About her position at WRA
The one with the creative sessions. That's Tana Frey, associate clinical mental health counselor, with her bachelor's in psychology and master's in clinical mental health. Frey is one of three therapists at White River Academy.
She's been in the industry professionally for 12 years; but her zeal sparked at just 11 years old, when her therapist father allowed her to audit the wilderness treatment programs he worked in during the summers. At 13, she was allowed to shadow the program for a month straight. A program leading troubled youth through wildlife like nomads in the desert: no cabins, basic food rations and where the youth put aside personal struggles as they banded together to make shelters and primitive fires.
Having only previously been told her father was working with 'troubled youth' Frey was surprised at the respect and kindness with which the teens treated her. The experience began a paradigm shift: Though a challenge, the troubled youth weren't scary and, "These kids don't need to be fixed like a broken machine."
Her passion for the natural lessons learned in wilderness excursions coupled with her love for the task of reaching a teen who's resistant to treatment is readily exemplified in her creative sessions.
Frey believes there's no cookie-cutter mold for treatment and is known to incorporate creative arts expression and play to strengthen the therapeutic relationship. "It's helpful to have that ability to be flexible; it gives the student ownership and control. It lets them feel comfortable and kind of surprise them into therapy," she says. Frey gives examples of playing chess, singing, allowing dance and instruments as "a back door into therapy." She adds that this release of 'perceived control' allows the teen to open up.
"I've joined a student that was pretty resistant to therapy, in their personal dance class. Understand that I cannot dance and I was pretty uncomfortable but from then on our relationship was solid because we had one built on trust."
What inspires her to help others
In an industry where clinical burnout and disproportionate work/life balance keep the professional door a revolving one, Frey can say that she's never left the field. Her son just started kindergarten this year and although she confesses she's navigating self-care and personal balance like all clinicians, she's made significant strides recently and looking for the next step. Rekindled inspiration is the key.
Frey reflects, "Inspiration does change; it's still a little of that idealistic mentality but now it really comes down to helping youth become as successful as possible - in their chosen life."
About her students she says, "I may not agree, but I will help you on this path you're choosing as long as it's healthy and safe. Some students choose a really difficult path but my job at this point is to help interpret situations of the past for you and your parents and now create informed decisions."
She says she's inspired because every day is different and personal and challenging. "We're working with different personalities who have their own past experience that has changed how they see the world, we have to look at them in their reality; and help navigate that path."