“Making a difference in girls’ lives is our passion.  

We work on the individual, interpersonal, and community levels to make that difference.”

                                                 —Melissa Johnson, PH.D., Founder & Licensed Psychologist


.Girls and young women 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 girls, young women, 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 girls, their families, and their circles or community.  Our skill-building workshops and groups inspire girls 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, their 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 her “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.

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 psychological 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 and their families.

Inspiration: We draw inspiration from social movements, past and present, that have sought to make a difference in the lives of girls and women.   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 equality, and women’s health. We carry a profound appreciation of this history into our 21st century work with girls.


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.  See below for an article and resources from two of our therapists, Mary Schultz and Rebecca Turner: What is Gender Identity Anyway? You can also learn about Rainbow Grit, our group for LGBTQIA youth.