Counselor of the Month

Tara Riggs

Marriage and Family Therapist Student Intern

Each month Gilstrap & Associates will feature one counselor from our Orlando office that has has gone above and beyond, shown exceptional care and proven why they deserve this honor. We hope to give you an insight into their personal and professional lives by asking them a few quick questions, so you can see just why we're so proud of them.

Tell us about your education and professional counseling experience.

My undergraduate degree is in Christian ministry with a specialization in counseling. I used this in youth ministry alongside my husband in counseling teens and their parents for the past 12 years. I also worked as a Rehabilitation Therapist for the Department of Juvenile Justice at a Correctional Facility for teenage boys with mental health diagnoses for a year. Since 2011, I have been using this training in counseling along with my Professional Teaching Certificate to teach social skills and emotional intelligence within the content of Health and Physical Education in my classroom.


Currently, I am finishing up my Master's of Science in Counselor Education with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University. In addition, I have become a Prepare/Enrich Certified Facilitator for couples and completed the Level 1 Training in Gottman Method Couples Counseling. I have been at Gilstrap and Associates for about 5 months and have loved every moment of being apart of the family here.


What would you say has been the most significant life experience (past or present) that has shaped your counseling direction?

I have walked through a number of trials in my short time on this earth, directly or indirectly, including death and grief, terminal illness, substance abuse, blending a family, infertility, adoption, vocational ministry, marital distress, and others. The underlying lie in all of these circumstances is that I was alone on that path. The sense of isolation can cause deeper isolation until all that is within view is your own pain. Empathy has the ability to allow us to feel fully known and fully accepted, which alone is powerful enough to pull us from the depth and darkness of our isolation and pain, into the light of community, connection, and shared humanity.

What can a client expect working with you as their counselor?

First and foremost clients can expect a genuine care, compassion, and respect for who they are as people and understanding for the challenges that they may be facing. They can also expect for their voice to be heard in setting the goals of therapy and to be an active part of the process of healing. In summary, clients can also expect safety in the midst of their vulnerability, sensitivity in the midst of the pain, hope in the midst of the struggle, and guidance in the midst of uncertainty.



What would you consider your specialties in counseling?

As a Marriage and Family Therapy Intern, I specialize in working with couples on relationship and parenting issues. I believe that people are created for connection and thrive in secure relationships, both in the context of the parent-child relationships and in the couple's relationship. I work to facilitate and engage those emotional connections and help individuals turn toward their loved ones, rather than away from them, resulting in deeper intimacy and met needs.

What do you like to do for fun when you’re not counseling?

When I am not counseling I enjoy spending time with my 4 and 5 year old sons, Michael and Kingston, and my husband, James. We enjoy going to the beach, going to water parks, camping, canoeing, and doing anything we can do cool off from the hot, Florida sun and relax from our busy schedules. In my alone time I enjoy exercise and taking in nature to rest, recharge, and care for my soul.

For more information about Tara, click here to view her bio.


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