Digame: Fabiola Pacheco Talks Self-Compassion and Latinx Mental Health

Fabiola Pacheco is a Spanish speaking licensed clinician social worker and a first generation immigrant from Oaxaca, Mexico

Fabiola Pacheco Digame

Photos courtesy of Fabiola Pacheco

Fabiola Pacheco is a Spanish speaking licensed clinician social worker and a first generation immigrant from Oaxaca, Mexico. She’s the founder of Grey Space Therapy Services, a private practice based out of Riverside, California. Her goal is to provide the Latinx community with professional mental health services and reduce the barriers to mental health treatment. Inspired by her own journey and personal struggles with anxiety and panic attacks, she’s worked to be able to help her own community cope with mental illness.  Her hope is “that la comunidad will feel comfortable seeking help when they are being supported by people that look like them. People who understand the culture and the struggle, because representation matters.”

Which Latina(s) have had the greatest impact on your life and why?

Growing up I was raised on watching telenovelas so I would say every actress from Thalia in Mari Mar to Angelique Boyer in Teresa all had an impact in my upbringing. Telenovelas have the power to help normalize real life struggles while also instilling hope with their happy endings. Telenovelas helped validate my struggles and gave me a space to escape from my own stuff. As someone who internalized her feelings and had a difficult time expressing my feelings, telenovelas allowed me to dream and imagine a better future.

If you could meet a Latina icon who is no longer alive, who would it be and why?

Couldn’t go without paying homage to Selena. I would want to meet her to tell her how powerful her story has and will continue to be. To share with her how her courage to step into two different worlds help create a path for other Latinas.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I received regarding practicing self compassion is that “sometimes we have to take ourselves out of the situation”. Meaning that we tend to be our biggest critics and hold ourselves to impossible standards but typically can be extremely compassionate and empathetic to others especially loved ones and friends. So, by taking yourself out of the situation you give yourself the opportunity to see things from a different lens. Typically a lens of empathy and compassion.

If you could pursue a career in an industry other than your own, what would it be and why?

If I wasn’t a therapist, I would want to pursue a career in accounting. I would become a licensed CPA for the mere reason of wanting to help small latinx businesses succeed. Guess I can’t get away from my need to help others. Time and time again, we have seen the impact limited resources and lack of representation can have on someone’s success. As a CPA, I would empower small latinx businesses by providing support and access to all the available programs and funding available.

Who was the first person to believe in your dreams/goals?

Hands down my 2nd grade teach Mr. Reynoso. It is true what they say, teachers are protective factors for children especially when they come from underserved and disadvantaged communities. My teacher was no different, he believed in me before I believed in myself. He saw my potential and everyday encouraged me to excel in my education. Sometimes, we forget how powerful words can be. His words without a doubt became dominant core beliefs that allowed me to believe in myself and excel in school.

What do you wish more people understood about what you do?

My job as a therapist is not to “fix you” or tell you what to do. It wouldn’t be fair to my clients for me to make decisions about their lives. Because, at the end of the day I don’t live with those decisions. My job as a therapist is to support you, validate your experience and help you discover your inner strength and inner bad ass.

What motivates you?

My primary motivation in life is to help my loved ones and continue to open doors into spaces typically closed to us. Being an example and representation of what is possible helps me stay focused even on the days I am tired. Knowing that my journey is not just about me but about those who look like me and were brought to this country in search of more opportunity.

How did you end up on the professional path you’re on now?

My journey to being a therapist was anything but conventional. Growing up I wanted to “rule the world”–I think every kid probably had this dream. So I decided to get my degree in business. I didn’t realize that many of my early life decisions were based from a place of fear and a need to have a stable environment. I was able to create that for me, but I soon realized I wasn’t happy. So one day, I decided to turn all my anger into something good. I decided that I wanted to advocate and be there for people when they needed someone the most. So at almost 30 years old, I quit my job and decided to go to graduate school and received my masters in social work.

What is your greatest professional achievement so far? Personal achievement?

There is a famous poem that says “I sat with my anger long enough, until she told me her real name was grief.” My greatest accomplishment has been to move away from living a life of pain and anger and to embrace compassion and love. It took a lot of healing and self reflection but I am so happy that I fought for this version of myself. I am my greatest achievement.

What is a goal you have that you haven’t accomplished yet and what are you doing to get closer to accomplishing it?

My short term goal is opening up a group practice where we specialize in serving our first generation latinx community. My goal is to provide other therapists a safe space to be able to continue to grow their careers.

What pop culture moment made you feel seen?

Hands down Star Wars and its interpretation about fear and how to use “the force” that we all inherently have for good and the bettering of people. My favorite Star Wars line is “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering”. So many people suffer due to unprocessed trauma, hurt and until we face it are we able to be liberated from it. I like to use this quote to center and ground myself. When I feel scared or afraid, I tune into it and let it exist without influencing how I show up and behave.

How do you practice self-care?

Self care to me signifies being proactive about caring for wellbeing. I like to use the analogy of filling up my gas tank. I don’t wait until my tank is empty (until the weekend) to practice self care. I have learned that I need to fill my tank everyday in order to function at my most optimal level. This typically looks like for me as giving myself permission to do “nothing” for 1-2 hrs a day. It also looks like, saying no and limits with family members and being proactive about moving my body as I know this helps me release stress and anxiety.

Quick Fire:

Shoutout an Instagram account that could use more love and tell us why you’re a fan: @undoc.mentalhealth – Because she is so vulnerable and raw in her stories.

Shoutout your favorite Latina-owned business and why:

@clandestinacoffee – A small Latina-owned coffee brand I love.

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digame fabiola pacheco Latina mental health latina therapist
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