COURAGE. CONNECTION. CHANGE.
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
– Margaret Mead
Alex Klein, MS, LCSW
For nearly 20 years, Alex has been working with children, adolescents, young adults, and families. Starting in entry-level, direct-care positions, Alex has steadily expanded his education, increased his training and certification, and broadened his experience and skills in this field. While rising within the ranks of previous organizations, Alex developed a vision for combining dynamic counseling and community partnerships to meet client needs in the least restrictive environment. Alex’s creation of SPBH is a manifestation of his prior experience and his mission moving forward: to direct a therapeutic program in which clients and families receive treatment on the path to living healthy and productive lives within their communities.
Alex’s professional experience has been centered around macro and micro treatment practices; he has held leadership roles in previous facilities, focusing on programmatic systems and staff training and development, while simultaneously maintaining a focus on direct-care, individual counseling, crisis management, and family systems work. His innovative contributions to agency structure, and his talent in providing quality care for individuals and families, have all lead to positive outcomes for the clients and staff with whom he has worked. A leader in both therapeutic content and process, Alex’s attention to organizational arrangement and service methodology are the cornerstones of SPBH; a program aimed to deliver the highest levels of training for his clinical and counseling staff, and the highest quality of care for his clients and the community.
Alex holds Bachelors Degrees in Psychology and English, a Masters of Science in Recreational Therapy, and a Masters of Clinical Social Work. He is a Licensed Psychotherapist with a broad range of experience in hospital programs and psychiatric units, residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding and day schools, and community clinics. Alex has extensive clinical and leadership experience in working with clients across the diagnostic spectrum at all ages and stages, from children to adults to families. Alex has intentionally sought opportunities with varied and diverse populations to develop his skills, become more well-rounded in his knowledge, and make a positive impact in both the mental healthcare community and the education system. In addition to leading SPBH, Alex manages a thriving private practice in Madison CT focusing on psychodynamic counseling, collaborative care, and crisis consultation.
Throughout his career, Alex has blended his passion for travel and adventure with his professional experience, leading groups of high-risk adolescents on foreign and domestic trips to engage in outdoor activities like mountaineering, rock climbing, alpine skiing, and water-based adventure, as well as humanitarian trips in which he has helped build facilities for, delivered food and medicine to, and educated and played with children living in poverty. Alex believes that the human connection to nature and the outdoors, and meaningful, shared experiences with others are impactful opportunities for expanding horizons and strengthening psychosocial development. Alex identifies that the foundations of mental health are built on a healthy diet, exercise, and maintaining points of contact within family systems and community connections. Alex’s work in forming community partnerships is intended to provide clients access to care across the continuum of supports and interventions available while keeping them connected to their families and communities. A native of upstate New York, Alex has created a second home on the Connecticut Shoreline where he has lived and worked for the last 15 years.
Janel Lynch Bacon, LMFT
Janel possesses a natural gift for connecting with clients and helping them better connect with themselves. Her work as a clinician, as well as a leader in program development and staff supervision, are deeply rooted in her caring for others and aiming to better their lives. Over the last 20 years, Janel has melded her personal and professional experiences with formal education and certified credentials to become an effective leader and contributor in the field of mental health services.
Janel’s expertise lies in complex trauma and EMDR treatment modalities, child and adolescent development, couples therapy, and family systems. Her attention to detail in working with clients is her greatest strength, as she possesses an innate ability to identify and understand presenting issues, and to guide and educate on the path to self-discovery and healing. Janel is clinically-oriented in her focus; her relational approach allows her to join with her clients and build rapport, connection, and trust during their therapeutic journey. She has provided therapy for clients across the diagnostic spectrum, from children to adolescents to adults, and for individuals, couples, and families.
In addition to her clinical work, Janel is a gifted teacher with extensive experience in the training and development of other clinicians, counselors, and crisis intervention coordinators. Throughout her 20-year career in previous facilities, Janel has been consistently promoted to higher levels of responsibility and management based on her ability to learn, teach, supervise, and develop her own skills, while helping her colleagues do the same. Her expertise in the clinical supervision of therapists and care providers, as well as her creation and implementation of systems for program development and staff training and certification, have been significant in increasing the sophistication of services delivered to clients and their families. Janel’s leadership at SPBH will ensure that all staff and families are understood and provided with nuanced quality care tailored to their individual needs.
Janel holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She has worked in residential treatment centers, outpatient hospital programs, community clinics, and has nearly a decade of experience in managing her private practice in Madison CT, where she works as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for individuals, couples, and families. Janel is also a certified Yoga and Mindfulness instructor and former college athlete who firmly believes in the mind-body connection, the importance of diet, exercise, and experiences in nature and the outdoors as the foundations of mental health and personal development. A Connecticut Shoreline native, Janel has lived and worked in the area for many years and maintains a strong network of family, friends, and connections to colleagues and other agencies in the community.
Jan Lynch, Office Manager
Jan is SPBH’s office manager. She ensures that our office runs smoothly and is often one of the first people our clients interact with during the intake process. In short, without Jan, SPBH would simply not function!
Jan is a native of Connecticut and has been living on the Shoreline for over 35 years. She enjoys going to the beach, boating, and spending time with family and friends.
In addition to her office manager role at SPBH, Jan has been working with the Westbrook school district for over 30 years as a Food Service Manager and enjoys being a care taker to her two grandsons.
Joe Romano, BS, CPT, CNC,
Health & Fitness Consultant
Joe Romano is the owner and founder of Mojoe’s Gym with locations in Milford and Guilford, CT. Joe has spent the past 20 years immersed in the fitness industry, working towards the goal of helping as many people as possible achieve optimal health and increasing quality of life regardless of their age or physical limitations. He began his career at corporate gyms and was a top trainer for LA Fitness before branching out on his own as a traveling trainer. He then opened up his first studio in 2011 in downtown Milford. More important than a degree in Exercise Science is the thousands of clients he has worked with and the testimonials they share about the positive impact of his training on their lives. Joe combines nutritional counseling into his practice of highly individualized and safe personal training. Joe loves the challenge of working with people through all stages of life- from student athletes to baby boomers! Joe is involved with Employee Health Matters, LLC, the Milford Wellness Council and Chamber of Commerce and various not for profit organizations. Joe enjoys spending his free time with his wife and 2 young children and perfecting his practice of making Neapolitan Pizza.
Tracy L. Dempsey, MS Therapist
Tracy has been working in the human services field for over 20 years. She has worked with a variety of populations including those dealing with substance misuse, traumatic brain injury, and mental health issues. Tracy also has treated patients in multiple settings – inpatient psychiatric units, homeless shelters, on worksites, and in individual’s homes.
Tracy has assisted clients with Vocational Rehabilitation for the past 8 years, while recently completing her Licensed Professional Counselor hours providing both individual and group counseling.
She received her Bachelors degree in Psychology and her Masters degree in Community Counseling.
In her free time, Tracy enjoys traveling, relaxing at the beach, and visiting with family and friends in Upstate New York and Miami, FL.
Gretchen Holthausen, MS, LPC
Gretchen Holthausen is privileged to work as a Licensed Professional Counselor to develop knowledge, build self-advocacy, and sustain growth within teenagers, adults, and families. She utilizes an empathic, holistic, and client-centered approach to honor exactly where individuals are in their lives and develop a trusting therapeutic relationship within a safe space. Founded upon the belief that people do better when they can, Gretchen works with individuals to identify and work towards meaningful goals and, ultimately, through acceptance and empowerment, bring about change and fulfillment.
In addition to working with children, adolescents, adults, and families in a community-based clinical setting over the last three years, Gretchen has worked for 12 years as a Nationally Certified School Psychologist within a Connecticut public high school. In turn, she has experience across multiple environments in routinely supporting individuals with ADHD, Anxiety, Autism, Depression, executive functioning difficulties, Gender Dysphoria, and PTSD. In addition to helping individuals and families process and work through divorce and family conflict, she also specializes in assisting teenagers in accessing appropriate supports, increasing independence, and navigating the transition from high school to post-secondary education and work.
Gretchen welcomes all individuals regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity and/or expression. She brings a positive, honest, strength-based approach to her clinical work while incorporating research-based techniques founded in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), meditation, mindfulness, and psychoeducation.
A firm believer in the power of laughter within the context of hard work, when appropriate, Gretchen incorporates humor in her work with individuals and families. Finally, she subscribes to the notion that no success is too small to honor. As it takes a great deal of courage to make intentional change in one’s awareness, behavior, perspective, response, and understanding within the therapeutic process, it is important to celebrate growth each step of the way.
Michelle Marenna, MS.ED, LMSW
For the past 13 years, Michelle has been working as a Special Education teacher in both private residential and public school settings. In 2016, she continued her education by receiving her master’s degree in social work and becoming a licensed social worker. She is specifically interested in clinical work with children between the ages of 3-12 and has experience working as a clinician in a child and family agency setting. Michelle is currently working on becoming a registered play therapist, is an active member of the CT Association for Play Therapy, and uses principles from a variety of researched based play therapy practices with her clients.
She enjoys being in the classroom with her middle school students, but she also loves the magic that the playroom can bring.
This summer, Michelle became an approved yoga teacher through Radiant Child Yoga® at the 30 hour level; she has instruction and practice teaching yoga to children ages 3 to teenagers. Michelle looks forward to incorporating what she has learned about the mind/body connection with her clients.
Sydni Marmor, MA, LPC Therapist
Sydni’s therapeutic approach is rooted in the practice of self-compassion. She works with her clients to help them learn how to be kind to themselves while fostering the opportunity to use their moments of struggle as the foundation in which they transform and rebuild their lives. This becomes a daily practice of building awareness around their moments of struggle that shape and influence their inner world. Mistakes, bad moments, and growing edges do not have to be the downfall of their mental health but can be a stepping stone to a deeper and more authentic understanding of who they are as individuals. Through the practice of self-compassion, Sydni invites clients to step onto the limitless pathway of self-discovery, with the permission to be exactly as they are without judgment. Sydni specializes in treating eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and life transitions. She is passionate about working with female empowerment, identity exploration, creative expression, and mindfulness education.
Sydni’s clinical background has included a variety of treatment programs and populations. From psychiatric day treatment to eating disorder residential to outpatient psychotherapy at integrative medical centers, each opportunity worked to develop her integrative clinical identity. Sydni is a mindfulness consultant for medical centers and insurance companies where she develops and teaches numerous mindfulness programs for workers and healthcare providers. She’s partnered with MIT’s Global CoCreation Lab as a clinical and mindfulness expert for developing digital therapeutic interventions. She received her BS/MA from Lesley University in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in Holistic Studies. Sydni holds a 200 hour Vinyasa yoga teacher certification, a 16 hour Yoga Warriors International certification training for yoga based interventions for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Reiki Master/Teacher Trainer certification.
Outside of SPBH, Sydni is a self-proclaimed chef and you can find her cooking and baking for family and friends. On weekends, you can find her exploring in the trees or painting technicolor murals in her home. She recharges by dancing in her kitchen to Fleetwood Mac and sitting in the sunshine. Her favorite dessert is a scoop of lavender honeycomb ice cream with hot fudge in a waffle cone.
Marissa McCarthy, MS, 6th year, CSP, LPC Therapist
Marissa encompasses a vast knowledge of counseling theory, practice and strength building with children, adolescents and families – and she is excited and honored to work as a Licensed Professional Counselor outside the public school walls with children and families at Shoreline Psychotherapy & Behavioral Health.
Marissa is in her 10th year working in the public educational setting as a Certified School Psychologist. She works with students ranging from 4 years to 21 years old. Most recently, Marissa and a colleague developed an alternative program for teens with emotional dysregulation and executive functioning issues, which provides continuous support and structure in a nurturing and unbiased way. Given her experience and expertise, Marissa brings with her immense knowledge of special education law and supports schools can provide to students through various modalities. In addition, Marissa has copious training with interpreting psychoeducational evaluations and advocating for student’s needs in school.
Marissa received her undergraduate degree in Psychology with a concentration in Children and Youth, and a Minor in Sociology. Through the University of Hartford – Marissa earned her Master of Science Degree and Sixth Year Certificate in School Psychology. She also holds a specialty in Clinical Child Counseling. She continues to stay current in her involvement with the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the Connecticut Association of School Psychologists (CASP).
Utilizing a client centered, collaborative approach focusing on the individual, Marissa feels strongly that in the present moment, one is only able to do the best they can with ‘what they have right now’. Marissa’s gift and testament is in assisting individuals in finding their own strengths and power which can increase their ability to cope and succeed in life. Marissa utilizes an empathetic, genuine and nurturing nature with others while also empowering one’s own ability to self-advocate and thrive.
Marissa has long standing experience supporting individuals with Anxiety, Depression, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, and relational and family issues. She also prides herself in the ability to assist in families’ navigation through the transition from public school to secondary education and life/work after high school. Many of Marissa’s most used approaches in therapy are based on practices such as solution focused therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma Focused Therapy, and Mindfulness.
When Marissa is not working with children and families in the school or counseling office, she enjoys spending time with her two bulldogs and feels that the power behind the human-animal connection is greatly therapeutic.
Brittany Parker, LMFTA Therapist
Brittany has been working for over 8 years directly with adolescents and their families at The Grove School, a therapeutic boarding school in Madison, CT. The Grove School works with adolescents who, because of social or emotional difficulties, have been unable to make satisfactory adjustments in their home or school environments. She joined the Grove team after receiving her undergraduate degree in psychology. She began as a Program Counselor, where she built meaningful relationships with students and staff, assisted in crisis management, and lead diverse student activities. She currently serves as an administrator and advisor at Grove, providing case management services to up to 10 students. Brittany helps develop, teach, and implement individual treatment plans for students. Working in collaboration with psychiatrists and residential case managers, she develops goals and objectives for the students and their families.
Brittany graduated with her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Southern Connecticut State University. Brittany completed her clinical internship hours at the Grove School, providing student counseling sessions, family sessions, and group therapy. During her year and half of clinical supervision, she worked with individuals and couples under the guidance of a trained Marriage and Family therapist. This experience has guided the development of her theoretical orientation as well as enabled her to gain knowledge and receive feedback in her work.
As a former college field hockey player, Brittany offers a deep understanding of the athlete’s role as well as the inner workings of the larger sports community. The application of this experience helps guide her work with high school and college athletes struggling with mental health conditions who may experience the stigma of seeking professional support. Brittany believes in a holistic approach that integrates systems theory and emotionally focused therapy, while emphasizing the importance of staying active to help clients achieve their ultimate potential.
Kayla Shannon, LMFTA Therapist
Kayla is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist in Connecticut. Kayla has been passionately working with individuals, couples, and families for several years. Kayla completed her Bachelor’s in Psychology at University of Connecticut where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She received her Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from Southern Connecticut State University with a concentration in couples and families.
Currently, Kayla works at Wheeler Clinic’s Extended Day Program, an intensive outpatient program for adolescents who struggle with significant emotional disturbance and behavioral dyscontrol. Kayla works as a teaching assistant at Southern Connecticut State University training student therapists. Additionally, Kayla has completed trauma informed care and de-escalation training.
Kayla’s strengths-based approach focuses on psychodynamics and attachment. She believes a strong therapeutic relationship is an important factor in fostering change. Kayla has worked with a variety of individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, LGBTQIA+ issues, trauma, aggressive behavior, substance use, psychosis, and eating disorders. Kayla has worked extensively with couples and families struggling with transitions, affairs, substance use and domestic violence. She has training and expertise using solution focused therapy, emotionally focused therapy, structural family therapy, queer and feminist theory. Kayla has experience facilitating groups for youth to explore adolescent struggles. She believes her clients are the experts of their lives and that therapy is a space to explore their own potential.
Jake Zoubek, LMFTA Therapist
Jake comes to Shoreline Psychotherapy and Behavioral Health with 5 years of experience working directly with individuals with behavioral health needs, ranging from autism spectrum disorder to anxiety and substance use disorders. Jake completed his bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in addictions at Keene State College. During his time at Keene State he worked with adolescents with autism, providing one on one care to improve maladaptive behaviors. Jake also spent 6 months in Spain, studying psychology at Universidad Pablo de Olavide, which afforded him an opportunity to grow as a culturally competent therapist.
Jake graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a Masters of Family Therapy. During his time in graduate school Jake worked as a milieu therapist at Turnbridge, providing support to adolescents struggling with substance abuse in an inpatient setting. Jake completed his clinical internship with Rushford. He provided individual, group, and family therapy to adolescents and young adults struggling with substance use and co-occurring mental disorders. During this time, Jake also created and facilitated a parent support group for loved ones of clients. Jake brings a solution focused approach to therapy, providing clients with support while helping them take steps to achieve their goals. In addition to SPBH, Jake works as a Multidimensional Family Therapy clinician for Wheeler Clinic, providing in-home individual and family therapy, as well as parent coaching, for adolescents with conduct and substance use disorders.
In his free time you can find Jake snowboarding, rock climbing, and doing anything else that gets his heart racing!
Sam Stearns Home-Based Counselor
Sam graduated from Daniel Hand High School in Madison in 2010. She has spent the last ten years working as a teacher at a local daycare center. This experience has furthered her interest in working with children and families. She is often called a “people person” by friends, colleagues, and clients. Sam finds her work fulfilling, as each family she works with is so different. She enjoys getting to know her clients and working to understand the unique family dynamics. Along with her child care experience, Sam has experience working with in-home care.
On weekends, Sam enjoys playing golf and spending time with her family and friends.
Dennis Rinaldi Home-Based Counselor
Dennis Rinaldi joins the SPBH team from Harrison, New York. He graduated from Western New England University with a degree in Economics. At WNE, he was a stand-out basketball player and led his team as Captain, MVP, and the school’s first All-Conference first-team award winner. Dennis applies his positive on-the-court attitude to his work with children and families. He has always found joy working with kids and has led volunteer trips, nonprofit fundraisers, and community events to support youth development. Dennis also holds a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Connecticut.
After graduation, Dennis worked at The Grove School, a therapeutic boarding school for adolescents who, because of social or emotional difficulties, have been unable to make satisfactory adjustments in their home or school environments. He began as a teacher/counselor and was quickly promoted to an advisor/ residential administrator role. He spent 3 years at The Grove School, working directly with families and young adults. He was a mentor, coach, and role model for Grove students and the staff he worked with.
For the past 4 years, Dennis has been working as the Program Director at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a non-profit organization founded by Paul Newman for children with severe and life-threatening illnesses. He manages a team of thirty-five counselors, overseas safety for all program activities, and focuses on providing a different kind of healing for children and their families.
Dennis has called New England home for the past 10 years and presently lives on the Connecticut Shoreline.
Dan Coca-Ducach – Home-Based Counselor
Dan Coca-Ducach is a longtime resident of the Shoreline and has always had a strong passion for helping others. As a teenager, Dan worked for the Guilford Parks & Recreation Department as a youth camp counselor during the summers. Dan later had the privilege of completing an internship program with Guilford Youth & Family Services while attending Middlesex Community College where he earned his Associates Degree in General Studies.
In his 10 years of service, Dan has gained extensive experience working with diverse populations. Currently, Dan is the New Haven County vocational coordinator for Ken’s Krew, a nonprofit that helps adults with disabilities gain meaningful employment.
Dan has a strong passion for music and plays the drums in a local trio called Green Light. Green Light performs their own original music and has released one album and has another in the works. Dan loves to cook, travel, and is also fluent in Spanish. Dan is thrilled to be a part of the SBPH Team and to serve the Shoreline community.
Stephanie Hill – Home-Based Counselor
Stephanie has had a strong desire to help people since she was a young girl. Growing up in Madison, CT, she enjoyed babysitting and other caretaking roles which sparked her interest in working with children and individuals who required extra love and care.
Stephanie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a minor in Deaf Studies and Education from the University of New Hampshire. She also earned her Associate of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from New England Institute of Technology.
She enjoys working to support clients and their families reach their full potential. She is a firm believer in not limiting individuals due to their diagnosis. With over 10 years of experience in supportive services, Stephanie has worked as a traveling therapist in Brooklyn, NY and has also worked at two outpatient therapy clinics.
Stephanie enjoys spending time with her family and friends, checking out local coffee shops, going to the beach, and traveling around New England on the weekends.
Emily Kipness – MFT Intern
Emily has a strong passion for working with kids of all ages. She is currently a Certified Child Life Specialist at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital in the Pediatric Emergency Department where she works with children and families from birth through age twenty-one. As a child life specialist, her primary job in the hospital is to help children and their families deal with the stresses and anxieties of hospitalization. Part of Emily’s job as a child life specialist is to provide developmentally appropriate procedure preparation, diagnosis education, therapeutic play, sibling support, and grief and bereavement education and support.
Emily grew up in Guilford, Connecticut and received her undergraduate degree at Southern Connecticut State University in Liberal Studies, with a concentration in Psychology and Wellness. Emily is currently a third-year master’s student in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Southern Connecticut State University.
Emily has volunteered at a variety of medical camps including Camp Rising Sun, Double H, and Center for Courageous Kids. Emily loves to be outside and is very active. Emily sees a strong correlation in the mind and body connection. In her free time, Emily is often working out, spending time with her family, going on hikes and to the beach.
Emily is often told she is intuitive, insightful, and empathetic and finds these skills vital to possess when working in a helping profession. Emily believes that a good therapist gives their client the ability to recognize that the catalyst of change can only be ignited from within one’s self.