Nest Family Services

Nest Family Services

Nest Family Services provides comprehensive supports for families immersed in Deschutes Wilderness Therapy, Deschutes Young Adults, as well as independent families. 

Comprehensive Supports Include:

  • Family, couples, and individual intensives based on trauma-responsive relational care
  • Parent coaching, family coaching, and multifamily regional skill-building workshops

For our immersive families, comprehensive support includes:

  • In person family therapy visits
  • In person family intensives
  • Virtual parent coaching

Family involvement is an essential element of our programming here at Deschutes Wilderness Therapy. Nest Family Services uses a family systems and attachment focused approach. While your child is in the field with our treatment team engaged in their therapeutic journey, Nest supports your family in what is referred to as the “parallel process.” Through this process, you will be working on your own insight and skill development. Family dynamics and patterns will be explored, as well as how families communicate, manage conflict, establish boundaries and express their identities. Parent and caregiver involvement and growth and development are integral to overall success in our program and in what follows post-transition.

Intensives

Intensives are customized to meet your individual and family's specific needs. Your family deserves an experience as unique as you are.

Intensives generally take place over 3-5 days.  

Nest Family Services works with families, couples, and individuals looking to:

  • deepen relationship
  • improve communication
  • find new ways of connecting with each other
  • establish new healthy boundaries
  • learn how to be present
  • regulate and engage with each other effectively
  • strengthen bonds

Nest works effectively with those who are committed, motivated and simply need to learn and practice implementing new tools and patterns.

Families

  • Family size of 2-6 participants *Note: can accommodate larger family if needed
  • Ages 10+
  • All races, religions, genders, LGBTQIA+
  • Families who have a history of relationship challenges, attachment disruption, acute trauma, grief/ loss, stuck in unhealthy patterns, adoption, large changes in the family system or families with political or spiritual disagreements.

Couples

  • All races, religions, genders, LGBTQIA+
  • Ages 18+
  • Couples with a history of relationship challenges, communication struggles, attachment disruption, acute trauma, grief/ loss, stuck in unhealthy patterns, couples with political or spiritual disagreements.

Individuals

  • All races, religions, genders, LGBTQIA+
  • Ages 18- 99yo
  • Individuals who want to deep dive into their internal work without the hour constraint of outpatient therapy. Individuals who are looking to uproot and process through trauma, address attachment wounds, understand their unhealthy patterns and how to implement change. Individuals who have a history of anxiety, depression, developmental trauma, acute trauma or trying to manage the challenges of life.
The Nest Treatment Team

The Nest Treatment Team consists of a:

  • Family Intensive Coordinator
  • Family Specialist
  • Family Therapist

The Family Therapist

The family therapist provides the support within the intensive to:

  1. Deepen the therapeutic work, highlight patterns of dysfunction, and provide tools to help support the family to engage in a healthier connection.
  2. Support and guide the family prior to, during, and post-intensive. The family therapist will co-create the intensive goals with the current treatment team and with each family member. During the intensive, they facilitate in-depth family therapy, and individual, and/or couples counseling sessions for 4-5 hours each day.
  3. Work collaboratively with the family specialist to ensure a well-rounded and integrated intensive.

The Family Specialist

Family Specialists are integral to the intensive process. The specialist is there for three primary reasons.

  1. To create safety and security for the entire family system. They are there to support any family member and work to meet their needs during the process.
  2. To highlight patterns in the day-to-day activities and support new ways of engaging with corrective action or creative options on how to interact in a healthier manner.
  3. The specialist works hand in hand with the therapist to employ what is addressed and communicated during the clinical sessions and facilitate it in practice in real time. They participate in clinical sessions and work collaboratively with the therapist.

The Family Intensive coordinator

The Family Intensive Coordinator’s key role is to:

  1. Provide support for the family and the treatment team prior to the intensive.
  2. Communicate and inform the family about the intensive process and answer any questions that arise.
  3. Ensure that physical, dietary, and logistical needs are communicated by the family so the coordinator can personalize the experience of the intensive to be unique to that family
  4. Support the family from arrival to departure.
The Experience

In an immersive experience, families explore how to better understand themselves, individual family members, and the patterns that shape the family unit. You will all explore how to communicate more effectively, and through this effective communication, families experience meaningful connection, compassion, and joy.  

This intensive experience will begin to repair past hurts and work through dysfunctional family patterns. Additionally, it will prepare family members to utilize new skills back at home and prepare them to put therapeutic skills into practice with immersive support from the Nest team.  

Families will work with a therapist as they participate in experiential activities and learn from the challenges presented in that experience. In addition, your family will explore how these challenges in nature relate to more significant issues within the family system. 

With the support of the family therapist and family specialist, intensives are a safe container to integrate what you’re working on with your therapist into practice as a family (or couple or individual). Intensives are a time to stumble, make mistakes, be creative and explore, and create new patterns and ways of being together.   

This practice includes both everyday tasks (cooking, cleaning up after meals, etc.) and adventure activities/games (such as hiking, canoeing, games, etc.) For example: 

  • The family activity for the day is rafting. The themes we want to explore together are trust and communication
    • How will we successfully get through this rapid? How will we need to work as a team? What’s our plan if someone falls out of the boat? How will we know when/if someone feels safe? Unsafe? How do we celebrate our successes as a family? How do we process/communicate when we don't achieve our goals?
  • Cooking dinner one night. We want to work on re-imagining roles within the family and creating new family patterns.
    • What unhealthy family dynamics have we gotten accustomed to or normalized overtime? Who usually does what around the house? What could we do differently? How are we supporting/not supporting one another throughout the process of cooking? How are we communicating, and is it supportive?

The Nest team approaches intensives with a trauma informed and attachment-focused approach. Therapists utilize Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT), Family Systems Approach and somatic awareness practices. This may include Heartmath (TM) and mindfulness practices. Skills gained from these approaches enable the family to stay regulated within a distressful topic. The family then learns how to have a more secure and safe relationship.

For many families, this will be the most intense therapeutic experience they have participated. Intensives provide total immersion in the process without the distractions of everyday life, television, work, and more.  A family intensive is a time to truly embody & practice the things that come up during sessions, which is a much more integrative (and effective) form of family therapy than classic talk therapy sessions. 

A Sample Day in a Family Intensive

7 am – 8 am: wake-up time.  Morning activities include self-care needs such as taking a walk, reading, meditation, religious practice. 

8:30 am: make breakfast as a family at 8:30.

9:30 therapist arrives.  Morning check-in and initial session. 

12:30 pm: Lunch 

1 pm-3 pm second therapy session. 

3 pm-6pm: experiential activity with family specialist. 

6:30 make dinner as a family. 

7:30 check-in. 

8:30 game and family wind-down time. 

9:30 bed.

Note: In the summer we can incorporate experiential with clinical like you might go rafting at 1pm and incorporate therapy into the experience.

Activities During a Family Intensive

Central Oregon is a hub for outdoor adventure and exploration. Families can choose seasonally between lots of different activities, including hiking, rafting, canoeing, caving, rock climbing, spelunking, nature bathing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and biking, to name a few. Activities can include card games, board games, cooking, art, music, and wilderness skills like carving, bow drilling, shelter making, and plant, tree, animal, and bug identification. We can do just about anything that a family is interested and excited about doing!

Location and Lodging

Located in beautiful central Oregon, location options are numerous and varied and can include more backcountry camping, rustic cabins or more comfortable housing. The Deschutes admissions team will work with the family to determine the best option to meet their specific and unique needs.

While mostly happen in OR Nest team can fully customize intensives in a location that is desirable for you families needs.

Parent Coaching

The student is the focal point on the calls with the therapist, even when you are doing the family work. “What is the therapeutic work they are doing, and what work do I need to do to work better for them.” 

Parent coaching is an essential part of the process of addressing needed changes in the family system.  

While parent coaching centers on the student, the focus is on how you parent. Coaching allows parents to show up with their own experiences in the their journey. Parent coaching will touch on your family of origin, or put another way, how you were raised and how your upbringing plays a part in your parenting style today.  

Parent coaching emphasizes doing your therapeutic work as part of the parallel process. An excellent analogy is that we are not just focusing on repairing one part of the clock but fixing the whole clock because we want to work on the entire family system. 

The main distinction between the weekly call with your child's primary therapist and parent coaching is that the primary therapist call is about what you need to do to best support your child. The coaching is how you step into your past and your own work so that you can start to show up differently for your child and the primary therapist to engage in more healthy communication. 

All parent coaches are licensed therapists, which aligns with our trauma and attachment-based therapeutic model. It goes beyond just learning "skills "and steps into helping you regulate and guiding you in your growth and healing.

Therapeutic Family Visit

Approximately halfway through a student's process in the immersive wilderness experience, Nest facilitates a family therapy day.  

Day One - Family Workshop 

A family therapist will conduct a five-hour family workshop. Depending on enrollments, this could be with multiple families (between two-four). During the workshop, you will: 

Learn about how to regulate and understand CASA (Commitment, Attunement, Security, Acceptance) more effectively. You will have the opportunity to practice some things they will experience the next day in the field with your child. 

Learn, and practice with other families. You will connect with other families at the workshop and feel less alone in this experience. Families are encouraged to stay connected after their time here at Deschutes, and many form strong bonds as they embark on this visit together. 

Day two - Family therapy day in the field (two parts) 

Part one: You will engage in an experiential activity with your child facilitated by a field instructor and supported by a family therapist. There will be both multifamily and single-family experiential activities. The multifamily activity could be, for example, an intro circle, where everyone meets and connects and shares something about themselves. Another example is the blindfolded hike, where parents are blindfolded, and your child leads you into the intro circle. 

The experiential activity could include primitive skills such as shelter building or fire building, where the family works together and steps into communication and regulation as challenges surface. 

Part two: You will have a two-hour session with your child's primary therapist. A special closing ceremony follows this, and you then leave the field and head back to the office.

Nest Therapeutic Approach/Relational Approach (The How)

The CASA Model is integral in stepping into the relationship with others and self. Everything Nest does can be cradled into the framework of CASA.

  • Commitment- Showing up for others or yourself. How can you be present in the family, with your partner or with yourself?
  • Acceptance- Of the person, not the behavior. Where do you struggle to accept a person, how do you step into acceptance when values differ?
  • Security- Creating healthy boundaries, establishing personal boundaries and how to uphold them to create safety in self and in relationships.
  • Attunement- Being with self, being with loved ones, feeling with your loved one without fixing or changing

When we can step into these actions, we can learn how to co-regulate. When we can be co-regulated with, we feel seen, heard, understood, worthy- building self-esteem. When we build self-worth/ self-esteem we open the opportunity for self-regulation.

When we engage in family, couple or individual work within Nest, we are working towards creating secure bonds.

Admissions

To find out more about Nest Family Services and for admissions assistance, please email admissions@DWTBend.com or call 866.282.3024

Meet the Nest Family Services Team

Lori Vallelunga, PhD Clinical Director, Young Adult Primary Therapist

Laura Murphy Portrait

Laura Murphy, MA, MC, LPCA Therapeutic Family Visit Facilitator

Leah Chambers, MA, LPC Family Therapist and Parent Coach

Savanna DeLuca, M.A., LPC Family Therapist and Parent Coach

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

Sarah Golemon-Mercer Family Intensive Coordinator and Family Specialist

Olivia Akana Administrative Director

Dan Kikkert, MSIOP Program Development

Erik Flaten Family Specialist, Nest Family Services

Elizabeth Deardorff, LCSW Family Therapist

Tim Moore, LPC Family Therapist

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.
Laura Murphy Portrait

Laura Murphy, MA, MC, LPCA

Position: Therapeutic Family Visit Facilitator

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.

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.

Savanna DeLuca, M.A., LPC

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.

Before moving to Oregon, Savanna lived and worked in Florida where she earned her MA in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from the University of South Florida and began her work in experiential therapy. She has worked with diverse populations but finds the most joy in her work with young adults and families. Savanna specializes in somatic, nature-based, and experiential therapy because she believes an integrated approach that considers mind, body, and environmental factors is essential to enduring lifestyle change. She holds a graduate certificate in Integrative Mental Health, is trained in brainspotting, and is a RYT-200 yoga teacher.
When not at work Savanna enjoys hiking around Bend, paddling on the river, or relaxing in the sunshine with a good book.

Mariah Vlach, MFTA

Position: Primary Therapist - Adolescent Program, Family Therapist - Nest 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.

Sarah Golemon-Mercer

Position: Family Intensive Coordinator and Family Specialist

Sarah joined Deschutes Nest Family Services as a Family Specialist in the summer of 2021. She graduated with a BA in Religious Community and Environmental Studies, which continues to nourish her understanding of systemic and individual healing. Sarah is passionate about family services and strives to support transformation and growth by facilitating the daily schedule, creative expression, and experiential outdoor activities. Prior to Deschutes, Sarah worked in the Midwest with families experiencing homelessness and female-gender clients struggling with addiction.

Sarah practices a holistic approach to family therapy, meaning that one must look at every individual within a system and the system itself and the environment to promote lasting positive change. Sarah came to Deschutes because she believes deeply in our mission of creating joy and healing generations. She believes this begins with re-imagining the family system, which she supports through deep listening, radical acceptance, attuned presence, and cultivating joy. In Sarah’s free time, she enjoys cooking with friends, reading, listening to bluegrass music, embodied movement, and enjoying the rich beauty of central Oregon with her friends and family.

Olivia Akana

Position: Administrative Director

Olivia came to Deschutes Wilderness Therapy with experience in the facilities and real estate management space. She worked for large biotechnology companies in Boston, MA, and was responsible for new site acquisition, design, build, startup, and operation. In those roles, she developed a deep understanding of administrative and operational leadership to ensure growth and stability within an organization. Olivia believes strongly in working for a company with a meaningful purpose. Deschutes Wilderness Therapy’s mission of creating joy and healing generations and the close-knit and supportive community of coworkers has made Deschutes Wilderness Therapy a perfect fit for her.

Olivia was born and raised in the small town of Yreka, CA, in the mountains of far-Northern California & Southern Oregon. She grew up backpacking with her family, riding horses, white water rafting, playing volleyball, and performing in local musical theater. Olivia studied at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR, and graduated with a BA in Music with an emphasis in Vocal Performance. Transferring her skills as a production manager/show director to the biotech industry after a move to Boston, she worked in the facilities and real estate industry for several years while also teaching private voice lessons and coaching High School volleyball.

Olivia decided to move back to Oregon in 2019 to be closer to the great outdoors and family again. Olivia strives to meld her Pacific Northwest roots with corporate organizational & project management skills she gained in the city to bring a balance of structure and creativity to the Deschutes Wilderness Therapy team. Olivia enjoys spending time raising chickens, hiking, swimming, playing volleyball, road biking, and singing.

Dan Kikkert, MSIOP

Position: Program Development

As the Associate Executive Director at Deschutes Wilderness Therapy, Dan directly oversees the young adult and family services programs in addition to overall risk management, medical, and quality control systems.  He combines his experience in wilderness therapy with his knowledge in organizational psychology to help push DWT in its mission through quality systems, leadership development, and data-driven, human-centered decision-making.

Dan has been working in wilderness therapy since 2012 in a variety of field, programming, and operations roles. He received his BS in Physics with a Minor in Mathematics from Penn State University and his MS in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Sacred Heart University.  Dan is a strong leader, dedicated to service in wilderness therapy for many years now. He volunteers as an AEE accreditation reviewer, traveling to programs around the country helping them to gain and maintain accreditation, serves as the chair of the OBH Best Practices Committee, and regularly presents at conferences to help push cutting-edge treatment throughout the industry.  Dan has a passion for discovering the unknown and spends his free time cycling, skiing, rafting, and tinkering in his shop.  Dan loves working on engines and has recently set up a home welding studio. Dan’s friends and family enjoy Dan’s passion for cooking beautiful, creative meals for them.

Erik Flaten

Position: Family Specialist, Nest Family Services

Erik has been working with Deschutes Wilderness Therapy (DWT) since February 2021 and has experience as a Field Guide, Logistics Transporter, and now as a Family Specialist with Nest Family Services. Erik is an Oregon native who has traveled extensively and lived in many places worldwide. Erik has his BA in Psychology.

Before working with DWT in the Nest team, Erik was an ESL teacher, working with students aged 4 to 18. Erik chose to work at DWT because of his passion for service, adventure, and the natural introspection and challenge that the work entails.

Erik offers a deep capacity for compassion and calmness, even when conversations and situations can become challenging and difficult to navigate.

During Erik’s free time, you will likely find him rock climbing at Smith Rock, creating music with friends, or catching the last sun rays of the day.

Elizabeth Deardorff, LCSW

Position: Family Therapist

Liz is driven in her practice by her purpose- to bring togetherness and understanding to families and communities so we can feel more connected and less isolated in this lonely and traumatized world. Liz believes in communal and relational healing, starting with the family system. Liz deeply believes in the importance of repair, healing, and growth within our relationships to fully develop a secure sense of self. She has worked with adolescents, adults, and families since 2010 in and out of the wilderness setting. Liz is an expert in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP), Brainspotting, EMDR, and Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY). She bridges these therapeutic techniques with experiential wilderness-based activities that have proven very effective in creating connection in our wilderness therapy model. This leads to a powerful treatment experience for the entire family, mutually gained insights, and healing.

Liz will always be a midwesterner at heart. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She 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.

Tim Moore, LPC

Position: Family Therapist

Tim offers his insight into attachment, developmental trauma, and addiction by utilizing treatments grounded in interpersonal neurobiology. Sharing specific tools such as Mindsight, Heartmath, Brainspotting, and Mindfulness techniques lead to greater compassion, kindness, resilience, and well-being. Tim is is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Oregon with over 23 years of experience working as a psychotherapist. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology at The University of Oregon and did graduate work at Antioch New England Graduate School, receiving a master’s in Counseling Psychology.

 

Testimonials