Get to Know us
Penny Kruger, LCSW-S completed her Masters in Social Work at Tulane University in New Orleans, her native city. She has been practicing clinical social work for 27 years at all levels of clinical care with a variety of clinical areas including mood disorders, sexual trauma, sexual compulsivity, domestic violence offender treatment, and personality disorders.
Penny is intensively trained in both Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy. In 2006 she founded the first adult DBT Intensive Outpatient Program in Austin, Texas at Ascension Seton Behavioral Health. She acted as the Clinical Lead for this program until 2020, training and supervising many of the current practicing DBT clinicians in the Austin area.
She is currently an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry and Department of Health Services at The University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School where she teaches the psychiatric residents and social workers about DBT. In addition, Penny is the active Clinical Director of Austin DBT Associates where she helps train clinicians to provide adherent DBT and RO-DBT treatment in an outpatient setting.
Penny continues to see clients in her own private practice and provide ongoing trainings and consultations for clinicians and agencies that are trying to adapt DBT to their setting.
ma, lpc-s, lmft
Nicole Lansbery is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Nicole attended the University of Texas at Austin where she received her Bachelor’s in Psychology. She went on to attend St. Edward’s University to receive her Master's in Counseling.
Before starting her own private practice ten years ago, Nicole worked at a local psychiatric hospital for five years, in both inpatient and intensive outpatient settings. While there she restarted the pet therapy program with her golden retriever – a certified Pet Partner, Ruby.
Nicole has received extensive training in DBT and has been providing DBT to the Austin community for 14 years. She enjoys learning and has also spent years studying and completing trainings in each of the following: Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, and Middelberg’s Systemic Training. In addition, Nicole has received training in Radically Open DBT (RODBT), SPACE (a treatment protocol for parents of anxious children), and New Ways for Families. Nicole resides in Austin, TX with her husband, daughter, boy/girl twins, and two dogs.
Ashley Porter is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She received her Bachelor’s in Social Work with a minor in Psychology at The University of Texas at Arlington and went on to earn her Master of Social Work degree at Texas State University with a focus in direct clinical practice.
Ashley completed her practicum at Austin State Hospital’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Services, where she received training working with adolescents and families providing individual, group, and family therapeutic services. Ashley’s experience includes 5 years at a local behavioral health facility within an intensive outpatient program where she worked with adults, adolescents, and families, as she facilitated DBT groups. During this time, she attended and completed DBT foundational training and went on to become the clinical team lead of adolescent IOP programming.
Ashley is a dedicated, high energy social worker who loves people, humor, and being active.
Ayla Peret is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who earned her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Texas in 2010, and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, with a focus on culture, identity and politics, from Brown University. Ayla's passion is improving client’s relationships, both with themselves and others. She focuses on increasing self-esteem, decreasing critical judgment and negative self-talk, and building a life that balances accomplishment with enjoyment and relaxation. Ayla also works on strengthening romantic relationships and building new connections. She completed training at the Gottman Institute in Seattle for the “7 principles of making marriage work” and has led workshops to help couples improve their relationships. Ayla has spent the last decade providing therapy and case management to vulnerable populations such as refugees, people with mental illness, people in acute psychiatric crisis, prison populations, and youth with trauma. She worked at the Seton Intensive Outpatient Program as a DBT group clinician and at Integral Care to help clients achieve and maintain maximum functioning in the community, while decreasing need for inpatient hospitalizations. Ayla worked for Refugee Services of Texas assisting newly arrived refugees gain access to and navigate the US healthcare system, and she interned at the Austin State Hospital providing individual and group therapy for psychiatric disorders. Ayla has also received mediation training and has served as a volunteer mediator for the Victim Offender Mediation Dialogue Program.
Cyndi is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker from Austin, Texas. Cyndi obtained both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Social Work degrees from Texas State University. She has always had a passion for mental health; connecting with and working with people.
Cyndi completed her practicum at Seton Shoal Creek Hospital (SSCH) where she provided case management services. She then went on to work full-time at SSCH where she received extensive experience working with adults and adolescents. Cyndi has treated clients with anxiety, depression, PTSD and complex trauma, bipolar affective disorder, eating disorders, and psychotic disorders. Cyndi’s training in dialectical behavior therapy began at Seton’s outpatient clinic, Seton Behavioral Health, where she facilitated outpatient adolescent and multi-family groups. Cyndi has also provided individual and DBT group counseling services to women who have been sex trafficked, sexually exploited, and experienced domestic violence. Cyndi has completed basic training in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), which allows clients to heal from unprocessed traumatic memories without going into all of the details about the traumatic/distressing event(s). EMDR is a gentle and organic way of healing through trauma.
Cyndi is passionate about destigmatizing mental health while helping people believe in themselves and find their strengths. Cyndi has a strong belief that with commitment, willingness to take an active stance, and a support system, people can make desired changes. As a clinical social worker, it is important to Cyndi to support her clients by providing them a safe, non-judgmental environment, observing their strengths while also encouraging clients to practice looking at other perspectives, challenging negative and dysfunctional thought processes, and helping clients engage in new and effective behaviors. Cyndi has a big heart and soft spot for all animals and critters and in her spare time she enjoys traveling, watching movies, listening to music, trying new foods and restaurants, reading, and spending time with friends, family, and her pet husky.
MSN, LPC, RN
Shana Alexander is a Registered Nurse (RN) and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Shana holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Biology from Sam Houston State University and a Master of Arts in Counseling from St. Edward’s University. She is currently attending The University of Texas in pursuit of her Advanced Practice Nurse-Mental Health Degree.Shana completed her Counseling Practicum at Ascension Seton Behavioral Health where she received intensive training in DBT. Since then, she has gained extensive experience across a variety of clinical populations such as individuals struggling with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, homelessness, personality disorders, and individuals involved in the criminal justice system. Shana also has gained experience across an array of different modalities including individual, family, couples, group and community-based therapy. She is honored and excited to be able to use her experience and education to help those in need. In her spare time, Shana enjoys spending time with her family and three wiener dogs.
Nicole Meitzen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Fitness and a Master of Science in Social Work, both from the University of Texas at Austin. Nicole has experience working in healthcare and counseling center settings supporting adults as they navigate various physical, mental, relational, and systemic challenges and seek ways to find wellbeing.Nicole’s approach to therapy is strengths-based and collaborative. Since change and growth are often uncomfortable, Nicole is passionate about joining the people she works alongside with compassion, mindfulness, challenge, and humor so they feel truly seen and heard.Nicole is passionate about her family, friends, and showing up for racial and social justice work.
Sandra Alfaro is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Counseling from Oral Roberts University and Master of Social Work degree from Texas State University with a focus in direct clinical practice.Sandra completed her practicum at Ascension’s Seton Behavioral Intensive Outpatient Program, which afforded her the opportunity to be intensively trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy and she has been facilitating adult DBT IOP groups for five years. In this setting, she has gained clinical experience and shaped her strengths-based approach by working with individuals from various walks of life. Outside of a group setting, Sandra provides psychoeducation to resident nurses at Ascension Seton on the topic of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders to facilitate discussions and decrease stigma around this issue.In her downtime, Sandra enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and daughter, baking, gardening, and going to the family farm.
taylor nowakowski, lpc
Taylor Nowakowski is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Texas and a Master of Counseling degree with a focus on Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Kentucky. Taylor completed her practicum working as a Qualified Mental Health Professional (QMHP) at Pathways 3H Ranch, a residential treatment center for teenage boys. While working primarily with children in foster care, Taylor facilitated individual and group sessions to teach daily living and pro-social skills. This experience sparked her passion for working with teens and young adults. Taylor has a strong passion for mental health and approaches counseling in a down-to-earth, compassionate, and non-judgmental way. In her free time, Taylor loves going to the park with her husband and two children, volunteering, baking, and family trips to the beach.
margaret fiero, lpc
Margaret Fiero earned her Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Texas State University. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Margaret has worked for 10 years within the intensive outpatient milieu at Ascension Behavioral Health (ASBH), where her focus has primarily been on treating those with mental health issues such as Depression, Anxiety and Bipolar, in the group setting. Margaret is trained in Cognitive Processing Therapy, which is one of two medically recommended treatments for trauma. Margaret utilized her CPT skills working within the ASBH Restore program, which treats individuals with PTSD. After a year of co-facilitating Restore groups, Margaret is now moving on to share a DBT group at ASBH. A native of Minnesota, Margaret likes getting outside (except in the summer), being a homebody with her husband and watching old movies or listening to music, trying to keep up with her 4-year-old daughter, and taking care of her 2 geriatric cats.
Emma Dalan, lpc-a
Emma Dalan (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPC-A) supervised by Chelsea Cohen, LPC-S. Emma received her Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at University of Texas at San Antonio. Emma received her Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Ohio State University. During her studies at UTSA, she has also earned a certification in integrated behavioral health and found her passions in trauma, anxiety, and suicide prevention. Emma completed her graduate internship with UTHealth San Antonio working to provide rapid access to care for clients with a diverse range of needs, including depression, anxiety, personality disorders, trauma, and crisis intervention.
Emma believes that each client who reaches out for counseling has made a brave step toward healing. She wants all her clients to feel seen, heard, and know that they are not alone. In her work with clients, Emma strives to understand each unique individual’s story and help them identify their strengths and goals. She takes an empathic approach to provide a safe, non-judgmental, and culturally sensitive space for clients to share their stories, heal, grow, and create a life worth living.
When she’s not counseling or studying, Emma loves exercising and spending time in nature, exploring Austin with her husband, cooking, baking, spending time with friends and family, and being around
Emma Holder (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) supervised by Mary Duffy, LCSW. Emma earned a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Theater from New College of Florida and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied motivational interviewing, trauma, and attachment theory. After working as a teacher, comedian, and writer for over a decade, Emma wanted to find a more direct way to help people and decided to pursue her social work degree. Emma has a collaborative and empathetic approach to therapy and truly believes the client is the expert in their own lives. She is honored to get to join people on their mental health journey and excited to help them find the tools they need to bring out their strengths and meet their emotional goals. Emma has a background in working with adolescents and finds joy in helping them feel supported and heard. She is a proponent of self-compassion, humor and mindfulness. She loves animals, especially her dog, Saul Bellow. She is passionate about being an advocate for social justice for all and enjoys comedy, writing, dancing, and watching reality television.
Erin Dryden (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) supervised by Ashley Porter, LCSW-S. Erin earned her Master of Social Work at the University of Georgia School of Social Work in Athens, GA. While obtaining her degree she focused on clinical social work with an emphasis on trauma and trauma-informed settings. In her training, Erin has gained valuable experience in multiple settings including inpatient crisis stabilization, outpatient private practice, and hospice. She has worked individually and in group settings with those experiencing anxiety, depression, psychosis, and personality disorders. Erin also has experience facilitating DBT and RO-DBT groups with adults and adolescents and she is committed to providing a nonjudgemental space for clients to learn skills and discover how to build a life worth living. Erin utilizes a thoughtful and collaborative approach to working with clients and values humor and genuineness. She is inclusive, accepting, committed to social justice, and a proponent of mindful self-compassion. In her personal time, Erin enjoys exploring Austin with her partner, spending time outdoors with her pup Ollie, trying new foods, traveling, and reading.
Janise Baxter is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate supervised by Awa Jangha, Ph.D, LPC-S, ATR-BC. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of West Alabama. She relocated from Alabama to the Austin area in 2018.
Janise has worked in a variety of settings including residential treatment, child development centers, psychiatric research, child welfare, and PHP/IOP. She completed her practicum at Helping Hand Home for Children, where she provided case management services to children and families. She has experience working with children, adolescents, young adults, and adults. She has experience working with clients with depression, anxiety, PTSD/C-PTSD, eating disorders, DID, and complex trauma.
Janise has a holistic approach to therapy. She believes that including the mind, body, and spirit will produce optimal results. She wants all clients to feel empowered and confident in their abilities to gain control of their lives. She believes that it is important to walk alongside her clients, not in front of them.In her spare time, Janise enjoys mindfulness activities such as meditation, being in nature, exercising, and yoga. A future goal of hers is to become certified in trauma-informed yoga.
Kayla Haygood (she/her) is a Licensed Master Social Worker, supervised by Ashley Porter, LCSW-S. Kayla earned her Master’s degree from Baylor University in 2020 with an emphasis in clinical work. Her background includes working at a partial hospitalization program for individuals with eating disorders, where she became familiar with using DBT in both group and individual settings. She also has professional experience working with adolescents in the juvenile justice system, mood and anxiety disorders, and women experiencing homelessness.
Kayla’s therapeutic style can be described as relational, playful, and open. As a social worker, she operates from a “person-in-environment” lens and remains strengths-based when talking with her clients. She is passionate about meeting individuals where they are at and walking beside them as they navigate life’s challenges. Kayla values her clients’ self directedness and often refers to them as the expert of their own experience.
Kayla is originally from New Orleans, and moved to Austin three years ago with her husband and their cat. She enjoys exploring Austin’s delicious restaurants, hiking in the park, and spending time with friends and family.
Lynne Pierce is a Licensed Master Social Worker, supervised by Ashley Porter, LCSW-S. She received her Bachelor’s in Social Work with a minor in Psychology from SUNY Brockport and completed her Master’s in Social Work at Texas State University. Lynne has worked with diverse populations and understands the importance of cultural sensitivity and empowerment. She worked with Veterans at the CTVHCS Austin Outpatient Clinic treating PTSD, depression, anxiety, trauma and anger. She has experience working with clients 8 and up, as well as families and groups. Lynne provided indigenous social work in Vietnam at autism centers, orphanages, and social welfare centers. While in Vietnam she also treated Agent Orange victims and their families, children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and high school and college-level students. Lynne uses a humanistic approach, with an emphasis on unique strengths and abilities to navigate the direction clients wish to pursue on their therapeutic journey. She strives to create a safe and welcoming environment for clients to express themselves without fear of judgment, and hopes to assist clients in enhancing their quality of life through healthy relationships. Outside of work, Lynne enjoys the company of her partner, son, and dog. Most of her spare time is spent outside doing family picnics, hiking, and paddleboarding.
Jessica Smart (M.Ed, LPC-A), supervised by Casey Davids- LPC-S, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Communication Arts from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and a Master’s in Education Degree, specializing in Guidance and Counseling, from Angelo State University. She also completed Clinical Mental Health Counseling certification through Lamar University postgraduate school.
Professionally, Jessica has extensive experience working with children, teens, young adults and families. She has worked in the public school system in many settings, as a teacher and a counselor for elementary through high school students. Through her work, she firmly believes that every person has the potential to grow, change and develop into the best possible version of themselves.
Jessica is passionate about helping others through a non-judgmental, strengths-based approach that aims to assist clients to feel comfortable and empowered. Jessica has worked with people struggling with anxiety, self-harm, depression, ADHD, grief and loss and disruptive behaviors. She enjoys helping others and working collaboratively with them so that they can achieve their goals. Outside of work, Jessica enjoys spending time outdoors gardening, exercising and exploring with her husband and children.
John Bishop is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate supervised by Chelsea Cohen, LPC-S. He received his Bachelor of Science in Applied Psychology and Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Regis University in Denver, Colorado. He is a career Army Veteran and, in 2020, he returned to his hometown between Fort Hood and Austin.
Professionally, John has experience working with adults, students in post-secondary education environments, as well as military veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or Traumatic Brain Injury with challenges including anxiety, depression, guilt, grief and loss, anger, social difficulties, and behavioral issues. His outlook on counseling is from an open, bio-psycho-social perspective, allowing a cura personalis (care for the whole person), strengths-based approach with the client. He is passionate about working with clients through the lens of their experiences.
Outside of work, John enjoys spending time with his wife and family of artists. A classically trained luthier, he also enjoys working in his custom guitar shop.
Maeve Larkin (she/her) is a Licensed Master Social Worker. Born and raised in Boston, MA, Maeve received her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Boston College, and a Bachelor’s in Human Services from Northeastern University.
Maeve’s professional experience with dialectical behavioral therapy began while working as a clinical intern at The Victor School, a therapeutic high school in Acton, MA. While at the school, she created and facilitated a socio-emotional skills group that utilized techniques in mindfulness and emotional regulation in addition to offering one-on-one therapeutic services. Prior to The Victor School, Maeve worked at Berklee College of Music where she utilized motivational interviewing, screening, and intervention for College Students (BASICS), a harm-reduction intervention.
Maeve has worked with both adolescents and young adults coping with a wide array of mental health diagnoses: Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder, in addition to Autism Spectrum Disorder and LGBTQ+ individuals.
Believing that the therapeutic relationship is the cornerstone to successful interventions, Maeve strives to create a non-judgmental environment where people can feel safe enough to bring their authentic selves to the table and molds her treatment approach in order to best meet the needs of each unique individual. As Maeve would say, “you are the expert of your own life, I’m here to help provide the skills and support so that it’s easier to navigate.”
In her spare time, Maeve can be found at a local comedy club, painting, playing pickleball, daydreaming about her next travel destination, and attempting to learn how to skateboard.
Marcy Musgrave is a Licensed Master Social Worker supervised by Dana Jones, LCSW-S. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Texas A & M University and her Master’s in Social Work from Texas State University. She is a native Texan and has lived in Austin since 2003. She is honored to work at Austin DBT Associates and looks forward to assisting clients with living their fullest lives.
Marcy has experience working with homeless adolescents, transgender youth, the geriatric community, and has served as a behavior intervention specialist in the public school setting. She also has experience with healing religious trauma, navigating inpatient and outpatient treatment, and journeying alongside the LGBTQ community. Marcy is especially passionate about foster care and adoption and utilizes the TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) approach in her work with youth and families.
In her free time, Marcy enjoys gardening, decorating, paddle boarding, hiking, taking road trips and tending to her urban farm, although her very favorite way to spend her time is with her five adopted children.
molly morman, M.A., LPC
Molly Morman (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She received her Bachelor’s in Environmental Science from Colorado College and completed her Master’s in Professional Counseling at Texas State University. She is also a native Austinite.
Molly has worked in a variety of settings with people working towards changing behaviors that were no longer serving them: she completed her graduate internship working with inmates at the jail, has worked in outpatient treatment, and has worked with perpetrators of intimate partner violence. She brings a non-judgmental approach to supporting clients in making life changes and working through shame about their pasts. Molly focuses on helping clients identify their own strengths and using them to learn new behaviors that lead to more fulfilling lives.
Outside of work, Molly enjoys going for walks around Austin, spending time with her family, partner, and friends, and playing video games.
Rachel Farley is a Licensed Master Social Worker. Rachel earned her Master's degree in Social Work from UT Arlington with a focus in mental health. Rachel earned her Master's in Psychological Research from Texas State University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University.
Rachel has worked with children and adolescents aged 4-17 as well as adults as a Qualified Mental Health Professional at Pathways Youth and Family Services providing behavioral skills to those with ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, ODD, and DMDD. She has experience working with victims of family violence and sexual assault through Guadalupe Family Violence Shelter and Victim Liaison services through the Huntsville Police Department. Rachel currently teaches Psychology courses at Texas State University, and enjoys teaching courses such as Psychopharmacology and Lifespan Development.
Rachel has a passion for helping others and uses a strengths-based approach to provide her clients with feelings of personal empowerment alongside a strong therapeutic relationship. Rachel believes that music is an extremely powerful tool in healing and mental health, and utilizes this in her treatment approach.
In her free time, Rachel enjoys attending concerts with friends, spending time with her dog, and traveling to experience the world alongside friends and family.
Alex cloyd, LmSW
Alexandra “Alex” Cloyd (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Master Social Worker supervised by Penny Kruger, LCSW. She received her bachelor’s in Anthropology from Texas State University and went on to earn her Master of Social Work at the University of Denver in 2019.
Alex has worked in a variety of settings including four years in an organization working with youth experiencing homelessness before obtaining her master’s. Alex has worked across all levels of care including outpatient adolescent and family therapy, adolescent intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization, and providing parent support at both the IOP and PHP level of care. Alex has been practicing DBT for three years across the levels of care and loves continuing to grow as a therapist.
Alex is passionate about working with the client and their system to help them lead a life where they can effectively experience all the present moment has to offer. Alex deeply believes in the human ability to learn and grow throughout their life. Alex strives to provide inclusive care and has a specific passion for working with folks in the LGBTQ community. Alex enjoys using humor and validation while also being honest and straightforward with clients.
When she isn’t working Alex enjoys reading fantasy romance (ACOTAR, TOG, IYKYK), snuggling her two dogs, watching reality TV with her husband, and buying craft supplies.
Director of Operations
Chelsea Cohen is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor specializing in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). She is originally from the Texas Panhandle and attended the University of Oklahoma where she received her Bachelor of Arts in English. After graduating, Chelsea worked in higher education administration as an academic advisor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Later Chelsea completed her Master of Arts in Counseling at St. Edward’s University where she was a Presidential Fellow and Outstanding Graduate Student in Counseling.
Chelsea completed her graduate internship in the DBT Intensive Outpatient Program at Ascension Seton Behavioral Health Care and has been facilitating inpatient, intensive outpatient and outpatient DBT skills training groups since graduating in 2013. Chelsea specializes in treating adults diagnosed with mood, anxiety, personality disorders. Chelsea enjoys working with clients to identify how they can effectively utilize coping skills to build a life worth living.
In addition to seeing clients in private practice and serving as Director of Operations for Austin DBT Associates, Chelsea is an adjunct faculty member in the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences at St. Edward’s University where she teaches Abnormal Psychology. Chelsea resides in Austin,TX with her husband, son, and two dogs.
Allyssa Morales received her Bachelor’s in Sociology from College of Charleston in
2013. Upon graduation she moved to Austin to pursue her graduate degree. During
her sabbatical year, she began working for a renowned upper cervical chiropractic practice. Fascinated by the transformations she witnessed, she decided to forgo her initial plan and devote her time to leading operations of the practice.
She brings 10 years of experience in operations management to Austin DBT Associates. Compassionately instilling optimization and order to teams with niche, avant-garde approaches is her passion. She aims to humbly serve her team and their clients through their own healing process, allowing the individualized experience to be seen/known and their true nature realized.
While not serving at the agency, Allyssa enjoys being in all forms of water, meditating, and spending time with her two
dogs, Nala and Bodhi.