Our Mental Health Professionals

Agnieszka Szymanowicz-Yalcin, M.Ed., RP

Registered Psychotherapist

Agnieszka believes that every person is unique and an expert of their own life experience. Therefore, she adopts an integrative approach in counselling to aid in addressing client’s challenges. She tailors her approaches according to the client’s needs, and this includes humanistic, client centered, cognitive-behavioral, dialectical-behavioral, multicultural, developmental philosophies, narrative, solution focus, brief, positive psychology, mindfulness base stress reduction, motivational interviewing, anti-oppressive, empowerment and trauma informed lens within community perspective to promote healing and strengthen resiliency. Agnieszka aims to approach individuals with compassion, flexibility, and non-judgment to support their growth, healing process and improving quality of life.

She offers counselling in both Polish and English. She has completed a Master’s Degree in Education with specialization in counselling psychology. She is a full member of the Collage of Registered Psychotherapist of Ontario, CRPO.

Aya El Balaa, MA, RP

Registered Psychotherapist

Aya aims to provide a warm, judgement-free, and supportive space where the client feels safe and understood. She provides an empathetic presence that allows clients to be their authentic self and feel cared for and validated. Aya works with clients to help them identify their goals. She then works closely with her clients in developing strategies and skills that highlight their resilience and strengths. She helps them regulate their emotions and provides them with tools to help them cope with stress, improve their relationships, and bring about the desired change in their lives. 

Aya is an integrative therapist using modalities such as Emotion Focused Therapy, Narrative Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, tailoring the approaches to meet the clients’ therapeutic needs. 

Aya works as part of the Refugee and Newcomer program as well as the Adult Individual program to help people who are experiencing clinical issues in relation to stress, anxiety, depression, adjustment in life transitions, self-esteem, separation, intimate partner violence, and more.  

Aya offers counselling in both Arabic and English. She has completed a Masters Degree in Counselling and Spirituality. She is a Registered Psychotherapist Qualifying with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). 

Bita Haghdadi, M.A., RP (Q)

Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying)

Bita has always been interested in psychology and western culture, which led her to immigrate to Canada to complete her graduate studies in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Her desire to connect with and help people makes being a therapist both professionally and spiritually fulfilling.

As a therapist, she provides a non-judgmental, empathetic space for her clients to explore, learn, and grow into mental wellness and their best selves. Furthermore, as a professional who has been educated in both non-western and western environments, she is positioned to assist her clients in mediating between their needs and the available resources.

Her psychotherapy approach is integrative. However, as a therapist, Bita believes the client is the expert on their journey. Bita and her client will determine the best psychotherapeutic techniques to explore together, addressing the client’s specific issues, the depth of the interventions, and the length of their engagement.

Some of the modalities that Bita applies in her psychotherapy services include Humanistic and Existential therapy, Logotherapy, Mindfulness, Trauma-informed therapy, Jungian therapy, Emotion-Focused therapy, and Cognitive-Behavioral therapy. Bita provides individual counseling and psychotherapy services for a range of issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma, relationship issues, emotional and intellectual disturbances, self-knowledge, self-love, and self-confidence.

Bita can provide services in both English and Farsi. She is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO)

Carmen Urbina, M.Ed., RP

Clinical Manager, The Refugees and Vulnerable Newcomers Program

Carmen’s educational journey includes a five-year program in Education, majoring in science and minor in counselling from the University of Chile and a master’s degree from the University of Ottawa. In addition, Carmen completed a three-year post-graduate program to become a Gestalt Psychotherapist at the Gestalt Institute of the National Capital. Furthermore, Carmen completed the one-year Advanced Clinical Supervision Certificate at the prestigious School of Social Work, Smith College, Massachusetts, USA. In addition to her qualifications, Carmen also offers clinical consultation and supervision to other clinicians in the community.

Carmen has worked extensively in the field of cross-cultural counselling supporting newcomers to Ottawa for over twenty years, first as a counsellor and later as clinical supervisor and program manager. She has been instrumental in developing and sustaining resources in the community to make Ottawa a more inclusive and welcoming city highlighting the mental health needs of immigrants and refugees settling in Ottawa. She has trained and mentored dozens of students and young clinicians interested in developing cross-cultural counselling skills and has collaborated closely with other service providers such as lawyers and teachers.

Carmen believes in the power of active listening and unconditional positive regard as a first step to silently acknowledge the client presence and willingness to trust and engage in a therapeutic process that builds a positive model of a relationship with oneself and with others regardless of where the person is from or the present circumstances.

Carmen is keenly interested in listening to people’s experiences and how the cultural/social norms and the individual uniqueness shape the person’s evolving identity and the capacity to reach their potential. Carmen uses many of the well-known counselling approaches such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Emotion Focus Therapy and Narrative Therapy supplemented by a socio-cultural perspective that uniquely reflects the client’s preferences. Carmen is bilingual (English/Spanish) and works with individuals and couples.

Jesse Henneberry, PhD, RP, MA, CCC

Registered Psychotherapist

Jesse is a Registered Psychotherapist (RP) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) and a Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC).

He has worked with The Counselling Group since 2011 as a member of the adult individual team. In his practice he supports individual adults who present with a broad range of concerns including trauma (both current and historical), grief, anxiety, depression, life transitions, relationship stress, addictions, and anger management.

The primary therapeutic modalities that he draws upon in his work with clients include narrative therapy, existential therapy, attachment therapy, interpersonal therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. He strives to bring a calm and relaxed energy to all his work with clients, working collaboratively, and at a pace that is respectful to all those with whom he meets.

In addition to being on the adult individual team, since 2014 he has also worked at the agency’s walk-in counselling clinic—as a therapist seeing clients who access the clinic, and as a clinical supervisor providing clinical support to both therapists on the team and to therapists-in-training. Jesse also offers clinical consultation and supervision to other clinicians in the community.

He has a wide breadth of experience in various non-profit public mental health settings, including previously working as a therapist at an Employee Assistant Program (EAP), and as a therapist in a Partner Assault Response (PAR) program—a program funded by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General for clients who have been charged with a domestic assault and mandated to attend counselling as per probation conditions.

A lifelong learner in the field of psychotherapy, he frequently attends workshops and reads books on the process of psychotherapy to continually refine his practice. In addition, he has published articles in international academic journals on the topic of grief and bereavement and was a teaching assistant and guest lecturer in a Psychopathology and Assessment course in the University of Ottawa’s MA Counselling Psychology program.

He holds a master’s degree in counselling and spirituality from Saint Paul University, and a doctorate in education from the University of Ottawa where he conducted research on how psychotherapists effectively use brief narrative therapy to support the development of client preferred identities in single session settings.

Prior to his work as a psychotherapist, he completed a bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal Justice at Carleton University and subsequently worked in various front-line social service settings across Ottawa. These included advocacy groups supporting victims of violent crime, a homeless shelter, and as a volunteer in the Ottawa Civic Hospital’s ICU family lounge where he provided emotional support to families with loved ones in the Intensive Care Unit.

 

Layla Matar, MA, RP

Registered Psychotherapist

Layla’s key importance is creating a safe space for clients to feel comfortable and relaxed to open up and unpack throughout their therapeutic journey. She brings a warm, non-judgmental approach to her sessions and seeks to be a caring witness to her clients and their stories. She wants her clients to feel safe and accepted for their full selves.

Layla uses an integrative and collaborative approach by drawing from different therapy and counselling theories; her work is tailored to best meet her clients’ needs. The approaches Layla uses help guide her clients to discover their hidden strength and resilience. Layla works with her clients’ strengths to support them in unpacking and exploring the issues and distress that bring them to therapy. The key therapeutic approaches which inform her practice are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Narrative Therapy, Art Therapy, Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFCT), and Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT).

Layla is experienced in working with adult individuals and couples. Her experience involves working with depression, anxiety, trauma, self-development, childhood wounds, interpersonal relationships, and relationship conflicts.

Layla is a Registered Psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). She graduated from Saint Paul University with her Master’s in Counselling and Spirituality and has a Graduate Diploma in Couple Counselling and Spirituality.

Marwan Abou Diwan, MSW, RSW, Psychotherapist

Clinical Manager, Centre of Couples and Relationships.

Marwan A. Diwan is an internationally educated social worker who holds a Master’s degree in Social Work and Educational Counselling, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Sciences. He also has a Master’s degree in Living Languages/Translation and offers counseling services in English, French, Arabic, and Spanish. Additionally, he provides clinical consultation and supervision to other clinicians in the community.

Marwan is experienced in working with adult individuals and groups dealing with a wide range of emotional and psychological issues. His areas of specialty and interest include interpersonal relationships, depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, trauma/PTSD, grief and loss, chronic mental health and Refugee and Vulnerable Newcomers, LGBTQ+, People living with HIV and identity-related issues.

Marwan is trained with a range of therapeutic models including, Humanistic approach, Narrative Therapy, EMDR, Hypnosis, Drama Therapy, etc. In collaboration with the individuals, he works with, Marwan tailors a personal care plan to assist individuals in returning to a place of health, ease, balance and comfort. Marwan work is person-centred and strength-based and respects everyone for who they are and who they want to become. Marwan’s working philosophy is that the individual’s inner and external resources are the main drives for their recovery and will help them in achieving meaningful change in their life.

In his home country, Lebanon, Marwan has combined his clinical counselling work with other professional activities with the Danish law enforcement agencies in the fields of anti-radicalization, communication, leadership, and other soft skills areas.

Matthieu Kim, MSW, RSW

Registered Social Worker, Psychotherapist.

Matthieu is a Registered Social Worker in good standing with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) and is also a member of the Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW), who practices on the traditional, unceded territories of the Anishinaabe Algonquin nation. As a settler of this land, Matthieu is aware of the negative systemic impacts of colonialism, and how these historic and current wrongdoings can hinder a person’s ability to thrive in society.

In his work with children, youth, and their families, Matthieu looks to support individuals through a person centred lens and aims to build a therapeutic relationship by working collaboratively with clients to help guide them as they take the steps necessary to achieve their goals. In his practice, Matthieu draws from multiple modalities, both Western and those rooted in non-Western knowledge. Primarily, Matthieu draws from Dialectic Behaviour Therapy, Trauma-Informed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Narrative Therapy, and Emotion-Focused Family Therapy.

Matthieu has been privileged enough to have honed his practice in a variety of settings including community and healthcare-based children’s mental health organizations, as well as within the education system here in Ottawa. During these experiences, he supported individuals with anxiety, depression, personality disorders, self-harming behaviors, as well as social-emotional difficulties including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and behavioral challenges. Throughout his career Matthieu has worked with individuals who historically have been identified as marginalized and he has found success in taking the stance of informed not knowing and hopes to bring cultural humility to these relationships.

Matthieu completed his MSW at Carleton University in Ottawa. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Honors Psychology from the University of Guelph, where he specialized in Child and Family Studies.

Michael Gershuny, MSW, RSW, Psychotherapist

Director of Counselling and Mental Health Services

Michael Gershuny is an internationally educated social worker who holds both a Master’s degree in Social Work and Educational Counselling. He is a registered member of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers and the Ontario Association of Social Workers.

Michael’s main role is the Director of The Counselling Group. In this role, he works closely together with the staff counsellors to ensure and further develop the high quality of services provided by the Group.

In addition, Michael provides counselling to individuals, dealing with a wide range of emotional and psychological issues. His areas of specialty and interest include interpersonal relationships, depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, trauma, grief and loss, ageing, chronic mental health and, LGBTQ+ related issues and identity-related issues. Michael is bilingual and offers counselling in both English and Hebrew.

Michael is trained with a range of therapeutic models including psychodynamic, narrative, CBT and existential therapy. In collaboration with the individuals he works with, Michael tailors a personal care plan to assist individuals in returning to a place of health, ease and comfort. Michael’s work is person-centred and strength-based and respects each individual for who they are and who they want to become. Michael’s working philosophy is that the individual’s inner and external resources are the main drives for their recovery and will help them in achieving meaningful change in their life.

Michaella James, MA, RP

Registered Psychotherapist

Michaella aims to provide a safe and compassionate environment, one where empathy, unconditional positive regard and even humour, come together to help clients feel comfortable in the therapeutic relationship. Using this as a foundation, Michaella assists clients in gaining new insights into their experiences, generating new perspectives, and learning skills to foster their desired outcomes.

Michaella uses an integrative approach which draws on various modalities such as narrative therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and mindfulness, among others. In doing so, she is able to tailor her therapeutic approach to meet each client’s unique needs.

Michaella is experienced in working with individuals (aged 12+). Her areas of experience include helping people navigate life transitions, anxiety and depression, interpersonal relationships, self-esteem and stress. She also has experience working with individuals experiencing and/or healing from domestic violence and abuse.

Michaella received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour from McMaster University, and subsequently completed her Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology at the University of Ottawa. Michaella is registered with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) as a Registered Psychotherapist.