Park City therapist was destined to help kids
May 8, 2015
Peg Tan has always known why she’s here, not just in Park City but on the planet. At the Catholic church she attended as a kid near Columbus, Ohio, Father Kelley knew why too. At a church picnic, where a then 9-year old Tan was organizing games for the other children, he shared his insight with her. "He came by and said ‘Gloria’ — he always got my name wrong — ‘you have a gift with children, use it.’ So that’s what I’ve tried to do," says Tan.
Tan, who moved to town in 2003 with her husband, Paul, and their two children, Cole and Sam, is a child and adolescent counselor in private practice here. Among her clientele are preschoolers with a variety of attachment or behavioral issues, elementary age children in need of coping skills and adolescents seeking guidance through tumultuous times. The work suits her. "I love my job and feel truly blessed to be a healer in this community," she says.
Born Margaret Manger near Wapakoneta, Ohio, Tan was the middle child among seven siblings. "I think that helped me as a kid," she says. "I had the older brothers and sisters to lead the way and the younger ones to mentor." Growing up in West Jefferson, near Columbus, the Catholic Church was central to the family. "My church was a big part of my upbringing and it still is," she says.
She attended Ohio State University, where she took a bachelor’s degree in education in 1986. While there she met and became friends with Paul Tan. She was in a relationship with someone else at the time. "When that ended, there was no doubt who I wanted to be with. I’d had a crush on Paul since the day I met him and I still do." she shares. They began a relationship shortly after graduation and married in 1991.
Settling in Columbus and then moving to Cleveland, Tan was an elementary and middle school teacher from 1986 through ’97. When their first child arrived in 1995, she took on a new job as a stay-at-home mom.
"When my husband came home from work one day wanting to move out west, I remember telling him, "I can do my job anywhere, let’s do it.’ The kids were 6 and 8 at the time and easy to move," she recalls. The fledgling family had enjoyed several ski vacations in Park City, and decided this was the place.
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The Tans settled in the Pinebrook area in 2003 and Paul commuted to his new job in the Salt Lake Valley. When he took a job with Wells Fargo Bank in Park City, they bought a home in Prospector. With her young children settled in Park City schools, Tan went back to school herself, earning a master’s degree in counseling in 2006. For the next five years she was a counselor at Valley Mental Health in Park City.
Tan opened her private practice, Peg Tan PLLC, http://www.pegtanpllc.com , in 2011. As a licensed therapist, she serves area children and adolescents with a range of emotional and behavioral problems. She says anxiety among kids is epidemic, not just in Park City but throughout the country.
She points to the Internet and social media as a huge part of the problem. "It’s really difficult now to insulate children from the world and all its problems. We’re raising kids with too much information and they don’t know how to process it," she explains. "There’s a tsunami, an earthquake or a school shooting somewhere in the world and two seconds later all the kids in town know about it. So young kids are taking on these huge fears about tragic events that, a generation ago, they wouldn’t even have known about. Helping kids cope with that is a big job for all of us.
"A couple of coping strategies really work," she continues. "For instance, if kids feels helpless to do something about an earthquake half-a-world-away, you can help them create a bake sale or collect money on their street. So kids are taking action and they don’t feel so helpless. It’s also important to help them understand there are some things they can control and some things they can’t. I try to help them understand they’re safe here in Park City and adults are here to take care of them."
Park City parents are very proactive about mental health and consistently put their children’s’ needs ahead of their own, says Tan. "The children and families I serve here continue to inspire me."
Tan reflects on her calling. "I look at my job with reverence and as an honor. I am profoundly grateful for the gift I have and my mission to fulfill it. You could give me a million dollars or let me see a kid stop suffering and I would take the latter every time."
The Tan children are grown now and Sam, the youngest, will soon leave for college. "That will make Paul and I empty-nesters. Yikes," she exclaims. Fortunately, she’ll stay plenty busy volunteering her time and talent in the community. She and her husband are integral to the annual Park City Follies fundraiser at the Egyptian Theatre. "Paul directs the show and I do whatever is needed. This year was "kinda weird" because all I had to do was be in the cast," she says.
She is also deeply committed to service at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. "If it has to do with singing or dancing, it’s me," says Tan. "I lead the Christmas pageant, first communion and vacation Bible school."
It seems Father Kelley’s astute assessment of a little 9-year-old girl still holds true decades later. Peg Tan definitely has a gift with children. Lucky for us she’s sharing it right here in Park City.
Favorite activities: running, skiing, outdoor concerts
Favorite foods: anything gluten-free
Favorite music/performers: Nora Jones, Andy Grammer
Favorite authors/reading: James Patterson, "Twilight" series
Animal companions: Cezar, a 9-year-old Jack Russell. "He’s very mellow and just wants to be held all the time."
Bucket list: run a marathon (which she will do next fall with her son, Cole); play a zombie as an extra in "a really bad movie."
Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer and actor. Send your profile comments and suggestions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org