Therapist Dara Pearson is making a difference, in her community and beyond, one person at a time. This Portland native dreamed of being either Miss America or a firefighter when she grew up, and while those dreams didn’t exactly manifest into reality, her work does save lives and inspire women.
Originally Dara did advocacy work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and it was from that experience that she was prompted to do more.
“There was so much trauma that I wanted to learn how to support people through emotional and psychological healing,” she explains. “So as a single mom, I went to graduate school at Oregon State University and got my Masters in Counseling.”
With her tenacity and dedication, along with the support of her friends, family, and awesome kids, Dara made her support and service career came to life.
“I really love being a therapist, mostly because people open up to me about their most intimate struggles of being a human being. It’s a really sacred thing and I feel deeply honored. The survivors that I work with are some of the most courageous, resilient humans that I know and I am deeply honored each day work alongside them,” she says.
Her work with Saving Grace, a local non-profit organization in Central Oregon that supports survivors of domestic and sexual violence, began thirteen years ago. With Saving Grace, Dara helps to provide essential resources to those who have been exposed to family violence and sexual assault. Their organization provides support groups, emergency shelter and transportation, court advocacy, programs for children who have been affected by violence, crisis counseling, as well as a variety of aid and information to those in the community.
“It’s really essential work because so many people in our community are impacted by these particular types of violence,” Dara says. “Survivors need a place where they are believed and supported, as well as physical and emotional safety, legal advocacy and representation, and attainable and sustainable resources. The challenging part of working for a non-profit is that we don’t have enough resources to go around, so we have to get really creative with what we have. I often wish that I had a magic wand, a really big sparkly one.”
And what else does this magical mental health professional do away from Saving Grace?
“These days I’ve launched into private practice, where I am expanding my expertise and providing support to survivors of human trafficking, the LGBTQ community, and continue to develop trauma informed approaches to the therapeutic relationship. I still work part-time for Saving Grace and my absolute favorite thing is the Sexual Assault Support Group that I co-facilitate. The survivors in that group support each other in such a sweet connecting way that they can traverse something as horrific as sexual assault, and still come out the other side. Many of them are doing advocacy work, speaking out in the community, and utilizing music and art to make a difference.”
Beyond her work, Dara hopes to write a book about her adventures, become fluent in Spanish, and teach yoga. She spends her free time hiking, practicing yoga, and spending time with her kids and animals.
“I just finished up a yoga teacher training, so will be starting up a Yin Yoga class for survivors,” she adds. Fantastic!
And what advice does Dara have for young women who are looking for a place in this world?
“Never let anybody else define you; you are perfection, just the way you are. You are enough, you are worthy, you are fabulous. Relationships that don’t nourish you are not worth your time. Relationships should feel free and safe and allow you room to thrive. The other thing is that if you are ever harmed by intimate partner violence and/or sexual assault, it is never your fault. Not ever, There are safe places to reach out to and people that want to help and support you.”
For all of her brave work and dedication to helping people survive and thrive, we think Dara Pearson is a very Cool Girl!
Here are a few websites to local non-profits that are doing great work in Central Oregon.
saving-grace.org (doing great work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence)
cascadeyouthandfamilycenter.org (doing great work with survivors of human trafficking)