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.
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. 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.
Michelle is a Post-Doctoral Clinician (Psy.D) at Stepping Forward. Michelle received her doctorate from the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown in Counseling Psychology. She received her Masters from the College of Saint Elizabeth in Counseling Psychology with a dual major in Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling.
Michelle is a NJ certified school counselor and served as a school counselor for 8 years prior to obtaining her doctoral degree. Michelle serves on the Board of Directors for OCDNJ, an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation.
Michelle takes an integrative approach based on person-centered principles when working with children and their families at Stepping Forward.
Jason R. LPC, Camp Director, Associate 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 Associate Counselor (LAC) 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 also board certified with the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) as a National Certified Counselor (NCC.) In addition, Melissa holds a certification as a Substance Awareness Coordinator (SAC).
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. Melissa is part of SFCC’s DBT team.
Sarah completed her Masters 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. She is excited to be a part of the team at SFCC and expanding her treatment knowledge!
Lindsey is a behavior specialist at Stepping Forward. She completed her Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program at The University of West Florida.
Lindsey provides quality ABA treatment for children with special needs. She enjoys yoga, going to the beach, and playing with her puppy. Lindsey is excited to use her skill set at SFCC to help children with special needs.
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.
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.
Celeste is part of SFFC’s admin team. She handles insurance and claims. Celeste enjoys gardening, cooking and reading. At Stepping Forward, she loves meeting and interacting with people. She believes she can learn something new from everyone she interacts with. She enjoys making a positive impact.
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.
Melyssa is a licensed clinical social worker with over 15 years of experience working with children and adolescents with special needs. Melyssa specializes in social skills development, growth, and generalization.
She received her Masters in Social Work and Bachelors in Psychology and Sociology from The University of Denver. Melyssa has worked in the school setting, agency setting and private practice and is experienced in ABA, CBT and DBT.
She is excited to help create innovative, exciting and stimulating programs to help children and adolescents grow to their fullest potential at SFCC! Melyssa is part of SFCC’s DBT team.
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. P is part of SFCC’s DBT team.
Expert in Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy from Cal State, Long Beach. April received a B.S. in Psychology from UC San Diego. She enjoys working with youths and their families. She likes playing competitive soccer and other sports with her friends.
April has worked with children on the spectrum and is trained in ABA. April is a Certified Teacher Trainer of “CPI” nonviolent crisis intervention. April is part of SFCC’s DBT team.
Elizabeth received her M.S. in Clinical Psychology from Cal State Fullerton. She received a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Education from UC Santa Barbara. She has a background in trauma therapy as a certified crisis counselor.
Elizabeth has a passion for working with children and families, and is thrilled to bring that passion to SFCC. Ms. Liz’s clients appreciate her patience and commitment to successful treatment outcomes. Elizabeth is part of SFCC’s DBT team.
Meagan received her M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy specializing in Art Therapy from Notre Dame de Namur University. She received her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Studio Art from Gonzaga University. Meagan enjoys going to the beach, reading, watching movies, and gardening. She is excited to expand art therapy at SFCC as it helps our clients learn about themselves, enriching experiences in life and in relationships.
Samantha received her M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of San Diego. She received her B.A. in Psychology and B.S. in Human Development from UC Davis. Samantha enjoys exercising outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and cooking. She is excited to provide compassionate support to all of our unique clients and families at SFCC. Due to her love of cooking, Samantha hopes to provide our clients with the opportunity to learn about healthy eating initiatives to help promote their overall well-being.
Amanda received her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. She received her B.A. in Psychology and Criminology from the University of California, Irvine. Amanda has experience working with children and families in various settings, including experience working in a school district setting. Amanda works with clients in both English and Spanish.
She loves to be outside at the beach, going swimming, and enjoys arts & crafts. Amanda has a passion for working with children and their families. She is super excited to join the SFCC team!
Bree received her undergraduate degree from Azusa Pacific University where she obtained her BA in Psychology. In addition to Bree’s friendly and enthusiastic attidude, she has over 5 years of experience working with children. She strives to foster a safe and supportive environment, while encouraging a positive experience as soon as a client walks in. She is honored to be working for SFCC because she sees how the organization makes an impact on every child and family that comes through our door.
Karina is a Fulbright Scholar and a UCLA-Certified Trained Mindfulness Facilitator (TMF). She has developed a mindfulness curriculum for Stepping Forward to help children learn how to focus their attention and regulate their emotions. Karina has been invited in several occasions by the City of Irvine to teach educators how to introduce mindfulness to classroom settings.
Karina is also a Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP) that helps organizations recover from emergency events (e.g. Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico). She leverages her mindfulness training to coach executive leadership teams on how to optimize crisis management. Karina loves to dance and teaches Zumba.