Mission Statement


Girls, gender-expansive youth, and young adults face incredible opportunities and challenges as they grow.  They’re full of questions about who they are, who they will become, and how they’re changing.

They seek answers within themselves, from their relationships, and from their communities.

Here at the Institute for Girls’ Development, we are dedicated to empowering individuals and their communities through:

• Hardiness Skills
• Mindfulness Approaches
• Self-discovery
• Embodied Living
• Growth-fostering Connections
• Empowerment

We offer caring, comprehensive, and innovative programs and services for individuals, their families, and their circles or community.  Our skill-building workshops and groups inspire children and teens to use their voices to be stronger leaders.



All members of our organization are committed to these enduring values:

Commitment: We are committed to helping girls, gender-expansive individuals, young adults, families, and their communities build on strengths, develop authentic voices, and engage in growth-fostering relationships.  Each Institute team member has a personal commitment to developing their “whole self” in a relational context.  As a team, we are creative, passionate, caring, detail-oriented, grounded in theory and research, and excelling in the services we provide.

Community and connection:  We believe that growth of the “whole self” (emotional, physical, intellectual, relational, cultural, and spiritual) is fostered through meaningful connections and community.  We support our clients in enhancing their authentic relationships with themselves, with friends and family, and with their other circles of connection. We are dedicated to promoting growth-fostering relationships, not only in the lives of our clients, but among ourselves, and with the larger communities in which we live and work.

Responsiveness: We take time with people.  Even when we can’t directly meet a need, we help people connect with someone who can.  We have a reputation for “going the extra mile.”

Ethical stance: We adhere to the highest aspirational ethics.   We provide a safe place to grow – where confidentiality, compassion, respect, trustworthiness, competence, integrity and appreciation of human diversity are the guiding principles.

Research and Theory: Our services are grounded in an asset-based model of programming that integrates important cutting-edge research and theory with compassion. In the communities we serve, we are a major force in defining and implementing the best practices for services for girls, gender-expansive individuals, young adults, and families.

Inspiration: We draw inspiration from social and racial justice movements, past and present that have sought to make a difference.  We are indebted to those who have come before us, those who have worked tirelessly for women’s suffrage, women’s education, civil rights, gender and racial equality, and health care.  We carry a profound appreciation of this history into our 21st century work with our community.


As an organization dedicated to empowering girls, their families and their circles of community, we have been thinking deeply about our role in empowering gender non-conforming, non-binary and trans youth.  Coinciding with our own deep reflections, we find that parents, teens and young adults are asking more frequently about services for youth who may be questioning or who may not identify with their gender assigned at birth.  We thought it would be helpful to share about our approach to working with gender diversity.  This spectrum of gender diversity includes but is not limited to gender non-conforming, transgender, non-binary and gender-questioning youth. We describe our practice here at the Institute as trans affirmative. We are committed to providing culturally competent, developmentally appropriate, respectful, aware therapy to gender non-conforming, transgender and non-binary youth and their families.  Our approach is individualized, interdisciplinary, and collaborative.

  • Individualized: we seek to understand the unique lived experience of each of our clients and their families.
  • Interdisciplinary: we are committed to incorporating into our work an understanding of biological, psychological and social factors that influence our client’s lives.
  • Collaborative: with the client’s and client’s family’s permission, we are dedicated to working with other professionals who are involved in supporting youth and families.  Communication, cooperation and collaboration are especially important in light of the complex emotional, social and medical paths to navigate, not to mention discrimination and stigma.

We have several therapists on our team with a specialized interest in working with children, teens, young adults and families in which a member identifies as transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming. We have also spent time cultivating relationships with other professionals who specialize in this area.  This allows us to help non-binary and trans youth and their families build a team of support and knowledge for the complex journey they are navigating.  These additional resources also help us as we walk alongside individuals seeking to authentically articulate and live out their gender identity and gender expression. At one of our recent clinical team meetings, we spent some time diving deep regarding gender and gender identity. We discussed the gender identity statement we’ve included here and that you’ve just read. One team member asked wisely, can we add to our gender identity statement that we are still learning?  YES!  We will always still be learning.  And as we learn, we will continue to share resources with you, our community.



Dear Clients and Client Families,

We hope this email finds you doing as well as possible as we all navigate this extraordinary time. We hope you’ve been finding ways to stay healthy and safe in mind, body and spirit. And, we’re grateful to be part of your team of support as we travel these uncharted waters together.  We’re taking this opportunity to update you on the Institute’s Practice Plan for the summer and beyond.

Our plan involves careful consideration of how best to meet mental health needs while engaging in physical safety best practices.

For the vast majority of our clients, we’re seeing progress via telehealth services. Our online groups have provided much needed virtual peer support facilitated by our creative and expert therapists. And in these stressful times, we’re seeing consistent participation in therapy with the ease of access afforded by telehealth. We’re excited to continue offering effective telehealth services for individual, group, and family therapy for all of our clients through the end of summer.  We’ll continue to evaluate health and safety recommendations in combination with client needs to determine the best time frame for returning to in-person sessions. Each of our Institute therapists are available to discuss the plan for you and/or your family.

Ongoing Telehealth Option:

Some individuals and families have asked about continuing with telehealth even after in-person sessions resume. Yes, the Institute team will continue to offer telehealth as an option! Therapy can be full telehealth or some combination of in-person and telehealth sessions. Discuss your interest in this with your or your child’s therapist. You and your therapist will be able to determine what plan is best to help you meet the goals you have for yourself and/or your child.

Connecting with your Therapist at the Institute:

We look forward to having conversations with your family about the progress of therapy, revising goals as needed, talking about what is helping most, and deciding what we can do to further increase the benefits for you, your child, or your teen. We look forward to these conversations, as we all prioritize mental health and wellness during this time.

Sending our best wishes for your wellness!

Dr. Melissa Johnson and the Institute Team

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