About Our Team
We're very proud of our team, not only because of their impressive professional credentials, but because of their deep care for each other and the girls they work with. We've worked hard to construct a team of like-minded therapists and educators who are driven by Sunrise's mission to bring healing to hurting young women. The result is a group of professionals that functions like a team and cares like a family. Anyone who tours our facility will experience the warmth of a team whose work is informed not only by the latest clinical research, but by compassion, hope, and love.
Dave Prior, LMFT
"I love working at Sunrise because of the great people I get to work with and the progress I see in the girls that come here. We have such rich opportunities to interact with families in need and see them make life-changing decisions."
Dave earned his Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Utah State University. He is EAGALA certified and trained as an Arbinger Facilitator. Having worked in several adolescent treatment centers, Dave has developed clinical specialties that include family systems work and conflict resolution. He is particularly savvy in his work with oppositional defiance, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and identity formation. Dave has a very calming effect upon those he works with, a great sense of humor, and a fair and even method of therapy. He has an expertise in helping families form and maintain meaningful relationships.
Dave and his wife enjoy spending their free time camping, being outdoors, and doing water sports with their five children.
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved." – Helen Keller
435-627-5189 school office
Brad Simpson, LCSW
"I love working at Sunrise because of the relational work environment and way in which the needs of individuals are met. Sunrise provides girls the opportunity to safely learn from their mistakes and find lasting change."
Brad received his Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Utah and a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work from Brigham Young University, Idaho. He has worked with adolescents in acute inpatient, intensive outpatient, outpatient and residential settings. Brad's specialties include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, addictions, identity development, family therapy, non verbal learning disorders and motivational interviewing. He is Intensively Trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and served as the regional representative for the Mountain West Region of SMART Recovery for 3 years.
Brad loves running, hiking, mountain biking, lifting weights, long boarding, and spending time with his family. He's also a big fan of spectator sports of all kinds.
"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to chose one's own way." - Viktor E. Frankl
Kathrine Whittekiend, M.Ed.
"I love working at Sunrise Academy because of the opportunities to interact with parents, students, families, and other professionals in furthering the education of our students. Assuring that the girls are on track for high school graduation is an important part of the program and educational philosophy at Sunrise Academy. I'm honored to be part of the Sunrise community"
Kathrine earned her B.A. degree from Southern Utah University in English Literature with an emphasis in education. She is certified to teach middle school (grades 5-9) and high school (grades 7-12) in English, Reading, English as a Second Language (ESL), Geography, and German. She received her M.Ed. degree from Utah State University in education and educational administration and is certified as an educational administrator.
Kathrine taught public school and administered the ESL and Homebound programs for Iron County School District. She went on to work at the Utah State Office of Education as the Education Specialist for English language learners where her responsibilities included creating, presenting, and administering professional development for ESL teachers in Utah's 40 districts. In addition, she held the position as the Compliance Specialist for Title III programs for the State.
Kathrine has a husband, 4 boys and 6 grandchildren who fill her spare time. She also likes to read and garden.
"We must not only prepare our children for the world, we must prepare the world for our children." – Author Unknown
Emily Phillips, BS
"I love working at Sunrise because of the warm, peaceful, and uplifting energy from the devoted employees. The unique blend of a caring team within a small town community creates great opportunity for connection, reflection, exploration, and growth."
Emily Phillips grew up in Pennsylvania and moved out west in 1997. Since then she graduated from Utah State University and has worked with struggling teens over the last 13 years. Her work with teens has involved a variety of settings including a wilderness program, a group home, residential treatment and teaching at public and private schools. Most recently she developed an organization taking young adults and families on service learning expeditions across Alaska, Nepal, and Costa Rica. She is a Certified Life Coach for parents of struggling teens and young adults. She is also an independent licensed Love and Logic Facilitator, a Wilderness First Responder and has a Bachelor of Science integrating studies in Psychology, Biology, and Health Education.
Emily enjoys spending time with her family traveling and recreating in the mountains, oceans, and rivers.
"Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." – Carl Jung
Corey Hickman, CTRS
Residential Life Director
"I love working at Sunrise because each day I get to have interactions with students and families that are meaningful, fun, and challenging. I also love being part of an organization that facilitates the healing of families."
Corey earned his degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Brigham Young University and is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (Recreational Therapist). This education and certification have allowed him to enhance the recreational programming at Sunrise. Corey also conducts Experiential Recreation Therapy groups and adds that modality to the clinical component at Sunrise. He is a strong believer that wholesome recreation is therapeutic in nature and that Sunrise students benefit greatly from exposure to new avenues of leisure and recreation. Corey has worked in the field for the last seven years, and previously worked with the residential staff at New Haven.
True to his profession as a recreational therapist, Corey loves to play! Corey's hobbies include distance running, golf, snowboarding, and wakeboarding. He loves watching college football and visiting America's national parks. He and his wife Jessica have two sons; they love living in an area that has so much to offer for outdoor recreation.
"To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children, to earn the approbation of honest critics; to appreciate beauty; to give of one's self, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded." – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dr. Cantril Nielsen
"I love to work at Sunrise because it is interesting, challenging and an enjoyable experience to work with young people who have significant psychopathology and who are striving to make improvements in their lives."
Dr. Nielsen has practiced psychiatry for almost 40 years. He is from Pocatello, Idaho and is married with 4 children and 6 grandchildren. He received his bachelor's degree from Utah State University and his M.D. from George Washington University. He did his child, adolescent and adult psychiatric training at the University of Utah Medical Center. He is board certified in child, adolescent and adult psychiatry. He is a member of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
"It is always a learning experience."
Kim Smith, APC
"I love working at Sunrise because of the growth and development I see in each student and their family. It is truly inspiring to see how each student begins to recognize the changes she needs to make in her life to be truly happy and move forward making change with confidence. I enjoy being able to help facilitate lasting change in our students by helping them understand themselves, the world around them, and what they can do to make their life better. I enjoy working with a caring group of people who value each student and work as a team to help meet their individual needs."
Kim received her Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Phoenix and her Bachelor degree from Southern Utah University in Psychology. Kim has worked with Sunrise in the residential department as a staff member and as Residential Manager. She now works with the clinical department as a therapist while continuing with her duties as Residential Manager.
Kim grew up in Southern California and moved to St. George, UT in 2001. She lives with her husband and two of her four daughters. Kim enjoys spending time with her family camping, going to the movies, reading or just hanging out and relaxing on the weekends. Kim also enjoys researching her family history and sharing information with other family members.
"There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do." – Freya Stark
Marilla Terry Leishman, LCSW
"Sunrise is a great setting because of our emphasis on relationships. I believe the relationships the girls have with staff and each other are crucial in making the necessary changes in their lives. The philosophy of caring and concern as well as helping the girls heal with their families is a great way to foster a life of success and joy."
As a native of St. George and a Dixie High School graduate, Marilla received her Bachelor in Science in psychology from Southern Utah University, and Masters in Social Work from Brigham Young University. She enjoys the outdoors, camping, running, and just about anything with her family and two boys. She has always dreamed of being a counselor and making a difference in the lives of people of all ages. Her professional interest and expertise is helping young women struggling with addiction. Marilla has a natural ability to form therapeutic relationships with others which invite them to decide to make needed changes in their lives.
"Smile, it makes people wonder what you are up to." - unknown
Jacob Sparks, LAMFT
"I love working at Sunrise because it gives me the opportunity to interact with students, and help families heal. The atmosphere at Sunrise helps individuals make lasting change, and I love being a part of the process."
Jake has always had a passion for people and their families, and a commitment to creating lasting change within families. His intuitive therapeutic approach and his calming personality are great assets in working with Sunrise girls and families. Jake has a Bachelors degree in Psychology, and a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Utah State University. Since 2008, Jake has been working with youth and their families in a variety of therapeutic settings. Jake spent 2 years working as a staff member of a treatment center for adolescent boys and girls. He has worked as a therapist in a community mental health clinic at Utah State University, and in the Weber State Counseling and Psychological Service Center. His specialties include the treatment of anxiety and depression, emotion regulation, couples, and family therapy.
Jake spends most of his free time outdoors, running or hiking. He loves all kinds of sports. He also loves music and photography.
"You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It is easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally." - Robert Pirsig
Tiffany Larson, CSW
"I love that Sunrise promotes change by helping girls to develop and maintain positive relationships. It's in this kind of environment that girls and their families are empowered to reach their potential and find lasting change and healing. I'm blessed enough to be part of this process every day."
Tiffany grew up in Hurricane and loves the red rocks and outdoor adventures Southern Utah offers. Tiffany worked as a staff at Sunrise years ago, an experience that fueled her passion for helping teens and their families. After completing higher education, travelling the world and living in the Middle East she has come full circle and returned to Sunrise to continue her career with us. Tiffany is an avid artist and incorporates this passion into her art therapy group and individualized clinical practice. Tiffany earned her bachelor's degree in Family Life and her master's degree in social work from Brigham Young University. Tiffany's areas of expertise include treating addictions, depression, anxiety, and attachment issues. She utilizes shame-resilience work, Emotion-Focused Therapy, Dialectic Behavioral Therapy and the arts as her preferred and most effective methods of treatment.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King Jr.
Steve Child, LCSW
"I love working at Sunrise because of the good people I get to be around every day. I appreciate that the staff want the best for each other and for the girls. I also appreciate the goodness in the girls, as they are striving to improve. The best part of my job as a therapist is being able to participate in seeing families grow and learn".
Steve earned his Master's Degree in Social Work from Arizona State University. He is certified as a clinical social worker and has been a therapist for the past fifteen years. He has been able to share his knowledge and expertise with thousands of students as an adjunct professor for Utah State University and now Dixie State University. Steve's primary background and specialty is treating trauma victims utilizing trauma focused cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamic theories that build understanding, promote healing and fortify lives. His strength and passion is working with family systems due to the synergistic and multi-dimensional relational gains accomplished when working on a systemic level. In doing family systems work, he has great insight into attachment theory and the impact a relational bond has on behavior and emotional health. He does terrific work with adoptive families. Steve's calm and even personality is very grounding to families when they are dealing with very stressful situations.
Steve and his wife of 21 years enjoy spending time with their three children, all teenagers. They like to go boating, especially to Lake Powell, explore National Parks and visit places together, their most recent favorite, Disneyland. In his quiet time, he likes to read, exercise and care for their garden.
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein
Sarah Jones, LPN
"I love working at Sunrise because of my friendships here and because I love seeing the girls progress, take responsibility for their own health, and make the positive changes that they desire."
Sarah Jones is the Program Nurse at Sunrise. She studied Social Work at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and obtained her LPN degree in Bellingham, Washington. Before coming to Sunrise, Sarah worked in a hospital and a family clinic, and has volunteered in the community working with outreach services for adolescents. Sarah is very involved with our students in promoting overall health. She teaches monthly health-education classes to our students and helps them to see the rewards of making new healthy lifestyle choices. Sarah likes to model what she teaches, and actively researches health and wellness, incorporating the most current research and philosophies to her own life. Sarah greatly enjoys working with the Sunrise girls in such a positive atmosphere.
Originally from Southern Utah, Sarah is enthusiastic to be back; she takes advantage of many of Utah's great outdoor activities, including swimming, hiking, and walking. She also loves reading, participating in monthly book clubs, and spending time with friends and family. Her children are her purest passion and she loves playing with them and making memories together.
"Moderation in all things." – Anon
"I love working at Sunrise because of the opportunity I get to work hand-in-hand with each girl based on her individual needs. Being able to see them make genuine changes in their lives and feeling that I had a small part in that has such a humbling affect in my life. I also enjoy being able to work along side the families and see them make the changes necessary to bring their daughters back home to healthy environments. One last thing I love about Sunrise is having the opportunity to work along side and learn from such talented, educated and passionate people."
Vanessa grew up in central Utah with short living period in southern California where she gained a better understanding of diverse cultures. She has lived in southern Utah for almost 7 years and really enjoys the beautiful scenery of this area. Vanessa has an associate of arts degree. She has a wonderful husband and two young boys at home, with whom she occupies most of her free time. She enjoys being a mother and carrying out motherly duties. Her organizational and leadership skills come in handy when running a house hold, whether at Sunrise or her own house. When Vanessa has free time she really enjoys learning new things. You can almost always catch her with a book in hand about self growth. She is very passionate about art, painting in particular. She has incorporated her passion for art at Sunrise by providing the students with a terrific art group. This group is aimed to provide our numerous artistic students with a healthy outlet to express themselves.
"Instead of complaining that the rosebush has thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses." -Proverb
Katie May, BS
"I love working at Sunrise because I get to learn daily and laugh often, while helping families transform and discover many parts of life that are often taken for granted. Everyone at Sunrise is highly motivated to help the families heal and make lasting change. I also love that Sunrise is surrounded by some of the most beautiful places in the world. It's great that I get to use these locations to teach the girls how to have fun in healthy ways."
Katie grew up in Las Vegas Nevada with 5 siblings which helps her understand families and the work that goes into such relationships. She graduated from Southern Utah University with a Bachelors degree in Interpersonal Communication with a minor in Psychology, and currently lives in Cedar City with her wonderful husband. Katie loves to spend time with family and anyone else who will laugh with her. She has a passion for books, movies, music, traveling and most things entertainment. Katie has always enjoyed helping people, and loves that this job gives her opportunity to not only help students, but their entire family systems.
"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter" -E.E. Cummings
Jacob Grimm, BS
"What I love about Sunrise is knowing that I can make a lasting and permanent change in the lives of our students, one that can help them for the rest of their lives."
Jake was born in Utah and has lived in Cedar City for the past 6 years. He completed his Associates Degree in Science through the University of Utah and his Bachelors Degree at Southern Utah University with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Jake received his teaching license through SUU. He enjoys all outdoor activities and particularly enjoys fishing. He enjoys teaching and plans on continuing his quest to place all of his students back into a regular class room setting with the skills needed to succeed. Jake's passion for his subject matter is very evident in his teaching technique. He has a great knack for getting girls excited about learning the sciences.
"The educated differ from the uneducated as the living do from the dead." – Aristotle
Elizabeth Hess, BS
"What I love about Sunrise is the opportunity to help the students that come here succeed. In this environment you get to work with girls one on one giving them the attention they need to do well in the academic setting and prepare them for the future."
Liz is a graduate of Southern Utah University with a Bachelor degree in History Education with a minor in English: literature emphasis. Her experiences there gave her a keen understanding in educational psychology, technology in education, and providing education for students with special needs. She has a great passion for social studies, believing that understanding our own country and the world around us can give us a stronger sense of identity and purpose. An increase in the knowledge of our past also gives us the capabilities necessary to take on the challenges of today. Throughout her schooling, Liz participated in intramural sports, taught swim lessons, worked in the Special Collections of the university library, and participated in various service activities. She is so happy to give back and share all that she has learned with these bright girls.
Recently married, Liz loves to spend her spare time hiking, swimming, and traveling with her husband. She also enjoys music and reading.
"The aim of education is the knowledge not of fact but of values." –William Ralph Inges
Krista Nugent, BS, MBA
"I love working at Sunrise because of the opportunity I have to watch students grow into the potential that we know they could be. It is wonderful to be able to help them understand the importance of their education and mental growth."
Krista earned her Bachelor's Degree with a major in Mathematics from the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. She also earned an MBA in Finance from Capella University. She enjoys helping the students learn their subject matter and gaining an appreciation for mathematics. Her family moved to Utah from southern California 13 years ago, so she appreciates both the big city life as well as more urban living as she relates to the broad background of our students. She loves to be able to teach them the life-changing skills that they need to be successful upon returning home. Krista is a mom and has a great empathy for the sacrifices made by parents and family members in order to give their child the best opportunities possible.
Krista also works at the local high school as the varsity softball coach. She gained experience when she played for the University of Southern Indiana while earning her degree. She also enjoys most outdoor activities, traveling, the ocean, and exploring the beautiful area that we live in.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." – Marianne Williamson (adapted)
Susan Crisp, MS
Special Education Teacher
"I love working at Sunrise because there is a genuine sense of community and the learning atmosphere is positive and progressive."
Susan earned her Master's Degree from the University of London, Birkbeck College in English and Humanities from England. She is a certified teacher in Psychology in Washington and Utah and has 13 years experience as a Special Needs teacher in the UK. Her undergraduate degree from Washington is in both Sociology and Psychology. Susan has been teaching since 1996 and her experiences teaching in London for 13 years in a variety of settings and in Guadalajara, Mexico provides a strong, professional foundation. She is delighted to be working at Sunrise to lend her experience and knowledge to the young women she teaches.
Susan and her husband moved to Southern Utah in 2010 from London in search of warmer climate and access to the hiking and skiing that Utah has to offer. "One of my favorite places is Zion National Park. We also try to return to London as much as possible to visit family". Susan is a keen skier and traveler and looks forward to times when family and friends come to visit from Europe.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." – Aristotle
"I love working at Sunrise because it is a place where you are encouraged, challenged and complimented. Everyone is valued and works together as a team to provide the best treatment possible for the young women we help. Sunrise is a place where relationships, trust and respect are emphasized, which allows the girls here to feel safe and cared for while in treatment and away from home."
Nicole loves working with young women and their families and has worked in Residential Treatment Centers for the past 14 years. She has worked in supervisory, direct care, and family representative positions, and for the last 9 years she has worked as an Admissions Counselor. Nicole is currently completing her Bachelor's degree in Psychology with plans to receive a Masters Degree and LCSW license. She loves working as an Admissions Counselor as it allows her to form strong relationships with families built on a high level of trust. She understands the difficulty families face while choosing treatment and is dedicated to helping families through this. Nicole truly loves her job and who she works with!
Nicole is a native of Southern Utah. She enjoys staying physically active, especially by running in Southern Utah's beautiful weather and scenery. She is also a licensed fitness instructor. If she could spend time doing anything, it would be spending time with her 3 sons and 1 daughter.
"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." – Thomas S. Monson
"I love working at Sunrise because of the people, our mission and the girls. There is a lot of support for individual development and there are opportunities for leadership. Most of all, this is a place where we I feel recognized as a person of worth."
Heather has served in a number of professional settings, applying her gifts in organization and positive attitude to help companies function more efficiently. She has been a terrific resource to our families who seek insurance reimbursement. Her focus is on providing organized, reliable information while maintaining a positive attitude of service to those around her. She appreciates the higher purpose that her work supports.
Heather lives in La Verkin with her husband and daughter. Together they enjoy traveling the West in search of great rivers for fly fishing, beautiful desert vistas for photography, and low-key restaurants for good food. While at home, Heather enjoys riding her bike and reading.
"Who can tell what far-reaching impact we can have if we are only kind?" – Anon
"I love working at Sunrise because it is truly enjoyable to work with staff that all bring a sense of purpose to their work. I consider myself fortunate to love the work that I do and to know that we have an excellent opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of the young girls who stay with us."
Karyn has worked in several roles in professional office settings for over 20 years. She has excellent organization skills and works hard to keep the administrative functions at Sunrise running smoothly. People find her to be outgoing and approachable, allowing families and guests to feel welcome when they arrive at Sunrise. She finds pride in and goes out of her way to provide excellent service to students, parents and staff.
Karyn lives in Hurricane, UT with her family. She has two grown children and one daughter at home. Karyn loves the outdoor activities and climate that Southern UT brings.
"My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style" - Maya Angelou
"What I love about Sunrise is the culture that has been created that allows both staff and the students to create lasting relationships that go beyond the students stay at Sunrise. Relationships are the key to real change!"
Chelsea grew up in Southern Utah where she has lived the majority of her life. She is currently finishing her Bachelors degree in Communications with an emphasis in PR at Southern Utah University. She enjoys interacting with people and believes that the staff are an important role at Sunrise as they interact and motivate the students everyday. Prior to becoming our HR recruiter, Chelsea worked as one of our Youth Mentors and as a Residential Supervisor. She has valued the power of relationships as she has worked with the girls and staff. Chelsea was previously an event planner for the local university where she planned large citywide events. She realizes that success is in the small details.
Chelsea enjoys running, going to the lake to wakeboard, and traveling with her husband. One day Chelsea hopes to travel with Mothers without Borders in order to give to those who are less privileged.
"f you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito" - Dalai Lama
Many of us assume that the better you perform, the more successful you will be. Right? It seems logical to pursue perfection, to want to be perfect. However, this type of thinking can get in the way of our success. I have never met anyone who was perfect or who did everything perfectly. If we [...]
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Cutting is a common form of self-harm that we treat at Sunrise Residential Treatment Center. We find many family members and loved ones confused about why a young woman would do something so harmful to herself. There are numerous reasons why an individual uses self-harm but here are a few of the reasons we encounter [...]
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I recently sat with a young lady who struggled with learning difficulties and borderline personality disorder. This disorder is known for creating disruption in emotional regulation, distress tolerance skills, and interpersonal distress. Despite this student’s struggles, I was fascinated by her ability to increase and understand the skills she was learning in her Dialectical Behavioral [...]
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