Christine Gutierrez is a psychotherapist, life coach, and speaker who took her sensitivity and turned it into a business. She values “heart-centered” entrepreneurship and wants to make therapy more accessible to the Latino community, leading her to the creation of the awareness campaign Therapy Is Cool and self-esteem-building retreats for women.
I spoke with her recently about why she chose to become a therapist, and how her roots in the Latino community have guided her work. Make sure to check back for part two of our conversation.
Hip Latina: What got you started in this?
Christine Gutierrez: I think that from a very early age I had a desire to help people in the simplest way. I grew up in Bushwick in Brooklyn and I had really big Mickey Mouse glasses. I was so curious about people’s pain and suffering. I remember walking the streets and asking my mom, “Why are people homeless?” “Why are people mean?” “How can I talk to them, how can I help them?”
I had a really deep connection and kind of innate understanding of suffering, and I just knew I wanted to be part of making people feel better.
HL: So you were a bit of an empath.
CG: I would say so. I consider myself a seeker, a healer.
HL: How did you go from being a therapist to more of a public voice for mental health issues?
CG: I wrote poetry from a young age. I always knew that in order for me to be happy I had to be creative. Creativity meant coming up with cool campaigns that would inspire people. Especially in the Latino community with depression, suicide, anxiety, and abuse being so high, we needed a way to make therapy cool and take away the stigma.
I thought that being young, you know, not looking like a traditional therapist, and really speaking in a language that younger generations can listen to, that it would be the perfect way to give them a message in a language they can understand. People shouldn’t feel shame and a little dark cloud, like “Oh, I’m so depressed and I’m going to therapy.” There’s nothing worse than suffering in silence.
HL: How has your identity as a Latina played into your work?
CR: I work with predominately Latina women and women of color. It shapes everything I do in my business. It’s such a big part of who I am. Growing up in a Puerto Rican household with my grandparents speaking Spanish to me, living on Hart Street in Bushwick, eating Spanish food and having the music blasting and our culture and all the blessings that come with it, and all of the pain—alcoholism, depression. And taking both, right? All of the passion that we have as Latinos, all of the intense community aspects, family values, even through the chaos. Spirituality being very strong as well. It came in the shape of Catholicism for my family. You can see the spiritual element in my work.
But also just the fact that I grew up witnessing so much pain in our community. Seeing all of this amazing character and purpose hid underneath all the pain, and that a lot of people weren’t able to push through it because of their trauma. That really made me sad, to see, wow, we’re so smart, we’re so talented, we’re so creative, we’re so bright, we have so many things that are needed in the world. And not only needed on an emotional level, but that can make money, too! And people weren’t doing it. I knew that I wanted to be part of, you know, influencing my community, specifically, because they can identify with my story. When you can hear someone’s story and say, yes, I see me in her, we are one. You have an archetype, and a face, and a voice that sounds like you. You feel like, I am not alone.
That is so important in media. I remember looking for a role model that was, you know, doing the things that I wanted to do in the public domain, and I couldn’t really find it. There were tons of people doing it, but they were more local. While that’s so valuable, we also need that on a bigger level so that kids can have this in their subconscious, they can know that that’s possible. Kids need that. We need that.