Counseling for Women of Color in California

Therapy for Women of Color

Are you struggling to find balance in your life and keep it all together? Do you find yourself “fixing” others but uncertain how to create change for yourself? Are you tired of ending the day feeling depleted and starting the next day as exhausted as the last? Hold tight; there is a better way. Regardless of what we see around us, change is possible, and change starts with you.

As Black and Brown women, we "keep it together" when others fall apart.
Our strength, resilience, perseverance, and tenacity are our survival skills.

People don’t recognize that you may feel like you don’t have the option to fall apart. Other people depend on you. So you quietly drown your emotions and your hurt in “busyness.” When you allow yourself a quiet moment, sometimes you just want to cry. There may be days when you sob in the shower so no one can see your tears. Sometimes you might feel weak, but you are too afraid to fall. So, after you have a moment and a good cry, you put on a brave face and go back to “stuffing” your emotions and doing whatever needs to get done so life can move on.
Yet, in the lonely and quiet moments at night, you want something better for yourself. Perhaps you want to speak your truth, and not feel judged or have to explain the validity of how you feel. Or maybe you want others to listen to you, not pity or lecture you. You might want to express emotion and not feel dismissed. You want to feel good about yourself and deserve a therapist who gets you. As a woman of color, I hear your frustration. I know how difficult it is to find a therapist who understands what it is like to move through the world as a woman of color. I can only imagine how difficult it can feel for seek counseling without the added weight of explaining your entire race or identity
Seeking Therapy as a Woman of Color Can be Intimidating

Let’s be honest – seeking a therapist can be intimidating. But, seeking therapy as a Woman of Color can be much more challenging. At one time or another, many of us have been called “passionate,” “angry,” “overreactive,” and “too emotional.” We often hear that our emotions are “too much” for others. Thus, we sometimes deny the emotional part of ourselves and try to “tone down” or “tune out” our emotions to be more acceptable to others. However, situations, challenges, and feelings that have not been managed well will boil to the surface when we least expect them.

The reality is that many therapy could be helpful for many people, including Women of Color. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, as of 2020, approximately 1 in 5 adults (21%) in the United States (U.S.) live with a mental illness. Even if you are not experiencing mental illness, therapy may benefit you. The global pandemic changed our lives. Most people had to make adjustments to their lives during the pandemic. Yet, many aspects of life for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) worsened. Many people continued to carry the legacies of disparate treatment while navigating social inequality. Stress increased at the beginning of the pandemic and endured throughout. However, there is a reason for hope.

Despite the challenges and frustrations, you are uniquely capable of overcoming the roadblocks that often stand in your way.

We can help.

I’m Dr. Melanie Chinchilla, and I started Approach Therapy after I noticed a gap in the mental health practices in the San Francisco Bay Area. Simply put, I could not find a private practice built to serve clients that looked like me. I aimed to serve Black and Brown people interested in prioritizing mental health. Often people from Black and Brown communities do not grow up talking about mental health and carry the weight of generational trauma. I want to support people who aim to thrive and go beyond living in a constant state of crisis.

Approach Therapy strives to provide our clients with culturally informed care. We consider the systems within which individuals operate and how culture, society, ethnicity, and one’s lived experience inform and impact mental health. We approach our clients with cultural humility and respect for everyone’s unique lived experience. Our clinicians receive training in anti-racism, cultural awareness, and cultural humility and engage in ongoing training and discussions on social justice, humility, and competency. That doesn’t make us perfect. It makes us lifelong learners committed to learning and growing, alongside our clients.

You may still have some questions about therapy. Here are a few questions and answers to some clients' common questions.

No. You are 100% entitled to have preferences. But, unless you identify as a White individual, it may take you more time or resources to locate a Clinician of Color. Most mental health providers are not BIPOC. As of 2020, only 14% of psychologists in the U.S. workforce were BIPOC whereas there were closer to 34% of masters level clinicians were BIPOC or multiracial. Notably, these statistics do not distinguish between those who do and do not provide therapy services. Some people may work in universities, hospitals, research, community mental health, or provide other services within mental health.

If you strongly prefer to work with a therapist of a specific ethnicity, be patient, consider telehealth and cast a wide net of inquiries to therapists of color. Consider your options, and check out this blog on finding a therapist for tips on being strategic about your therapist search. Most importantly, don’t give up!

If you become frustrated or feel like you keep hitting a dead end, remember, being a woman of color isn’t the only thing about you that matters, but it plays a significant role in how you see yourself, how others see you, and how your relationships play out. If you decide to see a therapist outside of your preferred ethnic or racial group, voice your concerns to the therapist and keep an open mind.

Therapy asks people to try sometime different. The idea of openly discussing “taboo” topics that may not be discussed, even within our own families or origin, can be uncomfortable. You may not have a lot of practice talking about your emotions and vulnerabilities. Sometimes it may feel awkward to discuss familial relationships outside of the family. However, try to remember a few things: 1) what you say in therapy is confidential, 2) your therapist is there to create a safe space to help you, not hurt you, and 3) your therapist is motivated to help you achieve your goals and has nothing to gain by betraying your trust. If you have concerns, talk to your therapist about them! The therapist has likely had conversations about these matters and can help guide you through coping with these worries.

We cannot guarantee that you will finish every session feeling like a better person or that you have solved all your problems by the end of the day. The truth is that people often discuss complex issues in therapy that they have been avoiding for a long time. Counseling can be challenging, and there may be times when you feel sad or bad. However, you do not have to do this alone. This is worth repeating. You do not have to do this alone.

Your therapist is there to help you navigate these challenging times and to help give you strategies to manage challenges, difficulties, and negative emotions that arise when you are feeling bad. If you are unsure how to cope with feelings between sessions, you can always send your therapist an e-mail, a chat message, or request a follow-up appointment.

We have provided counseling to many women of color.

One of the best parts of our job is to see how people grow. So often, women of color do not even recognize that they have been living in survival mode for so long that they don’t remember there is another way to live. Instead of feeling like they are “putting out fires,” life becomes a constant state of emergency, and that becomes the new “normal.”

There is something truly remarkable about the look on someone’s face when she smiles, recognizing she has shed the weight of toxic relationships, can finally breathe and feels relaxed, worthy, and capable. She is on the right path toward building the life she wants for herself and her loved ones and is gracefully moving at her own pace.

You are also capable of this type of change.

Do you have specific questions that are not answered on the Fees and FAQs page or the therapist’s pages? If so, please Contact Us for additional information.

If you want to take the next step toward scheduling an appointment, you can complete the Approach Therapy Interest Form.

Ready to schedule your intake? Awesome. No need to wait! Schedule an appointment now by Completing an Appointment Request. 


National Institute of Mental Health. Any Mental Illness Among U.S. Adults.