Position: Clinical Director, Deschutes Young Adult
AJ Frithiof (pronounced Fritch-off) is the clinical director of the young adult program at Deschutes Wilderness Therapy and is a licensed clinical social worker in the State of Oregon and the State of Utah. She began working in wilderness therapy in 2004 and has since worked in a variety of clinical and programming positions throughout wilderness and residential treatment.
AJ returned to the wilderness in 2020 by joining the DWT team. She loves supporting young adults in healing through a relationship based, trauma responsive clinical approach. AJ believes that an immersive wilderness experience helps young adults connect with their environment, their peers, and themselves in ways they are unable to in the hustle and bustle of today’s world. She particularly enjoys working with young adults who struggle with substance use disorders, dual diagnosis, attachment, and developmental trauma. She believes these are frequently at the core of many challenges young adults face, including depression and anxiety. She uses different somatic approaches including brainspotting and Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga to treat these difficulties. She is well-versed in the 12-steps as well as other substance use disorder treatment modalities. AJ conceptualizes and treats young adults and their families from an attachment-based perspective and supports them in uncovering the root of their difficulties and find healing.
In 2005, AJ completed her BS in Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences with an emphasis in Outdoor Education at Texas A&M University. After a long stint working in wilderness programming, she returned to school to complete her Master of Social Work at the University of Alabama.
For 15 years, AJ worked in a variety of capacities for different Outward Bound Schools in Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, and Maine with court-ordered youth and other adolescents struggling with different aspects of mental health. She held a variety of positions including intern, lead instructor, course director, program developer, and trainer.
AJ has also worked as a therapist, program director, and clinical director in therapeutic boarding, psychiatric residential treatment, wilderness therapy, and private practice. She has developed and facilitated substance use disorder programs at several facilities, built a wilderness recovery program, and developed other wilderness and residential programs. She enjoys using both her clinical skills as a therapist and operations experience in systems, structure, program development, and staff training. She has successfully worked with clients from 7-years-old up to older adults.
On hot, sunny days, you can find AJ kayaking or hiking, whereas on sunny, snowy days, you can find her skiing. Year-round she’s a voracious coffee consumer, Maine Root Sarsaparilla Beer lover, and like a true southerner, ice-cold Coca Cola drinker. She’s a morning get ‘er done-er who loves listening to books on 1.5x speed, spending time with friends, hanging out with her rambunctious Labrador, WOD-ing, puzzling, and afternoon napping.
Position: Clinical Director of Family Services
As the Clinical Director for Nest Family Services, Liz oversees the family therapists, parent coaches, individualized clinical itinerary planning, and drives the overall clinical vision. She is an expert in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Brainspotting, EMDR, and Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY); all-powerful foundational modalities that she has built the Nest clinical model on. Her approach bridges these therapeutic techniques with experiential wilderness-based activities that have proven so effective in creating connection in our wilderness therapy model. Liz coaches the clinical team to utilize these tools in addressing trauma, attachment, and anxiety. This leads to a powerful treatment experience for the entire family, mutually gained insights and healing.
Liz has been working in wilderness therapy since 2010 and with Deschutes since 2013. As a primary therapist, Liz worked with adolescents and young adults of all genders in the wilderness, supporting them in finding joy and healing for many years. Liz transitioned to working with families as the increasing need for family therapy became evident. Liz deeply believes in the importance of repair, healing, and growth within our relationships to fully develop a secure sense of self. Liz achieved her Master of Social Work with a focus in Child and Family and Mental Health from Loyola University Chicago. In her free time, you can find Liz trying to find every waterfall in Oregon, dancing, reading, rooting for the Wisconsin Badgers, and playing with Oliver, her golden retriever pup.
Position: Primary Therapist
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.
Position: Primary Therapist
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.
Position: Primary Therapist
Laura Murphy received her Masters in Counseling from the University of Oregon in 2020, a Fine Arts degree in dance, and has been working in a variety of therapeutic capacities since 2013. Before joining the clinical team at Deschutes Wilderness Therapy Laura worked in community mental health counseling children and families in crisis and teaching creative and emotional expression through dance. In her clinical work, Laura takes a strong family and community systems approach, believing that a child’s resiliency is a direct result of their family and community systems. Laura specializes in Brainspotting, somatic therapy, expressive arts therapies, creative arts therapies, and attachment theory. Laura utilizes art therapy, creative movement, and improv to facilitate both therapeutic exploration and somatic experiencing. Through art therapies, Laura enables adolescents and young adults to communicate their internal world when they don’t have the words to articulate it.
Laura’s clinical framework is influenced by child development theory, specifically the work of Janet Lansbury (author of No Bad Kids). Laura helps parents to gain insight into their own style, patterns, and triggers and how these things impact their parenting. Laura guides parents to approaches with their children that are developmentally aligned and respectful of their child’s capacities.
Laura loves to travel and explore, learning about how different communities and societies support and influence how people function within their group. Living overseas in Poland for several years, Laura began a lifelong journey to understand people, culture, and her own family. Laura and her family love spending time adventuring outdoors with their 2 big dogs and their energetic and curious daughter.
Position: Family Therapist
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.
Position: Clinical Director, Adolescent Program
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.
Position: Field Therapist
Mandy Demetriou is the field therapist for the young adult program at Deschutes Wilderness Therapy and is a clinical social work associate in the State of Oregon. In 2017, Mandy completed her BS in Outdoor Education with an emphasis on group work/interpersonal relationships and psychology at Georgia College and State University.
Mandy worked as an outdoor instructor for several years at various guiding organizations instructing adolescents and families in backpacking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and mountaineering. This is where she developed a passion for creating experiences and safe places for others to grow and is what propelled her to pursue a Master of Social Work.
During a two-year clinical internship, she worked in the school system conducting therapy for families and students in addition to conducting research for the county to provide equal access to mental health services. Post graduate school, she specialized in eating disorders at an outpatient clinic. This experience ignited her desire to dive into somatic interventions for her clients to reconnect with their bodies as a source of healing.
Over the years, Mandy has received training in therapeutic modalities such as DBT, CBT, and TF-CBT; however, believes that skills-based interventions only begin to scratch the surface of our deepest wounds and narratives. Her passion and respect for the transformative powers of the outdoors led her to pursue wilderness therapy at DWT as an avenue to provide trauma-informed, strengths-based, relational therapy for her clients. She is excited to engage with the group as a field therapist as she believes that relationships can cause the most damage and will also provide the most healing.
After work, you can find Mandy fly fishing, reading, dancing around her kitchen to her new favorite playlist, or training for her next outdoor adventure. Mandy loves creating experiences for friends through game nights and potlucks, and the casual couch hang outs. On the weekends, you can find her driving to her next mountaineering or climbing objective in the Cascades.
Position: Registered Intern
As far back as I can remember, I have been interested in relationship building, healing, and the exquisite complexity of the human mind. I’ve endeavored to understand the roots of suffering and I’ve searched extensively–reading countless books, inquiring with experienced teachers, and attending a variety of training–for the tools to help people find their way out of life’s darkness, and into peace and engagement. My professional life helping people began in 2013. After two years of training, I started a career as a licensed massage therapist. I spent the next six years working in that field, deepening my understanding of the mind-body connection and realizing the necessity of a holistic approach in effective healing.
In 2019, I began graduate school for clinical mental health counseling, balancing out my knowledge of the body with a thorough examination of the mind–and the heart. Additionally, I spent my internship in a residential addiction treatment facility, where I learned the importance of social support and healthy coping skills in dealing with addiction and trauma. This trauma and attachment roots of addiction ultimately drew me to Deschutes Wilderness Therapy.
At DWT I am able to explore and resolve deep-rooted causes of emotional distress through immersion in family therapy, attachment theory, Brainspotting, the principles of CASA (commitment, acceptance, security, and attunement), and the power of nature in therapy. I am also trained in, and often utilize, person-centered therapy, gestalt therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and trauma-informed care.
Before one can be effective in assisting others in discovering their own clarity, it is paramount to be clear and grounded within oneself. As I have made my way along this path, I have spent thousands of hours working on becoming more embodied and present through practices like yoga, qigong, transparent communication, aikido, and meditation. I love sharing my passion for these things with clients through meditation and somatic experiencing.
Currently, I find myself joyfully immersed in building trusting relationships with our students through presence, deep listening, and the practice of unconditional positive regard. I am keenly interested in uncovering the root of what afflicts my clients and helping them to build their own awareness around this. From here, we can walk together through past and present pain, and reintegrate the parts of them that have been thought lost, to restore a sense of wholeness and hope.
Position: Primary Therapist
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.
Position: Family Therapist and Parent Coach
Savanna joins the Deschutes Wilderness team in 2022 excited to engage with family systems work. She brings a warm and collaborative approach to her work with clients and believes that every person has a valuable perspective and qualities that contribute to a cohesive family system. It is her goal to help families see and appreciate these unique qualities in themselves and each other in order to develop more meaningful relationships. Savanna works through a strengths-based lens and provides opportunities for clients to shine in their individual talents.
Position: Primary Therapist
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.