Compassionate Inquiry

In over thirty years as a practicing physician, it’s become clear to me how important emotional experiences are to our health and risk of illness.

And it only makes sense, right? We’re emotional beings and we can sense how our feelings lead to physical experiences in our bodies.

Science supports the observation that emotional experiences—feelings, thoughts, and beliefs—shift our genetic expression and functional physiology. In this way, unhealed emotional traumas, overwhelming experiences, and persistently high stress levels make us more vulnerable to chronic illness of all kinds. To heal, we’ve got to reckon with all this.

Compassionate Inquiry is a trauma-informed psychotherapeutic approach developed by internationally acclaimed trauma expert, Gabor Maté, which helps suffering people reconnect to themselves.

The central premise of CI is how beneath all dysfunction—mental, emotional, and physical—is separation from our essential, authentic selves. The CI process asks, “what’s in the way of connection to self?”

CI gently uncovers and releases layers of childhood trauma, constriction, and suppressed emotion embedded in the body, that are at the root of illness and addiction.

The CI practitioner provides a safe container and fiercely compassionate presence to guide the client deeply into the meaning of the present pain. The process cuts through the layers of story and neurological defenses to find the truth, restore connection to self, and recover authenticity. This embodied, present-moment experience guides the client to awareness of truth and a deep, sustainable liberation from suffering.

Karyn Shanks, MD is a graduate of the Compassionate Inquiry intensive professional training program created by internationally acclaimed trauma expert, Gabor Maté MD.  She can weave the CI process into Functional Medicine consultations or provide CI as stand-alone sessions.

What to expect in your Compassionate Inquiry session.

  • You are the boss. The goals and direction of the session are completely yours.
  • I am your fiercely compassionate champion, guiding you with gentleness, deep presence, and intuition, always attuning to you and what you need.
  • All your experiences and feelings are welcome—I want you to feel safe exactly as who you are.
  • While traditional psychotherapy focuses on story—the cognitive processes we use to understand our past, wrought with inaccuracies and defenses—your CI session will take you on a present moment journey into your body and the feeling-based wisdom within you.
  • Your present-moment feelings will guide us to their source and illuminate the beliefs you’ve held to survive.
  • I may interrupt you from time to time to gently guide you out of story (the past) and into present moment experience (your truth).
  • Our session will last approximately one hour, depending on what you need.
  •  You will be given gentle homework to strengthen your insights and reconnection to yourself.
  • During a Functional Medicine consultation we may combine the use of CI as a way to strengthen your wisdom and healing.

If you are interested in scheduling a Compassionate Inquiry session, contact Dr. Shanks at [email protected]. All CI sessions are being done virtually on the Zoom platform.


The Wisdom of Trauma documentary.

Compassionate Inquiry website.

Tim Ferriss interview with Gabor Maté, 2022.

Gabor Maté. The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing a Toxic Culture. 2022.