Dr. Laurie Ann Levin: From Hollywood to HealingNovember 2009
At first glance, you might be amazed at the dramatic changes Laurie Ann Levin, Psy.D., has made in her life. But the way Levin tells it, her former career as a top Hollywood agent and movie producer really isn’t all that different from her current life as founder of the restorative health center, Moonview Sanctuary in Los Angeles.
“When you’re fixing a script or working on editing or adding music,” says Levin, “you have to coordinate a lot of different people’s opinions and take your cues from all of them. I knew if we could create psychotherapy that way, we would make incredible leaps and advancement over the way it’s administered today. What we’ve done is a real breakthrough.”
A nonresidential rehab and regrowth center that combines the best of Western and Eastern medicine, using both modern and ancient treatment modalities, Moonview is the culmination of Levin’s commitment to a holistic approach to health that deals with the mind, body, spirit and emotions. The result is a unique center that focuses on restoring total health to the individual.
Act One: Early Life and Career
Growing up in Miami, Levin says she spent a lot of time alone as a child and “learned to connect with that which you couldn’t see.” At 16, she experienced a turning point when she read an interview with Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of the groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying. Levin says she immediately felt that “a light had been lit and she was speaking to me.” Kubler-Ross’ book inspired Levin to become a seeker, read widely and continue learning throughout her life.
Although as a youngster Levin didn’t have definite career plans, she always felt an affinity for psychology and art, so it seemed natural that after she met a film student on a Florida beach, she should study filmmaking, sensing that it would combine her two major interests. Shortly thereafter, she applied and was accepted at the University of Southern California, becoming one of a small number of young women in the prestigious program.
“I was a directing major,” explains Levin, “and I was doing quite well. In fact, I was the only woman undergraduate who got to direct.” But Levin’s dreams quickly faded when a film she directed came back and turned out to be what she describes as “underwhelming,” prompting her to set a new goal: producing.
“After graduating,” Levin continues, “an agency was the best place to learn the business, so I became an agent at CAA (Creative Artists Agency) and was very successful at a very young age.” She feels a major key to her early achievements was the inborn intuition she has nurtured since childhood, which helped her successfully represent such major talents as Michael Jackson, Madonna and Michael Keaton. Levin adds that her abilities in psychology and art helped in dealing with her clients and their lives, a job she loved despite long hours and stress. Following her years as an agent, Levin went on to produce films, including “Vital Signs,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Lucky Stiff,” and “The Man From Elysian Fields.”
Her next major turning point came in the 1990s when her mother was dying. During this period, they grew very close. Levin recalls, “I made a pact with myself to go back to school and bring the overlooked aspect of spirituality to psychology to provide peace and healing to people who needed expansion like Kubler-Ross wrote about.” Levin earned her doctorate in clinical psychology in 1999 and embarked on her new life.
Act Two: Marriage and Moonview Sanctuary
After reading the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of Gerald Levin’s retirement as CEO of Time Warner, Levin was impressed and decided to contact him. From that article, she arranged a meeting, fell in love and married him. Today, both are deeply involved in the Moonview Sanctuary, where she is CEO and Founder and he is the Presiding Director.
Founded in 1998 and opened in 2004, the Moonview Sanctuary is the culmination of Levin’s dream of a center where people can come for “customized treatment programs integrating cutting-edge neuroscience with a foundation of psychology, psychiatry, and ancient wisdom for personal and professional transformation.”
One of her motivating factors was Levin’s own failure with therapy when, during an earlier marriage, she experienced great difficulty coping with all her responsibilities. “I was eight months pregnant,” she explains, “and didn’t know how to do it all. In my generation [Levin is 56], you were told you could have a career, be a mother, be a wife and have it all. But I was overwhelmed, so I went into talk therapy and found it just wasn’t enough.”
Levin began her own search, exploring and researching innovative therapeutic approaches to resolving a range of mental and physical health issues. The result? “I realized that there is no single way that can pervasively heal,” she says. “It’s really a mind-body-emotions-spirit connection, and having an analytical, talked-out, intellectual understanding does not release your body from trauma or untangle your nervous system from all those difficult internal states.”
Upon her return to school, Levin promised herself that she would “assemble the best people who did many different kinds of therapeutic healing, look at each individual to discover exactly what that person needs, and then provide it.” In Moonview, Levin’s goals have finally been realized.
How Moonview Works
Moonview Sanctuary provides a unique approach to restoring optimal health. Unlike standard medical strategies, Moonview employs a global approach to health. Issues addressed include everything from sleep disorders and phobias to all types of addiction as well as chronic pain and chronic illness. The program blends together the most advanced neuroscientific technology with an enormous range of physical, nutritional, spiritual and psychological therapies. With more than 70 practitioner associates, modalities include psychiatry, psychology, acupuncture, meditation, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Chinese medicine, neurofeedback, biofeedback, nutrition counseling, meditation, and noga.
When clients first arrive, they receive an initial assessment conducted by up to ten practitioners. Together, they create a “synergistic treatment program” designed to meet the unique needs of that individual, which includes psychological, physical and spiritual healing, and is adjusted, when necessary, as the client progresses.
Moonview’s clients may come alone, with their partners or with other family members. They arrive with a variety of issues, which include addiction, depression, trauma, chronic insomnia, work problems, major health issues, and divorce.
Levin explains that many of the modalities used by the center work by “creating new neuronic pathways in our brain to unlock the trauma pattern.”
Personal Health Practices
Levin and her husband are both vegans (“he’s stricter than I am,” she says) and meditate together twice a day. She finds specific guidance for each day of her life through meditation and has learned over the years to follow her intuition without questioning it.
“I also really enjoy keeping my body fit,” Levin adds. Her main physical activity is dancing, primarily cardio salsa, which she does at a dance studio five to six days a week. “It’s very exciting,” she comments, “and I always look forward to it.” Levin also lifts weights, does yoga and stretching exercises, and takes long walks on the beach.
When it comes to diet, Levin admits that ideally, she would like to get all her nutrients from food, she also recognizes the need for supplements. Her list includes:
As a vegan, Levin knows she needs to get sufficient B vitamins, amino acids and protein, and she mentions using lots of grains such as quinoa and amaranth in an effort to create a properly balanced diet.
For Levin, her living philosophy is summed up with, “This life is to be enjoyed and it really is a gift.”
A New Memoir and Future Plans
Levin’s new memoir, God, the Universe, and Where I Fit In (Health Communications, Inc., 2009) will be in stores in fall 2009.
“I didn’t write about my parents,” says Levin, “I wrote about me.” In the book, Levin talks about growing up in a working-class family, her journey to find spiritual truths and fulfillment, and adult life as an agent, film producer, psychologist and founder of Moonview. Her ultimate goal with this book is to share her beliefs and findings and hopefully assist others in their own searches for physical, psychological and spiritual healing and well-being.
Levin is also continuing lecture and workshop tours with her husband and some of Moonview’s staff, in which she talks about Moonview, her new book, and her personal ideas and views about who we are, why we are here and how we can all lead healthy, productive, fulfilling lives.
And don’t forget, Levin is only in Act Two of her fascinating life, with a plot that’s been quite innovative so far. Stay tuned for some unexpected surprises in Act Three.