like to be one day as a content creator: obsolete. Short term: discussing directly with the community what they’re struggling with and how to create content for that, including dating and relationships, social interactions, and trauma.
- Doctor K and Mike discuss what type of Twitch and YouTube content Doctor K likes to engage with.