Business Short Takes : Welcoming new interns

hartman in officeBarbara Lawlor, Nederland. On Saturday afternoon, the past year interns said goodbye to Peak to Peak Counseling as four new interns were introduced to the community at an open house reception. Audrey Godell, Tori Breedlove, Sarah Klein, and Maggie Jones are all final year students at Naropa University in Boulder.

Recycling students working on their master’s degrees is how Counselor Amy Hartman is able to offer sliding scale counseling and it has proven to be a program that works successfully for everyone involved.

For the past year, Hartman and her interns have met with patients in her new offices next to the Nederland Community Presbyterian Church, previously Columbine Family Health. With a brand new glowing hardwood floor, the rooms are bright and cheerful and welcoming. It is a comfortable atmosphere to relax and ask for help or support, much needed in our often stressed, sometimes isolated lives.

Although Hartman had never wanted to be a psychotherapist, it seemed that her work always involved counseling others, something she was good at and something she had always aspired to.

As a teenager in Colorado Springs, she joined activities, took church trips, baby sat, studied AP courses and was an all-around good girl. “I hated psychology then. It seemed pointless so I never took it, in fact, I avoided it.”

Hartman received her BA degree in English and Women’s Studies from CU and her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Naropa University. After college, she worked at the Denver Rescue Mission, helping women and children at the Champa house as the education coordinator.

“I needed a job and it sounded interesting and gave me an opportunity to help. Every job I had I ended up doing some kind of counseling so I decided to stop fighting it and get a master’s degree. Now I love it and know this is what I would do if I chose again.”

Hartman worked at the Curtis Park Community Center Pilot Program, where she counseled victims of crime in the Five Points area of Denver, the center of gang activity, working with people who had not sought services. In hindsight, she said, dealing with the crack houses was dicey. One of her clients had two children who had to be transported to live with the grandmother in California while their mother went into rehab. That’s when she decided to go after her license and see what doors opened to her.

In 2008-2009, she met Penny Dexter, a former Nederland counselor, and spent her internship with her in Nederland. Dexter actually created the program to include Hartman. While here, she worked at the Nederland Elementary School and the teen center after school. She attended senior lunches and got to know Nederland’s energetic senior citizens. She helped with DUI classes in Gilpin County working with court-ordered counseling cases.

“It was challenging to get something good to come out of that, with people who didn’t want to be there. But I learned how to work with other people’s anger.”

In the summer of 2008 Hartman decided she wanted to be in private practice in Nederland. She lived in Gilpin County and driving to Denver detracted her from her desire to put her energy and soul into working within her community. She rented office space above the New Moon bakery and created her own counseling program.

When she first started out, mountain people were in the 50s as far as their perception of psychotherapy. She says people were nervous about seeing a counselor; there was shame placed on that need.

“My goal was to change the culture in Nederland. Seeing a counselor is like going to the grocery store for what you need, going to the dentist for what needs to be fixed. I needed to bring seeking support out of the shadows. Now it has become normal: you need support, get it and move on. Two years later you come back for a tuneup.”

Hartman works with people suffering from depression, relationship issues, anxiety, and often isolation. But she has also discovered that the farther apart people live, the better they get along with their neighbors and come together to help each other.

In 2012, with a thriving practice that was filling up with sliding scale clients, Hartman developed her internship program, making it possible to help everyone regardless of their ability to pay. The interns are working are on their master’s degrees and need this time with clients to graduate. It is a learning process for them, to have their own clients during their final year.

“It is amazing how it works out for everyone,” says Hartman. “The program has grown according to the needs of the community. I started with four interns and now have four.”

In the summer of 2013, Hartman learned that she needed to find a new place for her office. At that time, her family rallied round that need and together they bought the old Columbine building. They purchased it in December of 2013 and went to work remodeling and replacing the ancient and warped wood floors. There are now five therapy rooms, a reception area, a group counseling space and a kids’ room.

Hartman is grateful for the way her business and her program have evolved. After all, that’s what helping others is all about. “As a community we get together, support and take care of each other. Isn’t that what a community is?”

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.