CEDAR CITY — While growing up on a small family farm in the eastern Idaho town of Rigby, Eric Allred learned about contributing to a bigger cause and taking care of others.
It may have been for livestock and crops, but the current Cedar City resident said he has used those lessons in his 30 years as a marriage and family counselor.
It’s that hard work that has resulted in Allred being named to the board of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs’ (NATSAP) Board of Directors, helping to spur best practices in the treatment of troubled teens nationwide.
“It taught me a good work ethic and respect for life,” Allred said of his upbringing. “The importance of attending to things and make sure they are taken care of. What you produce you’ll reap.”
Allred, the executive director of the HOPE Group in Cedar City, will take up his position on the 13-member NATSAP board Feb. 5 during the NATSAP’s annual meeting in Palm Springs, California.
While the position is a big deal, Allred is keeping things in a smaller perspective.
“I don’t look in big terms, but look at it as my part to play,” Allred said. “I’m confident in what I’ve learned and eager to do my part.”
The NATSAP consists of therapeutic schools, residential treatment programs, wilderness programs, outdoor therapeutic programs, young adult programs and home-based residential programs working with troubled teens and troubled adolescents.
Cedar City’s HOPE Group specializes in providing mental health aid to teenage girls throughout the Southern Utah area. It consists of Havenwood Academy and Zion Hills Academy, which provide therapy and treatment for teenage girls having attachment issues with their guardians.
They specialize in teens with reactive attention disorder (RAD), which is a condition in which an infant or young child does not form a secure, healthy emotional bond with his or her primary caretakers. Both facilities are on East Fiddlers Canyon Road and both provide specialized services.
While Allred has decades of experience in family therapy, including two master’s degrees, he is new to the HOPE Group and Cedar City, having moved into his current role last August. But Allred has made a quick impression on those he works with, resulting in his election to the NATSAP board.
HOPE Group Chief Financial Officer Josh Gardner has already had heavy involvement in the NATSAP, including serving as a speaker. When it came time for him to submit a name for nomination to the board, he immediately thought of Allred.
“Eric had a great combination of education and experience,” Gardner said. “He is someone we felt was a team player and would mesh well.”
Allred said he is a believer in developing best practices for all of those who help troubled teens. While there is some competition among therapy centers, the job of each is the same.
“I’m a believer in having collaborative work with other programs. This is something to be shared,” Allred said. “You set aside your competitive aspect and as we talk, we find out we have the same challenges: To see if we can help young people.”
He said much has changed in the 30 years he has been in practice. There may be standard protocols for dealing with depression and suicide risk, but there is nothing standard about the specialized treatment that is needed for each adolescent.
“What’s going on here as a society we’re seeing new challenges with youth along with technology. We’ve gone from bullying to cyberbullying. What they’re facing today is a whole lot different than what kids were facing 30 years ago,” Allred said. “We can’t use old techniques. They’re not going to be as effective as you can be. Let’s give these young people the fighting chance they need.”
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