Sierra Agape Center was founded in 2010 by Kimball C. Pier, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist and a native of the Lake Tahoe area. Dr. Pier’s vision was to create a donation-based center for people to participate in psychotherapy and adjunct healing services. The vision also included teaching people sustainable skills for learning and maintaining emotional, mental and physical well-being by engaging community partners in creating a breadth of affordable services such as meditation and mindfulness classes, yoga, creative expression through art, nutrition counseling, and healing touch massage. The intention was to fill a growing gap in services for people who did not have access because they had no medical insurance, could not qualify for Medi-Cal benefits or who could not afford to pay the out of pocket fees for therapy which typically range between $80 and $200 per session. Sierra Agape* provides donation-based therapeutic services for adults, teens and families. In 2013, we saw over 73 new unduplicated clients, a 23% increase over the prior year. Each year, Sierra Agape has grown in its client base and in its range of services.
Highlights and Community Involvement
Since 2010, Sierra Agape has served over 700 people in the greater North lake Tahoe area and Truckee through its program and services. Sierra Agape works diligently to grow and maintain partnerships with all local agencies to ensure we are not duplicating services; that we are increasing our awareness of needs and being proactive in meeting those needs together.
The Teen Yoga Program
In 2012, Sierra Agape experienced a 32% increase in client participation and was awarded a $20,000 grant from Placer County to provide innovative services through the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funding stream. With that grant, Sierra Agape built the Teen Yoga Program and introduced it in both North Tahoe High School and Truckee High School as part of the regular gym curriculum. By engaging this area’s yoga teachers, we were able to offer three classes per week at each school with overwhelming positive response from students and teachers. The intention was to launch the program and then integrate it so that it belonged to the school and the community to grow and maintain. The students and teachers reported that yoga gave students better ability to slow down and focus their attention, to make healthier choices about food and activities and improved their mood and their attitudes toward their bodies. The Teen Yoga Program is now part of the Truckee Tahoe School District’s Wellness Center Project and offers yoga as part of their regular gym program in addition to its athletic teams.
The Listening Partners Project
In 2011, Sierra Agape assumed responsibility for the development and implementation a peer counseling program. We trained nine volunteers to be “listening partner”s based in the work of Mary Belenky who believed that teaching community members who had experienced poverty, involvement in legal or social services systems to speak out, to advocate for themselves and to listen to one another without judgment would be instrumental in creating communities people could care about. We believed in carrying her work forward and to encourage people to learn about mental health issues so that they could provide basic interventions and networks of care with the goal of keeping people safe in their communities and out of the emergency rooms and jails. With a generous grant from the Community Collaborative of Truckee Tahoe, we were able to provide training and then to provide services at the Assumption Catholic Church’s Food and Resource center in partnership with Project MANA, our local food bank. Our volunteer were available during the weekly soup kitchen time for clients to talk with and obtain linkage with other resources.
Collaboration with Community-Based Agencies:
Beginning in 2011, Sierra Agape has participated actively in the Community Collaborative of Truckee Tahoe (CCTT) and has formed partnerships with other agencies to provide a broader base of services.
The Noah Levine Refuge Recovery Lectures & Workshop – In 2012, Sierra Agape partnered with Truckee’s spiritual center, For Goodness Sake in bringing Buddhist teacher and author Noah Levine to Truckee and North Lake Tahoe to present a workshop on a Buddhist informed recovery program. Over 250 people attended his lectures and workshops. Through the Innovations grant, we were able to offer free admission to his lectures and offered his two-day workshops for $30. For those unable to pay, we were able to offer them free admission.
Mini-Retreats – Sierra Agape understands that many non-profit agencies whose purpose is offering support and services for those experiencing poverty, family violence, homelessness, hunger or involvement with the social services and legal systems. Many staff people feel overwhelmed and experience feelings of burn-out and discouragement around the seemingly intractable problems. Sierra Agape wanted to offer staff people mini-retreats out in nature where they could learn mindfulness and meditation skills for relaxation, to be fed good food and learn to understand food as medicine, enjoy the experience of creative expression and talk about their experiences openly. In partnership with Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC) , Arts in Wellness and local drumming teacher Laurie Martin, we were able to provide mini-retreats for Tahoe Forest Hospital’s nursing staff, Project MANA, the Truckee Family Resource Center and local teachers. From these retreats, many participants have continued to grow their meditation practices and attend groups regularly.
About Our Approach:
We offer a “whole person” approach to counseling deeply-rooted in the idea that people’s emotions and behavior are influenced by their history and by cultural influences. The practice of depth psychotherapy means exploring your “calling” or how you are attending to the path of the heart in your life. When people feel conflicted, it results in dis-ease and soul-sickness which then manifests in psychological and physical symptoms. When people say they are “living the wrong life,” an exploration to return to the heart’s calling or to discover it is what depth psychotherapy offers.
In addition to looking at what the soul wants, we explore the ecopsychological aspects of life; how is culture and history influencing us and how have we learned to be who we are? Depth psychologists believe that we as a culture suffer greatly as a result of our disconnect from our bodies and from nature. So in looking at psychological and physical symptoms, we do not look first into the person, we look at context or what is happening in the greater culture, the collective psyche and how we reflect imbalances in Nature and culture.
When the challenges of life feel overwhelming, we offer a comforting and welcoming place to explore and find peace. We are devoted to teaching people how to strengthen relationships, cultivate the mind-body-spirit connection and to work through times of transition including loss and new beginnings. Sierra Agape Center offers therapeutic services on a sliding fee or donation-basis. You pay what you can afford for our counseling and wellness services.*The word “Agape” (pronounced Ah-gah-pay) means all encompassing love for community. We believe in cultivating generosity and trust to build a healthy community. That which is offered in the spirit of generosity and compassion benefits all.
Therapy for Individuals, Couples and Families emphasizing the relationship between emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.
Divorce Mediation – A peaceful alternative to costly litigated divorce. Available on a sliding fee basis.
Learn to calm the mind through breathing techniques and heal the body through massage and meditation.