Michelle Leao, MA, MFT #82421


University of San Francisco
M.A., Counseling Psychology, 2011

Santa Clara University
B.A., Communications, 2005


Member, California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists (CAMFT)

Member, San Francisco Chapter of CAMFT

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), San Francisco CASA 

Michelle Leao is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, who specializes in work with families and children.  Michelle believes that a healthy family is made up of a healthy system that often needs creative strategies to promote each individual’s mental health, awareness, and development.  

Professional History

Michelle started her therapeutic career at Rita da Cascia, a program dedicated to serving women and children diagnosed with HIV.  She then worked as an Early Childhood Mental Health Clinician at Family Service Agency where she clinically supported children 0-5 years of age in preschool settings, while developing and implementing clinical programming within each site.  She completed her internship hours towards licensure at San Mateo Behavioral Health Services where she conducted individual, family, and couples therapy for children, families, and adults with diagnoses ranging from depression, anxiety, psychosis, Axis II diagnoses, and trauma.   

Post licensure, Michelle began her work with children in foster care while working at Alternative Family Services in San Francisco.  Michelle then worked as a Residential Therapist for youth residing at Edgewood Center for Children and Families.  At Edgewood she collaborated with multidisciplinary teams to therapeutically address clients' mental health needs, reduce associated symptoms and behaviors, and eventually support their transition back into the community with their families.  

While not at her practice, Michelle serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for youth in San Francisco and is a volunteer for rescue animals

And for self care, Michelle enjoys spending time with her adopted pets, Fin, Joey, & Luna. 


A note From Michelle 

My professional development has cultivated my passion for supporting and exploring early childhood development and mental health. There is extensive value in understanding one's childhood experiences, development, and attained relational wealth, before focusing on the number of one's adversities. Often times therapists focus on the adversities and neglect the positive relationships one may have had in the past or have now. I believe it is important to critically explore all of one's resources and take advantage of our greatest biological gift— a rapidly developing malleable brain. I use this lens as the foundation of understanding the challenges bringing clients into therapy and ways in which we can collaboratively work to activate new and positive experiences that will activate the brain to change and foster healthy and productive emotions and behaviors. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you and your family!


  • SF CANS Certified (0-5 & 6-18), San Francisco County DPH 

  • CPR & First Aid Certified

  • Introduction to the NMC: Applying Principles of the Neurosequential Model of Caregivers, Foster Care, and Adoptive Parents, Bruce Perry

  • The Effects of Empathy on The Developing Brain When Working with Children in Care, Bruce Perry

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for Adolescents , UCSF

  • "Triple P" Certified

  • Teaching Pyramid Applications, CSEFEL