The Child & Family Institute
Penelope Yates is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in trauma-focused therapy with children, adolescents and emerging adults. She serves as the Clinical Director of Trauma Treatment for the Child and Family Institute.
Penelope has worked as a social worker and psychotherapist in a variety of settings, including schools, community clinics, hospitals and psychiatric departments. She is a certified practitioner of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy, considered to be the gold standard of treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in young people. Her academic writing on international models of substance abuse treatment has been published in the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions. She has also trained and practiced as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and related disorders.
Penelope received her B.A. in Theatre and Vocal Performance from the University of Southern California, and her M.S. in Social Work from New York University, where founded-- and served as editor-in-chief of—the Silver School of Social Work’s student-led research journal.
In addition to her work as a therapist, Penelope sits on the Community Advisory Boards for Lifting Up Westchester (which provides a variety of services for identified homeless individuals and families in Westchester County) and Good Wolf (a nonprofit which uses principles of neuroscience to support personal growth, organizational action and policy development). A classically trained vocalist, Penelope has performed as a soloist and choral member in venues throughout the United States and Europe. When not at work, she enjoys trying new recipes, long distance running, and going on walking adventures with her family.
Emma Romey, MA, LMSW is the Director of Operations at CFI. In the past, she has served as CFI's Director of Group Therapy and Associate Director of the LGBTQ+ Program at the CFI-Westchester and Brooklyn locations.
Emma received her M.A. in Teaching from the Relay Graduate School of Education in Manhattan, while simultaneously full-time teaching grades 5 and 6. She then earned her M.S. in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University where she also participated in the intensive Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) training fellowship. Shortly after, she pursued additional clinical training in psychoanalytic theory at the William Alanson White Institute’s Intensive Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Program. After several years of clinical work, as well as serving in an operational role for a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene public health initiative, Emma decided to shift her professional focus. She now works as a Senior Account Manager at Unite Us, a health technology company that builds coordinated care networks of health and social service providers. In this role, she closely manages relationships with large health systems, health plans and community-based nonprofit organizations throughout the country. She is thrilled to maintain her involvement at CFI and all of the incredible work rolling out through the WCF.
Dr. Michele Barton is the Director of CFI-Greenwich, and Clinical Director of the Biofeedback and Virtual Reality Therapy programs at CFI. Dr. Barton is also a primary externship program supervisor, a senior clinician in our Center for Chronic Medical Conditions, and a member of the “Brave Voices” Selective Mutism training team at CFI. Dr. Barton has a warm yet directive approach and has extensive experience using a variety of evidence-based treatments across diverse populations and clinical settings. Dr. Barton is highly specialized in CBT combined with the use of Biofeedback and Virtual Reality Therapies. Dr. Barton focuses on providing functional lifelong tools to children, teens, adults, and families, while working closely with all sources of support to ensure productive, sustainable treatment outcomes.
Dr. Barton graduated with honors from Purchase College with a B.A. in Psychology and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Biological Science. Dr. Barton began her graduate career at Columbia University-Teachers College Masters in Psychology Program, followed by a Clinical Heath Psychology PhD Program at Yeshiva University, where she earned degrees in Clinical Psychology and Clinical Health Psychology. Dr. Barton conducted her doctoral research at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University’s Department of Medical Genetics, where she completed her Doctoral Dissertation studying the genetic contributions associated with children at risk for psychological disorders based on parental diagnosis.
Dr. Barton’s clinical training sites have included Yeshiva University’s Parnes Clinic and Eating Disorder and Weight Loss Center, Lincoln Hospital’s Child/Adolescent Outpatient and Adult Inpatient and Outpatient Units, the Hudson Valley VA System working with Veterans, and the Northside Center for Child Development working with foster children, adoptees, and troubled youth. Dr. Barton completed her post-doctoral fellowship at a private CBT practice on the Upper East Side working with children, teens, adults, couples and families, and was later promoted to Director of Clinical Health, Intern Training Supervisor, and Head of Clinical Outreach. During her post-doctoral fellowship, Dr. Barton specialized in applications of CBT coupled with intensive training in the utilization of non-invasive medical procedures including Biofeedback, Virtual Reality, Entrainment, and Neurofeedback prescribed to successfully replace or supplement medication in a number of psychological disorders including ADHD, Anxiety, OCD, Depression, Addiction, and Specific Phobias (fear of flying, public speaking, heights, animals, performance and social anxiety), among others. Dr. Barton was trained by leaders in the field, using cutting edge state-of-the-art equipment to establish ground-breaking treatment protocols and applications using psychophysiological technology.
Currently, in addition to her many roles here at CFI, Dr. Barton is the Director of Psychology Life Well, a small collaborative private practice, where she works with physicians and other health care professionals to treat clients of all ages suffering from the psychological sequelae of chronic medical conditions.
Barton, M (2012) An Exploration of Child Behavior Checklist Scores in a Population at High Risk. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. Yeshiva University NY, NY.
Regular contributor to online publications regarding mainstream psychological health
Dr. Emily Becker-Weidman is the Director of The Adoption and Attachment Treatment Center in Westchester County and Bergen County. Dr. Becker-Weidman received her B.A. in
Psychology and Health and Societies from the University of Pennsylvania, and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University, Fienberg School of Medicine. She completed her pre-doctoral internship at the NYU Child Study Center/Bellevue Hospital and a 2-year post-doctoral clinical research fellowship in Anxiety and Mood Disorders and Autism at the NYU Child Study Center.
Dr. Becker-Weidman is a child and adolescent psychologist with expertise in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for children, adolescents, and young adults and attachment-focused family therapy. She has certifications in CBT from the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, certified in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT), intensively trained in DBT, and is certified by the Attachment Treatment-Focused Institute as an Attachment-Focused Family Therapist and is certified in the practice of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. She is on the faculty at New York University, where she teaches an undergraduate course on Attachment and Loss. She is also clinical director of the New York City Division of the Center for Family Development.
Dr. Becker-Weidman is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), the American Psychological Association (APA), the New York City Adoption/Foster Care Therapist Network, the New York City Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Association (NYC-CBT), and the New Jersey Psychological Association. She has presented research at several national conferences, co-authored three book chapters on child and adolescent psychopathology, and published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals.
Dr. Sabrina Gratia is a double board certified Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist. Dr. Gratia completed a combined 7 year Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine. She went on to complete her adult psychiatry residency at Albany Medical Center and her child and adolescent fellowship at Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Gratia believes in the importance of therapy in treating psychiatric issues and has received additional training in psychodynamic psychotherapy through Columbia’s University Center for Psychoanalytic Training.
Dr. Gratia is able to treat a wide range of psychological and emotional issues; including Anxiety, Depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Trauma and others. Dr. Gratia believes in taking the time to fully understand each child's unique situation because one’s state of mind is inseparable from the family, social and educational systems that surround them. Only after a comprehensive evaluation has been completed can a thoughtful, well-informed treatment plan be made. When working with children, Dr. Gratia prefers to use holistic approaches, such as individual psychotherapy and lifestyle changes to help treat her patients. If medications are recommended, Dr. Gratia will have a thorough discussion of risks, benefits, and alternatives so that families can make the best educated decision for their child's mental health.
Dr. Preeti Saigal is the Clinical Director of the Pediatric Assessment Center at CFI Manhattan and Brooklyn. She is a licensed clinical psychologist, with specialized training in areas of health psychology, rehabilitation psychology, and neuropsychology with both children and adults. Dr. Saigal earned her B.A. in psychology from the University of Michigan, immediately followed by her Ph.D. at the George Washington University. She completed her pre-doctoral residency at the Manhattan Campus of the Department of Veterans Affairs - New York Harbor Healthcare System, followed by a 2-year post-doctoral fellowship in pediatric psychology and neuropsychology at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Prior to joining CFI, Dr. Saigal worked at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC) for almost 13 years. Following completion of her fellowship, Dr. Saigal remained at the Rusk Institute, a physical rehabilitation hospital setting, where she provided psychotherapeutic services and neuropsychological evaluations to pediatric and young adult patients with a range of complex medical and neuro-developmental conditions with associated developmental, learning, and psychiatric disorders. Dr. Saigal subsequently joined the Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at NYULMC where she served as a program manager responsible for overseeing psychosocial programs and services for patients with pediatric cancers, blood disorders, brain tumors, and neurofibromatosis. While there, she continued to provide clinical services including individual and group therapy, consultations, and neuropsychological evaluations. In addition to her hospital experience, Dr. Saigal has worked in private practice settings providing comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations to pediatric patients with a wide range of developmental, learning and social-emotional concerns. As part of her evaluations, Dr. Saigal is well versed in educational liaison and advocacy needs, often working with families to navigate important transitions such as from pre-school to elementary school, or who may be seeking alternative or specialized school placement or services. Dr. Saigal has experience working actively and collaboratively with school personnel, educational attorneys, advocates, and clinical providers to ensure her patients receive the necessary supports and services in early childhood and throughout their education.
Therapeutically, Dr. Saigal has lengthy experience working with children and their families facing complex developmental, medical, and other social-emotional challenges. She has a bio-psychosocial approach to treatment that incorporates understanding of a child’s developmental presentation, family structure, and cultural background in order to guide therapeutic and evidence-based interventions best suited to their needs and abilities.
Dr. Kristi B. Hoffmann is the Clinical Director of the Pediatric Assessment Center at CFI. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist. Dr. Hoffmann earned a B.S in psychology from Louisiana State University and an M.A. in forensic psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She went on to earn a second M.A. and a Psy.D. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in neuropsychology from the Institute of Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University. She completed her pre-doctoral internship through a two-year APA approved captive internship program. Her first internship year was spent in two private practices in Bryn Mawr, PA, one specializing in pediatrics and the other in adult forensic cases, and her second internship year was spent in the epilepsy department of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Hoffmann completed her postdoctoral fellowship training in neuropsychology at The Brain Clinic under Dr. James L. Thomas in New York City.
Dr. Hoffmann specializes in the assessment of learning disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and dementia among other neurologic disorders. She also specializes in evaluations for high stakes testing. Dr. Hoffmann prides herself on making the testing experience a therapeutic experience for the individuals she works with. Additionally, Dr. Hoffmann is the Director of Southern Westchester Neuropsychological Services, a small private practice in lower Westchester, providing neuropsychological evaluations for children, adolescents and adults. She is also currently a member of the American Psychological Association – Division 40 Clinical Neuropsychology, the National Academy of Neuropsychology, the New York State Psychological Association, the New York Neuropsychology Group and the Westchester County Psychological Association.
Sara Schreiber, LMSW, is the Associate Director of Group Therapy and Psychotherapist practicing out of the CFI-Scarsdale, Mt. Kisco, and Greenwich locations.
With a B.A. in Developmental Psychology from Yeshiva University and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Fordham Graduate School of Social Service, Sara has extensive clinical experience working with children, adolescents, adults, and families. While at Fordham, Sara specialized in treating child and adolescent trauma, and received training in Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) for the treatment of PTSD.
Before joining CFI, Sara worked for the Mental Health Service Corps (MHSC) as a Behavioral Health Clinician, where she initiated a mental health clinic within a pediatric primary care practice at a hospital in The Bronx. Through MHSC, Sara treated children and adolescents with depression, anxiety, PTSD, behavioral issues, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, and parenting concerns. In addition to working with patients, Sara had the opportunity to run mental health workshops and trainings for medical staff as well as within the Bronx community.
Sara is experienced in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Parent Management Training (PMT), Motivational Interviewing, Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Child Centered Play Therapy.
Sara practices using a trauma informed lens and believes that the therapeutic relationship is the most important part of her work, collaborating with her patients at every stage of treatment.
Alexa Wernick, LCSW, is the Director of Group Therapy at CFI-Brooklyn and is a psychotherapist practicing at Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Scarsdale CFI locations. Alexa received her masters in social work and a certificate in Child and Family Therapy from New York University. She has experience working with children, adolescents, adults, and families using evidence-based modalities with a strength-based lens. With an extensive understanding of child development, Alexa incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy, play therapy, family systems theory, and talk therapy into treatment with children. Alexa strongly values a team approach, collaborating with families, schools, pediatricians, and other collaterals engaged in a child’s life to get a clear picture of the whole child. She is passionate about incorporating creative arts and play into sessions, often using drawing, imaginary play, and floor time to help children become aware of their body and mind connection. Alexa’s experience ranges from working with children experiencing anxiety, depression, trauma, ADHD, behavioral challenges, social skills, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Prior to joining the Child and Family Institute, Alexa worked at Mott Haven Academy Charter School as a social worker providing individual and small group counseling to children with a wide range of social-emotional needs, focusing on those with a history of trauma and presenting with intellectual disabilities. Alexa partnered with children to process their emotions while working to improve emotional regulation, increase social skills, build emotional intelligence, and learn effective coping skills. Alexa worked closely with families to provide psycho-education and support families in understanding and advocating for their child’s needs at school.
Additionally, Alexa currently works part-time providing early intervention to children ages 0 to 3 experiencing developmental delays and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder. Alexa uses practices consistent with Applied Behavior Analysis, analyzing and collecting data to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs used and collaborating with parent/caregivers on behavior modification techniques.
Dr. Grashow-Rywell has over 25 years experience working with children, adolescents and families. She acquired important background as an elementary classroom teacher for NYC public schools, before earning her masters and doctorate degrees in school-child psychology from Yeshiva University, as well as additional training and experience working with adults. Dr. Grashow-Rywell earned her Bachelor of Science from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University, in Television & Film Production. Most recently, Dr Grashow-Rywell has spent the past 18 years treating children and families in private practice in South Florida. This also included her role as a community and school educator through OHEL Children & Family Services. Prior to this, she practiced as a psychologist for the Ministry of Health in the Republic of Singapore where she also worked with children, adolescents and families from multiple ethnic and national backgrounds.
Dr. Grashow-Rywell treats anxiety, depression, learning issues, attention and executive functioning deficits, along with issues commonly faced by younger and older adolescents- including eating disorders and substance abuse, which are appropriate to outpatient level care. She also places an emphasis on working with parents, teachers, families and any extended/blended family members who are an important part of a child’s life. Dr. Rywell employs various modalities including family therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Collaborative Problem Solving, Behavior Modification strategies, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
“My professional mandate is to help children and families heal from the pain and trauma of broken relationships, including divorce- via insight into the intergenerational transmission of trauma and dysfunction, challenging automatic thinking and responding, diminishing cognitive bias, reactivity and counterproductive responses. To facilitate mutual understanding and respect among family members, teach effective communication skills, create an atmosphere of acceptance and safety, and give parent guidance around communication, developmental expectations, compassionate support and limit setting. To help children and adolescents more effectively navigate and problem solve social, emotional and practical challenges. To facilitate improved self image and self esteem, and to grow to the into the fullest expression of their natural aptitudes and beauty.”
Grashow, L (1996) Maternal Coping in Families of Children with Familial Developmental Disability. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. Yeshiva University NY, NY.
Dr. Cabral is a bilingual licensed clinical psychologist with over a decade of experience providing assessment and psychotherapy to individuals of all ages. Dr. Cabral believes in the power of resilience and human connection when overcoming life challenges. She utilizes an integrative approach to therapy, primarily based on an interpersonal and a systemic framework. Her approach places emphasis in understanding and intervening at multiple levels of the client’s experience: relational patterns, belief system, gender, socio-economic, and ethno-cultural variables.
Dr. Cabral is passionate about working with women navigating the different roles they may play across their lifespan - as students/professionals, parents, and in intimate/family relationships. Dr. aspire to provide a space for women to explore their ideas, vulnerabilities, and strengths as they strive to find balance and fulfillment in their lives.
Dr. Cabral completed her pre-doctoral internship at The Child and Family Institute (CFI) of St. Luke’s Roosevelt-Hospital Center (Now Mt. Sinai-St. Luke’s Hospital). She received her doctorate in clinical The Graduate Center of The City University of New York and received her B.A. and B.F.A. from Cornell University. She has worked in various clinical settings, outpatient hospital clinics, schools, and community agencies providing therapy services to a wide variety of populations.
Dr. Cabral was born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dom. Rep. and moved to the United States in her late teenage years to attend The Armand Hammer United World College (AHUWC), an international boarding school invested in teaching students the value of tolerance, international understanding and peace. Her immigration history has given me a unique vantage point in working with individuals and families of multicultural backgrounds. In her spare time, Dr Cabral enjoys painting, photography, etching as well as teaching art to children. She has exhibited in New York, Rhode Island, and Santo Domingo. Dr. Cabral is fully bilingual in Spanish and English and a conversational proficiency level in French.
Melissa Braunstein, PsyD, is a Clinical Psychologist at CFI-Scarsdale and Brooklyn. Dr. Braunstein has extensive experience providing individual and group therapy for children and adolescents across a variety of settings, including outpatient, hospital, and day treatment settings. She uses a combination of cognitive behavioral and play therapy in her clinical work with children. Her approach emphasizes the relationship she builds with children as she helps them identify their needs and find better ways to express them. Dr. Braunstein currently works as a School Psychologist in a center-based special needs preschool.
Dr. Braunstein received her Bachelor of Arts from Pace University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. Her interest in psychology and passion for working with children led her to attend Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology’s School-Clinical Child Psychology Program at Yeshiva University. Her clinical training includes a postdoctoral fellowship with the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services at Pride of Judea, a community-based mental health clinic. During her time there, Dr. Braunstein treated children, adolescents, and adults with a wide range of disorders and presenting problems and led groups applying dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for adults facing emotional difficulties and social skills training for boys with behavioral problems. She also received training in trauma focused-cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) for the treatment of PTSD and trauma-related symptoms in children and adolescents. Dr. Braunstein completed a clinical externship at Queens Hospital Center, where she provided individual and group psychotherapy to children presenting with anxiety, mood disorders, learning issues, selective mutism, and behavioral disorders. Additionally, she conducted comprehensive psychoeducational evaluations for school-aged children.
Dr. Braunstein’s other training experiences include school settings at elementary schools on Long Island where she performed individual and group counseling for students and conducted Committee on Special Education (CSE) evaluations. She completed her internship at Joan Fenichel Therapeutic Nursery at the League Treatment Center where worked with preschool-age children with a range of psychiatric and developmental disabilities.
Dominique Pagano, LMSW, is the Associate Director of CFI-Long Island and a psychotherapist practicing out of the CFI-Long Island and Manhattan locations. She provides therapy for individuals, families, and groups utilizing a variety of therapeutic approaches including but not limited to Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Parent Management Training (PMT), Behavioral Activation (BA), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and Child Centered Play Therapy.
Dominique received her B.A. in Communication Disorders specializing in child development from SUNY New Paltz, and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Fordham Graduate School of Social Service. During her time at Fordham University, Dominique specialized in treating child and adolescent trauma, working primarily with youth with extensive histories of trauma, and received training in Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) for the treatment of PTSD.
Dominique has extensive experience working with children, adolescents and their families prior to joining CFI. Dominique worked for the Mental Health Service Corps (MHSC) at Bellevue Hospital’s Child and Adolescent Outpatient Psychiatry as a Behavioral Health Clinician, where she primarily treated children and adolescents with depression, anxiety, PTSD, behavioral issues, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, and parenting concerns. In addition to providing individual psychotherapy at Bellevue, she helped develop a strong alliance between the clinic and the hospital school (PS 35 M), facilitating group therapy programming and crisis intervention for high risk youth prior to their return to community school settings. Dominique is experienced in working collaboratively with children, their families, and school staff in advocating for and obtaining the most appropriate services and school placements to allow for the most successful outcomes.
As a therapist, Dominique strongly emphasizes the therapeutic alliance, utilizing an integrative, dynamic, and holistic approach to mental health with individuals and families. She approaches her work with a strengths-based and trauma-informed lens to best support her clients’ emotional, physical and relational health.
Dr. Cunningham is an expert in clinical health psychology and psycho-oncology. Dr. Cunningham completed her doctorate in Clinical & School Psychology at the University of Virginia. Her training and clinical experiences are extensive and include prestigious hospitals such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Children’s Hospital Boston, and Children’s Hospital at Montefiore with faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Her clinical work focuses on the adjustment to chronic or life-threatening illnesses, adherence to medical treatment, cognitive-behavioral interventions to address chronic pain, and anticipatory grief and bereavement. She also conducts neuropsychological evaluations with clients who are at risk for learning deficits secondary to the neurotoxicity from cancer-directed treatment or chronic illness, and consults with schools regarding specific classroom interventions and accommodations needed secondary to the neurocognitive sequelae from disease or disease-related treatment.
Rachel Liebman, M.A., LMHC, is a part-time psychotherapist at CFI-Scarsdale. Rachel graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University with a double major in Psychology and International Relations, receiving high thesis honors for her research on college adjustment, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Rachel went on to earn her M.A. in Mental Health Counseling at Boston College in 2003, and completed her training toward licensure while working with adults, adolescents, and children at HELP USA's domestic violence shelter in New York City.
Rachel's clinical experience includes extensive work with adults, adolescents, and children who have extensive histories of trauma, mood disorders, and behavioral disorders. She worked at My Sisters' Place in Westchester County for several years, providing cognitive-behavioral therapy and evidence-based play therapies, as well as running parent support groups. Prior to joining The Child Family Institute, Rachel worked for New York Therapy Placement Services, providing mental health counseling to children and adolescents in the New York City public schools. During this time, she worked with students with emotional and behavioral disorders using cognitive-behavioral therapy in both individual and group settings. Through this work, she also discovered an interest in mindfulness and teaching mindfulness as a self-regulation tool. Throughout her career, Rachel has enjoyed working with clients of all ages, using evidence-based therapies to her clients feel empowered and resilient.
Floralba Lopez, LMSW is a Bilingual (Spanish) Licensed Social Worker with 5+ years of experience working with children, adolescents, and their families. I received my B.A in Social Work with a minor in Psychology from Lehman College and an Advance Standing Master’s Degree in Social Work from Hunter College. I have been providing therapeutic services to children and adolescents ages four to eighteen.
I am trained in evidence-based interventions related to children, adolescents, and families: Problem Solving Treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Triple P, Parent Management Training, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (FT-CBT), Forensic Interview Best Practice (FIBP), Suicidal Prevention, Early Intervention 0-3, and Early Intervention DC 0-5. I have treated children and adolescents with anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, adjustment disorders, depression, and a variety of other social, emotional, and behavioral challenges.
Additionally, I am currently working full-time at The J.E. and Z.B. Butler Center for Children and Families at Montefiore Children Hospital. At the Butler Center, I have been providing psychotherapy in the past six months to a variety of people using evidence-based, trauma-focused and providing crisis intervention to assess high-risk situations. Also, I have been conducting forensic interviews for children and adolescents who are victims of physical or sexual abuse, have been exposed to violence, or may have experienced trauma related to abuse and neglect.
Before joining CFI, I have worked as a Bilingual Behavioral Health Clinician in two pediatric primary care settings as a member of the Mental Health Service Corps (MHSC). I introduced a collaborative care system at both sites and implemented therapeutic services to individuals of a different race, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status. Through MHSC, I treated children and adolescents with depression, anxiety, behavioral issues, PTSD, ADHD, ODD, and parenting concerns.
What interests me most about working with children and adolescents is how their self-esteem and growth are impacted by their experience in school, social activities, and relationships. As a therapist, I value being able to help a young person make sense of their experience and develop tools to cope with the challenges they face. My mission is to provide all my patients with a holding and safe space where they can share more about their stressors and challenges.
Christina Athineos, Ph.D., is returning to CFI as a Clinical Psychology Post-Doctoral Fellow. Dr. Athineos specializes in providing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and has experience delivering Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), CBT for Selective Mutism (as part of the Brave Voices team), Exposure Response Prevention, Mindfulness, Motivational Interviewing, and Acceptance-Based Behavioral Therapy. Dr. Athineos has experience implementing these evidence-based treatments across populations for anxiety and mood-based disorders, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, trauma, OCD, psychosis, and personality disorders.
Dr. Athineos graduated summa cum laude from the honors program at The College of New Jersey with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Communication Disorders. Dr. Athineos then earned her M.S and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Suffolk University. While studying at Suffolk University, Dr. Athineos trained in the Community Action-Based Research Lab. Here she designed social justice-based research studies, including her master’s thesis on non-profit organizations’ use of social media and her dissertation on the individual and systemic effects of cyber harassment.
Prior to graduating, Dr. Athineos completed a year-long American Psychological Association accredited pre-doctoral internship at ANDRUS, a family-centered non-profit organization specializing in trauma-informed community-based mental health. While at ANDRUS, Dr. Athineos provided individual, family, and group therapy/ teletherapy as well as neuro-psychological assessment. Dr. Athineos previously trained at CFI for over a year as an advanced pre-doctoral fellow in 2019. Dr. Athineos has completed additional clinical and research practicum trainings at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, and the May Institute. Dr. Athineos also has prior experience delivering evidence-based mental health treatment at McLean Hospital’s Child & Adolescent OCD Inpatient Unit and with Hybridge Learning Group for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Caroline Nicassio is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 15 years’ experience working with children, adolescents, young adults and families. She currently works with CFI families at the Greenwich and Scarsdale locations. She obtained her BA in Psychology from Dartmouth College and an MSW degree from Columbia University. She has significant post-graduate training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing. Prior to the Child and Family Institute, she worked as a psychotherapist in an outpatient hospital setting with adolescents and adults, and spent over a decade as a school counselor in a private school setting, where she worked with children and adolescents ages 6-18.. She specializes in the treatment of anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, ADHD and social/relational difficulties. She enjoys working with families as a unit and focuses on including parenting skills/support in all of her work with young people. She is also fluent in French and able to work with French-speaking families.
Jason Lewinter, LMSW, is a psychotherapist practicing out of the CFI-Scarsdale, Manhattan and Brooklyn locations.
Jason earned his B.A. in Psychology from Queens College and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. He has experience in working with children, adolescents and families using evidence-based interventions, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
Jason has worked in a number of schools, homes, clinics and agencies providing evidence-based treatment to children and adolescents. He has treated children and adolescents with anxiety, ADHD, selective mutism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, depression and a variety of other social, emotional and behavioral challenges. In his work, Jason frequently collaborates with families, schools and outside providers to ensure treatment remains consistent across settings.
Jason offers a space that is both supportive and safe. He believes in the therapeutic relationship and working collaboratively with patients, caretakers and providers throughout the course of treatment. In his free time, Jason enjoys playing sports and listening to music.
Piper Kurtz, LCSW is a psychotherapist practicing out of the CFI-Park Slope location. She has extensive clinical experience using evidenced-based practices, including cognitive behavioral therapy in her work with children, adolescents, adults, and families. Her range of experience includes treatment for anxiety, depression, trauma, ADHD, behavioral issues, relational issues, bereavement, and LGBTQ+ related issues.
She practices from an interpersonal psychodynamic perspective, prioritizing the therapeutic relationship and active collaboration with clients towards growth. Through a strengths-based and client-affirming lens, Piper values incorporating playfulness and creativity in sessions, and highlighting the connection between body and mind for overall wellness. She strives to build on practical tools and skills for her clients and their families, and prioritizes the involvement of caretakers and other collaterals in her work with children.
Piper graduated from Kalamazoo College in Michigan with her B.S. in Psychology and Sociology, completing her thesis on parent emotion coaching and child emotion language. She went on to earn her Master’s in Social Work from NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. She also completed additional training at the William Alanson White Institute’s Intention Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Program in Manhattan.
Piper’s previous experience focused on working with children and adolescents, providing school-based individual and group therapy for six years before transitioning to the assistant director position within the organization. In addition to her role with CFI, Piper also provides clinical supervision to early career therapists, teaching and reinforcing use of evidenced based practices in their treatment with their own clients.
Rebecca Marcus, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist at the CFI-Manhattan location. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in fine arts from the State University of New York at New Paltz and later earned a master's degree from New York University School of Social Work with a focus on clinical practice and trauma.
As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Rebecca also treated addictions and other co-occurring disorders as part of the Outpatient program at Hazelden Betty Ford foundation in Chelsea as well as working with children and families at Long Island Consultation Center in Queens. She has pursued post-graduate training at the Family Institute and the School of Psychotherapy in Israel. Rebecca has experience in providing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), family systems, play therapy, group therapy, mindfulness meditation as well as various expressive and alternative modalities including art, drama and sand tray therapy.
She practices multi-theoretically, grounded in evidenced based practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness as well as integrating attachment-based theory through a psychodynamic lens. Rebecca works to understand which modality is in the best interest of each client using a holistic approach, addressing the interconnectedness of one’s body and mind. She works collaboratively and believes that every individual has the intrinsic ability to heal and grow and that it is the role of the therapist to shine the light and help facilitate this process of change. Rebecca has a range of experience in helping families, adolescents, and children with anxiety, depression, relationships, and trauma, as well as grief and loss and communication skills.
Thailan Pham, LMSW, is a psychotherapist practicing out of the CFI-Park Slope location. She has clinical experience using a psychodynamic approach combined with strategies from evidence-based practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Behavioral Activation, Problem-Solving Treatment, and Play Therapy. Her range of experience includes treating adults, adolescents, and children suffering from depression, anxiety, psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, interpersonal issues, and grief.
Before joining CFI, Thailan worked for the Mental Health Service Corps (MHSC) as a Behavioral Health Clinician placed at a public hospital in Brooklyn. There, she served the diverse client population of an adult primary care clinic as a therapist within the evidence-based Collaborative Care model. Most recently, she worked as a clinician for the OnTrackNY first episode psychosis outpatient program, supporting young people and their families.
Thailan earned her master’s degree in Social Work at Fordham University. Prior to joining the mental health profession, she received her first master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Georgia and worked as a writer for lifestyle and women’s interest brands in New York City.
As a therapist, Thailan takes great care to develop a strong alliance with her clients. She practices with a multicultural, trauma-informed, and client-centered perspective, supporting individuals to achieve their goals and work toward more insightful, meaningful lives.
Kelly O’Brien, LCSW is a part-time psychotherapist practicing at the CFI-Park Slope location. She has extensive experience working with children, adolescents, adults, and families using evidence-based modalities. Kelly practices from an interpersonal psychodynamic perspective, incorporating narrative therapy, motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, and play therapy into sessions through a trauma-informed and strengths-based lens. She focuses on collaboration between the therapist and client to identify challenges and increase motivation towards change. Kelly has a wide range of experience treating anxiety, depression, ADHD, trauma, interpersonal issues, behavioral concerns, bereavement, and LGBTQ+ related issues.
Kelly graduated from Tufts University with a B.A. in Child Development, and then received a Masters in Social Work from New York University. Kelly began her career working in preventive services in Brooklyn before transitioning to a school-based mental health program. In this role, Kelly provided clinical services to students of all ages in several schools, while providing psycho-education and resources to school staff, families, and community members in an effort to combat stigma around mental healthcare. Kelly then worked as a Middle School Social Worker at a charter school through Harlem Children’s Zone. Currently, Kelly provides clinical supervision to early-career clinicians as a Supervising Social Worker for the Mental Health Service Corps. She also works with Rutgers School of Social Work, providing clinical and administrative support to MSW students in their field placements.
Christine has over 10 years of therapy experience, utilizing Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and other approaches. She received her degree from New York University and is also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has experience working with children, adolescents, and adults for a variety of issues. These include depression, anxiety, phobias, panic, anger, stress, insomnia, ADHD, autism, developmental delays, and work/home/school issues.
Christine approaches therapy with the belief she is a guide to help others utilize their own strengths to overcome stressors and problems. She believes it is very important for the people she works with to discover how they can be their own best therapist, and will teach them the skills they need to achieve this. Christine offers a collaborative, warm, compassionate, and safe environment. Some people have specific goals and are looking for a short-term pointed interventions, while others seek longer-term support to deal with some of life's inevitable ups and downs (change is hard!). Christine will tailor her approach to achieve either of these preferences.
Suzanne Schuster, LMSW is a psychotherapist at CFI-Scarsdale and CFI-Greenwich. Suzanne is a Licensed Therapist in NY and CT, whose work focuses on preventing and alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression integrating CBT, DBT, and traditional psychotherapy. The goal of her work with adolescents is on reducing emotional distress, improving problem-solving skills, building self-confidence and improving interpersonal relationships. She began her career at Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic (PWC), now known as New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center General Outpatient Services; in an interdisciplinary setting working with both individuals and families. Her work as a Clinical Therapist continued at Fifth Avenue center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, where she provided on-site therapy to adolescents and adults dealing with such issues as eating disorders, anxiety and depression; as well as providing crisis intervention. Suzanne continued her career as a Clinical Therapist at an alternative high school in NYC providing individual, family, and group counseling as well as teaching life skills and behavioral interventions. Currently, Suzanne works part-time as a Therapist at the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Community Counseling Center at Hammocks Middle School, a school-based counseling program. She facilitates an in-school advocacy program working with students to improve their self-esteem, interpersonal skills and development of empowerment; using CBT skills and peer support. She counsels young adults facing interpersonal and academic pressures through the utilization of cognitive behavioral therapy skills to reduce anxiety and increase problem-solving skills. Suzanne's services are provided with client-centered and family-centered approaches in order to enhance and foster the client's optimal functioning and interactions in the home and school, and community. She integrates psychological, social, developmental, education, and other relevant information into a case management plan for clients. Suzanne received her MSW from the Hunter College School of Social Work. She has a certificate in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy from the renowned American Institute for Psychoanalysis (AIP) in New York City, as well as a certificate in CBT from Cognitive And Behavioral Consultants.
Dr. Shimiaie is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist practicing in New York City. He also has prior training in Internal Medicine, bringing a unique perspective to his treatment of psychiatric disorders. His primary areas of expertise include assessment and treatment of anxiety and mood disorders, adult survivors of early life trauma, issues with identity and interpersonal problems and individuals with chronic medical conditions. He also offers treatment for insomnia, OCD, ADHD, PTSD, stress management, grief, psychosis and more.
Dr. Shimiaie’s approach is highly personalized. He considers the unique traits and circumstances of all patients he works with in designing a treatment plan. Treatment is primarily through psychotherapy, incorporating elements of psychodynamic psychotherapy, CBT and DBT. He also prescribes medications if he believes they will be helpful. His thoughtful, curious and empathetic approach offers individuals a deeper understanding of themselves and the challenges they face.
Dr. Shimiaie is an assistant clinical professors at The Mount Sinai Hospital. There he is an attending in the Partial Hospital Program treating patients with severe psychiatric illness using a team based approach. Dr. Shimiaie supervises and trains residents in psychiatry at The Mount Sinai Hospital and educates therapists in training at The Fifth Avenue Counseling Center.
Dr. Shimiaie completed his residency training in Psychiatry at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. During training he dedicated time to learning psychodynamic psychotherapy. Prior to his training in Psychiatry, he did residency training in Internal Medicine at the Mount Sinai Hospital. He graduated medical school at the Sackler School of Medicine where he researched and published in the field of Cardiology. Dr. Shimiaie received his undergraduate education at Emory University where he majored in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology; there he spent time researching the neurological basis of memory formation.
Sarah K. Hatcher, Ph.D., is a Post-Doctoral Fellow and the Associate Director of Pediatric Assessment for CFI’s Pediatric Assessment Center. Dr. Hatcher graduated with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from The University of Memphis in August 2018, where she specialized in clinical psychotherapy and assessment for children, adolescents, and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her graduate school clinical and research experience also focused on international and multicultural social justice issues in psychological practice. Prior to graduation, Dr. Hatcher completed a year-long American Psychological Association accredited pre-doctoral internship at AHRC New York City’s Article 16 Clinic providing individual and group psychotherapy as well as psychological assessment for individuals of all ages with disabilities. She has experience using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Positive Psychology, and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) for children and adolescents with developmental disabilities including Learning Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and co-occurring conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, mood, and conduct disorders, as well as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Additionally, Dr. Hatcher has previous experience working with typically developing adolescents and adults with eating disorders and adults with trauma-related anxiety and depressive disorders. Her background also includes individual and group psychotherapy with college students with Learning Disorders and other mental health conditions in a university setting. Dr. Hatcher’s previous assessment experience includes a year-long practicum placement in the neuropsychology department at Semmes Murphey Clinic in Memphis, TN. In addition to her clinical work at CFI, Dr. Hatcher currently works as a Supervising Psychologist for Adult Day Services at AHRC New York City, where she trains and helps behavior therapists to implement ABA interventions for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Dr. Hatcher uses a holistic approach to psychological treatment for children and adolescents that includes evidence-based approaches that are designed to meet the individual needs of each young person. She works in coordination with families, school officials, and other mental health professionals to understand the social, emotional, and physiological needs of her clients. Dr. Hatcher encourages families to take an active part in their child’s therapeutic treatment including family therapy sessions, discussions of treatment progress, and training to help parents use in-home interventions that reinforce the strategies their children learn during psychotherapy sessions.
Rachel Kelly, LMSW is a Licensed Master Social Worker. Rachel is a warm, authentic and non judgemental therapist who draws from a person centered, strengths based perspective. Rachel has grown up in a family of therapists sparking her passion for mental health and healing at a young age. Rachel has always believed that a positive therapeutic relationship is the core to helping her clients persevere, grow and develop a life worth living.
Rachel grew up in NY and moved to San Diego CA in August of 2019, to enjoy the warm weather and a change in lifestyle. Rachel got her B.A in Communications and Culture from Clark University and then went straight into the Masters of Social Work program at Hunter Silberman School of Social Work in 2016 in Harlem, NYC. She began her program working at a LGBTQ center for teens and their families. She co-facilitated a group for parents of trans teens while also providing individual therapy and crisis intervention. Rachel then gained further experience working with young adults at a college counseling center, working primarily with survivors of sexual violence, shaping her practice to be trauma informed. After receiving her Masters degree, Rachel then worked at the Mental Health Service Corps in NYC where she implemented various new mental health programming in a community based organization that never had mental health services prior. Rachel has also worked leading groups, individual and family therapy in a Drug and Alcohol program helping primarily teenagers who suffer from co- occurring substance use and mental health issues. Rachel has worked with elementary age children providing individual and family counseling on site of two schools, for those suffering with anxiety, depression, trauma related disorders as well as adjustment challenges.
Currently, Rachel works as a Dialectical Behavioral Therapist (DBT) for a practice in San Diego where she received extensive DBT and gender therapy training. Rachel has training in several other evidence based practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Solution Focused Therapy (SFT), and Behavioral Activation(BA). Rachel has joined the CFI family to provide group therapy focusing on skills her clients can use on a daily basis to improve their quality of life and decrease suffering. Rachel provides a safe space to develop nurturing relationships in order to promote growth, self love, healing and human connection. She looks forward to the opportunity to work with you on your therapeutic journey!
Gina Robinson is a licensed clinical social worker with over 13 years of experience in treating children, adolescents and families. Her expertise includes childhood anxiety disorders, behavioral issues, disruptive defiance disorder, depressive disorders, ADHD, conduct disorders, explosive and impulse disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders and selective mutism. Gina received her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in theatre arts from Stony Brook University and her M.S. in Social Work from New York University.
Gina has worked as a social worker and psychotherapist in various settings such as out- patient clinics, day treatment programs for children with significant emotional disturbances and schools. Gina has also practiced social work and mental health treatment oversees in New Zealand.
She is internationally certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and is a trainer for Teacher Child Interaction Training (TCIT). Additional specializations include treating Selective Mutism and administering the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Gina is also skilled in implementing intensive therapies for selective mutism and externalizing behavior disorders.
Gina focuses on the importance of underlying emotional effects of development, attachments and bonding. In addition, Gina brings her passion to working with children and adults to the ice rink as a figure skating coach which she has enjoyed for over 18 years.
Annita is a Trainee Clinical Psychologist with master's degrees in both Psychology and Clinical Nutrition and undergraduate degrees in both Counseling and Medical Science. She works in line with APA ethical frameworks’ in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all clients. She works with a client centered approach, matching & blending styles to meet the needs of the individual. She has worked with adults in short and long term therapy in private and medical settings. Annita has also worked with children in the home and in schools. Her previous experience includes working with behavioral issues at home or school, trauma, anger, anxiety, depression, bereavement, low self-esteem, relationship issues, narcissistic damage, co-dependency and cultural and racial challenges.
Being able open to explore issues in a deep way, focusing on developing a good therapeutic relationship where real permanent change takes place is important to Annita. She works through behavior modification, automatic though retraining, re-attachment and positively reframing experiences. This is to help clients adapt to implement fundamental changes in emotional containment, neural processing and behaviors. She provides a safe space for reflection and exploration, working with empathy and without judgment. She focuses on feelings, thoughts and behaviors in the present, dealing with the past and its impact now, as it arises. Annita will work with you to reach your therapeutic goals, understanding how unhealthy coping mechanisms can easily become integrated into life and need unpicking, to free you, to be yourself.
Annita is Persian/Iranian and natively speaks Farsi/Dari, her background helps her understand the benefits and difficulties of speaking more than one language, blending two cultures and issues that arise within diverse communities. She is aware of the impact of ill health, special diets and eating disorders on mental and emotional well being. Annita believes crisis and suffering often provide opportunities for growth and self-awareness, by recognizing patterns, dealing with underlying causes, and finding inner happiness through self-determination and positivity. She strongly feels that each person has an inner healer and innate healing capacities; which once brought out will enable you to experience life more authentically whilst taking care of yourself.
Nyra Serrant is a graduate student at Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social work. She is studying to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from SUNY Binghamton with a focus in Early Childhood Development. Nyra has been working with children of all ages in many settings for the past 10 years- ranging from classroom settings where she taught in her home country, the Commonwealth of Dominica, to group homes with harm reduction focuses for adolescents. She started to focus her passion for helping others after an eye opening internship experience at the Institute for Child Development in Binghamton.
Nyra plans to expand her experience and continue to passionately advocate for human rights and access to mental health services. She has experiences working with Childhood Preschool Special Education administrators and evaluation teams as a CPSE Evaluation Coordinator, a role which she maintained during her first year as an MSW student. Nyra is excited to join the CFI team as she continues her journey toward licensure.
Daniel Kelly, LMSW, is a learning intern at the CFI Brooklyn location. Daniel received his master’s in social work from New York University where he focused on practice with adolescents at Mather Building Arts and Craftsmanship High School. There, Daniel lead individual and group sessions with freshman and senior students, supporting their efforts toward achieving Individualized Education Plan goals.
Before returning to school Daniel worked as a family counselor in Brooklyn at Good Shepherd Services for one year where he incorporated play and talk therapy techniques; and family systems, person-centered, and strengths-based perspectives. Daniel is passionate about supporting healthy development in youth and believes the family unit as an essential boon in the growth process.
Victoria De Paula is a student at New York University Silver School of Social Work, where she is studying to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Government and Psychology from Dartmouth College in 2016. Following her undergraduate studies, Victoria spent four years working in asset management at BlackRock in New York, where she assisted foundations & endowments in structuring their investment portfolios to achieve their objectives. Victoria loved working closely with clients and helping them pursue their goals, but knew that she could make a greater impact helping people through direct clinical practice. She is currently working toward becoming a psychotherapist with a focus on providing evidence-based treatments to adolescents and young adults suffering from anxiety and mood disorders.
Rick Jaime-Bettan is a Clinical Social Work intern, and currently an MSW Student in the Accelerated Program at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. In working toward his degree, Rick is focused on using CBT and other evidence-based practices to support and empower those working to overcome substance use disorders, members of the LGBTQIA community, adoptive families and children, and those impacted by depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges.
Prior to pursuing his degree in Social Work, Rick practiced commercial litigation for twelve years, during which time he was repeatedly named a “Rising Star” by Superlawyers magazine. In 2012, the National LGBT Bar Association selected Rick for inclusion on its Top LGBT Lawyers Under 40 list. Rick left his law practice to pursue a counseling degree because he felt a strong calling to support individuals in their mental health journeys. Rick works collaboratively with clients to address issues from a strengths-based perspective, leading to lasting changes.
Abby Price is a second-year graduate student at Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work where she is studying for her Master of Social Work on the clinical track. She graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Spanish.
She is passionate about working with children and hopes to one day have her own private practice where she can work with children, adolescents, and their families. In her free time, Abby enjoys reading, baking, and running.
Emily Johnson is an Intake Coordinator and Executive Assistant at CFI. Emily graduated in December of 2017 from American University with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and minor in Justice.
Throughout her time at AU, Emily held a variety of internships working with people of various populations. While at Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, she worked with juvenile offenders incarcerated in the adult prison system throughout their time in prison and during their reentry into society. Emily was an intern at the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program in North Carolina where she was mentored by a medical family therapist, and assisted in an art therapy group for women with ovarian and breast cancer. During her last semester at American University she was an intern at Ronald I. Weiner Clinical and Forensic Associates where she assisted in running a forensic psychiatry rehabilitative therapy group for sex offenders.
Post graduation Emily worked as an intake coordinator with CFI and co-lead groups for teens with social anxiety. Emily then took a year to backpack around Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and Nepal. Upon returning she resumed her work with CFI, and worked at a landscaping company as a counselor for its ex-offender employees on probation and reentering society. With these recent experiences, Emily hopes to pursue her career in the mental health field to ensure that children receive the developmental and trauma support needed to live happy and successful lives.
Lauren earned a Bachelors of Arts degree from New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, with a concentration in child development and gender studies. While at NYU, she was also a member of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies minor program, and worked as a research assistant at the Cognitive Development Lab. Previously, Lauren worked as an intake specialist at The Motherhood Center of New York, where she enjoyed helping mothers receive access to perinatal mental health care. Lauren is passionate about helping children and families, and has also worked as a substitute teacher at Mount Kisco Childcare Center. In her leisure time, Lauren enjoys live music, hiking, yoga, and crossword puzzles.
Kendra Plummer is an Intake Coordinator and Executive Assistant at CFI. Kendra graduated in April of 2020 from the University of Pittsburgh with both a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.
Throughout her time at Pitt, Kendra was an active peer mentor working with a variety of undergraduate students. As a BRIDGES scholarship mentor, she guided underrepresented first-year students, assisting them with scholarship retention as they navigated the difficult transition from high school to college. Kendra also worked as a research assistant in Dr. Sophia Choukas-Bradley’s Teen and Young Adult Lab, focusing on interpersonal and sociocultural influences on mental health. Additionally, Kendra’s experience as a Program Support Specialist for Burlington County Community Action Program, a social service non-profit, allowed her to further foster her passion for helping individuals through the acknowledgment of the role society and cultural development plays in our daily lives.
Kendra intends to pursue a career in the mental health field, recognizing the importance of cultural characteristics as they impact the mental and behavioral identities of individuals while providing support to adolescents from diverse communities. In her free time, Kendra enjoys DIY projects or anything that grants her the space to be creative!
Jess Fox, M.A., ATR-BC, LCAT is the Clinical Director of the Creative Arts Therapy program at CFI. Jess is a Board Certified Creative Arts Therapist and she has been providing art therapy to children, adults, families, and couples for over eighteen years across a variety of settings.
Jess Fox received her Masters of Art Degree from Hofstra University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Creative Arts Therapy Program. Her thesis was on self-esteem and the exhibition of clients’ artwork. Over the years, Jess has facilitated more than ten art exhibits, one of which, “Hope for the Homeless”, was filmed and aired on local news. Jess was interviewed personally about her involvement in curating the show and her role as an art therapist with the homeless population.
Jess has provided bereavement counseling and art therapy to 9/11 victims’ families at the Healing and Remembrance on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, art therapy workshops to empower and mentor teens in the school setting, as well as numerous in-services in both school and hospital settings. She has conducted lectures and public speaking engagements at local, state and national conferences on the benefits of art therapy with the homeless population. In 2009, Jess spoke to NYC Council members at City Hall to advocate the need to keep Recreation Departments in the homeless shelters. The fight was won and the programming and jobs remain in place.
Jess is a member of the AATA (American Art Therapy Association), ATCB (Art Therapy Credentials Board), and NYATA (New York Art Therapy Association). She is the Vice President of NYC Regional Arts in Healthcare, a group of professionals that work in the healthcare profession providing creative arts. In addition to her role as a creative arts therapist, Jess is also a visual artist and is a member of the BWAC (Brooklyn Waterfront Artist Coalition), an artist collective. Jess’s artwork via mixed media, oil, watercolor and acrylic painting are on display throughout the NY Metro area.
Emily Weisbrot is 24 years old and a student at the New York University Silver School of Social Work. She is studying to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in Psychotherapy. She has her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from CUNY Hunter College with a focused study in Sociology. Emily has always been fascinated with psychology and passionately believes in the difference the right mental health care can make. Emily’s interest really took off when she closely assisted author and clinical psychologist, Dr. Caren Baruch-Feldman publish her self-help book aimed to guide teenagers to build grit, perseverance, self-control and other psycho-cognitive tools.
Emily has had experience working with children for many years in many different settings including her role as Head-Counselor at a summer camp for three different age groups and her volunteer work with the Hope & Heroes foundation. She has also had experience working as an administrative assistant and client relations coordinator while she was achieving her undergraduate degree. Emily is so excited to join the CFI team!
Oneysha Brown is a volunteer research assistant at CFI. Oneysha graduated with a bachelor’s of Arts degree in psychology from Syracuse university with a minor in marketing in May of 2020. Throughout her time at Syracuse University, Oneysha was a research assistant in both theclinical and social psychology departments. During her time in the clinical psychology department, Oneysha was involved in the ADHD Lifespan Treatment, Education and Research (ALTER) Lab directed by Dr. Kevin Antshel. After being involved in the ALTER lab, she went on to be selected to participate in the Psychology Research Initiative in Diversity Enhancement (PRIDE) Program. During her time in the PRIDE program Oneysha conducted an independent research project entitled: Does race moderate the relationship between ADHD and positive illusory bias? She ended the program by giving an oral presentation of her research findings at a department symposium.
Apart from her involvement within the psychology department, Oneysha was an active child and young adult mentor throughout her time at Syracuse University. She was involved in: the Dimensions organization where she mentored freshmen women of color, Project GRIND where she mentored high school students within the Syracuse city school district, and Straighten Your Crown, where she mentored elementary school girls focusing on emphasizing the importance ofpositive self-perceptions.
Oneysha intends to receive her PhD in clinical psychology. She wants to explore research that focuses on the Black and Brown community, and examine the disparities that may exist between these communities and their White counterparts. Oneysha wants to diminish the stigma surrounding mental health services that exists within communities of color.
Brave Voices Consulting Team
A nationally-renown expert and speaker on the identification and treatment of Selective Mutism, Dr. Kotrba is the author of "Selective Mutism: An Assessment and Intervention Guide for Therapists, Educators, and Parents and Overcoming Selective Mutism: A Field Guide for Parents" and supervises and trains our "Brave Voices" SM team here at CFI. Dr. Kotrba is the owner of Thriving Minds, a psychology clinic with locations in Brighton and Chelsea Michigan (www.thrivingmindsbehavioralhealth.com). She is an adjunct faculty member at Michigan State University’s graduate program in educational psychology.
Dr. Kotrba’s primary interventions include individual Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for mood and anxiety disorders, parent training for disruptive behavior disorders, and psychological assessments for learning issues, anxiety, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
Weissman Behavioral Health
Debra Vitagliano has 26 years experience as an occupational therapist in pediatrics. She is the Clinical Director of the Occupational Therapy program at CFI-Scarsdale and she is the Founder and Director of Rye Therapies of OT, PT, and Speech in Rye, NY www.RyeTherapies.com. She has worked in early intervention, private clinics, home health care and schools. She completed her Bachelors of Science degree from Utica College of Syracuse University and her Masters of Science degree from New York Medical College. She continued her education becoming certified in Sensory Integration and Praxis Testing (SIPT), Interactive Metronome, therapeutic listening and The Listening Program. She is passionate in working with a variety of clients including children with sensory processing disorder, sensory integration dysfunction, hypotonia, motor coordination disorder, developmental delays, Down’s syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and attention difficulties. Her ultimate goal is assisting children to attain their maximum functional potential in their sensory-motor development.
Debra currently lives in Port Chester, New York with her husband and three sons. She enjoys hiking, exercising, Pilates, reading and traveling in her leisure time.
Tala Hershey is a licensed and certified Speech and Language Pathologist. She is the founder of Hershey Speech and Language Pathology based out of Scarsdale, NY. Tala received her undergraduate degree from Skidmore College and her master’s from New York University. She continued to become PROMPT trained, and has training in Sounds in Motion and DIR-Floor Time. She has experience working with children and adults in a variety of settings including privately, in schools, and in rehabilitation facilities as well as with a variety of disorders including articulation/phonology, language delay, school-aged language disorders, higher level language difficulties, social/pragmatic difficulties, fluency/stuttering, voice disorders and myofunctional swallowing disorders. Tala currently lives in Scarsdale, NY with her husband and enjoys baking, hiking, and traveling in her free time.
Kristy Castaldo is a licensed and certified Speech and Language Pathologist and Clinical Director of the Speech-Language Therapy program at CFI-Scarsdale. Kristy has nearly 15 years of clinical experience working with children in various settings. She received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in speech and language pathology from The George Washington University in Washington D.C. She is currently a part-time speech and language pathologist for a public school in Westchester County servicing elementary school students. She has also worked as an evaluator, a CPSE/CSE committee member and conducts private therapy in homes and schools. She is an Early Intervention provider and preschool age provider in New York for children ranging in age from birth to five years of age. She is experienced in working with children with childhood apraxia of speech, articulation/phonological disorders, social and pragmatic language issues, receptive and expressive language delays/disorders, auditory/language processing difficulties, higher level language skills, and reading/auditory comprehension. Kristy currently lives in Rye Brook, New York with her husband and two young children.
Rachel Albaum is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner, Certified LEAP Therapist, and Registered Yoga Teacher and has over 15 years of experience as a nutritionist. Rachel’s mission in life is to use her extensive knowledge in nutrition to help people achieve lasting wellness through her innovative and holistic approaches.
Rachel earned her bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Connecticut and completed her dietetic internship at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Rachel’s experience began at St. Joseph’s Medical Center where she held positions as the cardiac, high risk obstetrics, and renal dietitian/nutritionist and worked in pediatric weight management outreach programs. For the next following several years, Rachel provided nutrition therapy consultations for a wide range of ages, health concerns, diseases, and other complications in multi-disciplinary doctors’ offices. A few years ago, she finally and happily took the leap and opened her own thriving nutrition private practice. In addition, she has earned a 300 hour Registered Yoga Teacher certification, and certifications in mindful based eating for binge eating, adult and pediatric weight management, and food sensitivity testing. She also completed a board certification program at the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy.
Rachel is passionate about helping others incorporate healthy lifestyles into life-long habits. She combines her love for nutrition, yoga, running, meditation, cooking, and travelling, along with her Eastern and Western healing modalities and incorporates them into her consults to provide a balanced and “well-nourished” session.
Annie M. W. Denenberg, MPH is the Clinical Director of the Holistic Health & Nutritional Counseling (HHNC) program at CFI-Westchester, Manhattan, and new Brooklyn location. Annie graduated Summa Cum Laude from Emerson College with her B.S. in Marketing Communications and a minor in Psychology, and subsequently completed her certification to become a Whole Health and Nutrition Coach with the National Institute of Whole Health. Annie then received her Master's in Public Health from the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, with a specialization in Community Health Education. She completed fieldwork at both the New York City Department of Health and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she created a program evaluation toolkit for a diabetes prevention mobile app. For her master’s “capstone” research, Annie evaluated whether mHealth apps are appropriate tools to prevent diabetes in East Harlem, NY, a region with one of the highest prevalence rates of diabetes nationwide.
Annie began her holistic health journey as a health coordinator for Dr. Oz’s childhood obesity prevention foundation - HealthCorps, and subsequently as a health coordinator for Harlem Children’s Zone “Healthy Harlem” program. In both programs, she taught at-risk youth how to lead healthier lifestyles by incorporating small changes into their daily routines. She taught healthy cooking clubs, ran meditation clubs and young women’s groups, and organized after-school fitness workouts and classes on a wide range of physical- and mental health-related topics. Throughout her work at HealthCorps and HCZ, Annie developed the valuable insight and appreciation that, when presented in a fun, delicious, easy, and sustainable way, indeed many children, adolescents, and young adults – even at-risk youth - enjoy eating healthy food and engaging in healthy patterns of wellness, activity, and behavior.
Currently, as a certified Whole Health and Nutrition Coach, Annie helps children, adolescents, and young adults adopt lifestyle changes to enhance their overall quality of life, energy, engagement, health and well-being. She specializes in nutrition, fitness and mental resilience and works with clients to create personalized health goals and specific action plans to accomplish them. Annie believes that everyone can be healthy, but most people just need to learn some basic strategies to experiment with, practice, and maintain healthy patterns of behavior in a fun, realistic and sustainable way. Whether it’s tweaking ingredients in a favorite recipe, or adding simple exercises to a daily routine, Annie teaches easy ways to improve one’s health in small and manageable steps. Annie doesn’t believe in dieting or drastic exercise plans, but instead practices a holistic health approach teaching simple, but powerful, behavioral health concepts to create lasting, meaningful changes in one’s life.
In her spare time, Annie loves traveling, cooking healthy recipes, running, biking, doing Bikram yoga, and, as a treat, eating chocolate ice cream. Most of all, she loves spending time with her husband, Dr. Adam Weissman.
CFI Academy Team
Judi Robinovitz, MS, CEP, is a Certified Educational Planner with more than 35 years of expderience in education. Specializing in residential therapeutic, special-needs, and traditional placements, she is the author of numerous books, articles, and software products and has been a featured speaker at national conferences. Judi is the founding owner of Score At The Top Learning Centers and Schools, a group of five AdvancED/Cognia-accredited educational facilities in South Florida. Judi brings to The Child And Family Institute her wealth of knowledge of hundreds of residential therapeutic/special-needs schools and programs across the country, as well as their clinicians.
In this realm of working with families in crisis, nothing replaces the most careful scrutiny that comes from Judi’s ongoing assessment visits to therapeutic schools and programs – and from following her clients throughout their term of placement. As one of the most traveled consultants in her profession, Judi, in collaboration with her colleague Marcy Salenieks, LCSW, accurately recommends the “best fit” wilderness programs, therapeutic boarding schools, and residential treatment centers for adolescents, teenagers, and young adults − as well as specific therapists.
During her tenure at Educational Testing Service, Robinovitz served as technical liaison to the College Board, the Law School Admission Council, and the Graduate Record Examination Board. She spearheaded the College Board's SAT prep software and made major contributions to their test preparation books. Frequently taking the SAT, Robinovitz scored a perfect 800 on both sections of the test. Judi was part of the founding faculty of two private schools in Boca Raton, Florida; she created their college guidance programs and served as Director of College Guidance to the first five graduating classes of each school.
As an active member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs, and the Secondary School Admission Test Board, Robinovitz is part of a professional network of admission directors, educators, psychologists and other educational consultants. She is also a member of the National Learning Disabilities Association and the Orton Dyslexia Society.
Robinovitz studied at Harvard University, Rutgers University, and the University of Connecticut. She holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science, both with highest honors. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. When she’s not working with families or visiting schools and program around the country, you’ll find her on the golf course with her husband or playing with her two young grandchildren.
Marcy Salenieks, LCSW, comes to The Child and Family Institute with more than 25 years' experience working with children, families, and other clinical professionals. She graduated with her Masters in Social Work from Barry University in Miami, spent her early professional years doing family therapy with multi-problem families in upstate New York, then practiced psychotherapy with Jewish Family Services both in Richmond, Virginia, and Miami. She joined Dr. Gary Magid, a Hollywood, Florida, psychiatrist in his private practice, where she remained for twelve years while raising her own family. When Dr. Magid retired, Marcy took a brief sabbatical from her practice to pursue her long-held dream of becoming a children's fiction writer. One result is a middle-grade text currently under consideration for publication. Creativity has always been a part of Marcy's personality and a hallmark of her inventive energy.
Marcy channels her strong clinical skills into the field of special needs educational consulting. Her passion stems from a family crisis, when she made the difficult decision to send her oldest son, then fourteen, to a wilderness therapy program in Utah, followed by eighteen months in a therapeutic boarding school in Idaho. Collaborating with her son’s educational consultant, and using her expert clinical training to insure the best-fit placements for him, Marcy was inspired to blend her professional background and personal experience. Working directly with Judi Robinovitz to identify appropriate therapeutic placements for families faced with this difficult decision, Marcy has the clinical insight and ability to emphasize placement criteria that are invaluable comforts to our families. Like Judi, Marcy regularly travels around the country to asses therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness therapy programs, residential treatment centers, and young-adult transition programs.
Marcy and Judi start the placement process by getting to know as much about a child and family as possible, assembling and evaluating a detailed history of a child’s behavioral and academic history – from you, from clinicians at TCFI and elsewhere, and from clinical and academic records. After identifying and discussing with you the best placement options for your child, Marcy and Judi present his or her detailed profile to admission and clinical directors. Because they have successfully placed so many at-risk students and have an established reputation for providing some of the most informative student profiles, admission directors are more inclined to accommodate their placement – and even scholarship – requests. In fact, they say that Marcy and Judi have a special gift when it comes to making the best therapeutic school and program matches for their clients.
When she is not assisting families with their special needs, traveling to therapeutic schools and programs, and connecting with other clinical professionals in the community, Marcy is mom to three boys, the youngest of whom is now in college. In addition to her creative writing, Marcy enjoys doing yoga, traveling, cooking, and perfecting her Italian.
LeAnn Elder, Head of School, Score Academy Boca Raton/Virtual. LeAnn is a licensed architect with a B.S. from The University of Virginia and MA in Architecture from Harvard. At both UVA and Harvard, LeAnn held a variety of teaching assistantships. Her passion for them led to community service projects, including introducing inner-city children to architecture in Baltimore. She has also taught at Florida Atlantic University, and has passed Florida teaching exams for all middle school subjects, high school math, technology, and health.
Her current interests include piano and weightlifting. She’s a mother of two, and loves mentoring her own children. Today she brings to her work those qualities that touch what she has always been truly passionate about – education and children.
As Head of School, LeAnn optimizes her strong and enthusiastic commitment to ensuring that Score Academy students – in-person and virtual − are truly engaged in their learning. She oversees Score Boca’s professional teaching staff, and works collaboratively with our parents, students, and teachers to ensure top-quality education and support.
Robin Kantor, Head of School, Score Academy Palm Beach Gardens/Virtual. Robin received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education. She began teaching in New York City’s South Bronx. Since 2006, back in Florida, she has worked in the Palm Beach County public schools as a teacher, professional development and curriculum specialist, and school administrator. She’s dedicated to identifying students’ strengths and utilizing community-based and school resources to meet their needs and find a pathway to student success. She has worked with 4-year-old VPK children and with high school graduates; with students and families in need of safety and security first, and with top students at Suncoast High School. Robin knows that a one-size-fits-all model does not meet student needs in today’s global economy.
Robin is a wife and mother of two. Parenting has her an even deeper understanding of how important her role is as Head of School. No family request is too small, no worry too insignificant – if it matters to you, it matters to Robin. She treats every child as her own. At Score Academy, she loves working with unique and special students and families from Florida and around the world.
Maggie Alexander, Head of School, Score Academy Wellington/Virtual. Maggie discovered the power of individualized education as an undergraduate tutor at George Washington University. She conveys her goals for education this way: “In order to be successful in college or any profession, a student must learn to articulate thoughts in writing and in speech." As Academic Director and College Counselor at another tutoring service, she tutored students in the humanities, social sciences, and writing and helped them with their college applications and essays. She has worked in college admissions and financial aid in Massachusetts, and served as Wellesley College’s assistant squash coach.
Maggie focuses on holistic student assessment leading to individualized academic programs for students. She takes pride in providing an environment conducive to reaching academic goals. For college-bound students, she’s intent on helping them find their best-fit schools. As a former Division I athlete and team captain, Maggie takes a particular interest in serving student-athletes. She has extensive experience advising students who are trying to balance academics, athletics, and other activities. Maggie also has experience providing academic support for students with learning challenges.
A life-long equestrian, she understands from personal experience how to integrate high-level competition in the ring with achievement of academic goals. Maggie holds a graduate degree in sociology from George Washington and a certificate in college counseling from UCLA.Maggie supports and advocates dog rescue. Her other interests include competing on the national show jumping circuit, traveling the world, Texas Hold’em, cooking, and following college and professional sports.
Lauren Coppola-Dwoskin, Head of School, Score Academy Broward County/Virtual. Lauren helps ensure your child’s success by discussing in depth your student's needs, creating and overseeing an appropriate support plan, and carefully matching your child to the best teacher based on learning style and personality. She works collaboratively with students, parents, classroom teachers, and tutors to ensure top-quality service to our client families so that students gain the confidence they need to succeed in school.
She shares her a passion for education gained over years of experience in tutoring students of all ages. A Yale graduate with a B.A. in History, she spent seven years in New York City teaching students one-on-one. Lauren took pride shaping curricula and adapting her teaching style to suit individual student’s needs – she has developed expertise in teaching students with learning disabilities. Lauren successfully prepared students for the SAT/PSAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, and SSAT, and tutored in several academic subjects. She also helps students fine-tune their college application essays. As a graduate of Deerfield Academy, Lauren is an invaluable resource for families who want to learn about the boarding school experience.
Lauren firmly believes in the importance of individualized educational services for students. With her remarkable range of education experience, Lauren is thrilled to serve as an advocate for both students and parents.
Lauren lives with her husband in Boca Raton. A self-proclaimed foodie, she enjoys exploring new restaurants, although she’s still a neophyte in her own kitchen!
Kathy Rogers, Score Academy Intake Coordinator. Families considering Score Academy as their virtual school choice speak with Kathy. In addition to her firsthand insight into the specialties of all four Score Academies, she directs Score’s learning centers in Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens. Having grown up an army brat with typical family moves from posting to posting, she easily and quickly makes anyone feel comfortable and at home.
Kathy graduated with a BS in Human Environmental Sciences and a concentration in Child Development from the University of Alabama. Applying her degree in her own life, Kathy has homeschooled her two children for over a decade. She understands the effort that goes into creating an engaging, successful education milieu. She adds a wealth of personal knowledge and experience as both educator and parent. She has applied her skills in other domains, too: she and her husband held the position of Student Ministers at their church for many years. In that role, Kathy helped teens and their parents navigate the sometimes rough and stressful waters of adolescence.
Drawing heavily on her years of teaching and tutoring at Score’s schools and learning centers, Kathy puts together an educational plan to best meet a student’s academic needs – from struggling learners and children on the spectrum to accelerated and gifted students.
Whether you're seeking full-time or part-time schooling, tutoring, test prep, or a course for credit, Kathy coordinates the process for both virtual and in-person students. She collaborates with our four School Heads when families have an interest in enrolling their students in one of our private schools; oversees all support services in two of our learning center centers; and works with homeschooling families in curriculum design, course scheduling, and enrichment planning. Kathy also stays in close touch with local schools, setting up test-prep workshops and college-planning seminars on their campuses, and organizing AP review sessions and summer-school classes.
Daniel Koffler, New Frontiers President. As President of New Frontiers, (www.nfil.net), Daniel Koffler provides the overall strategic direction and short/long term planning agenda, while overseeing the financial, marketing and business development aspects of the business. NF is an executive functioning coaching organization. NF provides academic, social, transitional and vocational supports to students with a range of abilities and interests, allowing them to maximize their potential—successful, independent, self-advocating adults. After the sale of a majority of the assets of MetSchools, his family’s education business, Daniel’s focus moved to the special education practice within the MetSchools portfolio (including Aaron School, www.aaronschool.org, and Rebecca School, www.rebeccaschool.org).
This ultimately led to the founding of NF, in response to a recurring pattern of students (with or without learning differences) transitioning to college (and/or other post High School life experiences) without being fully prepared for the new expectations assigned to them at the next stage of life. NF’s individualized coaching model works on the HOW to address the initial challenges of establishing strategies for success, while ultimately reducing our presence in the equation (as self-advocacy skills improve) so that there isn’t a continuous reliance on the coach—rather, that responsibility is shifted to the individual receiving support.
Daniel is a member of Young Presidents Organization (http://www.ypo.org/) and is a member of the Advisory Board for the Pace University Lubin School of Business Transformative Leadership Program (https://tl.pace.edu/transformative-leadership-difference.html). He holds a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from George Washington University (www.gwu.edu). Personally, he is married with 3 children, including a set of twins.
Samantha Curiale-Feinman, MS.Ed., TSHH, Director of New Frontiers. As the Director, Samantha leads the programmatic development and delivery at New Frontiers. Samantha graduated from LIU Post with a Masters Degree in Special Education and is a licensed speech therapist and special educator. She sat on the Executive Board of CHADD of Nassau County and has acted as the Co-President of the Long Island Professionals ADHD Consortium. Her professional experiences include Speech Therapist, Special Education Teacher, and Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Education at Pace University. Samantha has supported clients with various learning differences at the secondary and postsecondary levels, as well as consulted with staff, clients and families to assist in the transition process. She has presented research, workshops and professional development seminars and webinars at various national conferences, CUNY and private colleges, high schools, SEPTAs and local organizations.
Daniel Riseman is a New York State certified teacher (grades 7-12) in Math, English Language Arts, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Physics, and Social Studies and has an Advanced Certificate in Special Education. For the past 18 years, Daniel has provided in-home, subject-based tutoring. He also customizes lessons to prepare students for the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, ISEE, SSAT, and TACHS. Riseman Educational Consulting, LLC has been awarded “Best of Westchester” for College Prep the past five consecutive years.
As a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, Daniel assists students with every step of the college admissions process. He has helped students get admitted into MIT, Harvard, Princeton, University of Chicago, Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Duke, Brown, Cornell, Washington University in St. Louis, Amherst, Wesleyan, Haverford, Swarthmore, Pomona, Middlebury, Bowdoin, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, University of Virginia, Berkeley, Rice, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Tufts, Emory, Carnegie Mellon, Wake Forest, Michigan, UCLA, University of North Carolina, among others. He also helps college students with the transfer process and graduate school admissions.
Daniel has served as a featured education writer and contributor for Psychology Today, The Fiscal Times, Yahoo Finance, Foxnews, The Week, Education News, MSN Money, Institute of Sport, STEM Education Digest, The Awakened Wire, Conservative News, Special Needs Digest, Entertainment News, and LifeZette. He has also served as an on-air educational expert for EWTN.
Debra Resnicoff BA, MFA, LMSW. Debra has specialized in college and graduate application and essay strategies for over fifteen years. She emphasizes a holistic admissions strategy that follows a roadmap of student personality, interests, accomplishments, goals, and dreams. Her student-focused approach offers encouragement and emphasizes unique qualities and strengths. This tried-and-true method combines exploratory writing, discussions, and rigorous drafting. Her students’ essays are vivid and tell well-crafted stories that illustrate character and curiosity. Debra spends significant care to show students how they fit different schools and majors, supporting a healthy admissions process that emphasizes lowering stress while setting high goals.
A graduate of Columbia University, Debra is a published author and produced screenwriter. For ten years she was a Creative Writing Instructor in the Columbia University High School Program. Her training in writing, theater, and film lends itself to a fun, creative learning experience. Recent graduate-level training in clinical counseling allows Debra to effectively support families who have encountered learning and behavioral challenges. She brings a depth of experience with second-language learners as well as international and first-generation students. When she is not working with students, she can be found walking in Central Park with her Jack Russell terrier Scooby.
Debra’s students have been accepted to all eight Ivy League universities and highly sought-after institutions including Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Duke, UVA, NYU, Vanderbilt, UMich, Wash U in St. Louis, Tulane, Williams, Georgetown, Northwestern, University of Chicago, Oxford, Johns Hopkins, Tufts, UCLA, and Berkeley. An average of 80 percent of Debra’s students have been accepted via early decision or early action, while the remaining 20 percent were offered admission to a second or third choice.
Emily Henning is an Ivy League-educated tutor specializing in English and History. She graduated from Brown University in 2019 with honors in Literary Arts and a GPA in the 93rd percentile of her graduating class. Emily has a passion for language, and helping students express themselves in writing and excel at standardized testing. She has been working as a tutor and mentor for the past five years. Through experiences as varied as advising high school students from underserved communities on the college application process to leading university workshops about imposter syndrome, Emily has cultivated the skills to help students of all ages and academic levels. As a tutor, Emily prioritizes fit. Her teaching pedagogy revolves around the student. She designs a tutoring curriculum based on the individual needs of her students, focusing on obtaining measurable, timely, and realistic goals. Whether she's working with a seventh grader to prepare for an ELA state test, or helping a high school senior with college essays, Emily is committed to helping her students excel. She is an expert on the SAT English section and enjoys showing students that, despite all the fear mongering advanced by prep companies, it is absolutely attainable for most students to receive a 700 or higher if they study smart. When Emily is not working with students, she enjoys reading, traveling, and taking long walks in Prospect Park with her dog.
Adam S. Weissman, Ph.D.
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