Mazyar Karandish

Karandish Uses Persian Music As Part of Healing

The first in his Persian lineage to grow up in the U.S., Mazyar Karandish found it most important to him to learn the traditions of his parents’ homeland. He studied Eastern music and became a touring musician.

Finishing his PsyD this year at Antioch University Santa Barbara, he was drawn to the program’s social justice aspect and cohort model.

“It was important to me to engage in a program focused in diversity,” he said. “Working in small cohorts is powerful – you get to know and interact and relate with people from different backgrounds and political views and understandings of ourselves. We come to this program with a shared goal to help people. It’s a huge part of being a successful therapist.”

Part of his studies in music showed him that certain instruments resonate on the same frequency. It’s this “sympathetic” sound that allows a greater capacity for understanding.

Interested in psychology since he was young, Karandish pursued a bachelor’s degree in the discipline (along with music) at UC Santa Barbara.

Thinking he’d pursue a PhD program, he worked in a lab for a year.

“I learned the bureaucracy of applying for grants to do research and worrying about who will publish it,” he said. “I got into this field to help people. The scientific aspect of psychology doesn’t resonate with me as much.”

Rather, what he believes in what he describes as a “person-centered holistic approach to healing,” which he’s learned as a student at Antioch University.

“With psychology it’s so easy to become a therapist, for it to become your identity and persona,” he said. “My teachers (believe in the) concept of maintaining who you are and your identity as a human and being able to relate to people on a human level. The biggest tool my education has given me is although it transformed me, it didn’t make me become someone I’m not.”

He appreciates his professors are also not researchers.

“They are much more available and are in practice,” he said. “I’m learning from people doing the work – that’s powerful.”

While earning his degree, Karandish worked two part-time internships – the first at San Luis Obispo Community Counseling Center offering his services to clients on a sliding scale.

The other was with Pacific Pride Foundation, which provides free or low-cost services to the HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ communities of Santa Barbara County. He worked with gender-diverse individuals, couples and families, offering everything from outreach to event coordination.

His diverse course work – from psychoanalytic theory to forensic psychology – further prepared him.

Add to that his small classes that allowed for individualized attention, and supportive faculty.

“They were on our side,” he said of himself and his fellow students. “They listened and if there were issues, we had a meeting. We’re all in it together.”

He considered many different pathways he could take: working for the county or a clinic; teaching or conducting research.

Initially, Karandish wanted to go into private practice after completing his PsyD.

“After getting long more in the (Antioch) program and learning about different therapy models and their history, it showed me what I don’t want to do,” he said. “The program taught me to have an idea but to be flexible. It was really important I didn’t attach myself to these ideas. It continues to form my vision.”

In his studies, he learned about the Esalen Institute, a retreat center in Big Sur founded in the early 1960s. It focuses on education in humanism, an alternative system focused on the mind-body connection.

“I learned about the center and its history,” he said. “It resonated with me. It’s my dream in a nutshell.”

His vision, once he receives his license, is to create a center for healing in a retreat setting where he’d offer courses in mindfulness, meditation, music, and body-based practice and offer psychotherapy services. His long-term goal would be for the center to be his base while he travels doing presentations and leading workshops.

No matter how his dream manifests, Karandish is certain of one thing.

“As long as I can serve people along the way, that’s all that matters,” he said.