To Top

Meet Dr. Chris Tickner of Tree of Life Healing in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Chris Tickner.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
When I was about 12-years-old, my mother starting working as a bookkeeper at The Centre for Traditional Acupuncture in Columbia, MD. I, of course, had no clue what that meant, but in short order, my entire family started getting acupuncture and, as it turned out, from so of the most talented and holistically oriented acupuncturists in the world. Dianne Connelly, Bob Duggan and their teacher J.R. Worsley were among the group. It was at that point that the seeds of holistic health and body/mind/spirit approaches to healing were planted.

I studied music, theatre/drama and psychology at Indiana University, and after several years starving as a young actor in Chicago, found myself in massage school. In the early 90’s I opened my practice, and have been helping my clients find health and wellness ever since.

As I worked with the bodies of my clients, I began to realize that there was so much more going on than just tense muscles. Clients were having big emotions when we worked, and I found I was ill-equipped to work with such material. I was introduced at that time to the work of Ron Kurtz and Hakomi Psychotherapy. I studied Hakomi, a body-centered or somatic approach to psychotherapy, in workshops and received the work as a client.

Within a few years, my wife (also an actress at the time, and now co-owner of Tree of Life Healing, Andrea-Marie Stark) and I moved to Boulder, CO so I could pursue a degree in Somatic Psychology from Naropa University. There I was fortunate enough to work with Susan Aposhyan and Christine Caldwell, two prominent leaders in the somatic world. Additionally, as Naropa was the school founded by Shambhala Buddhism’s Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, I was able to incorporate mindfulness and Buddhist psychology approaches my own work and practice.

We then moved out here to Los Angeles, where I worked for several years towards my psychotherapy licensure and opened my psychology private practice around 2005. A couple years later it was back to school to get my doctorate in Somatic Psychology.

During this program, I developed a profound connection to bio-energetics (another somatic approach to psychotherapy) and the work of Alexander Lowen and his students including one of the most prominent teachers in my life, Michael Sieck. Michael’s work, the Three-Fold Way, incorporates all of the things that have led me down this path, including a holistic approach to wellness, somatic focus, mindfulness and relational aspects of psychology.

And now, my wife and I own Tree of Life Healing in Pasadena, a collection of like-minded practitioners dedicated to the holistic approach to healing. We offer somatic psychology, group therapy, energy healing including Reiki, acupuncture, shamanic work, massage and other disciplines. We provide weekend retreats for our clients where we are able to go deeper into the work. We train new therapists and practitioners in holistic and body-centered approaches. Andrea-Marie and I feel very privileged to do the work we do and are grateful that so many of our clients have found healing and wellness in this path.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Of course, there have been struggles! Many of them. I have been fortunate to in my path as well, and that is never lost on me. I am also grateful for the struggles, for those are the times in my life where I made decisions that have led me right here.

I am so thankful that early in my life, my folks instilled in my a confidence that allowed me to move into the pain, to the places that have been hard. In many ways, facing struggles, sitting in the fire, is a perfect description of the work we do. You can take an aspirin for your headache, or you can sit and study it, and find the source, and heal.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Tree of Life Healing – what should we know?
As I already mentioned, Tree of Life Healing is a holistic and alternative healing resource and group practice in Pasadena. We provide somatic psychology, massage, acupuncture, reiki, shamanic practices and other approaches to healing. We are a family of people who work closely together and share common values of holistic and body-centered work.

Personally, I work with a wide range of clients from little kids to the elderly. I have an expertise in working with male survivors of childhood sexual abuse and often write and speak on that topic. I am a clinical supervisor with several interns who work in my practice and find that teaching new and upcoming therapists this powerful somatic lineage is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.

I like to think that I am known for being kind, warm, funny and that I help my clients feel understood, normal and hopeful. Ron Kurtz, the founder of Hakomi, always stressed the importance of finding something to adore in your clients. Luckily, that is something that comes easily to me. For me, it is the quality of the relationship I have with my clients that is most healing. And you can’t fake that!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
It has never been about me. It has always been about wanting and needing to help others. Of course, I am proud of my work and am privileged in many, and I don’t take that for granted. The skills and practices I learned early in my career at Naropa, the capacity to be empathetic and kind, to be open-hearted and fierce, and willing to sit in the fire, have allowed me a certain kind of confidence that is not derived from my ego.

Oh jeez, I sound so amazing don’t I! Ha. I’m trying to say that I think the reason I am successful is that I was taught to not make this work about me. I am a vehicle, a guide, a shepherd. The work is the real meat of it. That is why I am successful, the work itself.


  • My regular rate for a 50-minute session of psychotherapy is $200. At times I offer a lower rate based on financial need. I don’t take insurance but am considered an out of network provider in most PPO insurance plans.

Contact Info:

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in