Deschutes Clinical Team

Lori Vallelunga, PhD Clinical Director, Young Adult Primary Therapist

Xela Goodman LCSW Primary Therapist, Adolescent

James Nippert MA, LMFT Primary Therapist, Adolescent

Laura Hayes, CSWA Primary Therapist (Contract)

Ryan Price, MA, LPC, MAC Primary Therapist, Young Adults

Leah Chambers, MA, LPC Family Therapist and Parent Coach

Mariah Vlach, MFTA Primary Therapist - Adolescent Program, Family Therapist - Family Services and Parent Coach

Steve Sawyer, LCSW CSAC Senior Clinical Consultant / Co-Founder

Lori Vallelunga, PhD

Position: Clinical Director, Young Adult Primary Therapist
Dr. Lori Vallelunga is a licensed clinical psychologist with more than a quarter-century of clinical and program administration experience. She comes to Deschutes Wilderness Therapy with an adventurous spirit and a passion to help others become their best selves. As Clinical Director of the Adolescent Program, Dr. Vallelunga’s skills in team building, staff communication, and support as well as program development and operations will be relied upon. She comes to her clinical approach from a positive psychology/resilience-based mindset with a strong grounding in family systems.
Dr. Vallelunga has held many leadership positions where she developed as an effective change agent. Those include Sr. Vice President, Strategic Development, The Hope Institute for Children and Families, Executive Director, PACE Center for Girls, Pinellas County, Clinical Director, The Psychological Wellness Center, Clinical Director, Central Illinois Center of The Autism Program of Illinois, among others.
Dr. Vallelunga is new to the Northwest and is excited about the adventures that await.  She recently relocated from Northeast Florida with her pack of three (well-loved) dogs. She is trying out tiny house living for the first time. Dr. Vallelunga enjoys the outdoors, exploring new places, hiking with her dogs, traveling in her camper van, and photography. She is “artsy” by nature, and her largest project to date is a river flow dining table. In the near future, she plans to own some property for her tiny house and build a large workshop for her hobbies and projects.

Xela Goodman LCSW

Position: Primary Therapist, Adolescent

After receiving a B.A. dual degree in Education and History, Xela served in the Peace Corps for nearly three years in South Africa. It was during this pivotal time when she fully understood her passion for being of service to others. Upon returning to the States, Xela started her work in wilderness therapy as a field instructor, where she spent several years supporting and inviting change in adolescents. Soon after, Xela received her Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from Arizona State University. Spanning over a decade, Xela has worked at several wilderness therapy programs and therapeutic boarding schools. Xela has a natural affinity for relationship-based work with adolescents and easily connects and aligns with individuals and families to clarify strengths and issues, build insight, and guide needed changes. She believes that the wilderness setting naturally provides a very meaningful and powerful environment for adolescents to improve their self-worth, sense of belonging, and connection to self and others.

James Nippert MA, LMFT

Position: Primary Therapist, Adolescent

James Nippert started working with adolescents and their families in wilderness therapy in 2004 and has been passionate about wilderness therapy ever since that time. James’ personal approach to therapy focuses on the need for both the adolescent and the family to heal together. James received his Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Appalachian State University and has worked for a number of wilderness therapy and therapeutic boarding schools. James is trained in Emotional focused family therapy, Brainspotting, Truama center Trauma sensitive yoga and has been mentoring new clinicians to become power wilderness therapists in their own right. James is thrilled to bring his talent and love of teens to the Oregon woods with New Vision Wilderness.

In his spare time, James is an avid reader, board gamer, enjoys painting and learning how to perfect gluten-free and keto cooking methods as well as developing an understanding for the nutrition mental health link in his own life.
James focuses his work in two primary ways. First is to understand that all behavior is some form of communication, and that there are always deeper emotional roots to the day to day struggles teens are facing. The second focus is the understanding that healthy relationships lead to healthy individuals, and that if a teenager can actively repair their relationships they are more likely to turn towards the resources of their family instead of away from them as they grow up and experience the challenges of adolescence. When not working with the boys in the woods or mentoring newer clinicians, James loves spending time with his growing family and enjoys the playful energy of his young daughter as she experiences growing up and enjoying the expanding world around her.

Laura Hayes, CSWA

Position: Primary Therapist (Contract)

I recently received my Master of Social Work degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Prior to this education, I also received my Bachelor of Social Work degree from Metropolitan State University of Denver. I have worked as a field guide at two different wilderness therapy companies based out of Saint George, Utah, and have found this setting to be incredibly transformative and healing for not only myself, but also for the clients we served. In the past, I have also worked in direct care with struggling adolescents in a variety of other settings from group homes, to residential treatment centers, to schools, and more. Additionally, this past year I completed a year-long internship at a Neurology clinic, where I provided individual therapy and case management services for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis. I am originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico and feel very strongly about green chile and the beauty of the desert. In my free time, I enjoy rock climbing, hiking, and spending time with my lovable dog, Cedar.

Ryan Price, MA, LPC, MAC

Position: Primary Therapist, Young Adults

Ryan Price is a primary therapist in the young adult program at Deschutes Wilderness Therapy and is a licensed professional counselor and master addiction counselor in Oregon. He has been working with young adults and their families since 2016 in various settings, including wilderness therapy, a college health and counseling center, intensive outpatient, and private practice.

Ryan is passionate about helping young adults pursue healing and find greater depth in relationships in the wilderness setting. He uses a deeply relational approach in his work with clients and their families. He recognizes that a person can’t heal from their wounds unless their pain is held, honored, and met with compassion, so he aims to do just that. By recognizing their emotional needs and gaining awareness of their internal world, clients better understand how they communicate their needs in unhealthy ways and learn to do so more effectively. Ryan strives to find the most effective balance between challenge and compassion with each client to find freedom from their symptoms – anxiety, depression, low self-worth, addiction, self-harm, suicidality, etc. – and gain insight about themselves. As they develop personal insight, Ryan’s approach helps them find authentic motivation for change rooted in their values rather than external factors.

As a master addiction counselor, Ryan is excited about working with young adults to address all forms of addiction. He understands the importance of helping clients understand the underlying hurts that lead to addiction. He also enjoys working with clients that struggle with grief, loss, and trauma. Ryan is trained in and uses brainspotting, Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY), and emotion-focused therapy in his therapeutic work.

Ryan has been playing guitar for over 20 years and is passionate about incorporating creativity and many forms of art into his somatic therapy work to aid whole-body trauma processing and more profound expression of thoughts and emotions. He uses emotion-focused therapy in his family therapy work to support family members that often experience their own trauma from their child’s addiction. Throughout the family therapy process, Ryan strives to help each member of the family experience greater closeness and connection with one another. By integrating family involvement throughout the entire wilderness therapy journey, he supports parents and loved ones in grasping the underlying emotions of their young adult and learning to hold, honor, and exhibit compassion to their young adult in new and more effective ways.

While growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Ryan developed a deep love for the outdoors and enjoys sharing that excitement with others. When he isn’t working, Ryan can be found fly fishing for steelhead and trout throughout central Oregon or searching for new mountain ranges to explore.

Bridgette Hutton, MSW

Position: Case Manager

Bridgette (she/her) was born and raised in a small town called Platteville, Colorado, where she grew up playing many competitive sports such as softball, volleyball, and basketball. Bridgette studied at Colorado State University and received her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2019. During her undergraduate degree, she was also a student-athlete at Colorado State University and played for the softball team. Bridgette then went on and pursued her master’s degree in social work and graduated in 2022. During her master’s degree program, she interned at an adoption agency in Fort Collins, Colorado, called Adoption Dreams Come True.

After finishing her master’s degree, Bridgette decided to move to Bend, Oregon, and be closer to her partner. Bridgette’s interest in social work stemmed from her experience in psychology interning in other case management roles with the elderly and persons with disabilities, as well as her interest in mental health among student-athletes. She loved the many aspects social work could bring into her professional role and wanted to explore more about this profession. Bridgette learned many therapeutic techniques in her graduate program and has been very interested in wilderness therapy and horticulture therapy ever since. Bridgette strives to bring her experience within adoption and attachment-related concerns to Deschutes Wilderness Therapy and her experience within case management roles.

Bridgette enjoys spending her time baking, painting, hiking, meditating, and being outdoors in general.

Leah Chambers, MA, LPC

Position: Family Therapist and Parent Coach

Leah Chambers, MA, Professional Counselor Associate, is a Family Therapist with Nest Family Services. Leah began working in wilderness therapy in 2017, completing a clinical internship with Deschutes Wilderness Therapy and growing into clinical roles that included Clinical Specialist and Primary Therapist for adolescents, young adults, and their families. Since leaving DWT in 2020, Leah has served youth and families in community-based settings; Leah joined Nest Family Services in 2022 and returned to wilderness to support families in finding healing and hope for the future.

Leah enjoys working with families to uncover and process emotional injuries at the root of problematic behaviors and relational obstacles and implement meaningful and practical solutions to challenges. Leah finds joy in walking with clients and families as they author new narratives about themselves and their experiences and helping families discover meaning and purpose for the pain. Leah’s approach is grounded in Attachment Theory, Existential Theory, Motivational Interviewing, Somatic Experiencing and Experiential Therapy techniques. Leah is trained in Brainspotting and Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY).

Leah holds a Master of Arts degree in Counseling from Colorado Christian University (2018). Leah is committed to evidence-based practices and contributing to the high standard of the counseling profession. Additionally, Leah has over ten years of combined experience working with pre-teens and teens in mentorship and counseling roles. Leah has experience supporting diverse clients and their families through the facilitation of individual, group, and family therapy to address the many issues related to trauma, attachment injuries, interpersonal problems, depression, anxiety, and addictions.

When not working, you may find Leah in her garden, painting, hiking with her friends or family, or playing with their pups, Tank and Ruger.

Mariah Vlach, MFTA

Position: Primary Therapist - Adolescent Program, Family Therapist - Family Services and Parent Coach

Mariah joined Deschutes Wilderness Therapy as a clinician working with families and adolescents. Mariah specializes in trauma, attachment, emotional dysregulation, and family systems functioning.  For most of her life, Mariah has been interested in understanding the impact trauma and dysfunctional life events have upon the human body and mind and how those interruptions can be addressed and repaired. In 2010 she pursued an education in East Asian Medicine and Acupuncture, seeking a deeper understanding of the body’s innate ability to heal. It was here that Mariah realized the mind and body must be addressed together to activate the healing process and invite the possibility of experiencing wholeness.

During her M.A. program in counseling psychology, she became fascinated with studying the family system and the web that connects and influences the patterns that shape and affect a family unit. Mariah understands that it can be challenging to see the forest through the trees when identifying and addressing needed changes in one’s family system. Therefore, Mariah holds great respect and reverence for families willing to seek outside support to address these issues. She has found her calling in wilderness therapy, guiding adolescents and their families to strengthen this web through education, reflection, cathartic self-expression, inquiry, and practice. Mariah understands the natural environment of wilderness lends a deeply supportive energy that amplifies one’s innate strengths while also bolstering the therapeutic process in a way the office space setting often cannot reach. She advocates that it is through this environment and process that true healing and change are within reach.

In her personal life, Mariah likes to spend time outside with her dog, traveling, and learning all the world has to offer.

Steve Sawyer, LCSW CSAC

Position: Senior Clinical Consultant / Co-Founder

New Vision Wilderness, Deschutes Wilderness Therapy, First Light Wilderness Chief Clinical Consultant/Co-Founder
Brainspotting International Senior Trainer
Heartmath Interventions & Resilient Heart Programs Co-Author
Wellbriety Mending Broken Hearts Trainer

Steve is a dual-licensed psychotherapist filled with passion and knowledge surrounding the intervention and change process. His experience comes from two decades of intervention with tough-to-reach client populations in therapy settings ranging from residential, community-based, outpatient, and wilderness therapy. He is a trainer of several unique therapeutic models, including Brainspotting and HeartMath. Steve co-founded New Vision Wilderness Therapy, Deschutes Wilderness Therapy, and First Light Wilderness programs with a trauma-informed and clinical focus. He continues to work as a core therapeutic training development staff with the Institute of HeartMath, receiving their Humanitarian Heart award in 2018. He is a leading active International Brainspotting trainer.

Along with his training in Phase 1 and 2, he created the Developmental Trauma-Focused Model of Brainspotting. Steve is also a Native-focused a Wellbriety Mending Broken Hearts trainer and Generation Red Road facilitator. Steve spends time amongst trauma-focused treatment masters like Gabor Mate and Bessel Van Der Kolk, and his training is recognized nationwide for cutting-edge therapeutic techniques, science, and inspiration.