Derek Cragun, LCSW

November 03, 2020 | 0 comments


My work, as I see it, is to help students heal from their wounds and develop new tools. Healing involves reconnecting with the parts of themselves that have always been there. Each of them is born with a 360-degree personality, curiosity, and the ability to experience a full spectrum of emotions. They experience life with the depth in which it is intended; with all the highs, lows, and in-betweens. Through a combination of adverse experiences, biological differences that create barriers to being understood, unmet personal needs, and a lack of tools and resources, they slowly fragment themselves into versions of themselves that are no longer whole and authentic. They slowly lose their, “childhood” qualities and retreat into emotional numbing, avoidance, and distancing behaviors that do not serve them. These are all symptoms of a greater wound that requires healing. 

The students I work with are most often experiencing a great deal of emotional pain, and are engaging in behaviors that are creating unnecessary suffering. They are doing the best they can with the tools and resources they have available, and are in desperate need of learning new tools so that they can do better. They are desperately seeking connection. They are needing to be seen, heard, understood, and taken seriously. They are needing to be able to see themselves as they actually are and have always been. Lovable, and deeply worthy of connection. 

I feel honored to be a part of facilitating this healing and growth process. I feel grateful for the privilege of companioning our students in their process of reconnecting with themselves and actualizing their potential. I wish it was as easily done as it sounds, but as a trained clinical social worker, I realize that none of this can be done without a lot of ongoing work.  

In my approach, I focus on the relationship first and foremost. Research indicates that the therapeutic relationship is the primary driver of lasting positive change. I pay extra attention to maintaining my working relationship with my students, families, and referring professionals by leaning into my personal strengths of honesty, transparency, kindness, compassion, and deep listening to understand. I will make mistakes, and I will take accountability for them and model relationship repair. I also recognize that this alone is not enough to create lasting and meaningful change. My students are engaging in the maladaptive behaviors they are engaging in as a defense. We all have defenses, and we all need defenses to survive. As a compassionate clinician, I do not ask my students to discontinue using their defenses without teaching them new and more effective ways to cope and to adapt. I equip my students with new tools to use in place of the defenses that are no longer serving them. 

In addition to my work with my students individually, I fully understand that no family can go through this process of, “losing” their child without an element of trauma. The pain of seeing your loved one engage in self destruction, and the thwarted attempts to be helpful in the process often lead to significant family distress and relationship wounds. Part of my job is to help families heal, and to help create a roadmap for moving forward. 


I love spending quality time with people I care about and learning new things. I tend to stay in my “growth zone” and am at my best when I am physically challenged, mentally stimulated, or feel emotionally connected to others. My favorite ways to do this are through traveling, backcountry snowboarding, mountain biking, rock climbing and trail running. Music has been a keystone in my life as well, which I express by playing guitar, going to concerts, browsing the record store for what some may consider an absurd amount of time, and talking about obscure bands no one has heard of while being defensive about being called “hipster”. When I am in need of calmness and comfort, I enjoy cozy nights in cooking delicious meals, reading dorky books, or watching 90’s comedy movies. All of these things are made meaningful to me by doing them with people I love and care about. I am fortunate to be surrounded by quality friendships, a loving partner, and the best dog in the world, Moose. 

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