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Meet Dr. Susan Rako of Newtonville

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Susan Rako.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Dr. Rako. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am a gifted and compassionate Harvard-trained psychiatrist and a true healer —NOT quick to pull out the prescription pad (but able to do so when clearly indicated.) I’m known as “a psychiatrist’s psychiatrist.” I am most interested and equipped to help couples who are having rough times; adolescents and college students who need help with the challenges of growing up; and folks of all generations who face the pain of growing older. I am a writer of several books, three of them published by RandomHouse, including a memoir: “That’s How the Light Gets In”, whose title is a line from a song by Leonard Cohen: ” There’s a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” This wisdom is applicable to everybody’s life.

A great gift for me was, early in my training, meeting my mentor, Dr. Elvin Semrad, a legendary professor of Psychiatry whose teachings carry through to my work today.

Another of my books, a collection of Semrad’s quotes, has been in print for forty years: “Semrad: The Heart of a Therapist.”

When I was fifty, my own experience of impending menopause led me to research the essential function of testosterone in women’s health, and to write “The Hormone of Desire: The Truth About Testosterone, Sexuality, and Menopause” — a pioneering book that has been in print since 1996 and is cutting-edge even today. I am well equipped to distinguish the symptoms of testosterone deficiency from depression due to other causes, and to help women and men to manage symptoms of the hormonal changes with aging.

Has it been a smooth road?
I chose to go to medical school when, unlike today, few women were accepted. I was one of only seven women in my class of ninety-seven at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. I had been married for two years when I began, and I got pregnant in October of my first year, and gave birth to my daughter ten days before the start of second year. Managing the care of a beloved baby while going to medical school was certainly a struggle, but for me mostly a joyful one.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Susan Rako MD story. Tell us more about the business.
What sets me apart from other psychiatrists is that I have NEVER prescribed medication for a person who is doing therapy with another practitioner. I believe that the best help is possible when I have the opportunity to get to know and to understand as much as possible about my patient’s mind, body, emotions, and spirit. Over decades of exclusively private practice I have learned a lot about medication, and do prescribe it for my own patients when it can be of help.

What were you like growing up?  Personality wise; interests wise, etc.?
I always have loved the ocean, have loved to read, and I loved music. When I was four, I discovered that I could pick out tunes on the keyboard of an old piano at my grandmother’s house. I studied piano and got to play a solo with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Children’s Concert of the Worcester Music Festival when I was fourteen.  However I knew by sixteen that I did not want to make music the center of my life, and that, in fact, I wanted to learn how our bodies worked, and to study to be a doctor.  In medical school I loved learning everything, but early-on I discovered that I was drawn most strongly to the complex interplay between emotions and the body.
How do you, personally, define success? What’s your criteria, the markers you’re looking out for, etc?
Success, for me, is in helping my patient to make peace with what’s possible in his or her life and to live as fully and with as much joy as possible.  This has been my calling, which I was blessed to find early in life.  I love Frederick Buechner’s definition of the idea of “vocation”:  … that place where one’s own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
As a psychiatrist who chooses to “treat the whole patient” — body, mind, AND spirt, I am one of very few psychiatrists who does NOT do “med consults” for people who are doing therapy with some other practitioner. When I began this work several decades ago, psychiatrists were known to be THERAPISTS. Today, “Psychiatrist” often means “The doctor who prescribes the medicine.” I am saddened by this development, and concerned that psychiatric training is not preparing future generations of psychiatrists as I was fortunate to be trained — to know and understand my patients in a full way … emotions. mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Susan Rako MD
    83 Walker Street
    Newtonville, MA 02460
  • Website:
  • Phone: 617 964-4241
  • Email:

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1 Comment

  1. CG Mayell

    July 24, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Love this woman’s story and her clear commitment to truly healing people. Thank you for this!

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