I honestly didn't know that I could go to school to become a therapist until probably a few years into my undergraduate education. Psychotherapy was not something that my family ever embraced. Sure, we knew about it, and naturally we knew other people who did it, but my father was old school and felt the same way about therapists as he does about chiropractors (if you're a chiropractor...sorry...but you know what I mean). I won't expand upon that belief because now that I am a therapist, my spouse is a therapist, and my brother is in graduate school to become a therapist, I'm hoping that my father has changed his opinion about the mysticism of the couch, and of course those witchdoctors, known as chiropractors. But nonetheless, when I left home to move to Milwaukee and pursue a career in broadcasting, I had no idea how becoming an on-air radio personality would eventually lead me into the career of a Marriage and Family Therapist.
During my undergraduate education at Marquette University, I hosted several different talk radio programs on my school's radio station. It still exists by the way, and you can stream it for free here. I only wanted to do talk radio. Sure, music was fine, but my idea of music was the Violent Femmes, Meredith Brooks, and the soundtrack to the musical Chicago (I clearly do not win friends based on my taste in music). I started off by hosting a morning talk show and soon realized that I am not a morning person and switched to a late night call-in advice format al la in the style of the old Love Line. That definitely suited me better. From there I interned one summer for a county radio station and soon after that was given my big break by the coolest (and kindest) Program Director ever, Kerry Wolfe, who gave me the chance to do overnights for WMIL in Milwaukee. While doing overnights (midnight to 6am) I spoke to a lot of bored, lonely people. They would call the radio station looking for a friendly voice, and as I was loaded up on gallons of coffee and eager for a stranger to keep me company, I spoke to a lot of these people and they eventually became my "regulars." While moonlighting for WMIL I also started working for WOKY as an on-air morning show personality and while I loved the interactions with the listeners and the relationships I formed with our regular callers, I felt that I was missing something--something deeper and richer and more emotionally and intellectually rewarding.
About a year after I was hired at WOKY, I was contacted by a radio station with Sirius/XM in Los Angeles and two weeks later, found myself driving cross country back to Southern California. It was during my time at Sirius/XM that I really began to get the calling to become a therapist. I can remember working for a call-in "advice" show and just felt terrible at some of the suggestions we would offer people. But then again, we were an entertainment show, we were there to distract people from their daily lives or evening commutes. We weren't trained therapists or counselors. We were young women offering levity and frivolity, and maybe even a little hope. But I wanted more. I was dying to actually help these people. I would think to myself often, "what would I actually say to this person if I knew how to help them--how to really help them?" This got me thinking... I mulled over this conundrum with my own therapist at the time, who when I told her that I wanted to become a sex therapist, wisely suggested that I consider a general degree in psychology, and then specialize from there. Very good advice. So I did just that.
A few years, two layoffs, and a lot of personal psychotherapy later, I made the decision to apply to graduate school and become a therapist. The journey wasn't easy, but it was worth every minute. I learned a tremendous amount about myself in those years and am happy to report that I continue to work on self awareness and self exploration with the help of my own therapist and the many tools I have learned along the way. After all, how can I possibly be an effective therapist if I don't practice what I preach?
Even though I became a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and not a bonifide sex therapist, as I once thought, I found I was still able to take a special interest in human sexuality, sexual dysfunctions and paraphilic disorders, and I currently teach, lecture, and conduct workshops on "sex addiction" as well as other various sexual dysfunctions. I continue to work with that population in my private practice but have also found a niche in working with women and women's issues, couples, and adolescent females (more about my therapy services an be found on the Home page). I love what I do and find it incredibly rewarding. I also love people, I love talking to people, hearing their stories, learning about their lives, and learning from them. I think that my genuine interest in others is also part of what makes me really good at what I do. After all, therapy is about building a relationship. I can't wait to get to know you so that we can build a relationship together.
**Marissa lives in Laguna Beach with her wife, their son, and 3 dogs. Her favorite food is Mexican, especially anything on the menu from El Ranchito, and she loves to cook and travel. When she's not in the office doing therapy she can often be found lounging on the beach suntanning, binge watching some new show on Netflix, or reading a really good, and perhaps slightly trashy, historical romance novel. Marissa is a bit of a couch potato and isn't afraid to admit it.**