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Support Team

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Christine Villamarin


Intake Coordinator 

Christine was born and raised in San Diego. Some activities she has been enjoying as of lately are going on walks, roller skating, and playing pickleball! Christine graduated from UCSD in 2020 majoring in clinical psychology. And in the future she  hopes to become a therapist. Christine's own personal mental health journey is what inspired her to study psychology. She has experience working with children with mental disabilities and it has taught her the importance of being able to recognize and process emotions. She is passionate about working with and helping other people and excited to start a new journey as an intake coordinator!

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Kiara Thomas


Billing Specialist 

Kiara Thomas joined Grow Through Life Counseling in February 2023 as a Billing Specialist. She 
is an avid animal lover and has three-plus years of experience volunteering in animal shelters. She is currently in school earning her Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies. Kiara is an advocate for improving one`s mental health and has previous experience as an intake coordinator for a psychiatric center in San Diego. She is excited to be a part of Grow Through Life Counseling`s support team, providing billing assistance and solutions to those in need.

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Tanya Pazder


Billing Specialist 

Tanya Pazder joined Grow Through Life Counseling in 2022 as the Billing Specialist with the goal of assisting families with the ins and outs of the complicated world of insurance. Tanya has been an active member of the community and has spent the past ten years volunteering at various organizations while overseeing the innumerable responsibilities of raising her family. Previously, Tanya was an Admissions Manager for Kaplan College, where she guided prospective students through the admissions process so they could achieve their dream careers. Always dedicated to helping people reach their goals, Tanya is passionate about advocating for clients and being an integral part of solving problems. In her spare time, Tanya enjoys spending time with her family, going to the beach, reading, and exercising.

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Hazel Rivera


Intake Coordinator 

Hazel Rivera started with Grow Through Life Counseling October of 2022 as an Intake Coordinator. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology at California State University, Sacramento. She is currently attending Pepperdine University for her Masters in Clinical Psychology with hopes of becoming a Licenced Marriage and Family Therapist. She has three years of experience working with mental health settings for youth. Prior to her time at Grow Through Life Counseling she was leading workshops in juvenile halls and for foster youth. Her warm and empathetic personality has pushed her to pursue her career in mental health. She is excited about her role as intake coordinator to continue to fulfill her passion of helping others.

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Liliana Gomez


Intake & Billing Specialist

Liliana is an administrative professional with over 20 years combined experience working in different sectors from public to non-profit in San Diego. Having always had an interest in child development and child rearing, Liliana has taken courses through Theoria Technical College and the Center for Babywearing Studies which contributed to her leisure job title of Certified Babywearing Dance Instructor. Liliana feels like she is where she was meant to be working all along, as she is excited to utilize her empathic strengths to assist and applaud those seeking and offering mental health services.

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Janette Etchings


People and Culture Team Lead

Janette Etchings joined our support team in 2020 where she assists with administrative operations and managing the support team. She works collaboratively with all departments within the practice to promote a positive employee and client experience. Janette has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychological Science from California State University, San Marcos. Soon, she will be attending graduate school to pursue her Master’s Degree in Psychology with the goal of becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Janette came to Grow Through Life Counseling with over five years of experience working in the field of Memory Care. She finds fulfillment in helping others and her compassionate personality makes others feel comfortable and accepted. Additionally, Janette has spent almost 10 years teaching painting classes to encourage others' self expression. She has a passion for creativity through art and believes it is an integral part of the healing process.

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Shakera Yusufi


Director of Human Resources 

Shakera Yusufi is the Director of Human Resources and oversees the administrative operations. When she began in 2019, she supported clients and therapists in her responsibility of the billing and onboarding processes. Prior to joining Grow Through Life Counseling, Shakera was the Client Support Manager for EA Health Corp with complex organization and support tasks. Previous to EA Health, Shakera was the Head Neurophysical Training at the Drake Institute. She provided direct care as well as managed a team of technicians in assessing and treating ADHD, Autism and other Learning and Processing Disorders. Shakera received a BA in Psychology from San Diego State University. She brings with her talent for working compassionately with people and addressing their needs, and she is passionate about helping others.

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Kara Kohnen, LMFT


Director of Growth 

Kara Kohnen is the Clinical Director of Growth at Grow Through Life Counseling and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego with over 21 years of experience working with children, teens and families in behavioral health. Kara's current role is focused on helping grow our team. She began Grow Through Life Counseling for specialized treatment of children, teens and families. Her areas of expertise include: parenting, behavior modification, ADHD, Learning Disorders and high functioning Autism. She enjoys working with younger patients and frequently works with families as part of the treatment process. She has been a clinical supervisor of pre licensed clinicians for the past 11 years and has taught in graduate programs.  In 2017, Kara wrote two books to help parents explain the benefits of treatment and the therapeutic relationships of children starting and in treatment and to help teens actively engage in the process and to promote suicide awareness and prevention. Kara supports the clinical management team and support team as the Director. Kara enjoys networking, meeting with other mental health providers, community outreach and speaking at schools and in communities of topics about:  pediatric mental health awareness, teen mental health and suicide prevention. 

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