The Child & Family Institute
Dr. Adam S. Weissman is the Founding President, CEO, and Chief Psychologist at The Child & Family Institute and the Weissman Children’s Foundation; learn more about Dr. Weissman here!
Michele Barton, PhD
Director of Biofeedback and Virtual Reality Therapy
Director of Clinical Training
Supervisor of Externship Program
In her many roles at CFI, Dr. Michele Barton is a highly experienced psychotherapist who uses evidence-based treatments across diverse populations and clinical settings. She specializes in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), combined with use of biofeedback and virtual reality therapies.
Barton is a visiting scholar at Teachers College, Columbia University, leading a seminar on clinical practice with doctoral psychology students, and serves as chair of the Ethics Committee at Westchester County Psychological Association.
As executive director of Psychology Life Well, a small collaborative private practice, Barton works with physicians and healthcare professionals to treat clients suffering from the psychological outcomes of chronic medical conditions.
During her post-doctoral fellowship, Barton coupled CBT with use of non-invasive medical procedures, including biofeedback, virtual reality, entrainment and neurofeedback. She prescribed these applications to replace or supplement medication in several psychological disorders, including attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD), anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, addiction, social anxiety and phobias (fear of flying, heights, animals, public speaking or performance)
Barton received a Ph.D. in clinical health psychology from Yeshiva University, conducting her doctoral research at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia’s Department of Medical Genetics. Her master’s in psychology is from Teachers College.
After completed her post-doctoral fellowship at a private CBT practice in NYC, working with children, teens, adults, couples and families, Barton was promoted to director of clinical health, intern training supervisor and head of clinical outreach.
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. She is a tegular contributor to online publications regarding mainstream psychological health.
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.
Barton, M (2012) An Exploration of Child Behavior Checklist Scores in a Population at High Risk. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. Yeshiva University NY, NY.
Emily Becker-Weidman, Ph.D., is the director of the Adoption and Attachment Treatment. She is an adolescent psychologist that specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for children, adolescents, and young adults and attachment-focused family therapy.
Dr. Becker-Weidman is certified in CBT from the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and 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 also trained in Habit Reversal Therapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, and Exposure Response Prevention Therapy for OCD.
Becker-Weidman is certified in CBT from the Academy of Cognitive Therapy; in trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy (TF-CBT); as an attachment-focused family therapist by the Attachment Treatment-Focused Institute; and in the practice of dyadic developmental psychotherapy. She has also trained in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), habit reversal therapy, parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) and exposure response prevention therapy (ERP) for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Becker-Weidman is the clinical supervisor at Columbia Teachers College, where she teaches a graduate practicum in CBT for children and adolescents. She is also clinical director of the New York City Division of the Center for Family Development. Dr. Becker-Weidman is president of the Clinical Division of Westchester County Psychological Association (WCPA). She 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.
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 the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. She completed her pre-doctoral internship at the New York University Child Study Center/Bellevue Hospital and a two-year postdoctoral clinical research fellowship in anxiety and mood disorders and autism at the NYU Child Study Center.
Currently, Becker-Weidman is practicing teletherapy and working from her practice in Closter, New Jersey.
Dr. Sabrina Gratia, a double board-certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, treats such psychological and emotional issues as anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder and trauma.
Gratia believes in taking the time to fully understand each child's situation and mindset, which are inseparable from the family, social and educational environment. Only after she completes a comprehensive evaluation can she offer a thoughtful, well-informed treatment plan. When treating children, Dr. Gratia prefers a holistic approach, combining individual psychotherapy with lifestyle changes. If she recommends medications, Gratia will discuss risks, benefits and alternatives with the families, so they can make the most informed decision possible for their child.
Gratia completed a combined, seven-year Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from the College of Osteopathic Medicine, New York Institute of Technology. She completed an adult psychiatry residency at Albany Medical Center and a child and adolescent fellowship at the State University New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn. Understanding therapy’s crucial role in treating psychiatric issues, she received additional training in psychodynamic psychotherapy at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research.
Dr. Preeti Saigal, clinical director of CFI’s Pediatric Assessment Center in Manhattan and Brooklyn, is a clinical psychologist, with specialized training in areas of health psychology, rehabilitation psychology, and neuropsychology with both children and adults.
Prior to joining CFI, Dr. Saigal worked in various capacities over 13 years at the Langone Medical Center at New York University (NYULMC). At NYULMC’s Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, she served as a program manager responsible for overseeing psychosocial programs and services for patients with pediatric cancers, blood disorders, brain tumors and neurofibromatosis. She also provided clinical services, including individual and group therapy, consultations and neuropsychological evaluations.
Before that, at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation, a physical rehabilitation hospital, she provided psychotherapeutic services and neuropsychological evaluations to children and young adults. They presented a range of complex medical and neuro-developmental conditions with associated developmental, learning and psychiatric disorders.
In private practice, Saigal has provided neuropsychological evaluations to pediatric patients with a wide range of developmental, learning and social-emotional concerns. As education liaison and advocate, she works with families to navigate transitions, such as from pre-school to elementary school, or to seek alternative or specialized school placements or services. Her experience encompasses working collaboratively with school personnel, education attorneys, advocates and clinical providers to ensure her patients receive the necessary supports and services in early childhood and throughout their education.
Therapeutically, Saigal’s bio-psychosocial approach to treatment incorporates understanding of a child’s developmental presentation, family structure and cultural background. In this way, she can guide therapeutic and evidence-based interventions best suited to their needs and abilities.
Saigal earned a B.A. in psychology from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. at George Washington University. She completed a pre-doctoral residency at the Department of Veterans Affairs, New York Harbor Healthcare System, followed by a two-year post-doctoral fellowship NYULMC in pediatric psychology and neuropsychology.
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.
Dr. Laura 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. Grashow-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-Rywell has over 25 years of 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. Most recently, 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.
Grashow, L (1996) Maternal Coping in Families of Children with Familial Developmental Disability. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. Yeshiva University NY, NY.
Dr. Grashow-Rywell earned her Bachelor of Science from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University, in Television & Film Production.
Lauren A. Tetenbaum, LMSW, JD is a CFI clinician based in Westchester. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Lauren simultaneously pursued her law and social work degrees in her hometown of New York City, where she was awarded for her clinical field placement work at the Children’s Aid Society’s Family Wellness Program. She then spent a decade in the legal industry, first as an immigration attorney assisting clients of myriad backgrounds navigate complex government systems to embark on their next life chapter. Lauren maintained an active pro bono practice, counseling clients fleeing persecution in their home countries, abusive romantic partners or parents, or other trauma. She later focused on professional development and mentoring; she coached lawyers on work/life balance and welcoming babies to their families. For years Lauren helped coordinate the global pro bono program of a top international law firm, working closely with clients in need including LGBTQ individuals and legal/social service organizations dedicated to women and youth.
As a licensed social worker, Lauren is committed to supporting and empowering clients, including teens and young adults, as they face challenges in their lives. She is passionate about contributing to her community and is actively involved in numerous efforts serving at-risk families in her area and abroad. Lauren is intensively trained in maternal mental health by the Seleni Institute and volunteers with Postpartum Support International (PSI).
Dominique Pagano, LMSW, is the Associate Director of CFI-Long Island and a psychotherapist. She provides therapy for individuals, families, and groups utilizing a variety of therapeutic approaches including but not limited to Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Parent Management Training, Behavioral Activation, Motivational Interviewing, and Child Centered Play Therapy. As a therapist, Pagano 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.
Pagano has extensive experience working with children, adolescents and their families prior to joining CFI. Pagano worked for the Mental Health Service Corps 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. Pagano 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.
Pagano 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, Pagano 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.
Dr. Christina Athineos, a clinical psychology, post-doctoral fellow at CFI, specializes in providing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). She is also experienced in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT), applied behavioral analysis (ABA), CBT for selective mutism (as part of CFI’s “Brave Voices” team), exposure response prevention (ERP), mindfulness, motivational interviewing and acceptance-based behavioral therapy. Athineos implements these evidence-based treatments across populations for anxiety and mood-based disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), trauma, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), psychosis and personality disorders.
Before beginning her CFI fellowship, Athineos completed an American Psychological Association-accredited, pre-doctoral internship at ANDRUS, a family-centered nonprofit specializing in trauma-informed, community-based mental health. During her year there, she provided individual, family and group therapy via teletherapy, as well as neuropsychological assessment.
In 2019, Athineos trained at CFI as an advanced pre-doctoral fellow. In addition, she completed clinical and research practicum trainings at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, and the nonprofit May Institute, Randolph, MA. Athineos delivered inpatient treatment for children and adolescents at the OCD Institute, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA; and ASD treatment at the Hybridge Learning Group.
Athineos earned her M.S and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from Suffolk University, Boston. She trained in Suffolk’s Community Action-Based Research Lab, where she designed social justice-based research studies. These included her master’s thesis on nonprofit organizational use of social media and her dissertation on the individual and systemic effects of cyber harassment. Athineos graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in communication disorders from The College of New Jersey’s honors program.
Maddie Wolfond, LCSW is a CFI Brooklyn-based psychotherapist. Maddie has over 5 years of clinical experience working with adults (from college-age through retirement), couples, adolescents, children and families. Maddie has an empathetic yet goal-directed approach, and focuses on supporting her clients in deepening their insight and improving their relationships and interpersonal connections.
Maddie has training in a variety of evidence-based practices and draws heavily from Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Psychodynamic therapy, Gottman, Motivational Interviewing, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Maddie operates from a strengths-based and relational perspective and works collaboratively with her clients to help them improve their personal, professional, romantic and social relationships, and overall life satisfaction.
Maddie specializes in working with clients of all ages struggling with Anxiety, Low Self-Esteem, relationship/marital discord, family discord, and workplace issues. Prior to coming to CFI, Maddie worked as a therapist in a variety of settings including DC 37- a New York City public employees Union where she provided individual and group therapy in the Employee Assistance Program, Brooklyn Center for Families in Crisis- where she served as a child and family therapist, and private practice settings servicing the mental health needs of young adults and couples. Maddie is a culturally-competent and LGBTGIA+ affirming therapist with experience working with clients of diverse backgrounds. Maddie holds a BA in psychology and writing from Sarah Lawrence College and a Masters in Social Work from Yeshiva University, where she graduated in the Advanced Clinical Practice Program.
Dr. Jan Mohlman (PhD, ABPP) is a specialist in Behavioral and Cognitive therapies and has over 30 years of experience delivering CBT and other evidence-based therapies. She received her PhD in Psychology from the University of Oregon and completed her postdoctoral research training at Columbia University. Dr. Mohlman specializes in CBT for anxiety-related disorders, mood disorders, and typical life stressors.
She approaches therapy as if she and the client are immersed in a class focused on the client. She also uses discussion, structured exercises, reading and writing to make minor changes to thoughts and behaviors - leading to improved moods that are stable and predictable.
Dr. Mohlman has won several teaching and mentoring awards. In addition, she has published over 60 peer reviewed articles as well as a book entitled, "From Symptom to Synapse: A Neurocognitive Perspective on Clinical Psychology."
Dalia Sharps is a licensed master social worker and trauma-focused therapist at CFI/WCF. Dalia earned her Bachelor's degree in political science and gender studies from Vassar College and received her Master's degree from NYU. Dalia uses an integrative approach in her sessions and - depending on her clients' needs and goals - draws elements from her training in psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral theories (such as CBT, DBT, and ACT). Dalia has worked extensively with children and adults struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, self-esteem, body image, chronic pain, life transitions, and relationship stress. Outside her work at CFI/WCF, Dalia works at a NYC-based criminal justice reform organization.
Jason Lewinter, LMSW has experience in working with children, adolescents and families using evidence-based interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), parent management training (PMT), collaborative problem solving (CPS) and applied behavior analysis (ABA). He believes in offering a safe and supportive environment and in developing the therapeutic relationship by working collaboratively with patients, caretakers and providers throughout treatment.
Lewinter has worked in a number of schools, homes, clinics and agencies treating children and adolescents with anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), selective mutism, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and other social, emotional and behavioral challenges. To ensure treatment remains consistent across settings, he frequently collaborates with families, schools and outside providers.
Lewinter earned a master’s degree in social work from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College and a B.A. in psychology from Queens College. He is currently practicing out of the CFI-Scarsdale, Manhattan and Brooklyn locations.
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.
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.
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.
Sarah K. Hatcher, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and an Associate Director of 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.
Wendy Valdez, LCSW is a bilingual social worker in New York State. She graduated from Fordham University Graduate School of Social Work with a master’s degree in Social Work. Valdez has over 8 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and their families implementing a variety of evidence-based models. Valdez was part of the trauma-focus track during her second year of the MSW program and has had multiple opportunities to be trained for trauma focused-cognitive behavioral therapy with Carrie Epstein and most recently with Dr. Elissa Brown, who is the founder and executive director of Child HELP Partnership and Professor in Psychology at St. John’s University. She holds certification in TF-CBT, has successfully completed training on Problematic Sexual Behavior-cognitive behavioral therapy (PSB-CBT), a treatment model from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, completed intensive DBT training with Dr. Alec Miller at Montefiore Hospital, and has extensive trainings using CBT, assessment of suicide risk and prevention, mindfulness, motivational interviewing, and family systems techniques.
Valdez has worked in various settings such as schools, foster care, outpatient clinics and hospital. She has extensive experience supporting families navigating through the educational and social service organizations such as the medical system, ACS, NYC DOE, D75, Day Treatment Programs, foster care agencies, and family court. She has obtained numerous trainings and practice working with foster care agencies and ACS -trainings such as CBT plus, a treatment program part of the Partnering for Success model, The Atlas Project-which helps to address trauma-related problematic behaviors in the home, The Sanctuary Model, and suicide assessment and prevention. In addition, she obtained training in implementing functional behavioral analysis (FBA) and behavior intervention plan (BIP) with the NYC Department of Education, a model that addresses challenging behaviors within the classroom.
She currently works as a psychotherapist at an outpatient mental health clinic within the Department of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center providing individual and family interventions to individuals experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other diagnosis as a result from abuse and/or other forms of trauma. She has a long-standing passion to helping children, adolescents, and their families understand the impact of trauma, family conflicts, adversity and medical/mental health diagnosis. She has worked with various multi-disciplinary teams for the purpose of advocating but also to collectively empower the family’s potential for overall healing and mental well-being. Valdez believes that with the right support and effective therapeutic intervention; families can overcome the challenges to mental health and children can obtain mastery of their own internal and external resources.
Ming Tong, LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who currently works as a full time Middle School Counselor at the Collegiate School. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Hunter College and his Masters of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from Brooklyn College. He specializes in working with children, adolescents, and families to provide evidence-based treatment. Prior to his employment at the Collegiate school, Ming worked as a full time mental health counselor at The Quad Preparatory School for a total of five years. During his time at Quad Prep, Ming developed his skills in working with children who are “twice-exceptional” (i.e., individuals with strong cognitive gifts in addition to learning differences, whether social, emotional or behavioral that prevent them from succeeding in mainstream school settings).
Ming has an expertise in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT),Teacher-Child Interaction Training (TCIT), Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS), and Social Thinking® to effectively address ADHD, anxiety, depression, behavioral concerns, and social learning challenges.
Danielle Perl is a Limited Permit Mental Health Counselor at CFI/WCF. Danielle earned her Bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology from Lehigh University and went on to receive a Master's Degree in School Counseling from Hunter College as well as a Mental Health Counseling Degree from SUNY Buffalo. Danielle has worked as a school counselor in public and charter schools throughout the city, providing treatment to children, adolescents and families struggling with anxiety, depression, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, trauma, and a variety of behavioral and emotional challenges. Danielle realized very quickly that she had a desire to expand her practice to support a more diverse range of ages and need, and decided to continue her education to become a Mental Health Counselor. Danielle now works with children, teens and adults with a diverse range of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD and more.
As a therapist, Danielle works holistically to provide clients with individually tailored treatment that focuses first and foremost on the therapeutic relationship. Danielle works from a strengths based, trauma informed lense using a variety of approaches including but not limited to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Motivational Interviewing, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and more. Danielle is looking forward to continuing her journey toward licensure.
Victoria de Paula (LMSW) is a clinician and Director of Group Therapy at CFI. Victoria draws from various forms of therapy under the cognitive-behavioral umbrella, including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Her style of therapy is warm, compassionate, and motivating. She draws from a strengths-based approach that promotes self-confidence and empowers clients to create meaningful change in their lives. Victoria works with clients to rewrite their internal narratives into more positive stories, thus laying the foundation for substantive, long-lasting improvements in quality of life. Victoria completed her Master’s in Social Work at New York University. She graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Psychology. Before becoming a psychotherapist, Victoria spent four years working at a large asset management firm in New York City.
Michelle Falco, LMSW graduated from Columbia University and practices clinical social work at Northwell and psychotherapy at the Child Family Institute. As a therapist, her goal is to create an authentic relationship in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Her warm and compassionate nature fosters a connection for growth and meaningful change. Michelle uses holistic and evidence-based methods depending on the assessment and the patient's preference and goal. She specializes in trauma-informed care, CBT, DBT, ACT, narrative therapy, motivational interviewing, harm reduction, solution-based therapy, and mindfulness techniques.
Rick Jaime-Bettan is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) who seeks to create a warm, welcoming environment conducive to self-reflection, growth, and positive change. Rick strives to employ a person-centered approach that focuses on the individual and the development of an authentic therapeutic rapport. He believes a strong, trusting therapeutic relationship is the single most important factor in his clients' success. To maximize the impact of this relationship-oriented approach, Rick employs several evidence based practices, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Solution Focused Therapy (SFT), Narrative Therapy (NT), and other evidence-based practices to support and empower those working to overcome substance use disorders, adoptive families and children, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and anyone impacted by depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health challenges. Rick has also co-facilitated social skills development groups for young adults with autism spectrum disorder and groups providing support for young adults experiencing social anxiety.
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.
Sajel Arya is a clinical mental health counselor at The Child and Family Institute. She obtained her MHC from The City College of New York in June 2022 and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in School-Clinical Psychology at Yeshiva University. Sajel has experience working with children, adolescents, and families of all backgrounds and needs.
Sajel primarily uses CBT techniques along with other evidence-based practices to tackle issues like anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD and many more while practicing with a strength-focused, person-centered approach. Sajel is determined to bring mental health resources to underserved communities and individuals.
Karisa Jaime is a Licensed Master Social worker (LMSW) at The Child and Family Institute. She obtained her Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of California in San Diego and her Masters in Social Work from New York University. She specializes in trauma focused therapy using an array of evidence-based treatment such as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy), PE (Prolonged Exposure), and Motivational Interviewing (MI). Karisa believes a strong therapeutic alliance is an important factor to a client’s success in therapy. To achieve this, she uses a person-centered approach that focuses on the individuals’ goals. She has extensive experience working with veterans and their families at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Beyond her trauma work, Karisa is passionate about serving children and young adults who would like to address ADHD, behavioral concerns, anxiety, depression, and social learning challenges.
Daniella Cohen, LMSW, is a remote-based therapist for CFI. Daniella earned her Masters in Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. She has experience working with children, adolescents, and adults using modalities such as CBT, solution focused therapy, motivational interviewing, and play therapy. She has worked with clients on issues ranging from depression, anxiety, family issues, trauma, behavioral issues, and PTSD. With a background in macro social work, as well as having clinical experience, she provides a unique perspective on understanding not only individuals, but how they fit into their community systems. Daniella works to create a strong therapist-client bond and involves evidence based treatment and practical techniques into her practice to help her clients’ success in treatment.
Jacqueline Medina is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of New York. She has been practicing therapy for over 5 years. Jacqueline has experience working with individuals of many demographic backgrounds, as well as a variety of presenting needs including bipolar disorders, anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, trauma, life changes, internal struggles, self-esteem, personal growth, anger, stress, communication, and interpersonal issues. Jacqueline believes each individual has their own unique story to tell. Her goal as a therapist is to help her clients become the best version of themselves.
Marissa Kornblau is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and a clinician at CFI. Using a strengths-based approach, Marissa provides supportive counseling to individuals, couples, and families, who are dealing with social anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction, relationship struggles, and health related issues. Marissa values the therapeutic alliance and draws on Cognitive Behavioral, Person Centered, Narrative, and Mindfulness therapy.
Prior to joining CFI, Marissa worked at Elmhurst Hospital in both the Pediatric Outpatient and Child Protection Clinics where she provided therapy to children and adolescents as well as their families. Marissa spent two years working at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine where she developed the essential skill of empathic engagement with clients. She also founded and led a bi-monthly support group to help people struggling with infertility and empower them with knowledge, validate their emotional response, and work to help minimize their feelings of isolation.
Dr. Vanessa Martin Jones, DSW, LMSW is a Licensed Master of Social Worker with several years of experience working with youth, young adults and their families throughout New York City. Vanessa earned her Bachelor's degree from Penn State University, Masters in Clinical Social Work from NYU and a Doctorate in Social Work from the University of Alabama. Utilizing a holistic approach and culturally adapted evidence-based practices, Vanessa focuses on the interconnectedness of social, emotional, and cultural factors that may impact self and how you may navigate the world. She specializes in self-esteem, anxiety, depression, general life transitions and identity exploration.
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.
Suzanne Brier, B.A., is a 5th year Psychology Ph.D. Candidate at Fordham University and is certified in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). She has externed in clinics, hospitals, private practices, college counseling centers, and schools. Specifically, she has experience treating children, adolescents, and adults with anxiety and mood disorders, PTSD, OCD/Trich, autism, ADHD, eating disorders, and personality disorders. She works within cognitive-behavioral and person-centered frameworks.
Gavriel Boniuk, M.S., is an extern at The Child and Family Institute. He graduated summa cum laude with a bachelors in psychology from Queens College. Additionally, he has received a masters of science in applied psychology and is in his fourth year in the Psy.D. at Long Island University-Post campus. The Psy.D. at Long Island University is unique in its dual orientation, and Gavriel has been trained in evidence-based practices and psychodynamic treatments. He has experience working with autism-spectrum disorder, depression, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, trauma, insomnia, medical fragility, oppositional-defiant disorder, and conduct disorder. Gavriel's background also includes work with foster children in a residential setting. As a clinician, Gavriel focuses on the therapeutic relationship, cognitive restructuring, behavioral activation, DBT skills, and TF-CBT.
Maggie McDonald is a clinical psychology PhD student at St. John’s University. She completed a bachelor’s degree in Human Development at Cornell University and obtained a master’s degree in Psychology in Education from Columbia University, Teachers College. As a doctoral fellow, Maggie works as a training psychologist at the Child and Family Institute (CFI) and the St. John’s Center for Psychological Services, where she provides cognitive-behavioral based interventions to children and adolescents with a wide range of mental health disorders. Maggie specializes in treating OCD and other anxiety disorders. She also has experience working with gender non-conforming youth and is devoted to delivering culturally sensitive and affirming treatments to LGBTQIA+ individuals and their families.
Mini Sharma is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a wealth of experience in the counseling field. Mini is a graduate of Monmouth University, where she received her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology at Saint Elizabeth University. Mini has worked with diverse populations with varying needs, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and family conflict. She has experience working with adolescents and adults in partial hospitalization, IOP, and outpatient settings. Mini has experience as a Program Director of a child and adolescent partial hospitalization program. She was previously the Program Director of an Outpatient program in East Orange providing counseling to children, adults, and families. She also has developed expertise in several modalities, including CBT, DBT, and a certification in the Nurtured Heart Approach. Mini has great success engaging her clients in therapy and tailoring therapy to her client’s needs. In outpatient treatment, Mini utilizes Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and a person-centered, Humanistic approach with her clients. She has extensive experience working with women and teen girls, which she finds very rewarding. Mini empowers her clients to work through their problems and live a more fulfilling and balanced life. Clients that have worked with her find that they feel better and more motivated to work on themselves after sessions.
Jessica Wimmer is a predoctoral extern at the Child and Family Institute. A Texas native, she now attends a PhD program in Clinical Psychology at Montclair State University, where she is in her third year. Jessica has previous experience in trauma, internalizing disorders (e.g., anxiety and depression), and externalizing disorders (e.g., attention problems/hyperactivity, impulsivity). She works with children, adolescents, parents, and families. Jessica is a firm believer in providing warm, collaborative, evidence-based care to clients in order to help them reach their goals.
Debbie Chung is a pre-doctoral fellow at the Child and Family Institute. She focuses on treating children, adolescents, and adults with presentations of affective/mood and anxiety-related disorders, trauma-related symptoms, and children with challenging behaviors and concerns in executive functioning. Debbie utilizes evidenced-based approaches, most often drawing upon techniques originating in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and attachment-based approaches to treatment. In addition, she adopts an individualized, client-centered, and culturally sensitive practice with all her clients. Debbie also has a clinical focus on guiding parents to enhance attachment relationships and family conflicts by increasing parents' capacity to attend to their children's internal experiences (e.g., responding appropriately and sensitively). She has developed and spearheaded a parenting support group providing psychoeducation programs and interventions to reduce parenting stress at a department-based community psychological clinic. She also had prior experience researching the efficacy of an attachment and mindfulness-based intervention, namely relational savoring in mother/child dyads. This intervention aimed to guide mothers in evoking a mental attachment representation of their children through mindfulness practices, thereby improving the attachment relationship.
Social Work Interns
Sara Brooks is a Master of Social Work intern at CFI/WCF, with training in psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral therapies. She is studying at the Silberman School of Social work at Hunter College, and is also in training for certification in Somatic Experiencing trauma healing at SE International. She approaches her work with compassion, perceptiveness, and warmth, and is dedicated to a collaborative process of healing. Sara has a background in art, and maintains a practice outside of her work with CFI.
Madeleine Romero is a Hispanic bilingual, born and raised in New York and she graduated with her BSW at Hunter College. She is now a first-year Master's candidate attending the Advanced Standing Program in the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, studying clinical practice with families, individuals, and groups. Madeleine has worked as an intake coordinator with adults experiencing serious mental illnesses in her previous internship and is now excited to work and learn with children.
Brendan Nelson, (he/him), is an MSW trainee at the Child & Family Institute. He very much looks forward to providing as much support as he can for clients and their families! Brendan is in the second year of his Masters of Social Work program at Hunter College. He interned last year at a nursing home and provided support to the residents while doing cognitive and mood assessments. He centers his attention on creating a calm environment for active listening when he is with a client, and hope to create a safe space for honesty and open communication.
Vanessa Cocks, she/her: Vanessa Cocks is a trainee here at CFI, under the supervision of Dominique Pagano, LCSW. Vanessa is a second year graduate social work student at Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work. She also received her BA from Hunter College. Vanessa has experience working with children and adolescents, including creating arts workshops for teenagers in recovery at Odyssey House New Orleans. This past academic year she was an intern with the social work department at Challenge Preparatory Charter School in Far Rockaway, Queens providing individual evidence-based treatment with students. As an aspiring therapist, Vanessa is focused on providing quality and informed mental health services drawing from evidence-based practices to help kids and families in skill building and creating goals to be the best version of themselves.
Isabel Schuman is the Chief Intake & Operations Coordinator at CFI, and the Executive Assistant to Dr. Weissman. Isabel graduated in June 2021 from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychological & Brain Sciences and a Minor in Clinical and Applied Psychology. Isabel intends to pursue a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology.
During her senior year at UCSB, Isabel worked alongside Dr. Regina Lapate to design and conduct an innovative cognitive-behavioral study that investigated temporal processing and decision making in individuals at risk for Anorexia Nervosa. For her work on this study, Isabel received the UCSB Morgan Award for Research Promise. Isabel also worked as a research assistant in various other labs on campus, including Dr. Miguel Eckstein’s Vision & Image Understanding Lab and Dr. Barry Giesbrecht’s Attention Lab.
Isabel discovered her passion for working with children through her position as a volunteer tutor for Step-Up tutoring, an organization that matches students with free & accessible remote tutoring services during pandemic. Isabel is passionate about the mental health field and hopes to pursue a career in psychological research and clinical practice.
Ava Swanstrom is an Intake Coordinator and Executive Assistant at CFI. Ava graduated in December of 2020 from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies. Throughout her time at Alabama, Ava worked as a peer mentor to undergraduate students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As a UA-ACTS mentor, she guided college students to develop social and academic skills in order to nurture confidence in the challenging transition from high school to college life. Ava also worked as a research assistant in Dr. Bradley White’s Prevention of Youth Behavior Problems Lab, testing a computerized treatment for children with callous-unemotional traits and developing new formats of a school-based prevention program for at-risk youth.
Ava aspires to pursue a career in the mental health field, recognizing the importance of the positive effect the family system has on the development of a child with developmental disabilities. She aims to work closely with families and educators to strategize ways to maximize a child’s academic success and psychological well being.
Nava Winton is an Intake Coordinator and Executive Assistant at CFI. Nava graduated from the University of Maryland in May of 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in neuroscience. During her time at UMD, she volunteered at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline chatline and worked as a research assistant at the Cognition & Development lab. Nava intends to pursue a career in the psychology field and attend graduate school to earn a PhD in clinical psychology.
Melanie DelAngelo is an Intake Coordinator and Executive Assistant at CFI. Melanie graduated from Tulane University in December of 2021 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and a Minor in Political Science. During her time at Tulane Melanie worked as a research assistant in Jeffrey Lockman’s Infant and Toddler Development Lab studying children’s spatial and motor skills, and she also worked as a behavior technician at a local clinic for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Melanie intends to pursue a career in mental healthcare and attend graduate school to earn a PsyD in clinical psychology.
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.
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.
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. Most recentley, Daniel has been accepted into the Nueroeducation graduate program at Johns Hopkins
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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