Our Clinicians

Victoria Bruner, LCSW

Victoria Bruner has been in practice as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker since 1976. She received her RN degree in 1967 focusing on children and family’s behavioral health. She was a pioneer in founding services for the care of infants and young children in conjunction with the Menninger Clinic in Kansas. She completed a Bachelors of Education degree in 1972 in Early Childhood Education from Washburn University. In 1976, she graduated with honors from the University of Iowa’s Clinical Social Work program with an emphasis on child and family therapy. She is a graduate of the 3 year Menninger Foundation Marital and Family Training Program. Later she established a marital and family training program. She continued in child therapy education and became known for her numerous workshops on child therapies for at-risk children and families establishing one of the first child abuse and neglect community boards in the nation.

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Amy Tomaso, LSW

Amy Tomaso has a Master of Social Work degree from Dominican University.  She has been with Innovative Counseling Partners, LLC since August of 2017.  Previously she was with Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence agency in Oak Park. There, she worked with women affected by domestic violence in both group and individual sessions.

Amy received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a minor in English from the University of Dayton in 1994.

Amy works with with individuals, couples, families and groups.  She is excited to help people of all ages and has a person centered, strengths based, and holistic approach to her practice. Her goal is to help her clients achieve their therapy goals and strive to live their best lives.  Amy is especially interested in helping those with anxiety, depression, teens in crisis and interpersonal relationship work, including family therapy and marriage counseling.  Amy is born and raised in Oak Park and currently resides in River Forest with her husband and three children.

Todd Burd, MA, LCPC

Todd holds a Master’s degree in Community Counseling and is a Licensed Professional Counselor. He uses a variety of proven approaches and modalities, depending on individual needs, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Therapy, Mindfulness, and individual/group psychoeducation.  He is practiced in helping those dealing with PTSD, Military/Veteran issues, addictions, grief, personality and mood disorders, as well as many other challenges.  Todd provides a safe environment for his clients to discover more productive methods in handling very personal issues.


Todd retired from the US Navy in 2006 and began working as a Military Aviation Consultant until he launched into a new chapter in his professional journey. Upon completing graduate school, he served as Director of Social Services with The Salvation Army of Winnebago County until he was appointed Superintendent of the Veterans’ Assistance Commission. He gained clinical experience specializing in substance abuse counseling and as a Behavioral Health Counselor at a nursing care facility imparting coping techniques with both young and mature adults struggling with severe mental illness.


As a musician, Todd believes everyone has his or her own song to sing. He credits Zig Ziglar for his personal philosophy of believing that you can get everything in life you want – if you just help enough other people get what they want.  This simple yet powerful quote is Todd’s cornerstone value and has been his greatest reward as a therapist, leader in the community, and advocate for over 30 years.

Melody Chen, LCPC

Melody Chen, M.S.Ed, LCPC, is a clinical counselor with experience working with a diverse client population in a variety of settings, including community mental health, home-based therapy, crisis intervention and residential treatment. Her clients presented with issues ranging from adjustment disorder, ADHD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, complex trauma, autism spectrum disorders to psychosis.

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Nayeli Diaz de Bernt, LCPC

After graduating with my Master’s degree I have been working with children, families, adults and couples in community mental health.  More recently, I have been working with children and families in the of early childhood and children with disabilities.  My passion is multicultural counseling. I work with people who are dealing with issues related to ethnic identity and race, as well as depression, anxiety and trauma, as well as those dealing with difficult and overwhelming emotions, relationships; past and current struggles. I have gone through the 40 hour domestic violence training.

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Cesar Pajarillo, DMIN, MS, LPC

Cesar will be graduating with a Master of Science  in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in Spring 2019 and is training to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Illinois.


Additionally, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (BA), a Bachelor of Theology (ThB), a Master of Divinity (M.Div), and a Doctorate in Ministry (DMin) in Pastoral Care.


He has years of experience working with the military, veterans, and civilian populations, having served in the US Army as a clinical combat chaplain (MOS 56A7S) and assigned to reserve and active duty positions at the Battalion, Brigade, and Division levels where he was given responsibilities with the army’s suicide and substance abuse prevention programs. He received training in Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), Applied Suicide Intervention Skills (ASIST), and Moral Injury/Spiritual Resiliency and Reintegration at the US Army Medical Department Center and School in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.


Cesar subscribes to a holistic approach in mental health and integrates the care of the body, mind, and spirit in his clinical practice. He offers counseling support that creates hope and healing for his client’s life by walking with them in their journey no matter where they find themselves at the moment. He primarily uses Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in order to explore the ways that patterns of thought affect emotion, behavior and relational well-being but he also makes use of Narrative and Existential modalities, which explore how personal narratives contribute to conceptions of self, others and one’s relation to the world and how these narratives affect one’s present and future across the physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and social dimensions of a person.


His research interest is the intersection of mental health, human behavior, and spirituality and is well acquainted with the unique challenges that often accompany persons who are engaged in religious ministries in various leadership capacities as well as those who have been traumatized by institutional and/or ritual abuses especially in closed systems such as cults and cult-like organizations.


Cesar  brings with him more than 10 years of experience working with children, adolescents, adults, couples and families  on issues associated with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), abuse, anger management, anxiety, depression, grief, family and parenting challenges, marital issues (communication, conflict resolution, intimacy issues, etc.), self-image/identity, life transitions, spirituality, and men’s issues.


In addition to English, he speaks fluent Tagalog/Filipino, Spanish, and Italian.

Brenda Flores, LCSW

Brenda Flores is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been working in the outpatient mental health since 2013. Brenda obtained her Master’s in Social Work from Dominican University.  Brenda enjoys working with children, adolescents, & their families & enjoys using a variety of innovative techniques like play therapy, art, & music. She has worked with victims of domestic violence and at risk youth. Brenda has experience working in the school setting, working with child welfare cases, running groups with children/adolescents, and connecting families to early intervention programs. Brenda is trained in the Child-Parent Psychotherapy Model and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Brenda is very empathic and compassionate with her clients and uses a holistic strength based approach in her therapeutic work to improve family stability and connectedness. Brenda is also proactive in her professional development and has attended numerous trainings to expand her knowledge in the mental health field. In her spare time Brenda enjoys reading, music, & exploring new places.


Jennifer Froemel, LCPC, CMHIMP

Jennifer Froemel has been in private practice as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) since 1999. Jennifer received her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Roosevelt University in 1996. Jennifer is the founder/owner of Innovative Counseling Partners, LLC since 2014. She operates in consultative ways with medical, alternative, and spiritual practitioners to ensure a holistic approach to improved client wellness.

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Betsy Gilpin, MS, LPC

As a therapist I strive to build a relationship with clients, empower them to make positive choices and cultivate hope for a better future.

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Jaya Hariprasad, MA, LPC

Jaya is a graduate from the Masters of Counseling Program at Northwestern University. She holds a Ph.D. in 19th-century Indian, Anglo-Indian, and Victorian Literatures from Rice University, as well as an M.A. in Literature from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Connecting with students and gently helping them navigate through the turbulences of college was the most meaningful aspect of Jaya’s academic career; this helped lead her to the field of counseling. Jaya’s counseling training is rooted in psychodynamic theory, but she utilizes interventions from various therapeutic approaches in order to best serve the needs of her clients. She has worked with clients on issues that range from marital problems, family conflict, self-esteem, depression, anxiety, empowerment, trauma, spirituality, and grief.

Jaya believes that treatment is not just alleviating a symptom, but integrating a person holistically, helping to heal mind, body, and spirit. Her treatment approach is informed by the belief that everyone is different, and those differences need to be acknowledged, honored, and respected.  Jaya is trained in Gottman Level 1 Couples Therapy and will complete Gottman Level 2 Couples Therapy in July 2018. She has also received training in Mindfulness, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Multicultural Approaches to Therapy. Jaya works with clients of all ages, genders, and races; her general counseling approach is one of inclusivity and empathy. During her leisure time, Jaya enjoys reading, traveling, watching movies, writing creative fiction, and spending time with her husband and daughters.

In addition to English, Jaya speaks Spanish and is fluent in Hindi.

Megan Jones, MSW

Megan holds her Master of Social Work degree and has experience working with school aged children, families, couples, and individuals. She earned her degree with honors from Dominican University in 2017. She is also a member of the Phi Alpha Social Work Honor Society. Megan also holds her type 73 school license.

Megan has worked in a variety of settings such as police departments, schools, private settings, and in the athletic arena. Each of these settings offered an opportunity to work with clients looking for additional, outside assistance. For the past 15 years, Megan has worked directly with pre-teens and teens who have experienced anxiety/depression, managing ADHD/ADD, eating disorders, self-mutilation, suicidal ideation, abuse, addiction, death, and trauma. She has also worked with individuals and families in the LGBTQ community.

Megan offers a variety of treatment methods based on the best fit for her clients in achieving a positive outlook for their future. Some of these methods include: solution-focused, play therapy, evidence based, family systems therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and motivational interviewing. She has a passion for working with individuals and families in helping them achieve the best versions of themselves. She enjoys watching the transformation as her clients grow and succeed. Megan is also in the process of earning her license of clinical social work.

Lisa Couser, LCSW

Lisa works in partnership with her therapy clients to identify the internal strengths and external supports they can utilize along the path to healing and recovery. Always empathic and solution focused, Lisa tailors her treatment approach to address the specific problems and goals of the individuals, families and groups with whom she works. Drawing on on more than more than 25 years of diverse human service experience, Lisa creatively weaves together the science and art of successful and empowering therapy.

Lisa began her career while still an undergraduate in Michigan, working as a reproductive health counselor and a sexual assault crisis worker. This work helped her understand the concept of “the personal is political” and inspired her to delve deeper into social justice issues.

She moved to attend Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois- Chicago, where she was awarded her MSW. She obtained her clinical license in 2008 (LCSW). Since Lisa is bilingual in English/Spanish, Lisa gravitated towards Latino family and community services. She taught GED classes in community centers, developed and supervised youth mentoring programs, provided in home counseling and case management support to families involved with DCFS, and offered residential counseling and advocacy for ICE-detained unaccompanied minors. Striving to increase her cultural competence, she took private Spanish classes and stayed for extended periods in Mexico, Guatemala and Peru. Eventually, Lisa committed herself to community mental health where she was able to hone her clinical skills even more.

Resulting from her employment in community mental health and other social work positions, Lisa has had the opportunity to work extensively with people living with disabilities ranging from those caused by terminal illness and permanent injuries to developmental. She became intrigued by the correlation between mental illness, disability and trauma that seemed to often surface with her therapy clients. She observed that while Western psychotherapy helped some, it was often not enough to help clients meet their goals. Building on her lifelong interest in meditation, yoga and Eastern psychology, Lisa sought out training to help her more skillfully integrate mind/body healing into her work with clients.

Lisa uses many approaches to help explore the mind body connection with her therapy clients. Her desire to work more effectively with clients with complex trauma histories inspired her to complete a one- year clinical training program through the EMDR Institute in 2008-09. To further explore ways to mind and body influence healing, she completed a 200- hour yoga teacher training program in 2012-13 and an additional 20 -hour certificate course in Gentle Yoga in 2018. To complement all this, Lisa completed certificate trainings in Mindfulness and Polyvagal approaches to therapy. Using these specialized skills and many others, Lisa draws on the science to creatively work with each client to meet their goals.

Lisa is happy to be on staff at Innovative Counseling Partners, where she able to offer clients across the life span a wealth of skills and approaches to reach their goals.

Deana Gaston, LCSW

I have a Bachelors and Master’s degree in social work and became a licensed Clinical Social worker (LCSW) in 2010.  My experience has been in the area of mental health both inpatient and outpatient during the past 20 years providing individual psychotherapy for adults and adolescents, as well as EAP counseling support.  I have also enjoyed doing group therapy for Stress management, adult partial hospitalization program, co-facilitating a parent group, case management, crisis stabilization, in home counseling and substitute teaching in the past.

I have a client centered,  holistic approach to therapy as each area of our lives impacts other areas, hence having life balance is important and I have worked with individuals both adults, families and adolescents to achieve this. My therapeutic style involves providing a safe, relaxed environment that focuses on your needs. I have worked with others experiencing depression, anxiety, low self-esteem/body image, health and relationship issues, trauma effects, stress, work/life balance issues and loneliness. Therapeutic interventions that I have used are cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness strategies, solution focused therapy, progressive relaxation and experiential therapies.

What I most enjoy about therapy is seeing clients grow both personal and professional and most importantly for them to recognize their own progress. I have learned that therapy is like taking a lot of baby steps before you are able to take the “big leap”. I am here to support and guide you through that process.

Some other things that I enjoy is traveling internationally, reading books, volunteering and watching movies.

Rebecca Castro, LCSW

Rebecca Castro is a bilingual and bicultural Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 11 years of clinical experience working with children, adolescents, couples, families and adults in the Chicagoland area. Rebecca obtained her Masters Degree in Social Work  from UIC in 2007.  Rebecca aims at providing a calm, unbiased, and safe space for clients in their journey to wellness. Recognizing that each individual’s circumstances, strengths and challenges are unique.  Rebecca utilizes an array of interventions including:  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Person-Centered therapy, Play Therapy, and Trauma informed treatment approaches to help clients achieve their personal goals in treatment.  Rebecca is sensitive to the impact of culture on treatment and incorporates this into her treatment with clients.

Julie Love-Richardson, MS, LPC

Julie received her Masters Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from National Louis University and is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She holds a Bachelors degree in education from Indiana University and has taught in both public and private school settings. Julie is trained in group, individual, and family therapy and has in-depth experience working with survivors of domestic violence. She has assisted adults and children who struggle with depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, life transitions, and relationship issues. Julie’s approach to counseling is rooted in cognitive behavioral and person-centered therapy. She often incorporates mindfulness practice and elements of dialectical behavior therapy in her work with clients as well.  Above all, Julie values developing a meaningful and collaborative relationship with clients. She has respect for personal values, choices, and lifestyles and tailors therapy to suit the needs of her clients. In her spare time, Julie enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family and their rescue dog. She is strong believer in giving back to the community and enjoys supporting local organizations through volunteer work and advocacy.


Janine Ryan-Herrera, MA, LPC

Janine Ryan-Herrera is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) who received her Masters Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Argosy University, Schaumburg in June of 2018. Janine is a member and current President of Chi Sigma Iota, Alpha Upsilon chapter of the National Honors Society.

Janine has gained experience in various settings such as partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient programs, community mental health agencies, clinics, nursing homes, as well as in-home services. Within the past 3 years, Janine has worked with children, under 10 years of age both verbal and non-verbal, on the Autistic Spectrum, conducting Applied Behavior Analysis therapeutic approaches. Across these settings, Janine has gained experience working with adults, children and adolescents, who are seeking support due to anxiety, depression, trauma, loss/grieving, bullying, relationship issues, family system issues, identity development, transitions and symptoms related to schizophrenia. Janine enjoys working with all ages.

As a therapist, Janine is rooted from a Gestalt and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy theoretical orientation. However, believes that it is essential to utilize an integrative approach and offer various treatment methods that are tailored, in order to best fit the needs of the clients. Other utilized approaches are mindfulness, motivational interviewing, experiential, solution-focused and family systems therapy. She believes it is important to meet clients where they currently are at and collaboratively work together on how they can become the best version of themselves.

Dipa Patel, MA, LPC

Dipa Patel is a Licensed Professional Counselor. Dipa received her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in child and adolescents from Lewis University in 2016. Dipa has been a member of Psi Chi, The International Honor Society in Psychology since November 2012 and is a member of Illinois Counseling Association since January 2017.

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Trudy Prahler, MS, LPC

Trudy is a Master’s level clinician who graduated from National Louis University.

Trudy assists clients across the life-span, tailoring therapy to meet the specific needs of each individual. She approaches therapy with a holistic perspective, exploring the impact of stress on the mind, body, and spirit.  She emphasizes the importance of establishing an open and trusting relationship with her clients.  Her goal is to foster a sense of self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-acceptance that will ultimately lead clients to a more fulfilling life. She believes that exploring and building upon strengths creates a path for developing positive coping strategies to move forward.

Trudy provides Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Stressed Reduction, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for children and adults experiencing anxiety, depression, anger, grief, relationship problems, trauma, and other life challenges.  In addition, she has specialized experience in the areas of professional development, career changes, and navigating the corporate world,

Diana Rivera, LCSW

Diana Rivera is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who has experience working with school-aged children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. Diana earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work at Dominican University in 2012. She is bilingual in Spanish and culturally competent, responsive and respectful.

She has worked in various settings, such as hospitals, outpatient facilities, community mental health, the justice system and schools. For over the past 10 years, Diana has been working with individuals who have experienced complex trauma. Such experiences include, but are not limited to, witnessing family/community violence, childhood abuse, sexual trauma, self-harm behaviors, traumatic loss, grief, and challenges managing anger/emotions.

Ms. Rivera is aware that life situations promote different emotions, such as depression, anxiety, unhealthy relationships, grief, self esteem challenges, life transitions and anger issues. She has been involved in supporting the healing process when loss and grief have occurred. Diana is highly sensitive to individuals with a history of childhood and sexual trauma. She has provided trauma-informed therapy for victims of trauma, who witness or have been exposed to violence. As an advocate, she is passionate in providing support, safety, and empowerment to all survivors who may be affected by the violence of this nature.

Diana offers a variety of treatment methods, including solution-focused, strength-based, dialectical behavioral therapy, EMDR Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing family systems therapy and cognitive behavior therapy. She will work in partnership with you in creating an appropriate treatment plan. Diana will meet you where you are in life in a non-judgmental manner and walk you through the process of building your strengths, reducing symptoms and the emotional healing process.Diana Rivera is a Licensed Social Worker, who has experience working with school aged children, adolescents, adults and families. Diana earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work at Dominican University in 2012. She is bilingual in Spanish and culturally competent, responsive and respectful.

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Rita Romero, M.A., LPC

Rita Romero strives to bring an effective blend of experience, expertise, clarity, concern and action to the counseling process in order to maximize outcomes and provide genuine healing and wholeness to children, young adults, adults, marriages, and families. Rita earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Services from National Louis University, and two Master degrees from Governors State University. One Master of Health Science with concentration in Addiction Studies, and one Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Rita is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), and a Certified Eye Movement Desensitization and Processing therapist.

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Tone A. Sirbas, MA, CADC, MISA I, LPC, LCPC

Tone is a Licensed Professional Counselor [LPC] who has a M.A. in Counseling from Northwestern University and a B.A. in Addiction Counseling from Northeastern University. Tone is currently pursuing a Ph. D, in Counselor Education and Supervision. She is registered with the Illinois Certification Board as a Certified Alcohol and Other Drugs of Abuse Counselor [CADC] and as a Mental Illness and Substance Abuse [MISA I] counselor. Tone is a member of the American Counseling Association [ACA], the Illinois Counseling Association [ICA], the Illinois Mental Health Counseling Association [IMHCA], and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision [ACES].

Tone is a former U.S. Marine who returned to school after successfully raising three [now adult] children. Her professional counseling career began in 2013 as a case aide in a treatment facility. Over the years she has used evidence-based, goal-oriented, psychodynamic therapy to assist clients with comorbid psychiatric disorders, trauma and loss, mental health needs, substance use and risky behaviors. She is dedicated to better understanding cognition in health and psychiatric illness in adolescents and adults, and with assisting them in obtaining a greater quality of life. As a psychodynamic therapist she is able to pull from several therapeutic approaches to provide the highest level of client care.

Elissette Villegas, LCSW, CADC

Elissette is a bilingual Licensed Clinical Social Worker with an additional certification as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Elissette received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University in 2006 and Master’s degree in Social Work from Loyola University in Chicago in 2008.

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Stephanie Yunez, M.S., LPC

Stephanie Yunez has a Masters of Clinical Mental Health Counseling from National Louis University. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from DePaul University. She works with all genders, races, and ages. She works with individuals, families, couples, and groups. Stephanie is interested in helping those with adjustment disorders, ADHD, anxiety, depression, interpersonal relationship work, women’s issues, LGBTQ issues, and family therapy and marriage/couples counseling.

Stephanie is culturally sensitive and believes in professional yet authentic human contact. She is passionate about addressing mental health issues with a collaborative, client-centered and strength-based approach to promote problem-solving, self-awareness and resilience. Stephanie believes in promoting mental health wellness through mindfulness techniques and a holistic perspective. She draws from experience working with a diverse client population in a variety of settings, including therapeutic day schools, crisis intervention and prevention, and impoverished neighborhoods.