When Tara P. meets with a client to provide them with free counseling at Walk-In, she is warm and empathetic.
Her friendly, supportive manner might surprise those who know Tara from her service in the U.S. Marine Corps. “When I was there, I was voted the meanest sergeant. Now I’m much more sunshiny,” she says with a smile.
In 2015, when she left the Marine Corps, these opposing parts of her personality pulled her into “a little bit of an identity crisis,” she recalls.
“I began to think about how health and well-being is more than six-pack abs and a lot of running… so I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I became a holistic health and wellness coach.” In addition, she became a trained yoga teacher.
After her military service, Tara dedicated herself to supporting the veterans she knew so well — and so began her journey into caring and service. She worked with two veterans’ service organizations, The Mission Continues and Team Rubicon, where she was living in Nashville, Tennessee.
To be better able to serve active-duty military members, first responders and their families, Tara undertook a nine-month training program in trauma-informed adaptive yoga. “In experiential and somatic healing, you learn how your body holds trauma. It’s a body-up approach” that can be used alone or with other methods to help with recovery.
After the onset of the pandemic, and then the traumatic murder of George Floyd in 2020, Tara began to feel the pull to return to her home state, Minnesota. “I need to be there and be part of the solution,” she remembers thinking. She wanted to apply undergraduate degree in emergency and disaster management, and all of the skills she had acquired since then.
Tara is volunteering at Walk-In as a field placement for her master’s degree in social work.
“It’s been great. It’s giving me the space to create the version of the therapist I want to be,” she says. “I love that I get the opportunity to connect with people from different perspectives, to find common ground, to connect on a natural, human level.”
When she is counseling with video on Zoom, clients can see the U.S. Marine Corps flag on her wall. Veterans notice it immediately. “There’s always this moment of connection with a veteran, when they say, ‘you’re a Marine?’”