By ERIN TAIL
The team at Kwawachee Counseling Center (KCC) is dedicated to supporting our community in healing and recovery. Recovery is a continual process, and is best supported by our loved ones and trained professionals. For those suffering in areas of mental health or substance abuse, KCC hopes to provide the space for hope and healing.
Youth Suicide Prevention Specialist
Laurilee is enrolled in the Quinault tribe, and received her B.A in Psychology from WSU. She’s the Youth Suicide Prevention Specialist at KCC, and enjoys working with youth in the community. She’s married, has two daughters, loves to travel, workout and drink coffee. Laurilee always wanted to work with Native people, because she has a deep understanding of the challenges our people face. After college, this position at KCC opened and couldn’t have come at a better time! Her greatest gift from Kwawachee is learning how to combat stigma against mental-wellness. Laurilee is very passionate about spreading awareness about suicide.
Trish has been a counselor for five and a half years and went to Northwest University, where she had exposure to learning how to work well within tribal communities. She used to work at Integrated Therapy Services in University Place, with a strong focus in children and family wellness, before she came to Kwawachee. She has always wanted to work with the Puyallup Tribe! Trish really enjoys helping people, and used to volunteer at church helping youth, and still loves working with teenagers. She is a mom of an eleven year old, loves traveling and drinking coffee.
Looking at things very holistically, Trish views all of humanity as being connected, and likes to consider depression holistically as well, such as emphasizing natural and traditional healing. She is always willing to learn, and open to new thoughts, ideas, is very connected to the clients and staff at Kwawachee, and relies on peers for guidance and consultation. She believes the staff here is very genuine, kind hearted, compassionate, and provides great support.
Trish has grown a lot as an individual just by being here at KCC, and has been shown so much love and compassion. She has and is still learning different ways of approaching things, and feels very welcomed into this family. Additionally, Trish believes everyone has challenges and needs help at some point in their life. Even counselors need help, sometimes you’re so involved in your own work, that you do need support to regain and remain balanced in life.
Selma is a licensed marriage and family therapist at Kwawachee, since August 10, 2011. “I think every client has a story to tell and I’m enriched by it. It’s a privilege working with them.” Prior to KCC, She worked in private practice, later working in her husband’s business and later retired. Selma then, due to financial changes, took a new step in a direction she hadn’t expected when she joined the counseling staff at Kwawachee. “Looking back on this journey, from a spiritual perspective, I think I was guided here to continue my healing journey and assist others with theirs.”
Selma enjoys being able to grow with clients and experience Native American culture[s] and principles. The gift of trust is Selma’s most valuable gift. “No client is crazy. We all go through hard times and just need some extra support and perhaps some tips on how to navigate through life.”
Client Advocate III
Laura is a member of the Choctaw Tribe, graduated from Evergreen in 1997, and started at PTHA in 2000. Laura’s passions and loves of her life are her Grand Baby, Daughter and Son in law, her Elder friend that she cares for, gardening and Real Estate Investing. She wishes people knew, “every moment of an infant’s life is important and contributes to the child’s mental health. Having healthy and supportive support systems is what helps keep us strong and healthy. We all need nurturing and support: as part of an extended family that’s what we provide here at Kwawachee.”
Lauren is a marriage and family therapist, with a certi cate in grief counseling and background in narrative therapy and CBT. She comes from a biopsychosocial- spiritual perspective, where she chooses to actively view a person and all elements in their life. Before coming to KCC, she was in a Seattle office, relocated to Tacoma and always wanted to serve a tribal community. She was excited there was an opening at Kwawachee, and feels very happy to be here. Lauren believes all the staff really care about the community, and are very committed to improving wellbeing in Native populations, and historical trauma.
“There has to be a lot of passion in creating change for all our communities, if we can be a part in the healing of Native people, there will be a ripple effect.”
As a person, Lauren is always learning a lot, as an outsider, and believes it’s an honor to be in this community, and being exposed to a lot of experiences not just anybody is able to. While as a clinician, she feels like learning how to serve Indigenous populations is a blessing. “I think we have a really strong team, from so many experiences and diverse backgrounds.” She wishes people knew therapy is a tool for anyone to use when they’re struggling. It’s not only for when something terrible happens, it’s a genuine and welcoming place you can try to learn more about yourself, and self-awareness. “When we’re doing better as people, we can be better in our families and connections… Healing ourselves, heals our communities and our ancestors too.”
Tanisa is a licensed mental health counselor, and has worked with children, youth, and adults individually for almost 20 years. She loves helping them process their experiences, and what they’ve been through. She is African American, loves spending time with her family and working in her church. Tanisa feels that her background and life experiences helps her to better understand her clients’ situations. She also offers Christian counseling to clients who have a desire for that.
Tanisa feels her personal experiences and her own culture is similar to Native peoples, which led her to KCC with a good basis in understanding, and strong desire to see people heal. She used to work with families transitioning from homelessness and helped them move through their traumas. Historical trauma has been the same for Tanisa and she feels that clients sense that and don’t have to explain that trauma has been passed down in their families. She likes to focus on the care of the client, learning about the cultural context of the individual’s tribe or traditions, and feels it’s especially important to hear about their own understanding and involvement with their culture, which is always unique.
“Being able to work in Indian Country and see clients make changes and tell me that their life has been changed through counseling is a gift… It’s been an amazing opportunity to work here, see the amount of healing that has happened here by seeing how Natives have worked through historical trauma, how to talk about it, and go through that journey. That’s probably the greatest gift.”
“Caring for our own mental health is for everyone since we are all on a wellness path. Counseling is having someone you trust, that you can talk to, like if you were sitting on the porch sharing the things on your heart with your confidante.”
Glorinda is from the Navajo tribe, and moved to Washington ten years ago, to make a difference in her life. She wanted to have an opportunity to allow herself to grow and serve others through change. She is very culturally-traditionally oriented, and believes speaking her language uently is critical, and gives others a sense of where she’s coming from. She went to school for seven years, while focusing on being a mother and wife during that time, and wanted to pursue something but wasn’t quite sure what: “If I didn’t have a past, I wouldn’t be able to sit here.”
She feels she can relate to a lot of individuals here even though she’s from another tribe. Glorinda can connect to what people are going through like prejudice and racial profiling, and by helping people here, she feels like she’s helping her own people– which she is. One of the greatest gifts Glorinda has received from working at Kwawachee is being able to fit in an environment without people putting limitations on her, and who she’s supposed to be in the larger society. She feels like she can finally fit in here, where she belongs. “Being an Indigenous woman here is a gift in itself. I feel like I have privilege.” There isn’t much diversity at other workplaces so it was hard for Glorinda to be comfortable in herself.
Glorinda wishes that more people would be open to seeking treatment, and working with others to gain more insight about themselves. “It’s not what people think it is. It’s a place of healing. Having mental health issues doesn’t mean you’re sick, sometimes you need to maintain yourself so you can build that foundation that you need. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Taking care of mental health is important for all, no matter where you come from. Counseling is medicine.”
Sarah has worked at KCC for nearly ten years and really enjoys being here. She was raised in Texas, but moved to Washington thirty years ago. She has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling from Chapman University. Sarah used to work in community health programs, with children and now works with adults, sometimes children. Ever since she was little, she knew she wanted to be a counselor. Sarah specializes in cognitive behavioral counseling, which she describes as focusing on, “thoughts, feelings and behaviors that work together; we can look at them separately to make the whole situation work better.”
Sarah feels connected at PTHA because her core values align with others’ such as viewing community, compassion, and respecting the earth as extremely important. She is open to learning, and in her opinion, Native people should know and be aware that she is not above others in thinking, and does not know more than others. She is on the journey with them. Sarah said earlier, “I’m never going to be bored because I’m always learning!” Her greatest gift from working at Kwawachee has been the honor of being on this journey with her clients; when they trust her, or are opened and engaged, she believes it’s a big deal if someone is willing to take that chance on her. She also feels very lucky to not be criticized here for her sense of humor.
She wants people to know she’s completely 100% sincere when she says she loves her job and that this is her true passion, she can’t imagine working at another job. Sarah really truly wants people to be happier and be more confident, be in a complete state of safety and wellbeing. She wants people to realize they are not stuck and have more power to create positive change more than they could ever imagine. “A therapist isn’t here to tell them what to do but instead figure out what they want to do, and what works for them”.
Mental Health Intern
Tess is a 33 year old woman of European descent, and has a 5 1 ⁄ 2 year old daughter who she raises with her mother. They live in a multigenerational household of women and true power. “I have been putting myself back together these past four years after escaping domestic violence.” She is so happy to be where she is, and who she is today. She is at Kwawachee doing a clinical internship for couples and family counseling because she loves the feeling here at KCC, the openness to many cultures and peoples, and is grateful for its welcoming and accepting atmosphere.
Although Tess has no tribal affiliation, she has been trying to piece together the history of her great great grandmother, who was Californian Spanish. She was raised in a Catholic boarding school, and Tess wants to know more about her story so that she isn’t erased. Even if she does find out that she was Native American, she doesn’t feel that that changes her own experience. She can honor her by telling her story to her family and child. Tess also has a special interest in this site as she wrestles personally with the fact that her child, who is Latinx and possibly Mayan, has been white washed by their circumstance and location. She is constantly trying to figure out how to help her daughter connect with a part of herself that she feels she cannot teach her.
“At Kwawachee there is a shared thinking in the multiplicity of our truths. There is a shared value for each individual. I greatly appreciate and am blessed to work in a system that is more holistic than many other models. The ability to work with health care professionals as a team to best help clients is amazing.”
She tends to be a more collaborative therapist in that Tess views her client as the expert in their own life. “This means that they define what health is for them. I find this leaves so much more space to validate the truth of their experience.” The greatest gift she has received from her internship is the shared knowledge that the staff at KCC and PTHA have given her. “I feel that several people have really responded to my desire to grow and learn by acting as mentors to me. Being allowed to be here is the greatest gift.” Tess believes she is a little more silly/whimsical on the outside than she is at the core. Really she feels that she has grown and been given opportunities to show herself and who she is here.
“Mental health is NOT static. It moves, it changes, it grows. It means different things for the same person at different times. Mental health can be attended to in anybody, they don’t have to have a diagnosis. Having a diagnosis doesn’t mean somebody is broken. People can learn and take so much away from the times they are struggling with their mental health. Great beauty can be created and found. We need the experiences of every person to help us understand what it is to be human.”
LICSW, Counselor III
Jennifer is Anishinaabe, and has been serving PTHA for the past twenty two years, having previously worked as a counselor with the Muckleshoot Tribal community. As a high-school student, her mother took her to hear a Puyallup Elder speak to a gathering of Native students. Afterward, she told her mother when she grew up she would become a counselor and help other Natives. Jennifer believes “humility, to humble myself” is the greatest gift she has received from serving the community. “I’m here to serve, I’m grateful for the teachings. I have a deep feeling of gratitude for the Puyallup Nation.”
Kayla is bi-racial; she is Caucasian and Native from the Tulalip tribe, and grew up on her home reservation. She has always been observant since she was little, which she still pays attention to as she’s helping people. Kayla went to UW Seattle, and studied sociology and Native studies. She then worked with her tribe and programs like ECEAP, then went back to school for her graduate’s degree because she was very inspired by her work with her people. Kayla eventually wants to return to her homeland, but wants to achieve as much as possible to help her people upon her return.
Before coming to KCC, she worked at MultiCare in behavioral health, providing counseling and responding to crisis in the building. She feels very connected to the Indigenous culture here: the community, singing, dancing, and art, it reminds her of back home. She loves feeling comfortable here and not as pressured as previous programs she’s been involved with, as they were urgently ran in her experience. “Western society is very future oriented, quickly moving, and in Native communities it’s very much focused on the now, and what we can take care of well in the present.”
Kayla’s most cherished gift from Kwawachee is working among fellow Indigenous women, and she is very proud and grateful to have Danelle Reed as a leader to look up to. She has only been here for a short time but already knows that PTHA values work-life balance, it’s very nurturing and takes care of their people. Kayla wishes people knew that she values holistic ways of being, “how we don’t meet by accident, we are all connected and I wish people knew we are all healing together always.”
She also wishes people knew “how normal it is to have mental health issues, people in our society judge mental illness as weak or vulnerable but people shouldn’t feel bad about needing help, we all need help. Many people share a shadow-side such as someone with PTSD or bipolar disorder, chances are somebody else has the same experience… As healing, it can help to talk about it, release and not hold it in, and if they can’t talk about it, maybe they can use creative ways to express what they need to.”
Program Director of KCC
Danelle is the daughter of Sharon Nelson and granddaughter of Lucille and Ben Reed. She is an enrolled member of the Puyallup Tribe and she also has decedents from Quinault and Chinook Tribes. She mostly grew up on the reservation, moving here from Seattle when she was ten years old. As long as she can remember she wanted to work for her tribe. When she was at UW, earning her B.A., she realized she wanted to be in the helping profession and started working towards her psychology degree.
Before coming to Kwawachee, Danelle went to grad school for eight years in South Dakota, and eventually made her way back upriver to the Pacific Northwest. Danelle used to work in in the Portland IHS office through Emerging Leaders, which was across all federal government agencies, intending to bring young officials into government positions. But Portland wasn’t close enough to home for her, so she came back up and was offered her current position at KCC.
She believes there is always opportunity to bring the importance of culture and history into discussions and work within the Kwawachee team. “There’s people who study tribes and people their whole lives, and never end up being experts.” Danelle always supports and encourages cultural competency and awareness at a very high level, and to be mindful of the community that Kwawachee is serving. She tries to be very gentle in her approach of upholding this goal in a good way, and strives to work with others and not shut them down. In terms of serving Native Americans she said, “If we could erase the stigma of asking for help, it would be the best thing for our people.”
The greatest gift Danelle has received from Kwawachee is the opportunity to grow and become a young professional, she has been here for fifteen years and she appreciates being able to grow into the position her position as a tribal member, “Only here have I been able to be myself. That is such a huge gift… There’s been tough times and I’m not perfect, but people have allowed me the grace to keep learning. The staff here is full of grace and that we’re able to learn from each other is beautiful.” She is so grateful to share her culture and traditions to empower the staff and our Native clients alike.
She calls herself an “open book”, and wishes more people knew about the context in which people “read” her. She admits that others may view her as argumentative or frustrated but underneath that is her desire to serve and the love of her people. She is truly passionate about serving her tribe. “All Indian people whose Nation signed treaties deserve the best health treatment.” She has extremely high standards for the work that needs to be done for our tribal peoples and she puts a lot of her energy towards making sure it is done in a good way by competent people.
“I wish more people knew that counseling can be seen as a traditional way of healing. Within that traditional context of how we’ve been inter-dependent with one another, a client and a therapist are working together to build a relationship, that can lead to so much healing.” Danelle believes we must start treating our mental health and wounds from historical trauma. She uses the analogy: “that if someone has a tooth ache, they do not hesitate to go to the dentist, so when you have a ‘heartache’, you should go to a therapist.”
We hope that these staff introductions help the community feel more comfortable about coming to services at KCC, and assist you in picking a good provider. We want to encourage you all to come see us, and please do not let stigma stop you from getting the help you need. Be sure to check out our Recovery Event on August 28, 2019 at the Little Wolf Youth Center from 1 – 4 p.m.
By ERIN TAIL