By Mary McPhail Gray
“I wanted to have a profession in which I gave back to others,” commented Marcella Skogen, the new family therapist at NVW. After she was helped by a counselor during her divorce process, she was motivated to enter the profession herself and completed a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology at the University of Denver.
Like many transplants, Skogen has been visiting Taos for twenty-five years with a goal of some day being able to move here. She and her husband arrived last July and she is now working part time at both Golden Willow Retreat and NVW. She has assumed the role of lead therapist in the Familia y Mundo therapeutic after-school program where she leads counseling groups and does individual counseling.
Skogen brings twenty years of therapy experience in both resident and day treatment settings in the Denver area to her work here in Taos. In a psychiatric treatment facility she worked with youth—including adolescents in an intensive recovery unit and in outpatient day treatment as well as with geriatric patients and adults in acute crisis. Most recently she was a mental health therapist for youth aged 6 to 21 with intellectual disabilities and behavior disorders.
Skogen comments that in an early marriage she realized that her life experience and education –originally in fashion design– was “inadequate to prepare me to be a parent—or even—for that matter—an adult.” Her goals for her clients now are to help families to be functional and happy in their lives and to raise healthy children. She is able to use a variety of skills with youth and families—incorporating yoga, art, meditation and music—reflecting her creative side that she followed when she studied fashion design.
While at the psychiatric hospital, Skogen developed ropes courses and trained leadership teams in businesses and non-profit organizations. She then also used these skills with youth and with the families of youth who were in treatment. Skogen expresses sorrow that current insurance restrictions often prevent the use of such different therapeutic activities that she has experienced as very successful. She believes that the therapeutic process can assist individuals and families with coping skills, containment and control of negative emotions, and stabilizing their lives. As a therapist who has also had a private practice, she is clear that her work is much more meaningful to her than her original profession.
Halfway through grad school Skogen’s career took a bit of a detour when she began to express her great love of music—both singing and instrumental. She and her husband had a band and they developed a business to host variety shows in the Denver area and promote performance artists. She stated that their band had a Taos debut and for some time she was not sure if music or counseling would really win her heart. Ultimately, the counseling won out and she is grateful for the privileges she has had in working with a variety of individuals and families. Alert to the importance of community systems and extended family influences on youth and adults—Skogen always tries to help people recognize strengths of whatever family structure they have.
At NVW, Skogen has landed in a place where there are other creative people—who play music, dance or work in theatre in their “other lives’—but like Skogen are all committed to the meaningful work of helping change people. It is a good fit!
NVW has the largest staff of behavioral health counselors and therapists in the northern New Mexico area. We can be reached at 575-578-4297 and www.nonviolenceworks.us.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of NVW and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or email.