Coastal Wellness and Counseling, LLC was founded by Ashley M. Barrera, LMFT as a part of a two-fold vision to (1) enhance the health and wellness of Alaskans through quality individual, couple/marriage, and family therapy and, (2) provide a professional home for practitioners who wish to deepen their knowledge of the field of Couple/Marriage and Family Therapy through the expansion of their skill set when providing these services through the process of professional mentorship.
The vision of Coastal Wellness and Counseling, LLC was inspired by founder, Ashley M. Barrera, LMFT’s own professional journey. Ashley has long experienced the benefits of professional mentorship and credits her mentors, most notably Mercy Dennis, LMFT and Dr. Markie Twist, LMFT, as well as her mother, Leslie Barrera for profoundly influencing the professional and practitioner she is today. As a result of Ashley’s own experiences with mentorship she strives to offer similar opportunities to Alaskan practitioners.
Ashley’s professional journey working with Alaskan families began while she was employed as a Toddler Montessori teacher at Puffin Heights Montessori School (PHMS) during her adolescence and early adulthood. Ashley’s connection to Puffin Heights began when it was founded in 1982 by Ashley’s maternal aunt, Debra Ward, and later owned and operated by her mother, Leslie Barrera from 1996 through her retirement in 2016.
Growing up with a mother who was a small business owner and a father who was a member of the Armed Forces taught Ashley the value of connection to one’s community. While obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Alaska Anchorage, Ashley met Dr. Markie Twist, LMFT who introduced her to the field of Couple/Marriage and Family Therapy, and later to Mercy Dennis, LMFT.
Through Dr. Markie Twist’s mentorship Ashley fell in love with the systemic approach to healing which is at the core of the field of Couple/Marriage and Family Therapy. Sadly, the state of Alaska does not have a graduate program to train Couple/Marriage and Family Therapists. This leaves those interested in pursuing this professional path with either the option of moving out of state to attend a Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) accredited program or enrolling in a distance education program.
Dr. Markie Twist, a graduate of Iowa State University encouraged Ashley to apply to the universities Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies graduate program where Ashley specialized in Couple and Family Therapy.
For those who choose to pursue a graduate degree in Marriage/Couple and Family Therapy out of state and then return to Alaska, or obtain their degree via distance education; challenges still exist related to their ability to obtain licensure as a Licensed Marital and Family Therapist (LMFT) while (1) accruing clinically supervised practicum hours working specifically with individuals, couples, and families utilizing the models and theories of the field of Couple/Marriage and Family Therapy, and (2) while being clinically supervised by a Licensed Marital and Family Therapist.
Upon her graduation from Iowa State, Ashley moved back to Alaska where she obtained her Marital and Family Therapy Associate (MFT-A) license which allowed her to open her own private practice while accruing clinically supervised practicum hours toward becoming a Licensed Marital and Family Therapist (LMFT). During this time, she practiced under the clinical supervision of Dr. Leon Webber, LMFT, and Mercy Dennis, LMFT—who would become one of Ashley’s honored mentors.
Although Ashley pursued her graduate education in the field of Couple/Marriage and Family Therapy and has a strong passion for her field, she also values the training, education, and clinical expertise of practitioners who obtain their graduate training in the fields of Clinical Psychology, Professional Counseling, Social Work, and related mental health fields. She further recognizes the challenges these practitioners face upon graduation and/or after obtaining their respective licensure when they are (1) interested in working with individuals, couples, and families while using the models and theories of the field of Couple/Marriage and Family Therapy, and (2) attempting to find a practice setting where they can obtain supervision, consultation, and mentorship from a Licensed Marital and Family Therapist.
The vision of Coastal Wellness and Counseling, LLC is to (1) provide a setting where clients can obtain high quality therapeutic services which utilizes a systemic approach to counseling that incorporates the models and theories of the field of Couple/Family Therapy, and to (2) provide practitioners with a professional home where they can provide such services while experiencing the benefit of mentorship.
Under the esteemed mentorship of Mercy Dennis, LMFT, Ashley was invited to be one of the founding members of the Couples Center of Alaska (CCAK), a local non-profit which operated from 2014 – 2017. During her tenure with the CCAK, Ashley worked as a Clinician for the organization before eventually joining its Board of Directors.
The CCAK had a three-part mission (1) enhance the lives of all Alaskans through quality counseling, (2) provide training to Alaskan practitioners, and (3) provide a practice setting for clinicians working toward licensure and/or wanting to deepen their knowledge and skill set in the field of Couple/Marriage and Family Therapy.
The CCAK was successful in carrying out its mission to its clients, community, and practitioners during its lifetime, but struggled to maintain funding as a non-profit organization due to the recession in the Alaskan economy. Sadly, the CCAK had to close its doors in 2017.
Ashley’s belief in the mission and legacy of the CCAK along with her plight to advocate for and be an ambassador of the field of Couple/Marriage and Family Therapy in Alaska is a central premise of her vision for Coastal Wellness and Counseling, LLC through its commitment to serving the Alaskan community.
As Ashley enters her eighth year of successfully operating her own private practice, she is eager to see her vision of Coastal Wellness and Counseling, LLC come to fruition.
We look forward to walking the path of wellness alongside you.
Ashley M. Barrera, LMFT
Owner/Director of Clinical Services
Coastal Wellness and Counseling, LLC