Though everything we do at Shepherd’s Hill Academy is designed for therapeutic value, our therapeutic team is dedicated specifically to reaching your teen’s individual goals in order to contribute to the transformation of his or her life. Our team works with your family from your child’s enrollment to his or her graduation and aftercare plan.
Always working under the umbrella of scriptural authority, our team works hand-in-hand in developing a strategic therapeutic plan that serves not only your teen’s needs, but your family’s needs as well. In addition, they facilitate individual and family sessions for the adolescent sessions designed to promote healing, while building your teen’s relationship with both your family and Christ.
Elise Thrift, LPC
Elise Thrift, LPC is the Clinical Director for Shepherd’s Hill Academy. She oversees the direction of the therapeutic team to provide excellent care for the individual therapeutic needs of the client and support for families.
Prior to this role, Elise obtained her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a dual focus in both Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling from Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, GA.
Elise began working with children and teens in a nonprofit agency specializing in play therapy. She has received training in sand tray therapy as well as art therapy interventions to utilize with clients in the individual setting. Elise began working at SHA in 2016 as a Girls Primary Therapist. In her work at SHA, Elise has helped many teens navigate the issues of parental divorce, grief, attachment, anxiety, depression, self-harm, abuse, emotional regulation, substance abuse, impulse control, interpersonal relationships, college and career planning, and adjustment.
Elise strongly believes that God has placed a calling on her life to help bring healing and hope to those who are hurting. Elise takes a Client-Centered Approach to individuals to provide unconditional positive regard and empathy. This, in turn, is often a catalyst for clients to explore how their past behaviors contribute to their current functioning. Much like Christ’s model of relationship, Elise strives to lovingly guide teens towards wisdom and emotional health. Elise also utilizes other empirically sound interventions such as CBT, psychodynamic, and DB informed interventions to use with both clients and their families.
Elise is happily married to her college sweetheart Zach. They are blessed with two children. She enjoys spending quality time with them on their small family farm.
Victoria Nolen, LPC, E-RYT, YF-A
Girls Somatic Therapist & Yoga Faith Instructor
Victoria received her master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Richmont Graduate University in Atlanta, GA. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. She is a certified yoga instructor, a Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Faith instructor, and has obtained additional training in Sozo and Somatics, and Somatic Coaching.
Victoria has worked with children, teens, and young adults as a therapist in a holistic wellness center, as a counseling intern at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, GA, and as a high school flag and dance line instructor. She has practiced yoga since 2012 and has taught classes since 2015. Victoria has a huge passion for working with teens through the tremendous and often life-changing transitions of adolescence. Being able to help teen girls navigate through the trials, triumphs, choices, and challenges of this time is part of her purpose. She describes her work at Shepherd’s Hill Academy as a “tremendous privilege”, as she gets to walk alongside the girls in their journeys of growth and transformation.
Victoria met her husband through the marching band at UGA and now has the joy of being the “dancer to his music” due to her background in dance and his career in music education. More than anything, she values connection and loves spending quality time with her family and friends. Victoria’s interests include waterfall hikes, yoga, dancing, Disney World, art festivals, and having deep, authentic conversations over tea or coffee.
Buddy Prow, LPC
Boys Therapeutic Counselor
Buddy has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. He received his master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Liberty University. Currently (2016), he is pursuing a master’s degree in Theology at Liberty University. At the same time, he is pursuing his Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) certifications.
Buddy has many years of experience working with children and families. For six years he served as a Youth Pastor at Lexington Baptist Church in Lexington, GA. For 10 years, he was a foster parent. He also served as a placement case manager for the Division of Family and Children Services (DFACS) in Barrow County, GA.
His previous positions working with adults with addictions have led him to proactively reach the teens of our culture to teach them preventive methods for addictive behaviors. It is Buddy’s desire to share his personal parenting point of view as a hurting parent of a once troubled teen himself. He wants to help families reunite in a healthy manner for love and support and to show them there is always hope in the unknown times of parenting a teen.
Buddy is married. He has 10 children he calls “mine.” Of these 10 children, he has five biological daughters, two adoptive sons, two step-sons, and one foster daughter. When he is not occupied helping others, being a husband and a father, or studying, Buddy enjoys hunting and golfing.
Boys Therapeutic Counselor
Tom holds a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources Management from the University of Alaska, a master’s degree in Education from Syracuse University, a master’s degree in Environmental and Forest Biology from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, and a master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Truett McConnell University. He is currently pursuing his Licensed Professional Counselor certification with the state of Georgia.
With more than 25 years of teaching and working with young people, Tom’s passions are helping young people navigate life’s difficulties within safe and caring relationships and getting them excited about the wonders of God’s creation.
Tom has been married for 33 years and has four grown children and 5 grandchildren. He also teaches and writes articles in the areas of creation biology and ecology, enjoys learning about local herbal medicine, and wanders the forests and mountains of the southeast whenever he can.
Vikki Paese, MS, LPC
Equine Program Director
Vikki holds a master’s degree in Christian Counseling from Philadelphia Biblical University. She also has obtained a bachelor’s degree in English Professional Writing. Vikki has been certified by Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) and O.K. Corral Series for Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. She is Natural Lifemanship Certified, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor.
She spent seven years working in various corporate, educational, and training positions. At the same time, she became involved with youth outreach programs. She feels God has given her a passion and boldness to develop relationships with the youth of our wayward culture. Throughout her years of working with youth and horses, she has observed that horses will give the teens honest reactions to how they are being treated. This gives a teen the chance to be on the receiving end of his/her own behavior and realize how it affects others. She is a great mentor and role model and is a secondary therapist for the Girls Next Step Program.
Vikki and her husband have two kids, and she enjoys working, training, riding, and learning from horses.
Equine Program Manager
Dawn, originally from Newfane, NY, moved to Northeast Georgia as a young child and calls Georgia her home. She was fortunate to be introduced to horsemanship at the age of 15, and it has been a part of her life ever since. She ventured out into other industries but found herself constantly being drawn back into working with horses. Dawn will say she finally took all the hints God was showing her and knew working with horses was His calling for her life.
Dawn’s 30+ years of professional horsemanship is a blend of all the wonderful teachers (horses and humans) that she has had over the years along with the natural abilities and gifts God has instilled in her. Relationship-based horsemanship is, as the name implies, about the relationship between the horses and the people. Dawn’s diverse expertise is in various areas from training young horses to teaching people safe enjoyable horse-handling skills. These things led her to expand her knowledge into the therapeutic side of how horses can help us overcome many of our own personal issues.
Dawn thoroughly enjoys helping both horses and people overcome challenges together as friends rather than in a servant and master relationship. Understanding the interaction between equine and humans, Dawn also serves as a professional equine riding instructor and therapy horse trainer. She doesn’t just “whisper,” she listens.
Angela received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Piedmont College in Demorest, GA. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Professional Counseling at Liberty University and is excited to move to the next step in her educational journey through practicum and internship.
She has many years of experience in youth and children’s ministries. Beyond the years of volunteering, she assisted her husband as a Youth Pastor for seven years and served as a Director of Children’s Ministries for three years. Angela has a love and passion for ministering to, encouraging, and serving others and is excited to have the opportunity to work with teenage girls again at Shepherd’s Hill Academy. She hopes to learn all that she is able to fulfill God’s calling and become an effective counselor while having a restorative and encouraging impact on those she works with.
Angela is married to her high school sweetheart, Joseph. They have two children. She enjoys being involved in church and ministry, hiking… especially to waterfalls, exercising/working out, spending quality time with family and friends, going to beaches, and watching the GA Bulldogs play.