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Chronic Depression and How Shamanic Healing Helps


Practitioner Spotlight with Dr. Ellie Zarrabian : Chronic Depression and Shamanic Healing

We are speaking with Ellie Zarrabian PhD, on the topic of chronic depression and the successful outcomes from non-traditional healing practices. Dr. Zarrabian is the Founder and Spiritual Director of Centerpeace Foundation based in Los Angeles and Oakland, California. 

Tell Us a Story About  a Patient with Chronic Depression and How You Helped with Shamanic Healing

My Client Linda and Her Story

Linda was referred to me by an ex-client of mine. Her initial reason for needing therapy was because she suffered from chronic depression. She mentioned that she had been receiving psychological counseling for a number of years and although her symptoms seemed to have improved significantly, her depression still lingered. She felt there were unresolved issues in her life that never seemed to get fully resolved. Not only had she been seeing a therapist for some time but some years prior she had also gotten involved with occult practices. Although her spiritual practice had helped her initially, lately she felt it was compounding her depression. She had heard about my work from her friend and was curious to know whether or not I could help her.

Shamanic Healing

The next time Linda and I met, I checked in with my guides and was instructed to perform a shamanic healing. The session began with the same ritual I always practice at the beginning of every healing session. I had her lie down on my medicine table (similar to a massage table) face up as I stood beside her at the table’s head. I then held my hands in a prayer position and allowed myself to enter into a quiet place within myself where I could invoke the presence of the spirit world to help guide me through the therapeutic process. 

As I entered an altered state, I consciously began to surrender and let go of my will so that I would become an open channel for Linda. Once I was able to let go of my thoughts and ideas of what the session needed to look like or what I was expecting might take place, I knew the session was ready to begin. 

What happens next is different with every individual. With some I may not need to talk but instead perform the healing in silence. With others, I may have a continuing dialogue. In Linda’s case, I felt I needed to tell her what I was experiencing. While in an altered state, I began to see scenes rapidly flash by in front me. Each scene depicted a man with young girl or an adolescent girl or a woman. Although each scene was different and took place in a different time period, the theme was always the same. Each one clearly depicted a man abusing, exploiting, or otherwise taking advantage of the child or the woman. 

The Healing of Chronic Depression

As I described each scene, something began to shift in Linda. First she began to quietly sob, and then gradually her sobs turned into cries. She began to resonate with the images and said she had always suspected that her father had abused her as a child but she could not confirm it. Despite her numerous attempts to have her father acknowledge the abuse, he continued to deny that he had done so. This left her paralyzed and unable to move on with her life. 

As I continued to share the scenes with her, eventually something even more interesting began to happen. Linda began to see the same images I was describing. Pretty soon I would start describing a scene and she would finish telling me the rest of it. Each time she finished describing a scene, her body would relax more. It would appear that viewing the images helped her let go of the pain she had been holding onto for so long. We continued going back and forth for the next hour or so until there were no more images visible to either of us. Then I knew the session was over. 

Letting Go to Get Rid of Chronic Depression

Linda and I continued to work together for the next several months, processing the events of the session. The images had opened up a doorway for her, enabling her to do the inner work necessary for her to so she could gradually understand and let go of her deep hatred and resentment she felt toward her father. 

As she continued to do this inner work, her sense of self became stronger. Her depression began to gradually lift and each time I saw her she looked healthier and happier. She also became more confident in her own intuitive abilities and began relying on her intuition more frequently in her daily life. She no longer felt she needed an external source of affirmation for her spiritual beliefs and practices. Later, she used her gift to work with abandoned and abused animals. She was able to communicate with them and help them release their trauma . . . many of them were then adopted into loving homes. 

The Essence of Shamanic Healing

In the shamanic work that I do, I am often reminded of this wonderful Chinese proverb that describes the essence of shamanic healing as it relates to the innate restorative power of the human mind and body:

When the winter is severe

the pine trees in this ancient land

stay green throughout the year.

Is it because the Earth is warm and friendly?

No, it is because the pine tree has within itself a life-restoring power.

Why and When Did You Choose the Holistic Path?

It was a calling. Through a series of synchronistic events in my early twenties, I came to find it. I first heard of the word “Transpersonal” through Ken Wilber’s writings in the book “Bridging Science and Spirit”. Then one day, by chance I went to see a hypnotherapist for a long existing condition I had. I used to chew my cuticles to the point of bleeding. When I went to see the hypnotherapist, I had one of those momentous spiritual awakening experiences. I then found out he was a Transpersonal hypnotherapist and that really struck me. At that time in my life, I was also very lost and didn’t know which direction to go career wise. I worked with this therapist for a few sessions and came to realize that my calling was Transpersonal Psychology. Two years later I had my Master’s degree in this field and have never looked back.

What Lessons Have Your Work and Personal Experiences Taught You?

The work is bigger than me and what I want. From the very start I’ve been guided on how to proceed. At times, I have kicked and screamed because I wanted to take the traditional or “normal” route. By normal I mean more socially acceptable work or process. But if I tried to do that, often I faced many roadblocks. But when I did it the way I was being guided, the way inevitably opened up for me and I was able to not only do this work, help others but also prosper and find a great deal of joy, meaning and satisfaction in my life. A huge humbling experience to listen more and not think that my ego knows best.

What are the Most Challenging Things You Face Being a Proponent/Provider of Holistic Practices?

It’s not yet totally socially and culturally acceptable. I find it hard to name it at times and explain to people what it is I do. In the conventional realm you say I’m a teacher, therapist, attorney and people know exactly what you do and there is no question or doubts in their minds. When you say, I am a shamanic healer and have a doctorate in psychology, people don’t quite know what you do, so I have to give specific examples like, “I help people heal from broken hearts and broken dreams.” People understand this more easily than the terminology of a being a shaman. But this is slowly changing thanks to people like you who are trying to normalize and bring more attention to other modalities for health and healing.

What are Your Goals You Have for Healthcare?

Make it more acceptable to have.


Ellie Zarrabian, PhD obtained her doctorate in Transpersonal Psychology from Saybrook University in San Francisco in 2010, her master’s degree in Transpersonal Psychology from John K. Kennedy University and her bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology from UCLA. A third-generation shamanic healer from the Sufi/Jewish tradition of Iran, Dr. Zarrabian is the Founder and Spiritual Director of Centerpeace Foundation and the Centerpeace Project  in Los Angeles and Oakland, CA.

In 1992 she became a certified Massage Therapist and worked for a number of years treating trauma in the body. After receiving her master’s degree in 1997, she became a drug and alcohol counselor and worked with individuals struggling with addiction. Then from 2001 to 2010 she took a teaching post at Santa Monica College, department of Behavioral Studies teaching psychology and spirituality to young adults.

She is currently working as a wellness counselor and shamanic healer. In her practice, she helps individuals and organizations manage and resolve conflict that begin with the individual and extend out in the world. She also teaches groups on living with spiritual and emotional integrity both at home and in the work place. She is the forthcoming author of Six Degrees of Liberation—Finding Inner Peace Through Conflict.

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