July 19, 1952 – July 15, 2021

Maria Hess

A Celebration of Life

Maria’s extraordinary life began in Montebello, CA. She attended Chico State University, from which she graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology; as well as Social Welfare and Corrections. She earned her Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Sonoma Institute in 1983; and her PhD in East-West Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies in 2000. Obtaining her Marriage and Family Therapist license in 1985, she began a private practice providing long-term, in-depth therapy, as well as supervision, mentorship, and consultation to community agencies. She spent a summer in Switzerland studying with Martin Kalf, incorporating Jungian sand tray into her therapeutic work. Her clinical practice reflected her integrated and holistic approach.

Maria’s teaching career began at Sonoma State University in 1983. She also taught courses at other Bay Area universities. Maria received numerous awards/grants while at SSU. She was proudest of the Excellence in Teaching Award (2003); and the Student Ambassador’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2005 and 2006. While a rigorous academic, Maria had a unique ability to train her students in the theoretical aspects of clinical psychology while vividly infusing the primary importance of a compassionate heart in education and healing. After 33 years, she retired from SSU in 2016.

Ever aware of the larger context, Maria was inspired to create a training program to meet the need for culturally skilled therapists. In 2006 she directed her enthusiastic energy to the development of Humanidad Therapy and Education Services.  With its focus on expanding community mental health resources to the Latinx community, it obtained its non-profit status in 2013. In addition to serving as Director, Maria provided trauma-informed education and care to students and teachers in primary and secondary schools in Santa Rosa. Humanidad became her heart family.

Maria was a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner. Ever dedicated to benefiting others, in 2002 she trekked to the Buddhist Khari nunnery in the Himalayas,  located near the Mt. Everest base-camp, as part of a fund-raising mission.

As well as Maria’s love of education and service, she enjoyed music, dance, and art .

Maria’s exuberant, humorous, caring spirit touched so many in the community.  During her final days, the steady flow of visitors most frequently commented on how Maria had helped them make profound changes in their lives.

Maria is predeceased by her husband, David Hess. She is survived by her cherished partner of many years, Doug Tortorigi.

Dear HTES Team,

 I want to offer my deepest condolences on the loss of Dr. Maria Hess. I wish comfort and peace for her friends, family, and the many students whose lives she touched so profoundly. It was with great joy and hope when we began our collaboration as a team and navigated the promise and complexities of the CRDP program. Maria was a true pioneer in compassionate care with a focus on the needs of the underserved Latinx community. Maria will be missed. Thank you for sharing. Ed.  

Edward Soto, M.A. (he, him, his)

California Department of Public Health

Dr. Hess taught me and many others that our stories, as people of color, mattered. That our voices need not be silenced anymore. And her famous words that “trauma is the gift that keeps on giving.” This is why we must focus on healing.

rafael vazquez

Líderes del Futuro/ HTES BOD President

Life and death are both beautiful and sobering. Humanidad Therapy & Education Services, beloved Founder Dr. Maria Hess, has passed away. Her vision and hard work have made possible that thousands of persons receive a very needed mental health support and change their lives especially in the Latinx community. She set the foundation with Charisma and wisdom for the future cultural based mental health practitioners. Although this a sobering experience, her passing-away gives us the opportunity to reflect and celebrate her life, and her legacy. I invite all of you to support our efforts to continue Maria’s Vision, to make sure that the most vulnerable in our community receive the mental health support needed. I invite all of you to Celebrate her life and legacy by PAYING IT FORWARD, MAINTAINING HER VISION ALIVE, MAKING SURE THAT THE MOST VULNERABLE RECEIVE MENTAL HELP. At the end, societies are measured for the way we treat the most in need.

Nubia PadiLLa

HTES Executive Director

I can still remember Maria’s excitement and enthusiasm about Humanidad when I was applying for an Internship. She couldn’t say enough good things about Humanidad, and her pride was infectious. I knew after that first conversation that I wanted to work for Humanidad and that I wanted to train under Maria. I am grateful to her for having hired me and fortunate that I benefited from her wisdom and her strong leadership.

dee edwoodson

MA, MFT HTES Therapist

Maria’s unique personality and energy was heartfelt, her laughter was contagious, and her passion as a therapist was inspiring. Her voice of knowledge and wisdom will always be with me as a therapist.

bianca avina

LMFT HTES Therapist

Thank you Humanidad staff for sharing this beautiful recognition and tribute to the founder of HUMANIDAD Maria Hess. I so recall meeting her almost 5 years ago when we started CRDP. She was such a great person she represented such passion for her work and her dream to help grown HUMANIDAD so that it could stand the test of time and continue to be there for the needs of the Latino community. I will never forget that first meeting with her I left feeling this is a woman who we need to support to keep moving forward the work she started. Congratulations Humanidad, you are doing this. Con mucho cariño at this difficult time.

Rachel Guerrero, LCSW Co-chair

CDEP Integration Advisory Group

Maria Hess was a huge presence in the world of Psychotherapy. Her brilliance, skills and dedication were greatly respected by all who worked with her. I was fortunate enough to be her colleague in a consultation group with other therapists for many years. She always brought insight and support in a humble and humorous way. She will be sorely missed by everyone she’s touched.

maxine hall

LMFT HTES Supervisor

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes a cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes The teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

This is what I learned from Dr Hess. She was groundbreaking in linking mental health and cultural responsiveness here. She also was relentless in providing help after Andy Lopez. She always found a way to yes. She let nothing get in her way. 

socorro shields

BOD Humanidad

Poem by Maria Hess, née Pucci -when she was 16 years old