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Dr. Melanie Chinchilla: Building Approach Therapy, Learning to Run a Business, and Being Intentional

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

Dr. Melanie Chinchilla runs a private practice in San Francisco, CA where she works with adults in diverse and underserved populations who are seeking therapy. This includes women of color, LGBTQ, healthcare providers, those in the tech industry, and more.

Working in the prisoner forensic system

Dr. Chinchilla started out with the plan to work in the prisoner forensic system because that was a place where mental health help was needed. She worked as a substance abuse counselor where she was promoted to program director and later worked as a program manager in a women’s jail.

In working at the prison system, Melanie knew that she could do more for more populations. She saw that quality therapy and counseling was not available to certain populations so she started her private practice to mend that gap. She later got a degree in clinical psychology and focused on psychopathology. She also got a masters degree in healthcare administration.

Being intentional with the process

Dr. Chinchilla got to where she is now by being extremely intentional and not rushing through the process. She understands that it is okay to say “no” and that it is important to pause and think if the opportunity being presented is something worth pursuing. She recommends writing down your goals that really matter and thinking about why you care about each goal. Start with the end goal in mind, and work backwards from there.

Dr. Chinchilla works with trainees to help them develop their skills and allows her to give back to the community. She looks forward to setting up a non-profit to extend her mission of giving back.

Growing her business has been an exciting learning experience for her. She was able to learn the business side of things that she was never taught. Learning to manage and supervise people was also a learning curve for her, especially recently in the virtual work environment.

You can find Dr. Chinchilla on her website at


Sean McCormick 0:02 This week on Earn More Tutoring, Dr. Melanie Chinchilla and I talk about her journey to becoming a clinical psychologist and how she founded Approach Therapy. Dr. Melanie Chinchilla 0:13 I had 2 kids by that time, or I was about to have my second when I was probably nine months pregnant, and that was interviewed. And I realized that what I had once wanted, didn't fit anymore. So after I had my second daughter, I started my purpose. Sean McCormick 0:30 So this podcast is all about people who are growing their own businesses. It is called Earn More Tutoring. It's also about how do you earn more in your business? Or how do you grow something that's sustainable, and it allows you to live the life you enjoy. So my guest today is Dr. Melanie Chinchilla. Welcome to the show, Melanie. Dr. Melanie Chinchilla 0:47 Thanks for having me. Sean McCormick 0:49 Yeah. So to start off, I would just love to hear about your practice, and tell us about what it looks like. Dr. Melanie Chinchilla 0:55 So I have a private practice. I'm a clinical psychologist by trade. So I have a private practice here in San Francisco in California. And I work with all sorts of adults. So mostly, I serve a lot of diverse and underserved populations. So that would be women of color that is also working professionals that identify as people of color in a number of actually healthcare professionals, which a lot of people don't think of as, as underserved. But a lot of healthcare professionals are very reluctant to get here for a number of reasons. And a great amount of people from the tech industry as well. Sean McCormick 1:36 Yeah, that's that sounds like a wonderful niche to serve. And tell us about how did you get into like, how did you decide on that niche in this location in these fields? Where did that come from? Dr. Melanie Chinchilla 1:48 So that's interesting, actually. So I did not start out thinking that I would have a private practices like my main thing, my actually started out my grad school kind of path thinking that I would be working within the prisoner forensic system. And really, it came out of my curiosity, and interest in things that didn't make sense. So I actually started out, wanting to make sure that I had made the right decision for myself, I'm a planner, and I like to make sure that I make good decisions, which, of course, I thought that I had gotten a really good path. And I wanted to be absolute certain that I had chosen the right field because it was such an investment to get a PhD in Clinical Psychology. So between undergrad and graduate school, I had taken a number of calculated steps to make sure that it was the right field for me. And so I actually volunteered as a research assistant at UCSF at the Latino mental health research. It was a research program at UCSF to get research experience. And after I finished that, I said, Where can I get clinical experience, and they told me substance abuse, that's where you can get experience without an actual license. So I worked as a substance abuse counselor for a little bit. And when I was there, I actually got promoted to become the program director of that program. And after that, we actually lost our funding at that program, and the whole program was closed. After that, I actually worked in the second highest utilization, an ER in the Tenderloin in San Francisco. So that's a neighborhood, which is not necessarily a great neighborhood and has a high number of people that are homeless, and also using drugs. And after that, I actually worked as a program manager in a women's jail. So actually, in downtown San Francisco, I ran a reentry program for women that were in in jail. And one of the things with that is I quite literally saw the same exact people. In each of those programs. I literally could be like, Hey, are you at the ER because I knew her from when I was in, you know, a different program. And I remember one day thinking like, these are the safety kind of like the safety net systems, right? These are the different programs that are set up to help people to catch them when they fall. Right. So like the hospital system, and the publicly funded, you know, rehab programs, and we're failing. And really what we're doing is we're just passing the same person along through these systems. And it didn't make any sense to me, because we're not actually really helping them. And we're spending a ton of money. And really, it didn't make a lot of sense. So I found that kind of confusing at some point. And so I thought about it and really one of the things that really unified that was mental health. And so seeing that as a string that was kind of tying it all together and not addressed. And so I kind of sat there in my office when I was like, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And I'm going to top out with my current degree, I'm not going to be able to get any higher than a certain position. So I decided at that point...

Check out the full interview below!

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