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Meet Chris Marrero-Howieson, PsyD of Marrero Psychology in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Marrero-Howieson, PsyD.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was one of those weird kids that knew what they wanted to be when I was 14 years old. I suspect I would’ve known earlier, except my profession involves dark feelings and hard conversations, and that’s not something that we do in my family (You see, I come from a long line of strong, adventurous people that happen to be allergic to feelings). Despite this, people shared their stories and struggles with all of us. It was almost like others could sense that we couldn’t talk about our own problems, but we were more than happy to listen to everyone else’s.

When I was a freshman in high school, I was introduced to the writings of Freud and Jung. Something clicked into place. There was an entire science surrounding this strange family compulsion to bear witness to the pain of others. I was in love.

Fast forward half a lifetime and add another decade, and here I am. In the nearly 15 years that I’ve practiced clinically, I’ve helped thousands of people. Not only do I have the honor of listening to the stories of their lives, but I’m now equipped with the knowledge and experience necessary to intervene. I’ve worked with all ages, backgrounds, and presenting problems. During this time, I’ve also been an Outreach Coordinator for a major university, Training Director for two large clinics, an Assistant Director, and a Director.

I was coasting my way through a very predictable career path when I walked away from all of it. Although he had been medically fragile for the last decade, my father’s death shook me to the core. It was expected and unexpected. I found it hard to breathe past the pain- the raw power of grief was not something I was prepared for despite helping so many clients through the process. I thought I was, but I was wrong.

Suddenly the path laid out before me seemed so shallow. Instead of sitting with my clients, holding hope in lieu of their hands, I found myself staring at spreadsheets and planning fundraisers. When I would once celebrate seemingly small but life-changing changes face to face, I was now looking at people in cold, computerized aggregate. Much like a frog in the stock pot, the water temperature had crept up so slowly that I never even noticed the scalding water was draining away my passion.

Building my own practice was always something I’d thought I’d do “eventually, but “eventually” never turned into now as I got lost in the shuffle of starting a family, taking care of an ailing father, and just the ebb and flow of life. After Dad died, I ran out of excuses. Turns out, I was just scared. Like learning about psychology as a kid, something else clicked into place, and I jumped.

I’m not religious or spiritual, but it was hard not wonder if it was the universe itself pushing things into place. The changes were abrupt and knocked the wind from me, but were so perfectly aligned once the dust cleared. Suddenly all the random tools and skills I’d collected along the way got put to use, and my business exploded into existence.

My life is unimaginably different. Today, I am a psychologist by calling, and a business owner by choice. I get to practice the work I love, spend plenty of time with my husband and daughter, volunteer at my daughter’s school, and take time for myself to run or just sit on the beach. I miss my dad every day. I am sad that he never got to see me finally launch, but I am content. I know he would be proud. I know I am.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Ha. No. Have I mentioned that I have a tattoo that reads “Love the Struggle?” I think I was so comfortable in my unsatisfying life that I had to have my world ripped away before I realized how much more was possible.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Marrero Psychology is a holistic mental healthcare practice. I am a licensed clinical psychologist and a biofeedback specialist.

My area of expertise is stress, anxiety, and mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder. I have a postdoctoral certification in CBT with an emphasis on mindfulness. In therapy, I get to help people restructure their thoughts and patterns to get unstuck, past feeling overwhelmed, and live happier, healthier lives. I get to build strong relationships with my clients and celebrate as they grow into resilience.

Despite Santa Monica and the Westside being known for being health conscious, I was shocked to find out that there are very few biofeedback providers. Adding biofeedback into a psychotherapy practice opens doors to helping so many people that would otherwise not have experienced the benefit of services.

You don’t have to talk to make major changes. Biofeedback intervenes at a neurological level. You just have to be willing to participate in training in session and do homework between sessions. It’s quick and effective for anything that’s stress-related (stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, chronic pain, addiction, migraines, epilepsy, IBS, diabetes, hypertension…the list goes on and on. If it wasn’t backed by solid science over several decades, I would wonder if it was snake oil!)

I am proud of all of this. I offer hope and change in the form of therapy and biofeedback. Through our work together, my clients feel better, and as strange as it sounds, I get excited about eventually working myself out of a job with each new person that comes to my office. It’s a good life.

What were you like growing up?
If you met my 6-year-old daughter, you would have all the information you needed.

I was strong, way too smart for my own good, half feral, and determined to save the world in my own way, on my own terms.

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Dalila

    October 11, 2017 at 16:55

    What an inspiring story. How beautiful presence your dad still has in your life.
    I can relate to knowing what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a therapist since I was 12.

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