Agathe C. Pierre-Louis, Psy.D
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
One of the greatest lessons I have learned as a clinical psychologist, “No matter the struggles that bring someone in treatment, I can always see their beauty within, entangled in their pain and shame. My role is to hold space for the pain to be grieved, for the shame to be processed and to support their healing in the corrective experience of gifting themselves compassion, empathy and kindness.”
With over 12 years of clinical work, I have provided psychological treatment and assessments to adolescents, adults and geriatric patients with an array of clinical issues, namely: depression, anxiety, relationship issues, trauma, PTSD, anger management, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, infertility, grief, cancer and perinatal mood disorders. I provide treatment in various settings such as inpatient and outpatient psychiatric treatment hospitals, community-based centers, forensic facilities, and short-term rehabilitation centers.
Dr. Louis completed her Master’s in Education and Human Services at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. She later fulfilled her desire to become a Clinical Psychologist at the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University in Orange County, California. Her clinical training was at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health outpatient and inpatient treatment facilities, a leading clinical training site in the country. She has also participated in extensive training with Postpartum International Support (PSI), a world-renowned organization leading the support and professional training for maternal mental health. Additionally, she has completed a year-long Fertility Counseling Post Graduate course.
Dr. Louis is the founder of EMBRACE Therapy, which focuses on women’s mental health, providing individual, couple and group therapy. The therapeutic modalities she uses in treatment are Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), which is psychodynamically oriented and Cognitive Behavioral Treatment. Both treatment models are short-term and solution-focused. They have been highly researched and proven to be effective in a variety of psychiatric disorders. Her goal is that at the end of the journey in treatment, you will have obtained insight, change in perspective, increase in your self-awareness and have gained newly learned coping skills to improve the quality of your life.
She brings a passion for facilitating workshops to providers or to lay audiences on the importance of mental wellbeing. Her overarching goal is to help decrease the stigma of mental health and to send the message: “it’s okay not to be okay. There is relief in receiving treatment.” She has been invited as a speaker on subjects relating to postpartum depression and anxiety, motherhood, sexual health and spirituality, mental health and breastfeeding, teen dating violence, effective communications skills, secondary trauma of providers in doula training conferences, training programs for doctors, nurses, and social workers.
Dr. Louis recently completed an independent research study on The Strong Black Woman and her experience of Postpartum Depression which was presented at the 30th Annual Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference held at the University of Pennsylvania.
She also hosts the radio show, “Mind, Body and Spirit” on WTBQ/WGHT.
She has published a workbook entitled: Doula Revolution: Transforming your Mind, Body and Spirit. Currently, she is working on her next book entitled: Embracing Her.
Dr. Louis is ardently committed to helping individuals become more productive and functioning beings. With an open and inviting space, she wants to journey with you while you endure and overcome life’s challenges. Believing that her most positive attribute is her undeniable passion for this work. Dr. Louis states. “I will endeavor to reinforce to you that “you” matter by giving you my utmost attention, support, honesty, integrity, and respect through this EMBRACE. “
Christine Oriani, LCSW
The beloved Maya Angelou once said that “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Christine’s greatest passion is to empower others to find the words to tell their story. Telling our story brings heartache into the light where healing can begin.
Ms. Oriani is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York, practicing as a therapist in Orange County. Christine’s experience over the last eight years has cultivated a nurturing and compassionate approach to therapy. She practices a collaborative, strength-based, person-centered approach that integrates motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal therapies. Ms. Oriani has a master’s level education in clinical social work from Adelphi University. At Wheelock College, she double majored for her undergraduate studies in social worker and human development emphasizing on children, families, and cultures.
Outside of private practice, Ms. Oriani worked as a clinical therapist at a non-profit agency and as a behavioral health specialist on an integrative team at a health care center. She has provided clinical supervision to social work students and other professionals. Christine has experience treating children, adolescents, and adults with diverse backgrounds and ranges of concerns.
The biggest lesson Christine has learned from her patients is that gentleness with oneself is the gateway to healing. Christine is a daughter, wife, mama, bereaved mom, and fur-mom. She has two daughters that walk this Earth and an angel daughter who flies.
She lives in Washingtonville, New York with her husband, two daughters, dog, Olive and three cats, Tulip, Pumpkin, and Ivy. Christine enjoys walking, drinking coffee, enjoying the beauty of nature and spending time with her family.
Arlene Giagrande, LMSW
Ms. Giagrande empowers children and adults to recognize and embrace the strengths that live within them. Arlene utilizes evidence-based techniques to help individuals overcome obstacles; keeping them from living a life filled with healthy relationships, increased self-confidence, as well as strategies to combat life stressors, anxiety and depression.
Ms. Giagrande has worked in both individual and group settings with children, adults, new mothers, and parents for over 12 years. She graduated with a BA in Sociology from Fordham University and a Masters in Social Work from Hunter College.
Early in her career, Arlene had the opportunity to work in community-based settings providing support to children and adolescents as well as their parents in a school setting. While working with children and their parents, she began to learn many cognitive-behavioral techniques to help students and parents overcome fixed mindsets and develop healthy behaviors to succeed both emotionally and socially.
It was then that she saw the extreme resiliency and determination in parents and young people to be the best they can be once given the opportunity to express themselves with a caring and supportive counselor.
Later in her career, Arlene trained to run new mother’s support groups to help them navigate this unique time of life in a supportive and non-judgmental community. The many topics explored in these groups include a mother’s new normal, changing relationships with her partner, feelings of baby blues as well as postpartum depression, returning to work and much more.
Arlene states, “I have the privilege to work with individual mothers who are brave enough to openly discuss these common yet very difficult experiences, learn ways to deal with them and bond with their baby. It is truly inspiring to witness the tenacity of mothers who take the time to be the best mother they can be at a time in life when there just is not enough time.”
Her intuition and good listening skills as well as authentic ability to hold a non-judgmental space for my clients are where her strengths lie. It is in this environment that her clients have the chance to tell their story and learn how to realize their healthiest self.
Julie Schwartz, LCSW
Ms. Schwartz states, “I feel forever humbled to be sitting on the other side of each and every one of my clients. My clients are a constant reminder of the power of change as well as the resiliency and courage we all possess inside of ourselves. I am so grateful to be a part of this work.”
Ms. Schwartz has more than 10 years of experience treating individuals, couples and families in community-based social work, and in clinical and educational settings. Julie has treated patients presenting a wide range of diagnoses and concerns, including psychotherapy, foster care, homelessness, 9/11-related trauma, and behavior management.
Julie’s treatment methods are multifaceted. She regularly utilizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy as well as Family Systems Approach. Ms. Schwartz also incorporates primary Buddhist beliefs into her therapy with certain patients to help manage anger and overall emotion regulation.
Prior to Embrace Therapy, Ms. Schwartz served as a School Counselor at the Hawthorne County Day School, where she provided counseling services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She also practiced for 5 years at the Henry Street Settlement Neighborhood Resource Center in New York City. While at Henry Street, Julie provided short- and long-term counseling to economically disadvantaged adults residing in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, with specialties in assisting immigrant populations and individuals impacted by 9/11.
Ms. Schwartz received her MSW at Adelphi University, and her B.S. in Human Services at the University of Hartford. She also completed post-graduate training at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, where she treated couples and families.
Ms. Schwartz resides in Irvington, New York, with her husband and two children. She is an avid runner and tennis player, and also enjoys Pilates, live music, and outdoor activities.
Jemma Schwartz LCSW, RYT
Ms. Schwartz states, “We are never too stuck, too broken, too lost to find ourselves and create new meaning once we set our mind to it. It is not an easy road to walk, but you are strong and you are worth it.” In therapy, she has been gifted with seeing the power of resilience.
Jemma Schwartz is a licensed clinical social worker and registered yoga instructor. She graduated with a BS in psychology and disaster studies in 2006, then completed her Master’s in social welfare in 2012 at SUNY University at Albany.
She has gained a variety of experience working in hospitals, mental health clinics, home visiting programs and doctors offices, lending to her competency in treating clients with a wide age range. Her clinical experience spans from children as young as 5 years old to the elderly with mental health issues, substance use, maternal mental health, palliative care, homelessness, etc.
Jemma uses an eclectic approach of techniques to promote healing by tailoring interventions to the moment and to the person sitting in front of her. Through skilled and compassionate interventions, she aims to assist people in increasing self awareness through thoughts, emotions and physical experiences in the present moment.
Her goal is to aid her clients to understand where they are stuck in their story while putting their feet firmly to the ground to make healthier life decisions to shift their narrative. Her passion is using the body to heal the mind to increase skills of self-attunement and to ultimately decrease stress and promote empowerment and wellness.
Jemma carries additional certifications as a 200 hour registered yoga teacher specializing in trauma informed yoga; she is a trained doula, and is in the process of achieving provider status in cognitive processing therapy. Jemma’s reflection about the therapy process, “ I think about the therapy room as a playground for a client’s life. They get to unpack things and process stuff in a place where it doesn’t really matter, there’s no repercussions. That’s the benefit of having a neutral and compassionate ear.”
Edna Shanks Muhammad, LCSW
Ms. Shanks Muhammad encourages others to “Live as though life was created for you”. This quote by Maya Angelou reverberates in her personal life as well as a perspective in therapy for her clients to continue to persevere despite opposition.
Edna has worked for over 17 years in health-related and behavioral health care settings providing direct and indirect therapeutic services, crisis intervention, collaborative care, case management, and advocacy support to individuals, families and the community. She has been providing clinical assessments and intervention services across the age span from young children to the geriatric population.
She has addressed the following clinical issues: Anxiety, Depression, Self Esteem, Personal Development, Trauma, Grief/Loss, Interpersonal Relationships, Coping Skills, Life Transitions, Women’s Issues, Family Conflict and Managing with Chronic Medical Conditions. The therapeutic modalities she uses in treatment are Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), Cognitive Behavioral, Solution-Focused, and Motivational Interviewing.
Ms. Muhammad graduated with a Master’s in Clinical Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her clinical training during her program included working with traumatized youth in adoption/foster care and with geriatric population with health and transition challenges.
Edna completed a postgraduate certificate program in Mental Health and Aging at Adelphi University. She is also a Resolve Through Sharing Coordinator/Trainer (death/grief/loss process). Edna has developed clinical supervision programs for staff and student interns. She has been a guest lecturer and instructor at various venues with topics that have included: discharge planning/care transitions, creative learning, self-esteem and managing conflict; case management and technology; and advanced care planning.
Edna believes that a therapeutic space should be a confidential, safe, collaborative and non-judgmental place for connection and healing. In therapy, we will work to identify your issues, establish goals and determine the most effective solutions.
Together, we will work to bring out your best self by capitalizing your strengths, developing a better understanding of yourself and overcoming your difficulties.
All emotions are welcome in the room! Ms. Muhammad states: “My patients have taught me that everyone has strengths. Struggles can occur when you least expect it and we all deserve self-care.”
FaLisia Cotten, LCSW
Ms. Cotten reveals, “I often display a supportive therapy base and finds that this is an effective professional approach which blends her honest and loving style of helping clients to recognize the importance of living in their present best life.”
FaLisia is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker practicing in the Campbell Hall office of Embrace Therapy. She received her Master’s of Social Work from Fordham University. and has most recently completed a post-graduate certificate in Mental Health and the Aging Population from Adelphi University. With 30 years of experience, she has experienced many rewarding client interactions. She has found herself drawn mostly to the geriatric population finding that they are often forgotten. She has spent a significant amount of her professional career in an administrative program development role and has had the pleasure of impacting social change for various populations.
Ms. Cotten is well versed in multiple other areas from substance abuse to relationship/marital counseling and a myriad of other life adaptations of the worried well. Her vast knowledge base allows her to feel most comfortable with Interpersonal Psychotherapy and Motivational Interviewing modalities.
She also holds an Integrated Nutrition Health Coach certificate from INN. She believes that because we are the sum of all our parts, what we put into our bodies affects us not only physically but emotionally and mentally as well. In having this diversity in her education tract she helps with the continual evaluation of her clients and helps them on their authentic journey to total wellness.
Ms. Cotten has learned so much from her clients and these lessons have allowed her to continue to show up with her best self for them and their own individual journey. Together we will make the world a stronger place to live in. In her own personal life and in the process of therapy, the following quotes are weaved through the message of hope for betterment. “Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.”- Jesse Owens and “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” — Frederick Douglass
Stephanie Degroat, LCSW
Ms. Degroat asserts, “I am intentional in facilitating a treatment container in which an individual feels safe to explore their story.”
Stephanie earned her Masters of Social Work degree from the University at Albany. Over the past 5 years, she has gained a wealth of knowledge working in the field of mental health serving in a variety of treatment settings including inpatient psychiatric units, mobile response teams, and community mental centers assisting clients with an assortment of symptoms related to stress. Most recently, she has obtained intensive experience providing culturally competent and evidence-based therapeutic interventions to children, adults, and families who self-attest as members of a Native American, Alaska Native, or First Nations tribal community.
Due to historical trauma and a long history of oppression and mistrust of service providers, Stephanie’s greatest accomplishment of her practice was establishing and sustaining therapeutic rapport. This experience has furthered not only her clinical growth but personal growth as well. It is the accumulation of these experiences that has reinforced her reverence for the human spirit. Through this work, she is reminded very often of the human capacity for strength and resilience.
Therapeutic modalities she actively utilizes have included but were not limited to motivational interviewing, trauma-informed CBT, creative art therapy as well as cultural therapy to include traditional teachings of the medicine wheel and traditional practices such as sweat lodge. Stephanie is currently certified in Expressive Art Therapy and participates in weekly advanced supervision to further my skill. She is currently enrolled in a certificate program for Traumatic Research Studies in pursuit of furthering her skill set to include evidence-based practices to assist clients in healing from the effects of direct, vicarious, and generational trauma.
Her practice is exemplified in this quote, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light” – Albus Dumbledore
Shakirra McKinley, MS, MHC-LP
Self-compassion is the ability to turn understanding, acceptance, and love inward. In Ms. McKinley’s practice as a clinician, she often finds that clients can extend compassion towards others but find it challenging to extend the same compassion towards themselves.
“In our culture, women are raised and conditioned to place their needs and wants last in their own lives. While we are nurturing women by nature, it is equally as important to nurture ourselves free from guilt.”
Shakirra is a NYS Certified school counselor and mental health counselor. She holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Mercy College and recently obtained an advanced certificate in mental health counseling from Alfred University. She is a full-time school counselor in Westchester County and continues, through Embrace Therapy, her efforts to heal hearts and minds as a mental health counselor.
Ms. McKinley supports her clients in developing their understanding of self-care, self-worth, and value. She believes that our ability to love others is dependent on our ability to love ourselves. Shakirra strives to provide a supportive, empathic and safe space for her clients, using treatment approaches which include Psychodynamic Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Humanistic Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, and Positive Psychotherapy.
Throughout her clinical practice, forming a therapeutic alliance and experiencing various emotions along with her clients have been an invaluable lesson to Shakirra. Whether clients are in-person or on a virtual platform, they have taught her the importance of echoing empathy, support, and validation.
A favorite quote by sound healer Jaymie Gerard states: “loving yourself is healing the world”. Shakirra adds, “I couldn’t agree more with this quote, our ability to love and heal others depends on our ability to love and heal ourselves. We can only be the best version of ourselves when we intentionally and unapologetically give ourselves the same care we so easily give to others.”
Shakirra is dedicated to supporting her clients through their self-actualization process. We are a gift to ourselves and those around us and that gift requires the highest level of care and compassion.
Charlene Hogue, LMSW
Ms. Hogue emphatically states, “Throughout the hours I worked with my clients, I came to understand the importance of sitting with them, of empathizing with them, of listening, of validating their feelings, and of normalizing their unique ways of going through the grief process.
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” (Thoreau, 1854). This quote from Henry David Thoreau, written during his stay at his cabin in the woods on Walden Pond, highlights the virtue of empathy. His quote aptly conveys the value of seeing and feeling life from the viewpoint of another person. Empathy enables one to step outside of oneself as the means to connect and relate to someone else in a given moment to share in that person’s experience.
It was through Char’s extensive volunteer work, especially in the domain of domestic violence and its accompanying experiences of shame and grief, that she learned the value and necessity of social service, which propelled her to pursue a Masters in Social Work at Fordham University. Early in her graduate education, she found her clinical niche as a grief therapist for loss and traumatic loss. In her grief work, she collaborated with clients in both single and group settings. As a grief counselor, she was entrusted with their most private thoughts, feelings, and emotions relating to their losses. Clients came to understand that grief work may begin with a recent loss, but can also reawaken the painful experiences of other losses, some of which are unrelated to death. During those hours of counseling, Char created a safe place for them to express their grief, to help them understand that their worlds had changed and that their lives were going to be forever different.
Char’s most recent work experience was as a clinician in an intensive outpatient program for high-risk persons, and as a clinician in a clinic program. In addition to working with clients living with intense grief and post-trauma responses, she worked with clients who exhibited symptoms which included severe suicidal ideation, psychosis, bi-polar disorders that ranged across the spectrum, and depression and anxiety with varying levels of severity.
Her role as a clinician in an intensive program encouraged engagement in more research and to pursue more educational programs to enhance her work as a clinician. This led her to attend instructional programs that focused on evidence-based practice models. Among these were Integrative Harm Reduction (IHR) for addictions and substance abuse behaviors, and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). She is certified in both of these models.
These experiences enabled her to develop a person-centered approach for her clients that encourages empowerment and self-direction through collaboration, and an acknowledgment that all persons have their own lived experiences to share and process. She now brings these qualities and therapeutic approaches to my work as a private practice clinician with Embrace Therapy, offering the hope and forwarding movement in response to loss and trauma.
Christie-Lynn Malitz, MSW
Ms. Malitz believes the client’s therapeutic experience revolves around processing difficult experiences and emotions to unravel the true and best version of themselves. The client already has most of the answers within them and vulnerability unravels their authentic selves while diminishing the stigma of mental health.
Christie-Lynn is a graduate from Capella University obtaining her Masters of Social Work. She has clinical experience in forensics psychology, the intellectually and developmentally disabled, eating disorders, and adolescents & young adults. Her passion is to work with individuals struggling to become their best authentic selves. She utilizes an eclectic approach, finding treatment styles that are best suited to the client. However, her most prominent therapeutic techniques include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and cognitive processing therapy.
She brings vibrant energy and a soft approach that sets the tone for clients to let go of the stigma of being emotionally unwell and ’just be’ without judgment. Working through is the goal of treatment. While the process can be very difficult, she believes that when a clinician is able to hold space for her clients’ wounds, they can begin to heal.
This quote from Brene Brown resides in her practice as a clinician,“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weaknesses.” Embrace Therapy recognizes her commitment, expertise, and compassion towards her clients.
Breanna Catucci, BA Psych, MHC
Ms. Catucci states that Virginia Satir’s definition of the role of a therapist guides her practice. Satir once said, “As a therapist, I am a companion. I try to help people tune into their own wisdom”. My goal as a therapist is to create a safe space so I can provide support to my clients so that they may find their inner wisdom.
Breanna graduated from Mercy College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is currently a master’s level student studying Mental Health Counseling at New York University. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Mercy College, Breanna worked in a school setting where she supported children, adolescents, and young adults enrolled in a therapeutic treatment program.
Breanna takes an integrative approach to therapy. She frequently utilizes techniques from a variety of different therapeutic approaches including cognitive-behavioral and narrative therapies. Breanna is also fond of integrating mindfulness-based techniques into her work with clients.
The greatest lesson Breanna has learned from her clients is that individuals are incredibly resilient and capable of growth.
Breanna is certified in nonviolent crisis intervention and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI).
Melitza Sandoz, A.A.S.
Ms. Sandoz is an integral part of Embrace Therapy in her role as Medical Biller. Melitza has obtained an associate degree in Applied Science at Hostos Community College, Bronx, NY. She has been a medical biller for the past 6 years working in the same capacity and later assumed the role as office manager for MB pediatrics.
Her interest in working at Embrace Therapy was due to the commitment and perspective on therapy. In addition, she states, “I liked the specialties that help women in different stages in their lives and the fact that there is help for all other family members as well. The therapists can work with kids, adolescents and fathers too.”
Melitza believes that the teamwork atmosphere and mutual respect for one another is a cornerstone of the practice. Despite the challenges of the ever-changing Electronic Medical Record programs, collecting payments and dealing with the insurances, Melitza is exceptional at completing the tasks that are placed before her and is a troubleshooter of the unexpected.
Her role is almost fluid and she has worn many hats in order to allow the clinicians to be as effective as they can be. She embodies what a true team player is!