Happy Camper Counseling
An interview with Happy Camper Counseling
Counselors Hannah Milford and Amy Pezzotti were kind enough to answer a few questions for Session Notes about their unique office space. They run their practice, Happy Camper Counseling out of a fully restored 1966 Airstream located in Austin, Texas.
Session Notes: Tell me a little about yourselves and how you became interested in counseling.
HANNAH: I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor and Registered Play Therapist. I decided to become a counselor during my college internship at a women and children’s shelter. It was such meaningful work being there for someone during a time of need. Becoming a counselor felt natural.
AMY: I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist; I primarily work with children and their caregivers. I enjoy connecting with clients and their families and I believe that underlying all techniques is the personal relationship built with each individual. I enjoy using a holistic approach, which combines my personal and professional interests drawn from training as a therapist, play therapist and yoga teacher.
Session Notes: This is one of the neatest counseling offices I’ve ever seen! It’s so creative! How did you get the idea?
HANNAH: Thank you so much! I wanted to create a different kind of environment and experience for those wanting help with life’s challenges, a fun and safe environment to promote wellness and healing. Happy Camper seeks to de-stigmatize mental health and instead approach self-growth with a playful curiosity.
The Airstream office is the collusion of two worlds. I have always had a fondness of vintage nostalgia. Plus my family loves RV traveling, so I jumped on the opportunity to buy a vintage 1966 Airstream trailer. I thought it would be a fun and unique office.
Session Notes: Take us through the process. How did you acquire the Airstream? How long did the build-out take?
HANNAH: I bought the Airstream from a local RV enthusiast that had already put in a lot of hard work into the trailer. It had new plumbing and electricity but looked like a dark cave. Not exactly the look I was going for. Nothing a coat of paint couldn’t handle.
I did the majority of the refurbishing work myself. It was fun learning how to work with my hands and create my vision. I had a full-time job and was working on the trailer on weekends. My friends and family were so supportive and helped me when they could. It took 2 years to get Happy Camper Counseling started. We opened our doors in 2013.
Session Notes: What’s one thing you wish you knew before starting Happy Camper Counseling?
HANNAH: I wish that I had known more about the nuts and bolts of opening and running a business. I spent years in grad school developing therapeutic skills but it never occurred to me to take a business class. I had to invest a lot of time researching small business taxes, accounting, city codes and permits. It took more than expected to get things off the ground. It was definitely a learning curve!
Session Notes: Many counselors assume their offices need to have subtle, soothing, or neutral color palettes. How has having such bright and bold décor influenced your practice?
HANNAH: Our town motto is “Keep Austin weird.” Happy Camper Counseling is doing its part! Austin is definitely a fun and funky town. Many of the residents are musicians and artists and love the idea of an unconventional therapy office. Many feel awkward in stuffy waiting rooms and enjoy a fresh perspective. Happy Camper Counseling was designed to be different from the rest.
AMY: My clients have responded positively to the Airstream office, with one client even jumping up and down in excitement! I have had the privilege of working with children and adults in the Airstream office and they have all had positive things to say. The space is unique, warm and welcoming, which offers a fun divergence from a more traditional setting.
Session Notes: Can only one session take place at a time?
HANNAH: So far, we are just small potatoes. Only one therapist can occupy the office at a time. Happy Camper Counselors share a calendar and coordinate our schedules.
Session Notes: What does the future hold for Happy Camper Counseling?
HANNAH: We are excited to be expanding! Last year I bought a beat up 1955 Spartan trailer. It is a much bigger trailer that will add two additional therapy rooms. It requires a lot more work than the Airstream did. The Spartan needs to be gutted and built from the ground up. It will take time, but will be a custom designed sandtray and play therapy office. We are hoping to open the new trailer for our five-year anniversary in 2018.