Our Mental Health Professionals

Agnieszka Szymanowicz-Yalcin, M.Ed. (Psych), 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). 

Bahara Hamidi, BA, (Qualifying)

Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying)

Bahara believes that the therapeutic alliance is an important catalyst of change. As such, Bahara strives to create an open and nurturing environment that empowers individuals to reach their full potential and to build a more purposeful life. Bahara takes a structured, collaborative, and relaxed approach to help clients set and meet therapeutic goals.

Bahara’s therapeutic orientations are Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MCBT), Trauma-Focused, Solution-Focused, and Attachment-Based Therapy. In addition, Bahara’s approach to therapy is holistic in nature in that it considers the mind, body, and spirit connection.

Bahara has a background in diversity, equity and inclusion work and has experience working with clients who are racialized, part of the LGBTQ2+ community, and persons with disabilities.

Bahara offers therapy in Dari, Farsi, and English. Bahara is a member of The College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO).

Carmen Urbina, M.Ed., RP, Registered Psychotherapist

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.

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.

Ghadir Kawar, M.Ed., RP (Qualifying)

Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying)

Ghadir understands that the foundation of any therapeutic work is a strong therapeutic relationship between herself and her clients. She strives to build a warm, compassionate, judgment-free, and empathic space, in which clients can speak freely about their traumas, while feeling heard and validated.

Ghadir is an Arabic, English, and French speaking counsellor with the Refugees and Vulnerable Newcomers program. She works with adult clients experiencing a wide variety of emotional and psychological challenges in their lives.

Ghadir’s work draws from an integrative, person-centered, cross-cultural, and trauma-informed approach. She collaborates with each client, tailoring her approach to meet their therapeutic needs. Her clinical practice is informed by Attachment, Psychodynamic, Systemic, Cognitive-Behavioural, and Narrative theories.

Ghadir is a graduate of Ottawa University and holds an M.Ed. in Counselling Psychology. Prior to that, she graduated from Carleton University with an M.A. in Psychology.

Jennifer Munroe, MSW, RSW

Registered Social Worker, Psychotherapist

Jennifer is passionate about supporting children, youth, and their families by using an attachment-based lens to rebuild trust and strengthen connectedness between children, youth, and their parents. Jennifer works collaboratively through a strengths-based and client-directed approach to support youth and family engagement. She listens closely to identify individual and family strengths, and supports clients to use these strengths to achieve the goals that are co-developed in session.

Jennifer has experience supporting clients with anxiety, depression, social-emotional difficulties including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavioural challenges, substance use, and harm to self and/or others. She has also worked with families who have experienced separation/divorce and/or have custody and access concerns, as well as with adopted and blended families.

Jennifer has worked in a variety of settings including community and hospital-based children’s mental health agencies, residential treatment homes, and within the criminal justice system. She has supported clients from diverse and marginalized populations who have experienced the ecological impacts of mental health, substance use, and intergenerational trauma.

Jennifer incorporates multiple modalities within her counselling approach, including: Emotion-Focused Family Therapy, Developmental Dyadic Psychotherapy, Dialectic Behaviour Therapy, Trauma-Informed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Narrative Therapy and Motivational Interviewing. Jennifer maintains a trauma-informed lens with all clients.

Jennifer completed her MSW at the University of Queensland in Australia. She also has a Master’s degree in Criminology from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, where she specialized in attached-based interventions. Jennifer is a Registered Social Worker and is a member of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers and the Ontario Association of Social Workers.

Jesse Henneberry, MA, RP, 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 holds a master’s degree in Counselling and Spirituality from Saint Paul University and 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 adult individual team, since 2014 he has also worked at the agency’s walk-in counselling clinic—both 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.

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 working 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. He has published articles in international academic journals on the topic of grief and bereavement, was a teaching assistant and guest lecturer in a Psychopathology and Assessment course in the University of Ottawa’s MA Counselling Psychology program, and, more recently, he has conducted research on the how therapists support clients in co-constructing preferred identities in the context of brief narrative single session therapy.

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.

Katherine Marr, MA, RP, CCC

Clinical Manager, Centre for Children, Youth, and Families

Katherine believes that we, as human beings, are beautifully complex and perfectly imperfect. In her work, she holds the intention of helping people reduce their sense of overwhelm, increase their sense of belonging, find freedom from their suffering, improve their relationships with self and others, and improve their overall quality of life.

Katherine has been working in the mental health and social service field for over twenty years, with most of that time focused within the child, youth, and family service sector. She began her career as a child and youth care worker and programs coordinator in schools, community agencies, youth mental health treatment centres, as well as detox and addiction recovery programs. She has now been practicing counselling and psychotherapy in Ottawa since 2011 and has grown her career to include working directly with adults of all ages, as well as managing mental health services and providing clinical supervision to other therapists. Katherine is equally experienced in working people who suffer from complex, unresolved traumas as she is in working with people who are seeking support in acute moments of suffering or when they simply can’t see the solutions to their problems clearly.

Katherine holds a master’s degree in counselling psychology from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Vancouver, B.C. She is a Registered Psychotherapist (RP) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) and a Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) with the Canadian Counselling & Psychotherapy Association (CCPA). In addition, Katherine is a Certified Yoga Therapist with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), a mindfulness and meditation teacher, and is nearing the end of her practitioner training in Somatic Experiencing with Somatic Experiencing International. In her work with children, youth, and their families, she relies on her foundational training in Adlerian psychology and incorporates a variety of other approaches in which she is trained, such as Systems Theory, Collaborative Problem Solving/ Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS), Non-Violent Communication (NVC), Positive Discipline, and Positive Youth Development.

Kelly Firth, MA, RP

Registered Psychotherapist

Kelly uses a warm, empathetic, and client-centred approach in her work. She aims to create a compassionate and non-judgemental space and to empower her clients to achieve their unique goals. Kelly uses an integrative and collaborative approach by drawing from various therapeutic approaches, such as Narrative Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic theory, Internal Family Systems, and Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFCT). Kelly collaborates with each client, tailoring her approach to meet their therapeutic needs.

Kelly is experienced in working with adult individuals and couples. Her areas of experience include working with anxiety, depression, trauma/PTSD, addiction, grief and loss, interpersonal relationships, and relationship conflict. Kelly is a LGBTQ2+ positive and kink-friendly counsellor and aims to honour the experience of all of her clients.

Kelly received her Master’s degree in Counselling and Spirituality with a specialization in Couple and Family Counselling from Saint Paul University and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Ottawa. She is also a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO).

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.