Counseling staff

Deb Allen

Deb Allen counselor
Deb Allen, she/her/hers

Counselor

LPC, M.A. in Counseling Psychology

I found my way to entering a graduate program in counseling through a dream, awakening one morning with a clear vision of working on a college campus with students. It was a turning point, a defining moment in my life, and a natural shift. Prior to that time, I’d worked as a counselor/educator at Durango’s Planned Parenthood clinic. I learned in that role what it means to be together as humans as we encounter crises and crossroads in life. 

I believe in the journey. Our paths are more winding than straight, with detours and dead-ends as well as times of clarity.  My own life has been such a journey… 

And I’m moved by forming real human connection, walking alongside others who are journeying forth.  

I completed my master’s degree in Counseling Psychology through the University of Colorado at Denver in 2000, and was licensed as a professional counselor in July, 2003. 

The strong interest that drew me to working for Planned Parenthood years ago, sitting with people as they look at their lives and choices, and supporting them in that process, remains central in my focus today. I incorporate various therapies to assist individuals in working both on self-acceptance and on the growth they seek. I’ve studied approaches for working with trauma, most recently being trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming).    

My husband, Bob, and I feel grateful every day to call Durango our home, soaking up southwest landscapes and culture. Cycling, skiing, hiking, yoga, music, camping and playing with friends and family are passions. We have two grown children, and treasure our expanding family which now includes grandchildren. 

The journey continues.

Brian Arens

Brian Arens Counselor
Brian Arens, he/him/his

Counselor

LPC, CACII, M.A. Counseling

I received my masters degree in Counseling from Adams State College in 2007. I was drawn to the counseling field by one of the most important principles that I live by, which is, "make the world a better place."

I became licensed as a professional counselor in 2010 and a certified addiction counselor (level II) in 2018.  My philosophy of counseling is compassionate, nonjudgmental, multi-cultural, person-centered and trauma-informed. Having been through some very challenging experiences in my own life, I have come to have some understanding of how hard life can be at times and how important it is in those times to stay connected on a human level. In that connection, I believe, is where growth and healing can occur.

I also believe in the healing power of nature, which is a significant reason I have been happy to call Durango my home, and my community, since 1998.

Aaron Belson

Aaron Belson Counselor
Aaron Belson, he/him/his

Counselor

LCSW, Masters in Social Work

I believe that having success in therapy is all about trust and the connection between therapist and the individual. I see myself as someone who is easy to talk to, understanding, gentle, and kind. My hope is that I can form meaningful connections with the students whom I work with. It is also very important to me that we be honest with each other as that is how we can make the greatest influence. I love to help people grow as humans, as well as help people through their struggles. We all struggle; it is a necessary part of life.

I received my Master's in Social Work from Simmons University in 2017 and became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in 2019. My theoretical background comes primarily from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), where the connection between thoughts, feelings, and actions are examined, as well as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) which incorporates Mindfulness techniques derived from Buddhism to bring increased awareness to how we interact in relationships, manage stress, and regulate our emotions.

I love Nature and have a strong background in Wilderness Therapy. I believe that the natural world can be a context from which we see ourselves change, just the way you will see a plant grow over time. This is big reason why I choose to live in the Southwest. I love to explore the rivers, trails, and mountains of this area through snowboarding, river-running, mountain biking, hiking, and camping whenever I can.

Sandy Gurule

Sandy Gurule Counselor, she/her/hers
Sandy Gurule, she/her/hers

Counselor

LCSW, Masters in Social Work

Many of life's challenges can take us by surprise and feel too difficult to overcome.  During these times, speaking with someone can be really helpful.  My goal is to make everyone feel comfortable, heard, loved and supported during life's challenges.

I received my Master’s of social work from the University of Denver in 2006 and became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in 2019.  My background includes working with adolescents to build resiliency, empowerment, and personal strengths. I believe each individual is unique and to unlock the potential of growth is tuning into these passions and unique selves.As each individual is different so is the therapy utilized. I am experienced in working with anxiety, depression, grief, and relationships.  At times, I will utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  This past summer, I was trained in EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) which is an approach to working with trauma.  I have been a part of the FLC community for several years and look forward to continuing to work with students here on campus.

I was raised on a small ranch outside of Durango.  My spouse and I enjoy watching our two boys play sports and participate in other extra-curricular activities.  I enjoy spending time with my family, working the farm, camping, fishing and hiking.

My hope is that we can build a meaningful therapeutic relationship, and that you leave feeling safe, heard and seen. It is an honor to serve you and be along for this part of your journey in life.

Gerald Shorty

Gerald Shorty

Assistant Director, Diversity and Outreach Initiatives

Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology

My name is Gerald Shorty and I am Dine’ from the Navajo Nation from Shiprock, NM.  I received my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Arizona State University.   My previous research has focused on academic persistence among Native American College students (“Factors related to Academic Stress and Academic Persistence Decisions Among Dine’ College Students” and “Academic Stress of Native American Undergraduates: The role of Ethnic Identity, Cultural Congruity, and Self-Beliefs”).   My theoretical background consists of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Humanistic Therapy and Solution Focused Brief Therapy.  I am passionate about working with first generational students.  I specialized in working with students who experience depression, anxiety, academic adjustment, and romantic relationship concerns.  I like to travel, hike, fish, camp, and bike.

Jen Shupe

Jen Shupe, she/her/hers
Jen Shupe, she/her/hers

Director

LCSW, MSW

Education

  • BA, Humanities, Fort Lewis College 2004
  • MSW, Social Work, Portland State University 2012

Certifications & Training

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Trained to provide EMDR (eye-movement desensitization reprocessing therapy for trauma)

I work with students seeking help for a variety of challenges ranging from school, family, and relationship problems to depression, anxiety, recovering from trauma or oppression, mood spectrum disorders like bipolar, and substance use problems. I utilize a collaborative, person-centered, and somatic approach, inviting strengths and self-knowledge into each interaction. I also attend to attachment and interpersonal neurobiology (how our nervous systems interplay and interconnect as social beings) to inform my work with clients. I integrate methodologies including Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing, Interpersonal Social Rhythm Therapy (for mood disorders) and feminist theory, and work to be culturally responsive.

The therapeutic relationship is a powerful space in which to explore, learn, grow, heal, and reach new goals. With warmth, humor, and care, I strive to honor your authenticity and mine at every step, and be transparent and accountable along the way. I hope to walk alongside you as you move toward the best version of yourself, whatever that may look like, and wherever you may you start from. We also all exist in an interdependent relationship with our campus and wider community, and I love contributing to a community endeavoring to achieve equity in our systems, our interactions and our society.

I am passionate about connections, relationships and the pursuit of personal & professional growth. I love to hike, bike, camp, fish, raft, and play in our stunning outdoor areas, and I have been involved in the local LGBTQ community, non-profits, and community organizing efforts for many years. I was born in Colorado and raised from a young age here in Durango. It is my true home.”


Counseling Interns

Shea Anderson

Master of Clinical Mental Health Counseling Candidate, Adams State University

Shea Anderson, she/her/hers
Shea Anderson, she/her/hers
Counseling Intern

FLC holds a special place in my heart because it is here that I unearthed and cultivated my passion for connecting with others. Before my time at FLC, I struggled to understand myself and could not relate deeply to a specific field of study. I knew that I needed a change in my but had no idea where to begin. A spur-of-the-moment decision to jump into the realm of psychology sparked my journey. I grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado with access to an array of animals including horses, cows, cats, and dogs. I graduated from FLC in 2019 with my senior focus in Terror Management Theory. I am a first-year intern at FLC Counseling Center and in my second year at Adam State University for Clinical Mental Health.

The resiliency within every individual inspires me to walk with people towards their path to growth and healing. My studies and experiences have steered me towards person-centered and existential approaches to therapy because of the immense growth that can come from exploring life themes and stories. I value understanding where people are currently at, how their past influences them, and what they hope for the future. I am also drawn to Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialect Behavioral Therapy as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Universal access and de-stigmatization of mental health services are large goals of mine. Environments, systemic barriers, and stigmas can have an immense impact on the mental health of individuals and historically marginalized groups. I hope to work towards this goal through my training and continue action upon becoming a counselor.

Aside from my passion for connection and mental health, I greatly enjoy the outdoors and expressing my creativity. I love mountain biking (even though it terrifies me at times), hiking, skiing, fly fishing, dirt biking, and taking in the beautiful nature that surrounds Durango. Art, yoga, and journaling help me with self-expression and work to ground me. I am delighted to embark on this journey and build meaningful connections with people along the way.

Kain Ellis

Kain Ellis, Counseling Intern at FLC's Counseling Center
Kain Ellis, they/he

Counseling Intern

My experiences with Counseling began my sophomore year of college when my roommate dragged me to the Campus Counseling Center because I hadn’t left the room in 2 weeks. I was salty about it, but counseling allowed me to finally process trauma and learn coping skills.

Since I left my undergrad, I have worked in Student Housing at Fort Lewis College. I have had the opportunity to sit with many people navigating difficult days and moments of crisis. Eventually, I chose to enroll in a Counseling Education program where I could focus on supporting folks through a mental health lens. My experiences as a counseling client helped me see its value.  

As a Queer, Trans, Polyamorous person, I focus on creating affirming and validating spaces for identity exploration and honoring the unique identity experiences of those I work with. I focus on practical skills, boundaries, authenticity, and relationships (with ourselves, partners, friends, family, food, etc.). I believe that it is essential to see people with similar identities to ours working in support roles.

I enjoy helping people navigate the messy and sometimes overwhelming parts of existence. Humor is healing. Healing is a community effort. Basic needs and de-stigmatization are a requirement for sustainable mental health care access. Dismantling our internalized beliefs about ourselves and our communities is part of creating a better world.  

When I am not in the Counseling Center, I usually hike with my dog, rant about the cis heteropatriarchy, dye my hair neon, buy dad sweaters from thrift stores, read trashy crime novels, or send my own counselor TikToks.  

Shari Fitzgerald

Master of Clinical Mental Health Counseling Candidate, Adams State University

Shari Fitzgerald, she/her/hers
Shari Fitzgerald, she/her/hers
Counseling Intern

Durango has been my home for over 20 years. My professional work started in non-profits-- first with victim advocacy and later with garden projects designed for youth and underserved populations. This work tied together my passion for community engagement, education, and the environment. Working with survivors teaches me the importance of simply sitting beside someone and our resilience in surviving hard times and finding meaning.

My counseling philosophy is client-centered and existential. I lean towards mindfulness, body-centered approaches, and dialectical behavior therapy, which adds skills and education to the mix. I believe we all deserve and desire to be heard, accepted, and belong. I am proud to be part of a field that asks us to show up for our clients and advocate for all people, especially those marginalized.

Our family has a small farm Southwest of Durango with livestock, a large greenhouse, and a garden that keeps us busy. I enjoy growing food and flowers, hiking, paddle boarding, yoga, connecting with others, and geeking out on podcasts and audiobooks.

Aaron Shipps

Master of Mental Health Counseling Candidate, Adams State University

Aaron Shipps, he/him/his
Aaron Shipps, he/him/his
Counseling Intern

Living life with authenticity and honesty has always been a core value. And doing so in a manner that builds connections with others is one of life’s greatest joys. Looking into the world in pursuit of understanding what is underneath has been a passion that has taken me on quite a few transformative journeys that, humbling as they were, have shown me the strength, resiliency, and beauty of the human spirit. I rarely cease to be awed by the connections that are forged between the heart, mind, and body.

In my former life, I worked as a collaborative master lithographer for 15 years, creating new artworks in the print mediums with contemporary artists across the nation. The act of collaboration was one that taught me many lessons about deep listening, remaining open to possibility, and the true magic of the unexpected when two people meet with sincerity and intention. Undoubtedly, I bring this love of collaboration forward into my counseling practice, which I see as a new expression of this craft. Similarly, I bring a long and practiced love for meditation and mindfulness practices into this internship, along with body (somatic) centered practices.

At present I love pointless adventures, just for the sake of the act itself. These take me on long, hard swims in cold mountain water or hopelessly lost rambles. No matter. The journey is the joy. I believe that our personal journeys of healing, transformation, or even clarity are important not only to ourselves on a personal level, but are an honest gift to those around us and our communities. To learn to live with a sense of honesty, joy, and freedom of expression in self requires work, resilience, the support of others, humor, curiosity, and sometimes a great dose of humbleness. And it is my daily inspiration to try and bring these qualities forward.