Our Staff & Providers

The team/staff at SFCC are Super Heros, going beyond the call of duty. Each and every one of them brings a unique set of skills and expertise to the organization. Each and every staff member has a dedication and commitment to SFCC’s methodology of bringing a sense of wellness and success to your child and family.

New Jersey

Our CEO, Christine Robertello, LCSW and mother of two, has more than 20 years of experience as a licensed clinical social worker certified in cognitive behavior therapy. SFCC’s Director brings a demonstrated competency in the field and years of on the ground expertise. Supported by a professional, caring, and culturally competent team of psychiatrists, PhDs, LCSWs, medical practitioner, nurse, occupational therapist, speech therapist and nutritionist. The Center’s interdisciplinary staff offers vast experience in multiple treatment modalities. Working collaboratively as active members of a treatment team and in concert with the client, enables SFCC to provide treatment options appropriate to the client’s goals, needs and conditions. This customized approach to treatment is further enhanced by SFCC’s use of consultants and other professionals to provide specialty services.

As Director of Clinicians and Programs, Christine Robertello, has extensive experience as a therapist in multiple treatment modalities. She brings not only a demonstrated competency in the field and years of expertise, but a proven track record of more than 20 years of effective business administration and management. A Board Certified Diplomat and mental health consultant to several school districts in the area, Ms. Robertello is also a sought after conference speaker and trainer in mental health rehabilitation and maintenance. These skills provide an additional advantage as it relates to the successful implementation of a service system that utilizes an Advisory Board and a formal network of community support and mental health services provider agencies. Ms. Robertello has recently granted certification to provide in-home services to Medicaid patients through the Partnership for Children Program for the State of New Jersey.

Program Director of New Jersey location. Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and families. She received her masters in social work at New York University and her undergraduate degree in sociology at MonmouthUniversity. To date, she has completed 30 credits towards her Ph.D. in psychology focusing on attachment theory. She holds certifications as a School Social Worker and a Disaster Response Crisis Counselor. At the beginning of her career, she worked with developmentally disabled adults that provided the foundation for the progressive development of her knowledge, skill, and compassion for working and helping others. She has also worked as an administrator and clinical supervisor in various settings including an intensive outpatient program, a children’s psychiatric hospital, and therapeutic group homes. For 11 years, she worked as the Clinical Supervisor at a Special Education school and residential treatment setting for children with emotional and behavioral needs. During her tenure, Jill served as the Chairperson for the Passaic County Case Assessment Resource Team and was elected and served as the Chairperson and Vice-chair for the Children’s Interagency Coordinating Council representing Passaic County.

Dr. Nataliya Osmanova, M.D. in NJ has been working with the Psychiatry staff at SFCC for 4 years. Dr. Osmanova devotes countless hours to clients and families in a group or one-on-one settings. This allows Dr. Osmanova time to properly evaluate a successful treatment plan. Dr. Osmanova has extensive and specialized training in Outpatient and Partial Hospital programs from Stony Brook University and UBHC Child outpatient units. She received her MD degree from the Izhevsk Medical Institute, Russia. She did residency training in General Psychiatry at the Izhevsk Psychiatry Hospital in Russia and then at Stonybrook University Hospital with both adults and children. Dr.Osmanova completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship program in Child Psychiatry at Stonybrook University Hospital and another Postgraduate Fellowship in Child Psychiatry at UMDNJ. Dr. Osmanova is Board Certified in Adult Psychiatry and is fluent in Russian. Dr. Osmanova specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of children, adolescents, and adult with a wide range of psychiatric disorders. She has expertise in the evaluation and treatment of Mood Disorders (including Bipolar), Impulse Disorders, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Depression, Anxiety, Psychotic Disorders, Adjustment Disorders. With Dr. Osmanova’s expertise, SFCC’s programs are successful and have a lasting effect.

Dr. Yomarie Rodríguez-Loyola is a licensed psychologist . She obtained her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). Dr. Rodríguez-Loyola completed her internship at Roberto Clemente Family Guidance Center, Gouverneur Healthcare Services, and NYC Health + Hospitals. She did her post-doctoral fellowship at NYC Health + Hospitals and the New York University School of Medicine.

Dr. Rodríguez-Loyola worked at NYC Health + Hospitals from September 2011 – February 2019 providing outpatient services to adults, children, adolescents, and their families with diverse mental health conditions including mood disorders, trauma and anxiety disorders. Dr. Rodríguez-Loyola also worked at the Child and Adolescent Outpatient Services at UBHC in Newark from February 2019 to December 2020. Her clinical work focused on working with children, adolescents, and their families.

She integrates the systemic approach, attachment theory, CBT and DBT in her work to effectively meet with the needs of her patients. Dr. Dr. Rodríguez-Loyola is an active member of the American Psychological Association and the New Jersey Psychological Association. She is a Latina psychologist, fluent in Spanish.. She has extensive experience supervising Master and Doctoral psychology students and post-doctoral trainees. In her free time she loves running, reading, and crafting. She is passionate about social justice, learning from diverse cultures, and the impact of cultural backgrounds and perspective on children and adolescents’ worldviews.

Dr. Ghahary Ph.D. has been a clinician for more than 22 years. Her work has included treatment of adults, children, adolescents and their families. Dr. Ghahary also has extensive experience in teaching and supervising Master’s and Doctoral level students and post-doctoral trainees. Dr. Ghahary is a Licensed Psychologist as well as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of New Jersey. She obtained her doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology from Seton Hall University. She has been intensively trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy and holds certifications in Critical Incident Stress Management, Psychological First Aid and Post Traumatic Stress Management, and Advanced Post Traumatic Stress Management: Protocols for Response to Suicide.

Jason R. LPC, Camp Director, Licensed Counselor in NJ is passionate about his work at SFCC because of his love for working with children. Jason received his undergraduate degree in psychology and a Masters in mental health behavior. Jason has 13 years of experience working with kids ages 6-16 and was a martial arts instructor for a decade. At SFCC, he is a service provider who does individual and family counseling. During his time at SFCC, he finds that his experience here is most meaningful because he is able to positively interact with children utilizing his creativity as well as his expertise to provide his patients with the best care possible.

Anne Pereira is part of our team for the PCP and IOP as well as the C.A.M.P. director for our Summer Therapeutic Program. She brings a special touch to SFCC. She has 29 years of experience working with special needs children as a Teacher and a Transition Coordinator. She was a Vice Principal at New Jersey Regional Day School in Newark, NJ. and President of the Board of Trustees for the Center for Autism in Newark. Anne’s multitude of qualifications also includes her 3 Bachelor of Science Degrees as a Teacher of the Handicap, Elementary Education Teacher, and Teacher of Early Childhood. She also has a Master’s in Administration. Anne’s leadership skills have radiated throughout her works, especially as the Vice Principal at her school, making her a perfect fit in the SFCC family. The optimism Anne has for the Stepping Forward Programs is shared by the rest of the staff and will create a fun and eventful therapeutic time. We are all pleased to have her on board for another fun and successful year!

Melissa Doney is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of New Jersey. Melissa received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Melissa then obtained her Master of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a CACREP accredited University.

Melissa is board certified with the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) as a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and is a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA). In addition, Melissa holds a certification as a Substance Awareness Coordinator (SAC).

Melissa has been intensively trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) through Behavioral Tech LLC, which was founded by Marsha Linehan Ph.D., ABPP. Melissa is part of SFCC’s DBT team and is passionate about utilizing a person-centered, systemic, and DBT approach to treatment when working with clients and their families.

Melissa is dedicated to the innovative, empathic, and integrative approach to treatment that is provided to the children, adolescents, and their families at Stepping Forward Counseling Center.

Sarah Green, LSW

Sarah completed her Master’s in Social Work at Fordham University. She received her Bachelors in Social work from Sacred Heart University. Sarah’s hobbies are spending time outdoors and doing yoga.

Sarah is passionate about providing fun and energetic treatment.

April Tansey, MSW

April recently completed her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Rutgers University and is working on becoming a licensed clinician. She graduated from Montclair State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Family Science and Human Development with a minor in Sociology.

April has been with SFCC for a few years now and has loved being able to get to know and work with all of the clients. April enjoys spending time with her family and friends, playing with her dog, making art, and reading.

Samantha Litzky, LAC, NCC

Samantha completed her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Kean University, a CACREP accredited University. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Leadership Development Through Civic Engagement from Montclair State University. Samantha has experience in Applied Behavior Therapy (ABA).

Samantha is also board certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NCC). She is empathetic and dedicated to the treatment that is provided to the children, adolescents, and families of SFCC.

Kaleigh received her Master of Arts in Teaching and her Bachelors in Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Kaleigh has a background in teaching students with disabilities. Her hobbies include traveling, exercising and reading.

Robert holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Psychology with 30 years of experience working with people with disabilities. Robert’s is interested in art, art therapy, and new program development and design.

Kimberly earned a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics and a Master’s degree in Community Nutrition from West Chester University. Kimberly completed her dietic internship at Stony Brook Medicine, where she completed 1200 hours of supervised practice that allowed her to become eligible for the registered dietitian exam. Kimberly is a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at SFCC.

Kimberly is passionate about health and wellness. She loves to share this passion with others. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, cooking, and going to farmer’s markets.

Learn more about Kimberly: Being a Nutritionist: What it is Really Like and the Ways in Which it Helps People

Dawn is a mother, wife, yogi and licensed, board certified, art therapist. She is passionate about living life in the present moment and deeply values mindfulness as an accessible internal resource to help alleviate stress. She received her master’s in art therapy at New York University and her undergraduate degree in art and psychology from San Francisco State University. She has twenty years of experience specializing in adolescent issues and using art therapy to address symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, and family crisis. Currently Dawn facilitates the art therapy groups at SFCC and maintains a private practice in Manhattan, Millburn and Westfield New Jersey.

Dawn’s comprehensive trainings in both psychotherapy and art therapy, brings diverse elements to her sessions. Using art in treatment can be extremely beneficial as it not only provides an additional resource for expressing thoughts and feelings, but also helps illuminate the internal parts of the self not as easily accessible. Dawn supplements this creative exploration with active discussion to mentally engage her clients to delve deeper into self-discovery. She emphasizes there is no “right” or “wrong” way to create art in therapy. Instead, their primary focus is more about the process of creating and finding a place that feels safe to freely explore.

Kayla O'Connor, BS

Kayla received her Bachelor of Science from Saint Joseph’s University in Psychology with minors in Austim Studies and Behavioral Neuroscience. She is completing her Master of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Caldwell University. Her hobbies include going for long walks and spending time with her friends and family.

Kayla believes that movement has a significant impact on mental health. She enjoys teaching fitness classes to SFCC’s clients as she preaches that psychical exercise is a great coping skill.

Lorraine has joined the SFCC family to train the staff and parents, as well as work with the children. Lorraine is nationally certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork by the State of New Jersey, as well as by the Upledger Institute in Miami, Florida in Cranio Sacral techniques. She is also trained in Acutonics® techniques, (a registered trademark of the Kairos Institute of Sound Healing, LLC, in Llano, NM) and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which draws from elements of Cognitive Therapy, Exposure Therapy, and Acupressure. These modalities are based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and is also known as Meridian Therapy using acupuncture points to stimulate and balance the systems in the body, which enables her to integrate these skills into her practice. These skills are helpful for adults and children with fears, phobias, anger, guilt, grief, physical pain, emotionally-based illness and so much more. She is a member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, in Evergreen, Colorado. Lorraine is committed to providing quality service focusing on the client’s personal needs, providing a relaxing experience, while promoting wellness through the benefits of her skills.

Igor is part of SFCC’s admin team. Igor can be contacted for information on all SFCC programs. He handles payments and invoices.

Igor supports world peace, recycling, and is an advocate for climate change initiatives. He is excited to be a part of Stepping Forward where he can bring positivity and have the ability to enrich the lives of children and their parents.

Laiza graduated from Eastside Highschool in Paterson. She is currently enrolled in Drew University with a major in Spanish and a minor in Psychology.

Lazia has a passion to work with children as they seem naturally drawn to her. She is a very social human being with a colorful personality and a quirky sense of a human. She believes that is a multi-tasking was a subject in school, she would have passed that class with honors! She is always looking for ways to acquire new skills and loves a challenge.

Lorrie is part of SFCC’s admin team. Lorrie handles insurance and billing.

Lorrie is most passionate about her family, especially her grandchildren. Lorrie has a farm where she takes care of animals. She likes to bake and make canned foods. She likes to try new things!

Joseph Trombecky started at Stepping Forward as a volunteer in 2017 while at Saint Peter’s Prep and returned in the Summer of 2022. Beginning at Rutgers University and finishing his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Arizona, Joes has intentions of pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work as he intends to be a Mental Health Counselor.

As the proud Executive Vice President of the University of Arizona’s online community and member of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity, Joes hopes to continue using his passion and charisma to help others.

In his free time, Joe loves spending time at local bookstores because he loves to read as he believes learning is essential to personal growth. He also enjoys food and long walks on the beach.


Head of Psychiatry at SFCC California locations, Dr. Pedneault, has in-depth knowledge of diagnosing, treating and managing behavior disorders associated with mental health. Dr. Pedneault’s treatments focuses on effectively developing and implementing core treatment plans with the team. Boston-born, Dr. Pedneault moved to California in 1990 and did his Postgraduate studies in Child Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Dr. Shaffer brings 30 years of IOP and PCP experience working with teens and young adults. Dr. Shaffer is Canadian born and has been a resident of Southern California for most of his adult life. Mitch and his wife are very proud of their son and two daughters, all in their late teens.

An active community member Dr. Shaffer has the insight to the needs of our clients. He will be developing new programs and assisting with the clinical and family treatment at SFCC. Dr. Shaffer has worked with many different modalities like DBT and Dateianhänge CBT in his IOP and PCP programs. Dr. Shaffer is part of SFCC’s DBT team.

Andrea received her B.A. in Psychology and additional minors in Business Economics and Korean from the University of Notre Dame. She completed her M.S. in Social Work from Columbia University, where she worked in-depth with children and young adults relative to their mental health and professional development. Andrea has worked with children and adolescents for multiple years in diverse settings and has a passion for working with this population.

Andrea enjoys going to the beach, traveling, watching movies and sports, and trying new foods. She partners with children and their families to grow, maximize their potential, and create meaningful connections.

Claire Miller, ASW

Claire Miller obtained her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Washington. Claire has five years of experience helping young people develop and practice social skills that positively impact their family and school settings. Claire believes in the healing power of animals as she has raised 11 service dogs, volunteered at a therapeutic horseback riding center, and has a french bulldog named Winston who is a certified therapy dog.

Claire was raised near Seattle, Washington, and has a brother with a developmental disability. She knows being the sibling of a child with special needs has its own challenges and hopes to use her experiences to support other siblings.

Winston the therapy dog

Animal Assisted Activity (AAA) is a type of therapy that combines traditional therapy with human and animal interactions. AAA uses goal-directed interventions and is guided by professionals who have been certified as therapy animal handlers. Claire Miller, a certified therapy animal handler, and her French Bulldog Winston, a certified therapy dog, are excited about implementing AAA at Stepping Forward Counseling Center (SFCC).

Kyla Obillos Brown received her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Child and Youth Studies from the University of San Francisco and her Master’s in Social Work from Louisiana State University.

Kyla has worked with children and adolescents in various settings; from coaching a youth lacrosse team to schools, hospitals and mental health settings. Kyla has experience working with previously incarcerated youth and found a passion for creating connections with and empowering vulnerable youth. Being a child at heart, Kyla loves positively interacting with children and is passionate about helping others explore personal growth.

Kyla enjoys hiking, going to the beach, reading, and watching football.

Carissa Ferbert completed both her B.A. in Psychology and her M.S. in Clinical Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. Carissa has worked with children and adolescents in therapeutic and academic settings; she scheduled and planned a mental health awareness workshop for sixth-grade students at a local public school. Carissa is a dedicated advocate for mental health access and education to assist children and their families in growing in order to achieve their goals.

Carissa loves being outdoors and believes nature strongly impacts mental health; she enjoys hiking and camping. She also enjoys reading, traveling, and watching movies.

Erika received her (B.S.) in Criminal Justice from California State University, Los Angeles. Erika also received her (M.A.) in Educational School Counseling from La Verne University.

Erika has worked with children and teens for over ten years. Erika has experience working with at-risk children in different settings, such as group homes, community programs, and mental hospitals.

Erika is passionate about helping children and their families achieve their goals by ensuring they receive the services they need.

Contact Us

Three locations to serve you

Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC has three locations to serve you.
Please contact our offices for questions, applications, programs, and events.

Irvine, California
15375 Barranca Parkway Building D
Irvine, CA 92618
Phone: (949) 333-1209

Chatham, New Jersey
26 Main Street
Chatham, NJ 07928
Phone: (973) 635-6550

Yorba Linda, California
22343 La Palma Ave. Unit 116
Yorba Linda, CA 92887
Phone: (714) 340-0511

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