In the days following its split with Encircle, Flourish Therapy knew it had the clients, therapists and space to continue providing subsidized therapy for the LGBTQ community. What remained was the question of how it was going to fund those services.

Two months after the split, Flourish Therapy continues to provide therapy.

“It is up and running,” said Lisa Hansen, the clinical director of Flourish Therapy. “There is nothing that is diminished about it since we left Encircle.”

Flourish Therapy and Encircle were partnered for two years to provide therapy services for Encircle, a youth LGBTQ resource center with locations in Provo, Salt Lake City and St. George. The two organizations separated in May after Encircle announced it was moving to an in-house provider, Encircle Therapy.

Mental health providers, who were invited to stay with Encircle, followed Hansen to Flourish — despite not knowing where funding would come from. Hansen said Flourish received eight offers for office space and was seeing clients the day after the two organizations separated.

“The community reached out and donors just came out of the woodwork with small donations, up to larger ones, that have enabled us to help keep functioning while we are anticipating corporate grants,” Hansen said.

About 200 clients followed their therapists to Flourish Therapy following the split. Hansen said about half of Flourish Therapy’s clients receive free services.

Flourish Therapy’s mental health professionals faced panic from clients after hearing about the separation.

“I think we did a really good job of saying that you are welcome — we will make sure you are taken care of, whether it is us or Encircle,” said Summer Zemp, a counselor at Flourish Therapy.

Zemp said many of her clients are teenagers without insurance who can’t afford therapy — but also can’t afford to not have it.

“We have taken guns out of cars, we have found people passed out in their homes,” said Laura Dulin, a mental health therapist at Flourish Therapy. “We have talked a lot of people off ledges.”

But despite tensions during the separation of Encircle and Flourish Therapy, both organizations continue to wish the other well. Hansen said Flourish Therapy has seen clients who weren’t comfortable with going to a designed LGBTQ resource center, and in a May 23 statement posted online, Encircle encouraged donations to Flourish Therapy.

Flourish Therapy patients will go to Flourish for therapy, and then walk to Encircle to see friends.

“I definitely think there is room for both,” Hansen said.

Stephanie Larsen, CEO of Encircle, said the split came after Encircle was advised by multiple attorneys that being a non-profit organization paying for a for-profit organization to handle its therapy services wasn’t scalable as Encircle expanded and the relationship could look suspect to the IRS.

She said Encircle provided about 5,000 free services during the two years Flourish Therapy mental health professionals were at the home.

She said Encircle has been supportive of Flourish Therapy since the split.

“The more resources that are out there and available for these youth and their families, the better,” Larsen said. “Even with both groups being separate now, there still aren’t enough resources for these kids and their families.”

Zemp said Flourish Therapy’s mental health professionals did not consider leaving their LGBTQ clients.

“We are passionate about our clients,” she said. “We have really meaningful relationships with them.”

By focusing on Utah County’s LGBTQ community, Flourish Therapy’s staff bring together a knowledge of the intersection of a conservative, religious community and the LGBTQ experience.

Hansen said having that cultural competency means clients can speak without feeling judged or having to educate their therapists.

“If (therapists) don’t have it, they can actually harm the client by questioning the client’s judgement about what their own life values are about,” she said.

Dulin, who grew up as a closeted, gay member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said dual understanding is essential to helping clients with a similar experience.

She said most of Flourish Therapy’s mental health professionals are either LGBTQ themselves, have a child who is LGBTQ or have done extensive training in the community.

“To me, it is much easier to help people walk through places that you yourself have walked through, or walked with someone really, really closely,” Dulin said.

Despite an uncertain future, Flourish Therapy’s mental health professionals are staying with the organization with the hope that consistent, corporate funding to subsidize therapy sessions will be secured.

“There is a lot of faith going on right now,” Dulin said.

Flourish Therapy is fiscally sponsored by Country Cottage, Inc., a non-profit organization.

Flourish Therapy’s client list continues to grow. Hansen said they’ve received 35 new clients in the last two weeks and Flourish Therapy has a waitlist of two to three weeks to see patients who can’t afford services.

Flourish Therapy is located on University Avenue in Provo, but has plans to move into permanent offices at 1426 N. 820 North in Orem after remodel work is finished. The organization also has therapists in St. George and is working to start a chapter in Boise.

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.

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