Melissa Dellens, MA
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist # 143128
- Genderfull femme
My road toward becoming an affirmative psychoanalytic psychotherapist is influenced by a number of experiences and people earlier in my life. My Bachelor of Arts degree is in Teledramatic Arts & Technology at California State University, Monterey Bay. This degree focused on using theater and storytelling as social action. I stage managed for many theater companies on the central coast, including a summer at El Teatro Campesino founded by Luis Valdez.
My avocational political work in marriage equality and transgender rights over the past two decades has taught (and continues to teach) me how long-term collective work can create social and systemic change. Equally influential was my years of summer camp experiences that brought me into the disability community. I began working for the inclusion, acceptance, and appreciation of Autistic people in the community non-profit setting.
I decided to become a therapist after years working as a Family Support Coordinator for a community integration program for Autistic, intellectually and developmentally disabled people. In working with over 100 families across the span of my caseload, I noticed many mental health struggles were being overlooked due to Autism or other developmental disabilities.
I wanted to do more. I enrolled in the Master of Arts in Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles. I completed my degree part time while continuing to help families to include their disabled loved one in family life, and find more connection and relationships in neighborhoods and communities. In addition to my education in Marriage and Family Therapy, I specialized in Applied Community Psychology, which focuses on prevention models, consultation, program development, and program evaluation to respond to community level traumas.
I applied the principles of Community Psychology in my agency work and expanded my community networks. As a part of my course study, I offered Natalie Dunbar consultation in developing her community offerings. I learned and implemented prevention and promotion strategies with Stepping Forward LA. As my independent study project, I supported The Affirmative Couch to begin to scale and build systems to reach more affirmative clinicians across the country. Additionally, I received training in the Community Narration Approach, an organizational evaluation tool to support institutions to align with their missions and values more deeply. This project is published in the Global Journal of Community Psychology and Practice.
My education and training as an AMFT were focused in psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theory. I received my training at Valley Community Counseling Clinic and am a founding member of their Culture & Psychoanalysis Lab. There, I learned to use psychoanalytic theories to uncover unexamined biases in my spheres of privilege and claim more space for my marginalized identities. These skills have supported me to work with internalized shame, microaggressions, and power dynamics in and out of the treatment room.
I completed my Associate Marriage and Family Therapist hours in private practice. I spent 18 months on the Social and Emotional Learning Team for Walden School in Pasadena, and continued to grow my practice focused on the intersections of transgender and neurodivergent identities under the supervision of Meg Bezucha, LMFT. I received a certificate in the one-year Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Program for the Los Angeles Institute and Society for Psychoanalytical Studies and Level 1 of the Trauma Resilience Model.
I am honored to bring all these experiences to OCPP, where I offer a collaborative space for teens and young adults seeking individual and relationship therapy. I have an active imagination and a visual mind that can help my clients make more meaning of their own. I listen carefully to what lights my clients up, as well as the origins of stress, exhaustion, and shame. These explorations help people who work with me feel more engaged, empowered, and passionate about life.
In addition to my clinical work, I am the Chief Operations Officer and educator at The Affirmative Couch, an online continuing education platform for psychotherapists working with LGBTQIA+, consensually non-monogamous, and kinky clients. I am adjunct faculty at Alliant International University and Antioch University Los Angeles. I am an Affiliate Member of LAISPS, and a member on their Diversity Affairs Committee.