TORRINGTON – Stephanie Fisher and her team do a little bit of everything.
Fisher is the executive director of Stacey Houk Family Enrichment Center, a therapeutic preschool in Lingle, Stacey Houk Family Resource Center, a nonprofit serving families who need assistance with life skills, and Fisher Family Solutions, which offers individual and group therapy.
All of these entities work together to serve Goshen County, Fisher said, and they recently added a new group for local teenagers focused on building self-esteem and coping skills.
Jessica Parsons, a mental health counselor and clinical director at Stacey Houk Family Enrichment Center, runs the group on Mondays from 5:30-7 p.m. from their office on West C Street.
“It’s definitely a need in the community and throughout the state of Wyoming,” she said. “Self esteem is something not talked about, and you have all of these perceptions of what you should look like and be like based on social media. It’s a time unlike ever before for kids.”
There are a number of groups for youth aged five to 12, including a science group, an art group, a life skills group, a ranch group and a virtual reality group. Those who age out of the program are often asked to come back and help as mentors, but Parsons saw a need for teenagers aged 13 through 17.
“It’s been amazing, the outreach for this teen group,” Parsons said. “I had 10 different people message me, people are wanting to volunteer for the program, so there’s a lot of community outreach.”
Mental health resources are slim in Goshen County and rural Wyoming, and budget cuts, both past and future, exacerbate that problem, according to Christina Houk, director of operations at Stacey Houk Family Enrichment Center. The center helps some children from low income families for free, and cuts to Medicaid limit the amount of counseling some can participate in.
Between the Stacey Houk Centers and Fisher Family Services, Fisher estimates they serve roughly 50 kids, and they continue to grow each week.
“We’re a safe place for a lot of these kids,” said Megin Irons, grant director and student social worker. “It’s their home, they can talk to us, do whatever, throw their cards around, eat snacks.”
Parsons said program participants as young as two years old learn coping skills and how to talk about their feelings, because focusing on social emotional learning in preschool will enable mentally healthy teenagers and later on, adults.
“You get into these schools and you might have a kid who’s really struggling, but they don’t have the social skills or the emotional skills,” she said. “They didn’t learn how to handle their anger, so we’ve been focusing a lot on that.”
Fisher said their focus with children is on feelings.
“What is your feeling and how do you address that feeling?” she said. “It’s looking at who is my support system, who do I reach out to to get some support so I no longer have this emotion that I don’t like and am uncomfortable with.”
Soon, Fisher and her team will have an outpatient therapeutic ranch in Lingle where they will do individual therapy, work with animals and build life skills, including cooking in a full sized kitchen.
The Stacey Houk Family Resource Center sells merchandise at their building on West C Street and accepts donations to help fund its programming.
Those interested in joining the teen self-esteem group should call Parsons at (307) 575-3172. The group meets on Mondays from 5:30-7 p.m., and limited transportation is available.
“We’re going to grow together and we’re going to have fun,” Parsons said. “There’s this stigma about therapy, but these kids don’t even know we’re doing therapy because we’re having so much fun. They can come and be supported.”