Meet the Staff
Ian C. Edwards, Ph. D.
I approach counseling from a predominantly integrative perspective, which means that I rely upon a wide range of theories and therapies (psychological, philosophical, scientific, and spiritual) to inform my work with students. I treat sadness, depression, worry and anxiety as well as other typically afflictive emotions (anger, jealousy, fear, etc.) by helping students come to the awareness that their experiences of such emotions are meaningful (in that they say something powerful about aspects of the self that need attention, compassion, and care), purposeful, and can be worked through and successfully regulated within the context of a healing therapeutic relationship. I am interested in helping students realize that they have the ability to experience and respond to thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, as well as events in ways that facilitate psychological growth and even neurological change. And, I greatly value helping students recognize their strengths, develop positive traits, cultivate optimism, and live meaningful lives that lead to happiness.
Thomas J. Smith, Ph. D.
Assistant Director / Training Coordinator
My specialty and interest is in working with college students. I have completed my practicum training and my predoctoral/postdoctoral internship training at two other university counseling centers. I'm an integrative therapist, which means that I incorporate different psychological approaches based on my impression and knowledge about what works for whom. I draw heavily from the existential-phenomenological tradition. What phenomenology is about for me is honoring a student's experience and suffering over any preconceptions I may have about a student. For me, existentialism is about paying attention to the unique ways a student attempts to make his or her life meaningful. In this way, I am interested in the process of self-discovery and identity fulfillment, as well as the place religion and spirituality may (or may not) have in this process. I also draw heavily from the psychodynamic-psychoanalytic tradition. Through a psychodynamic-psychoanalytic lens, I take notice of the importance of current and past relationships with friends, partners, and family members in order to help a student gain more awareness of themselves and others. In addition to relationship issues, I believe that therapy is a space for a student to possibly talk with another person about his or her experiences of human suffering; be it anger, sadness, depressed moods, guilt, grief, shame, stress, worry, or anxiety. As an integrative therapist, I may address your difficulties from a variety of different perspectives; whether that is looking at what you're doing (behavioral), looking at what you're thinking (cognitive), or just good old fashioned problem solving. Regardless of the psychological traditions from which I draw, I think that therapy is about forming a unique sort of relationship with another person who is curious about you and wants to help you.
Laurie Kessler, Ph. D.
Assistant Director / Groups Coordinator
I'm Laurie Kessler, a licensed psychologist. I am a generalist, meaning that I work with clients who are culturally diverse and with different background experiences, presenting issues, and symptoms. Many clients I see in the university setting are experiencing significant life adjustments and relational issues, and working to expand their self-concepts, or sense of "who they are." Many clients that I work with are facing environmental stressors and challenges (e.g., new responsibilities and expectations, "unknown" futures, prejudice/discrimination, culture shock), as well as some internal obstacles (e.g., low self-esteem, depression, anxiety). Some clients may also be working to overcome the impact of abusive or traumatic pasts or patterns of eating disordered behaviors. I am particularly interested in helping clients reprocess (e.g., grow, make new meaning from) their life experiences and narratives. In this way the past informs, but no longer dictates a person's present and future. In addition to helping clients learn ways to manage and reduce distressing symptoms (e.g., racing thoughts, lack of motivation, suicidal thoughts) I believe it is important to help clients explore what their symptoms are trying to tell them (e.g., what needs to change in their lives.) I find the process of helping clients to build resilience and self-confidence as they learn to cope with, tolerate, and eventually accept and transcend the less comfortable and often very painful aspects of their lives to be an extremely rewarding part of the therapeutic process.
Maria Clara Kreis, Ph.D.
Assistant Director / Outreach Coordinator
My name is Maria Clara Kreis and I am fluent in English and German. I recognize how important individual and group therapy is for persons working through challenges and concerns. I specialize in depression, anxiety, career issues, grief/loss, spirituality, multicultural issues, women's issues, and issues of undergraduate/graduate students (including international students). As counseling psychologist, I am drawn to a strength-based perspective and I apply an integrative approach in the therapeutic work with clients. I use a client-centered approach and establish a collaborative therapeutic relationship based on trust, empathy, and acceptance. I also integrate cognitive-behavioral theory (CBT) which has been supported by research to be an effective treatment approach for a variety of mental health problems. Cognitive-behavioral therapy with its emphasis on collaboration, goals, and outcomes, includes a variety of strategies that help clients gain further insight into their problems. It also provides clients with a variety of skills and strategies that they can practice and apply outside of the counseling sessions. The use of these skills/strategies can also assist clients in reaching a satisfying resolution to their issues that is congruent with their personal and/or cultural values.
Sarah Nokes-Malach, Ph.D.
My approach to psychotherapy is rooted in an appreciation of the resilience of the human heart and soul in the face of life's challenges (whether relational, environmental, social, traumatic, etc.). I see my vocation as helping clients connect to this inherent strength by gradually exploring their relationships and their life stories, especially parts that may usually be avoided. This exploration is supported by an atmosphere of acceptance and warm regard in the therapeutic relationship. As we seek to understand their experiences of pain and pleasure, I encourage clients to move toward a more compassionate relationship with their experiences, themselves, and ultimately others. I work collaboratively with clients to identify and understand where they are stuck in their lives and what they might need to think, feel, and act in ways that are more congruent with who they feel called to be. My work is deeply informed by this well-establilshed paradox: authentic change begins with practicing curiosity and acceptance of ourselves exactly as we are--including those parts of ourselves or our experiences that we would most like to ignore or banish. In therapy, I help clients move at their own pace toward this goal, appreciating that the very symptoms that cause distress are usefully regarded as messages about aspects of their lives that need attention and care. I am primarily influenced by existential-phenomenological, humanistic, psychodynamic, and Buddhist approaches to psychology. I enjoy working with diverse clients who are facing challenges relating to grief/loss, depression, anxiety, trauma, issues of identity development, and relationship distress.
Briana Root, Ph.D.
I work primarily within a relational psychodynamic framework. I approach therapy as a process that fosters full self-expression and authentic relationships. I focus on building, understanding, and using the therapeutic relationship as the foundation of treatment. In my work with clients, I support them in approaching painful or overwhelming emotions and experiences with curiosity and compassion. My goal is to support clients in embodying their full range of experience--including the parts of themselves that feel challenging, unsettling, or shameful-- in a way that ultimately allows them to embrace their humanity, to feel more integrated, to be more accepting of themselves, and to connect with others in a more satisfying manner. My work attends both to the "here and now" of the interpersonal process between the client and myself, as well as to the client's past interpersonal experiences-because it is within those early contexts that we learn how to relate to others and to ourselves. My current areas of interest include working with depression, anxiety, relationship concerns, identity development, diversity issues, interpersonal process and group psychotherapy, grief/loss, trauma, and self-compassion.
Cheri R. Neely, MS.Ed.
Assistant to the Director
Gretchen P. Beck, M.Ed.