Eastlake Team 

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Brie Scalise, LCSW

Brie has 10+ years experience working with youth in various settings including day treatment, school-based mental health and inpatient acute care. Expertise areas include: crisis intervention/management, suicide ideations and prevention, safety planning, building coping skills, dual diagnosis, ADHD, depression/anxiety, psychosis, self-harm behaviors, substance use disorders, school and family-based issues. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work with a concentration in Children, Youth and Families from California State University San Marcos.Her therapeutic approaches: client-centered, solution focused and strength-based incorporating CBT, DBT, Motivational Interviewing and Psychodynamic modalities She is passionate, dedicated, easy going and friendly. Her goal is to provide a safe and comfortable space while promoting growth and positive change 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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Keri Colberg, LMFT

Keri Colberg M.A. LMFT has a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology; California licensed Marriage Family Therapist. She has 13+years and clinical therapy working with youth and their families in school-based mental health programs, day treatment and residential treatment. 15+ years of hands on work in mental health programs. Her area of expertise, and marked success is working with youth and young adults struggling with dual diagnosis (anxiety/depression and substance abuse) and providing family therapy. Keri is a companionate, down to earth, and to the point therapist. She possesses: passion, drive, and energy directed toward encouraging personal growth.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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Gertrudis Vargas, LMFT

Gertrudis graduated from SDSU in 2010 and obtained a M.S. in Counseling. Gertrudis has gained experience working with families, youth and children.  She has worked with grief and loss, depression, anxiety, trauma, and ADHD as well as other behavioral concerns. Gertrudis implements Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma Focused-CBT, Solution Focused Therapy and Play Therapy approaches to restore functioning and overall wellbeing.  Gertrudis has invaluable experience facilitating evidenced based practices in positive parenting to families with a history of referrals to Child Welfare services. By facilitating family therapy and positive parenting, Gertrudis has developed the essential skills of being supportive, empathetic and culturally sensitive with the focus in helping families to achieve their goals. She is a bilingual speaker in both Spanish and English. 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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Jennifer Zimmerman, LCSW

Jennifer aims is to enhance attachment and positive communication within families. She respects that clients have varying needs and is comfortable working flexibly, integrating cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic approaches to therapy. Jennifer is currently working toward her certification in Play Therapy and enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults. She also provides parent education and support, being certified in both Positive Discipline and as a Circle of Security parent educator. Jennifer has experience in providing outpatient therapy to both children, teens and families in a variety of settings. 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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Cristina Hernandez, LMFT

 Cristina has been in the field for the past 8 years. Cristina is compassionate and enjoys working with families specializing in children and adolescents. She has collaborated with the Juvenile Justice Department as well as the local School Districts. She has also implemented Elementary based prevention and intervention programs. She believes in the importance of the therapeutic relationship and she is able to display a great level of empathy.  She holds a solid commitment to the social and emotional growth of individuals. Cristina promotes the client centered approach and enjoys applying different techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Play Therapy and Mindfulness. She is bilingual and offers therapy in both English and Spanish.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist


Julie Hernandez, ACSW

Julie has an extensive clinical background providing trauma-informed psychotherapy to children, teens and their families dealing with various complex traumas including traumatic loss, exposure to family violence and domestic abuse, as well as sexual abuse. Julie has experience developing treatment plans that support areas of anxiety, depression, PTSD, emotional dysregulation, angry and aggressive outbursts as well as substance dependence and co-occurring diagnosis. Julie utilizes various therapeutic modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Narrative Therapy and Motivational Interviewing to address and support your child. She works with: improving self-esteem, strengthening communication skills, developing healthier coping skills, and building healthy relationships. Julie has a strengths-based, client centered approach in collaboration with the family. She is passionate about positive growth and change and seeks to avoid future problems.

Associate Clinical Social Worker supervised by Lysette Del Castillo, LCSW

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Lysette Del Castillo, LCSW

Lysette discovered her love for working with youth while volunteering at Juvenile Hall during her college years. Over the past 19 years, she has had the privilege to work with children, youth and families in their schools, homes and communities, with the aim to promote open communication, healthy choices, and positive self-worth. Lysette sees therapy as a partnership that develops through acceptance and compassion. She believes that by building on strengths and internal resources, you can work together to activate change. When working with children and youth, Lysette regards the family unit as a critical support system, and welcomes family member participation whenever possible. In joining the Grow Through Life Counseling team, Lysette is looking forward to providing culturally sensitive, individualized, and effective and practical approaches for you and your family. From managing life stressors, to addressing signs of depression or anxiety, or feeling at a loss with your teen’s behavior, Lysette is ready to hear your concerns and begin looking toward solutions, together.

Clinical Supervisor and Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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Vivian Garcia, LMFT

Vivian has experience working with children, adolescents, and families struggling with depression including suicidal ideation, anxiety, ADHD, behavioral issues, and extensive trauma history. Vivian utilizes techniques from Solution Focused Brief Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma-Focused CBT and Motivational Interviewing in order to help clients develop the skills necessary to reduce symptoms and improve wellbeing. Vivian believes in the importance of developing a positive therapeutic relationship with her clients therefore makes sure to take a non-judgemental stance and provide a safe environment for clients to develop trust and open up. She is bilingual and offers services in both English and Spanish.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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Monica Montoya, APCC

Monica graduated from USD, with a Masters degree in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling. She has over 8 years of experience at UCSD aiding adults and families create a healthier lifestyle through novel behavioral weight management as part of current research. As an associate at Southwestern College, Monica provided individual and group therapy to college students in the areas of depression, anxiety, grief and loss, test anxiety, assertive communication, self esteem, time management and emotional regulation skills. She has also facilitated individual and group therapy and crisis management with safety plans at API. Monica uses Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to empower patient's to discover their internal strengths to increase resiliency and self-esteem. She is bilingual/bicultural and provides counseling services in both English and Spanish.

Associate Professional Clinical Counselor supervised by Lysette Del Castillo, LCSW

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Dulce Mendez, LMFT

Dulce is a compassionate therapist who enjoys working with children and families 

overcome challenges. Through a non judgmental and collaborative approach she focuses on creating a safe and comfortable space for clients to begin the therapeutic process of healing and empowerment to improve their lives. She has had extensive experience providing psychotherapy to children and families involved with: CWS, court mandated, and children who have been exposed to various traumas. She strongly believes in an individualized and integrated therapeutic approach and interventions to support clients work toward reaching their goals. She is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), Play Therapy, parenting skills, Solution Focused Therapy, CBT, DBT, substance use disorders, and take an Attachment based therapeutic approach. She is bilingual and offers services in both English and Spanish.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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Ambar Lopez-Barnes, LMFT

Ambar has been in practice for over 12 years. Ambar has clinical experience working with children, teens and their families in an outpatient setting. Ambar take a client-centered based approach and incorporates the individual’s strengths into the therapeutic experience. She specializes in working with children and youth dealing with ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, life stressor, parental relationship,  low self-esteem and trauma. Ambar uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and a Solution Focused base approach in treatment.  She believes in creating a safe, non-judgmental environment that will allow growth and improved behavioral/mental health. Ambar’s work in the South Bay has allowed her to develop an understanding of the challenges faced by individuals and families. Amber is bilingual and offers services in English and Spanish.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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Deanna Jefferson, LCSW

Deanna received her Master of Social Work Degree from the University of Southern Mississippi.   Her extensive experience includes working with children as well as military members and their families.  Deanna believes in a client-centered approach and utilizes the modality of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) while working with children and adults.  Building self-esteem, working through traumatic experiences, strengthening communication skills, and addressing social anxiety are Deanna’s strengths.  She believes in providing an environment where clients can explore their fears comfortably and “rehearse” new ways to improve their life circumstances. Deanna loves working with couples as well. Deanna looks forward to helping you identify new coping skills and live your best life! 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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Mattilyn Millman, LMFT

Megan graduated in 2014, from San Diego State University, with a Masters of Social Work degree. She specializes in working with children and youth experiencing grief, loss, life stressors, anxiety, and low self-esteem. In practice, Megan believes in using a strength-based perspective and a client-centered approach. She has experience conducting group work to enhance coping mechanisms, increase communication skills, and support emotional regulation. At Grow Through Life Counseling, Megan is excited to offer counseling to you and your family with hopes of making it a healthy, successful, and meaningful life. 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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Esther De La Cruz, LMFT, RPT

Esther is passionate about supporting children, teens and families navigate through 

challenges of social emotional development. She integrates her knowledge and background in mental health, early childhood education & child development help children and teens who struggle with anxiety, self-regulation, anger, depression, special needs, challenging behavior, self-esteem issues, and trauma. She uses play therapy to help children express their needs and resolve their challenges when words are difficult. In addition to her degree, she holds a Child Development Program Director Credential and a certificate in Play Therapy. She is a Certified Positive Discipline Parent & Classroom Educator and a Child Development instructor at an technical college. She looks forward to supporting your child, teen and family acquire new skills to help him/her succeed. Esther supports adults through times of transition including divorce, grief and loss and relational changes. Esther works with couples to heal and create a more loving and supportive environment. Esther is Bilingual and offers counseling services in both English and Spanish. 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist & Registered Play Therapist

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Claudina Hanna, LCSW

Claudina Hanna is a graduate of San Diego State University graduate school and has many years of working with both with children and teens in outpatient and school settings. Claudina has specialized experience working with refugee and Caldean populations in East County. Claudina has a military family and looks forward to helping support families in Eastlake! Claudina is bilingual English and Arabic and offers services in both languages. 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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Renee Ortiz, LMFT

Renee has extensive experience working with children and youth in the juvenile justice system, child welfare services, and school settings. She is very passionate of working with families and mental health illnesses surrounding ADHD, anxiety, depression and other trauma related mental health issues. Renee uses a strength-based approach and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to build on effective coping skills, improve communication skills and therefore help reach the client’s goal.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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Christina Shadoan, LMFT

Christina has dedicated her career to working with youth and families providing both prevention and intervention support. She has extensive experience with teens involved in corrective action and over a decade of experience collaborating with law enforcement agencies. She uses trauma informed approach and evidenced based interventions. She supports sustainable growth and change with children, teens and families. As a certified Brief Strategic Family Therapist, she believes in working with families to help build healthy relationships and improve overall well being and functioning. She specializes in parent-child relational problems, anxiety, addiction & anger management. She also enjoy working with couples who want to work to improve their relationship. Christina graduated in 2008 with a Masters in Counseling. 


Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist


Chantal Wilson, LMFT

Chantal holds an M.S. in counseling with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy.  Her focus is working with children, youth, families, and adults on a variety of difficult topics.  She assist clients in working through challenges such as attachment issues, trauma, anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and self-esteem.  Her goal is to offer a safe place for clients to openly express and explore the struggles which that brought them to treatment.  She uses a client-centered approach and utilizes a variety of interventions: Play Therapy, mindfulness, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Sand-tray, and Trauma Focused- CBT.  She believes that the client an expert in his/her own life and works alongside the client to meet their individualized treatment goals identified in therapy.  

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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​© 2019 by Kara Kohnen, LMFT @ Grow Through Life Counseling   Located: Eastlake of Chula Vista, Del Mar, San Diego, Scripps Ranch and Oceanside