THE WINGATE CLINICAL TEAM
Erin Grover, LCSW, MSW, TRS, CTRS
Erin Grover has spent the last ten years helping individuals and families grow and make positive changes. During her eight years in the wilderness-therapy industry she has served as a field instructor, field director, and assistant operations director. "There is no perfect family," says Erin. "I invite people into this process from that place of understanding, knowing how arduous—but worthwhile—the challenge to heal and strengthen relationships can be."
Erin holds a master's degree in social work with an emphasis in substance abuse from the University of Utah. Her clinical specialties include experiential modalities, DBT, CBT, systems theory, strengths-based approaches, and motivational interviewing. Erin completed a three year certification in Somatic Experiencing (helping clients renegotiate trauma) Erin has successfully worked with substance abuse, co-occurring diagnoses, borderline personality disorder, attachment issues, ADHD, anxiety, depression, oppositional-defiant disorder, failure to thrive and, her expertise, those having experienced trauma.
Erin is certified both regionally as a therapeutic recreational specialist (TRS, CTRS) and has applied this specialty in wilderness therapy settings as well as at the University of Utah's Neuropsychiatric Institute.
Erin views her own ongoing quest for personal growth as a key element of her professional development. She constantly seeks to improve her understanding of human behavior and development, and strives to be the kind of person that others would choose as a mentor.
Erin grew up on a horse farm and her love for the outdoors began with family horse-pack trips. She enjoys hiking, canyoneering, mountaineering, making primitive skills, being with family, and reading a good book.
Scott Hess, MA, LMFT
Partner, Primary Therapist
Scott Hess began his career as a marriage and family therapist in 1996, working with juvenile sex offenders in locked facilities. That experience helped Scott discover and develop his profound gift for getting to the heart of core issues with even the most calloused, oppositional clients. Scott attributes his success with resistant clients to his highly relational approach. “I focus first on building relationships of trust and respect,” says Scott. “From there I’m in a position to invite, rather than compel, students to find themselves and heal their relationships.”
Prior to joining WinGate, Scott gained additional experience in both residential and wilderness programs as a counselor, clinical director, and executive director. Scott's expertise with family systems enables him to craft solutions for the entire family system; systemic solutions help protect and sustain changes the young person makes in treatment.
Throughout his career, Scott has focused on his own personal and professional development. He is always seeking to refine his therapeutic skills and the quality of his interactions. This focus on continual personal development has earned him a solid reputation as an industry leader. More importantly, this focus has helped him personally as he and his wife raise their own four children
Aaron H. Cluff, DC, MC, ACMHC
Aaron has been working with adolescents and young adults for 17 years. He began his career, in Utah, working with substance dependence in a residential setting. He later relocated to California and continued working with troubled youth and their families as a therapist in a county SED (severely emotionally disturbed) program.
In 2009 Aaron first joined the Wingate team where he able to combine two of his passions: his love of nature and his desire to help others. He believes in the basic goodness of people and that everybody can make healthy changes. Establishing positive relationships with students and helping them increase their awareness are key elements to the success that he has enjoyed with students.
Aaron loves spending time in the outdoors and appreciates that healing effects that nature offers. He lives with his wife and family in Northern Arizona.
Chris Tarver, LCSW, MA-PSYCH
My experience treating adults, adolescents, children and families in Hospital Acute mental health (MH) and addiction (AD), Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient MH and AD, Residential Addiction Treatment, Wilderness Therapy, and Individual and Group therapy allows me to work with a broad range of clientele with varying psychological, emotional, behavioral and addictive issues. Some of my areas of focus include but aren't limited to: anxiety, depression, grief, co-dependency, and addiction.
I use a holistic and eclectic approach to treat my clients. I believe that we are healthier individually and as a family unit when we are balanced in mind, body and spirit. I also believe that personal responsibility and accountability is important to life and the therapeutic relationship.
I found my passion for helping people gain hope and a renewed love for life while working as a young man in South America. This experience also blessed me with a multicultural perspective and the ability to speak Spanish fluently.
I love of nature. I respect its healing power and balancing influence in my own life. This has given me an appreciation for the great affect Wilderness Therapy can and does have on others.
Kjrstin J. Walters, MA, LMFT
Kjrstin, or KJ as many people call her, has worked in the therapeutic world since 2001. She began working with groups at an outdoor rope course and fell in love with the authenticity of therapeutic work. Since then, Kjrstin has worked as a wilderness field guide, a residential staff, a primary therapist and a clinical director.
Kjrstin loves working with youth and their families. She loves experiential work, using the moment to gain insight or understanding on how to make changes in one’s life. Her relational and calm approach make others feel safe when with her. This allows for great work in trauma, anxiety and depression. Kjrstin also enjoys working with those with Borderline Personality Disorder and Attention issues.
Kjrstin loves rock climbing, cycling, traveling and rafting. Her passion for the outdoors is now carrying over to her two young daughters. Together with her fantastic husband, she loves to allow her girls to play and travel and adventure.
Jamie Ahern, MSW, LCSW
Jamie is a warm, inviting and clinically savvy therapist with a passion for helping those in need. For the past several years he has worked as an outpatient therapist treating teens and adults with extensive trauma histories and serious mental illnesses in rural Montana. Prior to that, he worked as a wilderness therapist for 4 years, treating teens and young adults challenged by anxiety, depression, substance abuse, Autism and other learning differences.
Jamie is trained and experienced with several evidence-based treatment modalities for the treatment of trauma, anxiety disorders (including panic), depression and addiction. He has come to rely most heavily on EMDR Therapy.
For young people with a history of trauma, anxiety and/or depression, Jamie uses EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy. EMDR is an efficient and compassionate form of therapy that focuses on adaptive recovery and growth. His clients have experienced bullying, abuse or neglect, family chaos, violence, loss, accidents and attachment/developmental trauma. He is especially attuned to the needs of young people and works diligently to provide a sense of safety, security and trust with his clients. Jamie utilizes a direct and compassionate approach, which fosters therapeutic change. He believes clinical emphasis should be placed on recovering and growing from challenges as opposed to a focus on “what’s wrong with you?”
In addition to EMDR, Jamie has been trained in and utilizes interventions from Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Positive Psychology and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Jamie believes in the healing power of wilderness. His free time is spent receiving his own "therapy" in the form of wilderness pursuits such as fly fishing, elk hunting, mountain biking and skiing. He also likes tying flies and playing the banjo. He has been married for ten years and has three furry children.
Natasha Vilas, Ph.D, M.S.
For over 25 years Natasha has been working with children, adolescents and adults helping them grow, heal from past hurts and trauma and feel better about themselves. She uses curiosity, humor and acceptance to develop self-awareness,self-understanding and self-compassion so that individuals can move past their limitations and patterns into being their best, most authentic and connected selves. Her approach is grounded, respectful and collaborative. Natasha says “we are all flawed human beings doing our best. When we pretend that isn’t true a host of difficulties haunt our lives. It’s my job to make space for what is and then build on that.”
Natasha is able to work well with a diverse caseload and with a variety of clinical issues. Many years of personal growth add depth and maturity to her work and to the contribution she is able to make to her community. Natasha is direct and straightforward and also able to work with the complexities of human nature. She has the unusual ability of being able to blend depth and creativity with groundedness, common sense and practicality.
Natasha holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Clinical Psychology (Pacific Graduate School of Psychology) and a BA in Creative Writing (University of California, Santa Cruz.) She has extensive background working as a clinical psychologist in private practice and as a team member in educational (Counseling Center Director at Southern Oregon University; counselor in various schools in Hawaii), medical (Kaiser Permanente California, Hawaii, Georgia), intensive outpatient (Ai Pono Eating Disorder Treatment Program) and inpatient settings (Bay Healthcare). She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses for Argosy University and the University of Hawaii.
Natasha grew up camping, hiking and traveling. She spends her free time now making art, playing cello and spending time in nature with her family, friends and pets.