Someone You Should Know: Making a difference through counseling for 40 years

Published: Jun. 21, 2023 at 4:46 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Lou Ann Tietjen is celebrating a huge milestone for her First Step Counseling Services program in Sioux Falls.

Lou Ann Tietjen is the director of First Step Counseling and is passionate about helping people.

“She’s very passionate about helping people,” said Marlene Meyer, office manager for First Step. “Through her lifetime, she has experienced loss of family members and such through alcoholism, and I think that is why they started First Step — so that they could help people.”

Lou Ann has a personal story that moved her to create First Step with her husband.

“I had a drinking problem, and in 1977, a long time ago, I went to treatment and with the help of a self-help group and sponsor, I was able to maintain sobriety,” Tietjen said.

Founded in 1983, her company focuses on drug and alcohol recovery in Sioux Falls.

“We started our own outpatient center,” Tietjen said. “We started on a wing and a prayer. There was no state funding for us. We’ve never had it. In fact, we are totally dependent on client pay.”

Celebrating 40 years, with a goal to create a homey environment, First Step is an open and judgment-free place for those struggling with addiction.

“Something about the smaller environment, where it’s more intimate — we’re more focused on the clients themselves, the individual treatments. Everything here is family oriented,” said Tina Boheman, clinical supervisor for First Step.

“We’re kind of like a family here, and we treat our clients that way, too,” said Tietjen.

Running a small business, she and her counselors really focus on those who need help and guidance in times of hardship.

“It’s definitely heartwarming,” said Boheman. “We definitely don’t take credit as counselors because it’s up to them — they do all the work, and we offer the tools. When you see someone going from rock bottom to success, living the life that they want to — it is very inspiring.”

Hoping to celebrate another 40 years of taking care of those who enter their program, Lou Ann is proud of First Step.

“There’s a lot of happiness in knowing that you’ve had a small part in their recovery,” Tietjen said.