Therapy with Chay Tanchanco, LMFT

Chay Tanchanco is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who provides online therapy to clients throughout the state of California. Chay has a particular specialty in working with women struggling with anxiety and perfectionism who may feel alone, stressed, or frustrated on their current path. Chay also has experience working with clients navigating a variety of other concerns, including relationship issues and race/cultural identity challenges. Chay strives to be a client-centered and culturally-humble therapist who helps clients draw on their existing strengths to navigate their current struggles.

We asked Chay more about her work with clients and her guiding philosophies on therapy.

Chay’s background and personal life

How did you decide to become a therapist?

I started as a school counselor. I volunteered at an elementary school full-time for two years, and the thing that struck me the most was this: mental health was often a barrier to education, relationships, and success in life (whatever that means to each person!). My students, of all different backgrounds and personalities, came to me and trusted me with stories that I felt ill-equipped to support. I knew that whatever I did in life, I wanted to advocate for mental health for every person.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love reading, watching stand-up comedians, and playing video games!

Chay’s specialties and therapy philosophies

What guiding principles inform your work?

Emotions are energy. I talk a lot about that with my clients. We always think of emotions as either welcome or unwelcome guests. They "happen" to us, they come and they go, and we can't control them. We feel happy one moment, then we feel sad the next and wonder what went wrong.

If my clients could walk away with one thing from our sessions, it's that our emotions have a message to teach us, unique and individual to each individual's chemistry and life experiences. It's amazing how this realization grants people freedom from so many problems in their lives.

What clientele do you work with most frequently?

My clients are mainly women, around the ages of 24-35, and I use the term "anxious giver-perfectionists" to describe them. It seems to resonate! I would know, I am also an anxious giver-perfectionist! We have lived our lives often in the pursuit of excellence and have been high-achieving from an early age. We often get missed when it comes to mental health support because, on the surface, it can seem like we "have it all together" and are "strong, independent women" that don't need help. But secretly, it can feel like you're crumbling inside and feel too ashamed to ask for help. "I should be able to take care of myself" or "I am smart enough to figure this out" is often the inner talk.

Can you tell us more about your specialty in perfectionism?

"Recovering perfectionists" (to use Brene Brown's words) have a special place in my heart. It can be a long road from elementary school – where getting all A's on every quiz or test may have started adding up to verify your self-worth – to being an adult and coming up against the hard realization that perfection isn't all that it's been cracked up to be.

My approach is empathetic as well as challenging; I want to acknowledge where clients have been so that we can navigate to where they want to go. Perfectionists are often very giving, kind people who have managed to create order where there wasn't any. They're used to helping others and have a hard time letting go of perfection because it's tied too closely with their value to give to others.

Can you tell us more about your specialty in working with women?

Women have a lot on their shoulders, and often we can experience a lot of internal pressure. We can be especially hard on ourselves, expecting that we need to fulfill everything that we are capable of doing and making sure we care for those around us too.

It's important to increase our self-awareness, address where these pressures have come from, and ask ourselves whether these expectations are aligned with who we are and what we want from our lives.

Can you tell us about your specialty in working with clients who identify as Asian-American?

Asian-American mental health is of specific importance to me, and it is more important now than ever. I believe for too long the Asian-American community has not been able to access mental health care, and we needed voices and faces that look like ours to be able to process the trauma and grief we have held in through the experiences of generations of immigrants. It's time for us to speak and be heard!

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

No matter who I am working with, it's an honor for me to share a small window into the lives of the people I have met as a therapist. I am entrusted with their hopes, fears, and confusion, which is no small gift. Through the process of empathy and empowerment, I have seen people transform before my eyes to feel more confident, happy, self-aware, and deeply loving of themselves. I couldn't trade that for the world.

Therapy sessions with Chay

What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?

Our first session is about getting to know your needs, investigating what has been feeling overwhelming or burdensome, and offering some potential goals for our work together. I will introduce you to some insights and skills that I can help you learn. You'll feel validated and understood.

In ongoing sessions, we will elaborate on your goals, practice different skills, and learn techniques for addressing your pain points. Our therapy must expand as we do!

Are there any books you often recommend to clients?

I often recommend:

Do you assign “homework” between sessions?

Yes, sometimes! "Homework" would always be serving your best interests, never feeling like an obligation or an opportunity for shame. Exercises such as debunking negative thoughts, watching videos, reading short articles, or journaling are some of my common assignments. I also enjoy unusual assignments, such as "find a song that explains how you feel" or "eat a mindful meal." We can be creative in the changes we make to our lives and have fun while doing so!

How can I prepare for our first session?

Environment is key, especially since we will be doing telehealth sessions. Take even 2 minutes before the session to settle into a comfortable space, make yourself a cup of tea or something soothing, and put something on the table where the camera is to indicate that this is your therapy space. If you enjoy journaling, write a few sentences about how you feel or what you've been thinking about. You may have something you have been wanting to talk about, or you may feel kind of scattered and unsure what to say. All of this is welcome!

What advice would you share with therapy seekers?

You may have been searching for a long time before you've found the right therapist for you. It can be really tough to feel discouraged, wondering if you are ever going to find someone who feels right for you. I want to offer a small encouragement: please, keep going. You deserve to work with someone who really sees you, and you deserve to work with someone who has the insight that is uniquely suited to you.

This is one of my favorite quotes to end:

"If you're working on changing bad habits, unhealthy thought patterns, 'negative' emotions, or toxic behaviors, know that you are healing a part of this world by healing yourself. Everyone around you will benefit and they will be served by your wholeness. It's hard sometimes and I know you want to quit, but this is the work that ultimately changed the world." -Emily Maroutian

Visit Chay’s profile to read more about her and contact her for an initial consultation!