Carbondale Therapist Offers ‘Soulful’ Help to Guide Others onto a Healing Path

Written by Katherine Tomanek, published in the Post Independent on January 21, 2024

Read the Article on the Post Independent website HERE.


Therapist Janet Gordon sits in her Carbondale office with dog Malaika. Gordon enjoys helping Roaring Fork Valley residents, especially LGBTQIA+ youth. Peter Baumann/Post Independent

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly named the YouthZone President as the person who started the LGBTQIA+ support groups.

Janet Gordon has been a longtime figure in the Roaring Fork Valley’s mental health community.

“I did what everyone in this valley does and came out for a season. This is the third time I moved harem but it finally stuck,” the 52 year old said.

Gordon bases her practice out of Carbondale but didn’t always know she was going to be a counselor. She was trying to get her masters in another subject when she switched over: journalism.

“I always wanted to be a journalist, but on weekends and holidays, I’d volunteer at the crisis centers and I worked at Planned Parenthood in Glenwood Springs. I didn’t understand counseling was a thing I could do,” she explained.

Gordon has a passion for advocating on behalf of people who have suffered through domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault (SA).

“Part of it is social justice, but another part is when I was in college, I found out a friend had been assaulted by another person I considered a friend too. It was all very confusing and a lot and I needed to get educated about it, so I joined SA advocacy groups on campus. It led me forward and I volunteered for SA and DV help lines,” she recounted.

Gordon was also a part of an sexual assault crisis team and helped the Advocate Safehouse Project, all while getting her degree in journalism.

“I was three-quarters of the way through a masters in journalism and I spoke with a friend while in Glenwood, and she said you don’t like it, but you light up when doing this work with women; why don’t you be a counselor?” she said.

Gordon has an undergraduate degree in political science from Earlham College in Indiana, which she says she doesn’t use much, but also an MED in education and counseling from Vanderbuilt. She has additional certificates in global mental health and trauma from Harvard’s joint program with Harvard Medical School and affirming approaches for transgender communities and advanced counseling techniques for transgender clients from Widener University.

“I didn’t realize the need was there as much as it was,” she said of the need for LGBTQIA+ support for youth in the valley. “I was talking with a friend in a restaurant whose son had been hospitalized for self harm. The family was supportive, but the community wasn’t because he was gay. The director of AspenOUT was sitting behind me, so I turned around and I said what are we going to do about it? He asked me, what do you want to do about it? I said let’s do a support group and we started showing up at the library.”

Gordon goes into schools and the group that helps young people, YouthZone, when she’s needed, collaborating with Travis Wilson from YouthZone on The Space, an afterschool meet-up in multiple towns around the valley for LGBTQIA+ teens to hang out.

“There are opportunities to make stuff happen. When you see a need and you can fill it, that’s how I work. Social justice goes across a lot of different parts of our lives. There’s still work to be done, support to be given,” she said.

Doctor Michelle Mischione, Ph.D., a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice is one of Gordon’s colleagues. She spoke about Gordon highly, emphasizing how willing she is to help.

“I love Janet. She’s one of my closest colleagues and friends. She’s an expert in the field of gender transition and LGBTQIA+, she’s well-versed in the field. She’s very embedded in the horse world, a lover of animals, just a real soulful person who has a lot of integrity. I consider her humane, kind, a capable clinician and friend. She’ll do whatever is needed for her clients,” Mischione said.

Gordon explained part of why she advocates for LGBTQIA+ youth support.

“I went, as a student, to Northern Ireland during The Troubles,” she said., referencing the conflict between those supporting a unified free state of Ireland and those wanting Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.

“The students that were most accepting of strange Americans were the LGBTQIA+ students. Bombs are going off, the IRA is active, but here’s this group of students that are together, Protestants and Catholics. When we can find a safe community, we can make the world better,” she explained.

One of Gordon’s core beliefs is “think globally, act locally,” which in her interpretation means that helping the local community helps the world.

“There’s lots of hard stuff out there in the world right now and there’s a lot I can’t do, and that can feel overwhelming, so I focus on what I can do. Is helping to provide a meal at the Extended Table going to help world peace? No, but it can provide warmth for one person,” she said.

Gordon also talked about some of the worst things about being a counselor to many people in the valley.

“Being a witness to so much hurt and pain and tragedy and inhumanity that they’ve experienced,” she said.

Gordon also related some of the best parts.

“My clients are my heroes,” she said. “Being a witness to people blossoming and changing, the knowledge of their own self-worth.”

From this, Gordon said she’s seen amazing things.

“I see it all the time, seeing someone start to believe in themselves and recognize their own value. How they step forward in life and move through the world changes and how they interact with other people changes. Fear and ignorance breeds hatred. Fear and lashing out is a protection mode. Love and acceptance lets us listen to others’ pain,” she said.

Gordon talked about what it really is to be a counselor and what it means to be that for someone.

“In all honesty, a lot of counseling is bearing witness and listening to people in pain and their experiences. It’s a privilege for someone to allow you to see and hear their story. It’s not about giving advice or getting them out of those feelings, it’s about being with them in those feelings. I can ask questions and help them see different perspectives and challenge false beliefs, but it’s about being present,” she said.

Gordon’s final thoughts about her work so far were reassuring.

“I hope I’ve given more than I’ve taken. Bringing awareness and a safe environment to talk is important. If people didn’t feel so much shame for things and felt loved and worthy, then people would act better, be kinder. It’s hard to have a lot of energy and space to give to others when you’re hurting and traumatized, because that’s survival mode,” she said.

Gordon works at her own private practice at 1101 Village Road in Carbondale, which can be reached at 970-379-4983.

If anyone reading this needs help, the Advocate Safehouse hotline for the Glenwood Springs chapter is 970-945-4439, which can be called 24/7 or go to their website, which can help identify abuse or obtain help at

Gordon also works for Gay For Good, a community group that partners with nonprofits to provide service works, usually one to two every month, like partnering with Extended Table or one of the local high schools.

There are many ways to help people with their mental health without being a counselor, like helping SA and DV crisis hotlines or just being present for a friend. Being willing to help, Gordon said, is the key to building community.

“When we can find a safe community, we make the world better. We’re lucky in this valley that there are a lot of people working to do that, and I’m privileged and honored to witness that,” she said.