Affirmative Heart Counseling | Therapy that's a work of heart

Get to Know Michelle

Hello and welcome! I’m Michelle Martínez, a Washington state licensed mental health counselor dedicated to fostering empowerment and transformative self-awareness in my clients.

My Education, Experience, and Therapeutic Philosophy

I have a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado. In May 2018, I opened Affirmative Heart Counseling, where I strive to support, inspire, and guide individuals towards transformative self-discovery and growth. My diverse career background spans career counseling, academic mentoring, self-employment, crisis line support, and Information Technology. I also hold a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology, which focuses on the profound relationships between humans and animals. Before transitioning to a completely telehealth practice, I incorporated animal-assisted therapy into my counseling office and still value the unique possibilities of healing through attachment and connection to animals.

My therapeutic approach is shaped by strong intersectional feminist values and a deep commitment to social justice. These core beliefs are not just integral to my counseling work but also mirror my personal values. I view counseling from an affirmative perspective toward all identities, remaining deeply aware of how oppression can manifest itself even within the therapeutic relationship, which acts as a microcosm of the outside world. Besides exploring how our intersectional identities and societal pressures influence our daily well-being, I guide clients to delve into deeper existential issues to explore what meaning they bring to their experience of the world. One other topic I consider in treatment is how the quality of past and present attachment relationships are impacting current feelings of satisfaction and safety. Finally, I consider the relevance of our biological realities—genes, neurology, and more—in understanding the comprehensive picture of who we are, and often suggest interventions that take all of these factors into account.

The counseling relationship I aim to foster is an egalitarian alliance where counselor and client mutually commit to authenticity, respect, and shared objectives. I welcome and expect active engagement, even disagreement, from my clients during our sessions. It’s in this imperfect, but healing relationship that we explore deep-seated emotions, navigate misunderstandings and ruptures, and work towards your self-discovery and overall well-being.

Relevant Personal Details

I identify as a queer, polyam, mixed-race Latinx genderfluid femme. Amongst my personal circle, my pronouns fluctuate, but within our therapeutic relationship, I use they/them exclusively. I have a formal diagnosis for my ADHD, but am self-diagnosed Autistic. I’ve grappled with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression (including bouts of suicidality) throughout my life due to traumatic events and as part of my neurobiology. As for my cultural background: My father is from Venezuela with Indigenous, Spanish, Mediterranean, and Afro-Caribbean heritage while my mother is from the United States with Irish, Scottish, and French ancestry. I am an atheist, albeit with a spiritual sense of the world that aligns more closely with mystical traditions that speak of universal consciousness and the life that exists within every atom of matter. Regardless of my own beliefs, I value and respect my clients’ spiritual beliefs or non-beliefs and support a connection to them.

My Journey to Becoming a Therapist

The women on my mother’s side are/were all counseling psychologists, but I came to the role from a roundabout way.  I’ve never been able to conform to what society wanted of me and so dropped out of high school at age 14 and became intensely interested in computers and the Internet (circa 1996). I started building websites and selling collectables online as my first means of making money for myself and to help my mom with the bills. When I was 16, I started a small computer consulting business teaching senior citizens how to use their computers. From there, I worked in Information Technology in a variety of settings (along with a few unrelated jobs here and there). I eventually went to community college and fell back in love with learning (especially the social sciences).

Later, at age 27, obtained a B.A. from the University of Washington in Comparative History of Ideas, all the while still working in Information Tech (customer service help desk).  Technology work was something that brought in a comfortable amount of money, which enabled me to do the things that ignited my passions (like theater, dance, creative writing, and film, as well as lots of social justice activism).  However, as I got on in my career and dealt with toxic masculinity, white supremacy, and ableism from the people in positions of power over me, I became more dissatisfied and disconnected (even downright traumatized) and that feeling began to leak into other areas of my life. My unhappiness impacted my ability to be artistically creative and to effectively advocate for social justice.  Finally, I hit a breaking point and knew something else was calling me. I wanted a meaningful career where I could give to others and integrate my work in social justice. I realized that becoming a therapist would fulfill these wishes. At age 33, I went back to school once again to study clinical mental health and I opened Affirmative Heart Counseling three years later, after completing my schooling and internship.