Making Dreams Reality

Gabriela Garcia fulfills mental health needs in her community.

Through Dream Big - PSP Counseling, Gabriela Garcia works to help clients on Fort Worth Northside with their mental health. Photo by Joyce Marshall

Making Dreams Reality

Gabriela Garcia fulfills mental health needs in her community.

Gabriela Garcia ’94 was in high school when she first noticed how many patients in her community were struggling with untreated anxiety and depression. She was assisting primary care provider Dr. Alex Guevara, serving Fort Worth’s Northside, through a medical magnet program at her school. Despite the patients’ needs, Garcia said, many did not see counseling as an option.  

While financial constraints were a big factor, so were attitudes; it was a time when seeking mental health services carried a stigma.  

Today, through Dream Big – PSP Counseling, Garcia works to fill the mental health needs of insured and uninsured Northside clients, with about 500 counseling sessions a month. While 75 percent of those sessions are run through Garcia’s original business, PSP Counseling, the rest are dedicated to uninsured or under-insured clients served through its nonprofit side, Dream Big.  

Garcia first recognized her heart for serving others in middle school, while volunteering for organizations such as Key Club, The WARM Place and Presbyterian Night Shelter.  

Dream Big is a nonprofit that tends to the uninsured or under-insured, while PSP Counseling offers care for those with insurance. Photo by Joyce Marshall

When the time came for college, she chose TCU for its small classes and proximity to home and decided to major in psychology. As a Horned Frog, she was active in the Organization of Latin American Students, co-founding the Sigma Lambda Alpha Sorority chapter on campus.  

“In college I learned to be a leader. If there was something that I wanted to do that wasn’t available, TCU gave me the background to be able to say, ‘Go for it. Try it out,’ ” Garcia said.   

While working toward a master’s degree in psychology at Texas Woman’s University in 1999, Garcia began helping with a Spanish-speaking support group for non-offending parents at Alliance for Children, which advocates for young survivors of abuse. Garcia has continued volunteering for the organization for more than 20 years. 

After earning her doctorate from the University of Southern California, and her counseling license, Garcia opened her own practice in 2005, which she named PSP Counseling for her dogs Pupster, Spunkie and Penutt. 

Along the way, she was reminded of the need for mental health services for those with limited or no health insurance.  

“I started working with [TCU] master’s level interns, and they would come to our office to complete their hours,” Garcia said, “and that’s how we were able to help the community through volunteering before starting Dream Big.”  

Intent on creating an official nonprofit side to her counseling business, Garcia turned to longtime friend Rose Mary Alvarez ’89 for guidance because of Alvarez’s leadership experience and heart for nonprofits. The women had served together on the board of the Fort Worth Hispanic Association, of which they are still members.  

Gabriela Garcia’s volunteerism dates to middle school with organizations such as Key Club, The WARM Place and Presbyterian Night Shelter. Photo by Joyce Marshall

“We met one afternoon at her house. Gaby said she had an idea and presented it to me,” Alvarez said. “Her son, Alfred, was very young at the time, but he basically said it would be called Dream Big. I said, ‘Let’s do it. How can I help? What do you need?’ ”  

Garcia enlisted Alvarez to provide administrative guidance. Together, Alvarez, Garcia and Alfred del Castillo, Garcia’s husband, serve as Dream Big’s co-directors; they launched the nonprofit in 2018.  

Through Dream Big, uninsured patients or those with high deductibles — ages 5 and up — are eligible to receive free private or group therapy.  

“Our mission is to provide mental health services to anybody who needs them,” Garcia said. 

“She always asks herself how she can help other people help themselves, and how she can make an impact on the community,” Alvarez said. “I’m excited for what she’s done and most excited about what she’s going to continue to do in the near future.” 

Through Dream Big – PSP Counseling, Garcia contributes to the community in other ways, too. After learning from Dolores Huerta Elementary School principal Carla Coscia ’97 about students in need, Garcia lined up donations.  

“Gaby was able to get coats and shoes donated for the kids,” Coscia said. “She even went above and beyond and asked for donations to provide gift cards for the teachers.”  

In addition to its individual and group sessions, Dream Big – PSP Counseling also supports clients and other local families by providing day camps during spring break and summer. The camps encourage kids to be physically active while also teaching mental health-supportive exercises like emotional regulation and social skills.  

“We had one insurance company that liked what we were doing when we first started. They were paying for the camps and would track the kids’ health progress,” Garcia said. “They told us when the kids came to the camps, they noticed a 68 percent reduction of needing inpatient care or more intensive counseling.”  

To support the services offered by Dream Big, Garcia and her team participate in several fundraising events, including North Texas Giving Day. In May 2023, Dream Big was one of two local nonprofits to win a $5,000 grant from the event’s Mental Health Awareness Challenge.  

Roughly 90 percent of all proceeds from Dream Big fundraisers directly fund patient care. Garcia hopes that future grants and donations will someday fund a separate building for the nonprofit.  

“I would really like for Dream Big to grow into a place where it could stand as being its own entity and continue even after me,” she said.  

Garcia shared lessons she has learned while helping others. 

Gabriela Garcia founded the nonprofit Dream Big in Fort Worth’s Northside after witnessing many people dealing with mental health issues. Photo by Joyce Marshall

Set boundaries for yourself. It’s hard being a professional in the helping field because you can get consumed by it. One of my graduate school professors said, “At the end of the day, you pray for your clients, and you leave them in God’s hands.” That’s always stayed with me. I need to be able to be healthy for my family as well as my clients. 

Stay motivated on tough days.  I am wired in a certain way where I don’t slow down. Even when I was young, I always wanted to be doing things and learning how to maximize my time. Finding what motivates you to make a difference makes the tough days rewarding.  

Anybody and everybody who’s willing to do it can benefit from counseling. Many people think you must have had some type of trauma or a difficult childhood if you seek counseling. But PSP gives clients coping, social, relaxation and self-care skills. Counseling is about being able to connect with yourself to be the best version of yourself.  

Make sure your counselor is someone you’re comfortable with. One of the things I always tell my clients after our first session is whether I feel like I’m qualified to work with them, or I ask them if they feel like we’re a good match. You can base your preference on personality or other specific qualities in a therapist. Also, if you are looking for something specific, make sure the therapist feels like that’s something they are qualified to help with.