Estés is a certified senior Jungian analyst. Her doctorate, from the Union Institute & University , is in ethno-clinical psychology on the study of social and psychological patterns in cultural and tribal groups. She often speaks as "distinguished visiting scholar" and "diversity scholar" at universities. She is the author of many books on the journey of the soul. Beginning in 1992 and onward, her work has been published in 37 languages. Her book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of The Wild Woman Archetype was on The New York Times' best seller list for 145 weeks, as well as other best seller lists, including USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal.
As a post-trauma specialist, Estés began her work in the 1960s at the Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital in Hines, Illinois. There she worked with World War I, World War II, Korean and Vietnam War soldiers who were living with quadraplegia, incapacitated by loss of arms and legs. She has worked at other facilities caring for severely injured "cast-away" children as well as "shell-shocked" (now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) war veterans and their families. Her teaching of writing, storytelling and traditional medicine practices continued in prisons, beginning in the early 1970s at the Men's Penitentiary in Colorado; the Federal Women's Prison at Dublin, California, the Montview Facility for Youth in Colorado, and other "locked institutions" throughout the western United States.
Estés also ministers in the fields of childbearing loss, surviving families of murder victims, as well as critical incident work. She served at natural disaster sites, developing a now widely translated "Post-trauma Recovery Protocol", first translated for 1988 earthquake survivors in Armenia. The protocol was designed for citizens to do post-trauma work recovery work in their own communities after the first responders have left. She served Columbine High School and its local community for three years after the 1999 massacre there. She continues to work with 9-11 survivor families on both East and West coasts.
As a practitioner and trainer in cross-cultural traditional medicine and practices, Estés served with Maya Angelou and Coretta Scott King as a board member of the Maya Angelou Minority Health Foundation (now called the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity as of 2014) at Wake Forest School of Medicine. One of the foundation projects was to teach patients with challenging illnesses to document their days, storytelling about their lives with a camera. The techniques were taught by Estés as a storyteller and traditional medicine practitioner along with photographer Michael Cunningham, the author of the book Crowns, Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats. The Minority Health Foundation project was called Voca-voice, and culminated in a photographic exhibition in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and dissemination to other helping professionals of the methodologies needed to carry out their own Voca-voice projects in their communities.
Estés served as appointee by Colorado governors Romer and Owens to the Colorado State Grievance Board of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (D.O.R.A.) from 1993 to 2006. She was elected as chair and for thirteen years worked with the state of Colorado Attorney General's lawyers, as well as a board of legal experts and helping professionals, to focus on public safety regarding mental health practitioners. She was a speaker at the national D.O.R.A. convention on the topic of training board members in parity, assessment, and regard for all, in regulatory oversight. She has been an advisory board member for the National Writers Union, New York; and an advisory board member of the National Coalition Against Censorship, New York. She is an advisor to El Museo de las Americas, Denver, Colorado, and a contributing editor and storyteller-in-residence for The Bloomsbury Review, a four decades' old literary culture and book review publication.
Estés is the recipient of numerous awards for her life's work, including the first Joseph Campbell Keeper of the Lore Award for her work as La cantadora and for her books and many spoken word series; the Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis; and Catholic Press Association award for her writing. She is a 1992 Book of the Year Honor Award, American Booksellers Association; 1993; Colorado Authors League Award, 1993. She received the Las Primeras Award, "The First of Her Kind", from the Mexican American Women's Foundation, Washington D.C. She is a 2006 inductee into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame which recognizes women "change agents" who are of international influence, including Madeleine Albright and Golda Meir. Estés is the recipient of the President's Medal for Social Justice, from the Union Institute, 1994; and the 1996 awardee of the Fay Lecture Series at Texas A&M University for her work La Curandera: Healing in Two Worlds.
Estés debuted in spoken word performance at Carnegie Hall, New York, March 22, 2000, along with Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. Together the author-poets wrote lyrical song-poems for a libretto called woman.life.song.. The concept was created by Jessye Norman and invited by Judith Aron, the Executive Director of Carnegie Hall, to present a premiere about the archetypal and down to earth passages of women from youth to old age. The music was composed by Judith Weir, the work was sung by the opera soprano Jessye Norman with the Orchestra of St. Luke's conducted by David Robertson. The libretto is published by Chester Music Ltd for soloists and large ensemble.
Estés is managing editor for TheModeratevoice.com, a news and political website where she also writes on issues of culture, soul, and politics. She is also a columnist on issues of social justice, spirituality and culture in her column archived as "El Rio Debajo del Rio" ("The River Underneath the River") archived on the National Catholic Reporter website. She has written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, Publishers' Weekly and The Denver Post.
Estés is controversial for proposing that both assimilation and holding to ethnic traditions are the ways to contribute to a creative culture and to a soul-based civility. She successfully helped to petition the Library of Congress, as well as worldwide psychoanalytic institutes, to rename their studies and categorizations formerly called, among other things, "psychology of the primitives", to respectful and descriptive names, according to ethnic group, religion, culture, etc.
Estés' Guadalupe Foundation has funded literacy projects, including in Queens, New York City, in Madagascar - providing printed local folktales, healthcare and hygiene information for people in their own language. These texts are then used for learning to read and write. Estés testifies before state and federal legislatures on welfare reform, education and school violence, child protection, mental health, environment, licensing of professionals, immigration, traditional medicine in public health, open records, and other quality of life and soul issues. She was invited by Senators of The Ways and Means Committee to testify at the Federal Legislature on welfare reform, speaking about "The Three M's: Management, Money, and Mercy.""Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother's Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul" (Sounds True Books, USA, November 2011)
Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype (Ballantine, 1992/ 1996, USA)
The Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale About that Which Can Never Die (Harper SanFrancisco, 1996, USA)
The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What is Enough (Ballantine, 1993, USA)
Tales of the Brothers' Grimm; 50-page introduction by Estés (BMOC/QPB special edition, USA)
Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell; 50-page introduction by Estés (Princeton University Press, Joseph Campbell 100th anniversary edition 2004, USA)
Estés is a spoken word artist using her original lyric and family stories, poems, blessings, mythos and psychoanalytic commentary. Her 22 audio works, published by Sounds True, are available as CDs and mp3s and have been broadcast over numerous National Public Radio and community public radio stations throughout Canada and the United States.Untie the Strong Woman: To Know and Honor Holy Mother & La Nuestra Señora, Our Lady of Guadalupe (2011) (mp3s/CDs)
How To Be An Elder: Myths and Stories of The Dangerous Old Woman, Volume 5 (2012) (mp3s/CDs)
The Late Bloomer: Myths and Stories of The Dangerous Old Woman, Volume 4 (2011) (mp3s/CDs)
The Joyous Body: Myths and Stories of The Dangerous Old Woman and the Consort Body, Volume 3 (2011) (mp3s/CDs)
The Power of the Crone: Myths and Stories of The Dangerous Old Woman and Her Special Wisdom, Volume 2 (2010) (mp3s/CDs)
The Dangerous Old Woman: Myths and Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype, Volume 1 (2010) (mp3s/CDs)
Mother Night: Myths, Stories and Teachings for Learning to See in the Dark (2010) (mp3s/CDs)
Seeing in the Dark: Myths and Stories to Reclaim the Buried, Knowing Woman (2010) (mp3s/CDs)
Warming the Stone Child: Myths & Stories About Abandonment and the Unmothered Child (1997) (mp3s/CDs)
The Radiant Coat: Myths & Stories About the Crossing Between Life and Death (1993) (mp3s/CDs)
The Creative Fire: Myths and Stories About the Cycles of Creativity (1993) (mp3s/CDs)
In the House of the Riddle Mother: The Most Common Archetypal Motifs in Women's Dreams (1997, 2005) (mp3s/CDs)
Theatre of the Imagination: Volume I (1999, 2005) (mp3s/CDs)
Theatre of the Imagination: Volume II (1999, 2005) (mp3s/CDs)
The Red Shoes: On Torment and the Recovery of Soul Life (1997, 2005) (mp3s/CDs)
Bedtime Stories: For Crossing the Threshold Between Waking and Sleep (2002) (mp3s/CDs)
Beginner's Guide to Dream Analysis (2000) (mp3s/CDs)
How To Love A Woman: Myths and Stories about Intimacy and The Erotic Lives of Women (1996) (mp3s/CDs)
The Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale About that Which Can Never Die (1996) (mp3s/CDs)
The Boy Who Married An Eagle: Myths and Stories About Men's Interior Lives (1995) (audio cassette)
The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What is Enough (1993) (mp3s/CDs)
Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories about the Wild Woman Archetype (1989 audio bestseller, released before the completed manuscript was in book form ) (mp3s/CDs)