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Exploring Life & Business with Lauren Castronovo of SoCal Wellness

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauren Castronovo. 

Hi Lauren, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
My journey in healthcare started after I lost my finance job during the 2008 market crash. This ended up being the catalyst for a big career change. I decided to return to school and began working as a pharmacy technician. I became a registered nurse, went to grad school, and then post master’s work to become a Nurse Practitioner. I had the opportunity to train at Northwestern in Chicago and work with very talented providers at UCLA Ronald Reagan. I moved to San Diego and while working at Palomar Medical Center I met some like-minded and ambitious NPs. We saw a significant need in the community for outpatient psychiatry and together we made a plan to open a private practice. 

Alright, 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?
Nurse Practitioners are not equally recognized in all states. And for the most part, it is unusual in California for NPs to run their own medical practice (although legislature will be changing in the next year). There was a great deal of red tape for us to get through. I am lucky to have an endlessly supportive husband, family, and friends that cheered me on when we were met with barriers. After about 8 months of working through the legalities, we were able to open our doors for our first patients!

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
My partners and I are board-certified and specialize in psychiatry and we see all ages! While I do provide traditional medication management, pathology is my training but I love focusing on what makes people feel WHOLE. I aim to offer holistic and integrative treatments. In other words, focusing on wellness instead of illness. Instead of only shining a spotlight on someone’s symptoms or deficits, I work with patients to focus on identifying strength within stressors. Together we create a plan for a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. I also specialize in reproductive psychiatry and work closely with women who are in the process of trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and then post-partum to safely address mental health needs during this important time.

We offer both in-person visits at our office and for those who are more comfortable in their own space we have a convenient and secure telemedicine platform. We also offer evening and weekend appointments which busy parents, working professionals, and students love! My partners and I continue to work in the hospital setting as well and we enjoy bringing these clinical skills to our SoCalWellness patients in the clinic. 

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Current research suggests that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health diagnosis that affects individuals in the United States. One in 5 Americans has symptoms that meet criteria for anxiety. The stats for depression are no better. If standard treatments were effective, things would be very different. Unfortunately, we know that only around 40% of people that are prescribed medication for depression and anxiety will report symptom relief. Additionally, some of the most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety—Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan—have significant risks for worsening anxiety over time while causing cognitive dysfunction, memory problems, and dependency. 

During COVID we saw these numbers explode. We expanded our hours to meet new patient requests. And most concerning was the increase in children and adolescents that we saw affected by the changes in their routine and schooling. 

Each of our patients is complex and comes to us with different experiences and influences. Mental health needs are often caused by multiple intermingled factors. Nutritional deficiencies, gut flora imbalances, hormonal issues, exposure to toxins, stress levels, and personal history can all contribute to one’s state of wellness. Evaluating ALL of these factors yields much better outcomes than just prescribing medications based on textbook symptoms. 

I see more and more people that are tired of standard, one-size-fits-all, approaches. I wanted to change that and offer intentionally different psychiatry during a time that has left people feeling so uncertain. 

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