SENIOR STAFF THERAPISTS
BENET HENNESSEY, M.A., ED.M., LMHc
Executive Director, Director of Graduate Training, Senior Staff Therapist, Supervisor
Benet is The Institute for Human Identity’s Executive Director. He is extensively trained and experienced in Multicultural Counseling, LGBTQ issues, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Educated in London, with a BA Honors in History, Benet worked for 15 years in London, Paris, and New York and was formerly the president of an international art company based in London and New York, and a member of the Institute of Directors.
He graduated Columbia University with a Master of Arts in Psychological Counseling (M.A.) and a Master of Education in Psychology (Ed.M.). He holds an Advanced Certificate in Clinical Practice from New York University, Postgraduate Certificate in Counseling from the Australian College of Applied Psychology and Certificate in Counseling from City College, London.
Benet is an Adjunct Professor at New York University and Brooklyn College.
Benet is a Member of the American Psychological Association and the British Association of Counseling Professionals.
TARA LOMBARDO, M.A., LMHC
Associate Director, Senior Staff Therapist, Supervisor
Tara Lombardo is the Associate Director and Staff Therapist at the Institute for Human Identity. Her practice at IHI includes working from a Psychodynamic and Existential perspective with adults within the LGBTQ community. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a M.A. in Mental Health Counseling and was the recipient of the Department of Psychology's Rasha Shamoon Memorial Scholarship. Ms. Lombardo also received an M.A. from New York University's Gallatin School for Individualized Study in 2006 and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2001. She ran a quarterly panel discussion on issues related to the lesbian community in New York City from 2008 to 2010.
ROBERT MCVEY, LCSW-R
Coordinator of Supervision, Clinical Coordinator, Senior Staff Therapist, Supervisor
Robert McVey is Clinical Coordinator and a Senior Staff Therapist at IHI, with a Certificate in Field Instruction. In 2014 he was awarded a fellowship in psychoanalysis from the NYU School of Medicine. He joined IHI as a Staff Therapist in June, 2003. Robert maintains a private practice in Manhattan. He was educated at Sarah Lawrence College, Harvard University, and New York University. Robert is also an author, and his book of short stories was nominated for a Lambda Award. His new novel is ready for publication.
JUDITH CLARKE, LCSW-r
Senior Staff Therapist, Supervisor, Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, Reiki Master
Judy holds a B.A. in Sociology from Hofstra University and a Masters in Social Work from Smith College. She has worked in the field of mental health for over thirty years. She helped to found three different LGBTQ mental health centers. At IHI, Judy is a former Executive Director, Associate Director, and Clinical/Personnel Coordinators. She is also a senior psychotherapist and supervisor with the Institute for Personal Growth in NJ. Judy maintains a private practice in NYC. She has many national and state certifications as well as completing training in specialty areas enhancing and expanding her repertoire of clinical skills. These include Imago Relationship Therapy, Hypnosis, EMDR, EFT, CBT, Mediation and Arbitration. Along with having completed the class work requirement, she continues with on-going clinical hours and supervision of a training program to become a nationally certified sex therapist.
Judy completed the Reiki Master program offered by the Center of Living Light and has been elevated to Reiki Master. As a political activist, Judy has been involved in causes close to her heart and for the peaceful welfare of all beings and society. She also is a long-term volunteer for many non-profit and social justice organizations. Judy does a wide selection of volunteer ushering in theater arts.
RUSSELL NEEDHAM, LCSW-R
Senior Staff Therapist, Supervisor
Russell received his B.A. from Columbia in Political Science and his Master's in Social Work from Hunter College. Russell is a Social Work Supervisor and former Program Director for the New York State Office of Mental Health. He also has formerly worked as a legislative aide for a United States Senator in Washington and as a representative to the New York State Pride Agenda, lobbying for LGBT program funding and equal rights.
Russell was a member of the IHI Steering Committee from 2002-2009, as well as the former Director of the Student Intern Program. He has also published articles in clinical journals relating to individual and group therapies. In recent years he has lectured at college seminars on pre-Stonewall LGBT history. He has supervised social work graduate interns from Columbia, Fordham, Yeshiva, Adelphi, Hunter, and New York University. Modalities practiced: Individual, group, couples, and vocational.
KRISTY LAROCCA, M.A., LMHC
Director of Professional Development, Supervisor
Kristy is a New York Licensed Mental Health Counselor and passionate advocate of LGBTQ+ rights and all human rights. Kristy completed her clinical internship here at IHI Therapy Center, and has served on staff for several years as a Staff Therapist, the Intern Coordinator, and as a Steering Committee Member. Currently, Kristy runs her own private psychotherapy practice and continues her commitment to IHI as the Director of Professional Development and Supervisor. She holds a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Brooklyn College and has served as an Adjunct Instructor in Brooklyn College’s Psychology Department for four years. Kristy has facilitated guest lectures and served on panels promoting LGBTQ competency and health.
JONATHAN KUTNICK, LMSW
Jonathan Kutnick earned his B.A. in Psychology from Emory University. He went on to pursue his Master’s Degree in clinical social work, which he received from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service. Jonathan also works for the HASA Training Academy at Fordham University where he facilitates training seminars and professional development workshops for employees of the HIV/AIDS Service Administration of New York City. Jonathan is psychodynamically oriented in his approach. His areas of focus include depression, anxiety, gender and sexual identity, codependency and relationship issues.
JOSEPH HOVEY, LCSW
I'm a thoughtful, passionate clinician, who focuses on building a meaningful and empathic connection with all of my clients. As my client, I have a special interest in increasing your access to your full emotional experience, and by building this awareness, increasing the flexibility, insight and energy you have to work toward the life you want. In my practice, I integrate relational psychodynamic and Systems-Centered perspectives, informing my curiosity and openness to exploring both important aspects of your past, and the relevant dynamics of your roles and contexts in the present.
I specialize in group psychotherapy, currently studying Systems-Centered Training, and I believe that groups provide a unique opportunity for growth and development. I serve on the board of the Eastern Group Psychotherapy Society, as the the co-chair of the Social Action Committee, and I’ve presented at the International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education and the EGPS Manhattan Discussion Group.
Abby Friedman, M.A., LMHC
Abby received her BA in Religious Studies from Kenyon College, and her MA in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness from NYU Steinhardt. She approaches psychotherapy with a psychodynamic lens, meeting each client where they are. She believes that the most important part of treatment is the therapeutic relationship, and is devoted to developing trust and comfort in the room. Some of Abby's areas of interest and expertise include gender and sexuality, women's health, couples work, relationships, self esteem, and life transitions. She works collaboratively with clients in a holistic way that addresses each part of who they are, and where they want to be in their lives.
Haley Weissman, LCSW
Staff Therapist, Clinical Supervisor
Haley graduated from Fordham University's Graduate School of Social Service, and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Haley's work as a clinician has been centered around working with and for members of the LGBTQIA community in various modalities and settings.
Haley practices using a trauma-informed lens, and works collaboratively with clients, understanding that they are the expert of their own experiences. Haley's areas of interest and expertise include complex trauma, gender and sexuality, depression, anxiety, couples, young adults, and working with clients experiencing rejection, loss and grief. Haley uses various modalities and frameworks tailored to each client's individual needs, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Trauma Informed Care, Social Justice, and Psychodynamic approaches. She is warm and empathetic, and considers the relationship between client and clinician to be of utmost importance in her work.
Eddie Degrand, LMSW
Eddie received their Master of Social Work from the Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work in 2016, specializing in Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees. They have about 2 years of post-graduate experience working with LGBTQ survivors of violence in trauma-informed, anti-oppressive, trans/nonbinary-affirming counseling. They have successfully worked with clients around a wide range of issues including anxiety, depression, grief, dissociation, anger, rage, sexual violence, difficulty navigating interpersonal relationships, and general concerns about how we understand our bodies and ourselves.
Eddie’s passion for supportive psychotherapy stems from their belief that self-actualization is a human right. They are comfortable utilizing cognitive behavioral, narrative, mindful, harm reductive, goal-oriented, and ego-supportive modalities. Remembering how difficult it can be to ask for help, and the immense power in all of us to heal and to grow, Eddie’s approach to therapy is nonjudgmental, curious, and respectful.
Laurie Spacek, LMSW
Laurie's professional background includes roles in government, HIV/AIDS research, and nonprofit organizations. She has had the opportunity to work with diverse groups of clients including children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families.
Laurie’s approach to therapy is integrative with an emphasis on humanistic psychology. Using this approach, she recognizes the significance of an authentic and empathetic therapeutic relationship. She strives to provide a safe, non-judgmental, and client-centered space for clients to process the issues most important to them. Laurie also has experience with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). She has been extensively trained in Motivational Interviewing (MI) and finds this style of communication useful in helping clients identify and work toward potential changes they want to make.
Laurie received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University. She graduated with a Master of Social Work degree from Stony Brook University. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers.
Samantha zhu, mhc-lp
Samantha has experience working with multi-culturally diverse individuals cope with a wide range of issues, including depression, anxiety, self-esteem, LGBTQ+ concerns, communication, anger, stress, and bilingual counseling (Cantonese). She strives to build a collaborative therapeutic relationship with clients, to enable them to become open to discover and value the inner strength that exists within them.
Samantha holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Sociology from Hunter College and a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from Brooklyn College. She takes an eclectic approach to counseling that combines a variety of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and mindfulness-based therapy to assist clients in gaining insight and self-awareness. Samantha’s focus is to help you work towards the changes you wish to make in your life and overcome challenges while providing a safe environment to facilitate self-development. She is always looking to gain additional skills that will help her shape each session to the specific needs of her clients.
Nick Bensmiller, MHC-LP
Intern Coordinator, Staff Therapist
Nick holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Gender Studies from Marymount University and a dual Masters in Mental Health Counseling and Counseling Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. They approach therapy from a Relational-Cultural and Feminist lens, and holds the therapeutic relationship to be of great importance. Nick believes that therapy is most successful when it is trauma-informed, identity-affirming, and multiculturally-competent.
Nick has experience working with various identity navigation issues, including sexual orientation, gender identity/gender roles, ethnic and racial identity, and non-traditional relationships. They also have experience working with sexual violence, trauma, anxiety, relational issues, depression, and self-esteem. They view therapy as a way to collaborate with clients to facilitate growth and healing, as each person would like to. They believe that a true understanding of a client includes mutuality, respectful reciprocity, and authenticity.
Wale Okerayi, MHC-LP
Wale received a dual Masters degree from Teachers College Columbia University in Mental Health Counseling and Counseling Psychology. Wale believes in approaching Psychotherapy in a collaborative way while helping the client on their journey to becoming their best self. She believes in creating a safe and welcoming space for the client to facilitate growth and healing for the individual.
She approaches therapy using an eclectic approach that includes: Psychodynamic theory, Feminist theory, Cognitive Behavioral therapy, and Gestalt theory.
Wale has experience working with multicultural and identity issues, race related issues, gender and sexuality, body image, depression, anxiety, and trauma. She also has worked with individuals, couples, and families.
Furness Norton, MHC-LP
Furness Norton holds a Bachelor of Science from Brooklyn College and returned to receive his Master in Mental Health Counseling. He has experience working with diverse populations with issues, including substance abuse, LGBTQ+ challenges, anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, and self-esteem. He strongly believes in the importance of a therapeutic relationship built on mutual trust, agency, and collaboration.
Furness utilizes an eclectic approach that includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness based therapy, and Psychodynamic theory. One of his goals is providing a safe and welcoming environment in which clients can explore upcoming issues and how they can navigate their emotional needs in their day to day life.
John Carroll, MFT
After a successful career as a Broadway dancer and writer, John redirected his passion and creativity to be of service to the community as a psychotherapist.
John earned a BFA in Dance from the Juilliard School and a Master’s in Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from Mercy College.
John’s ethos is to interact with individuals and couples, actively and openly to create an atmosphere of safety and self-reflection. While working to alleviate symptoms, John explores, through a Social Justice lens, the ways an individual’s narrative influences their identity and perceptions of life’s circumstances.
The alliance between therapist and client is of utmost importance to John. Using mindfulness and humor, John helps clients cultivate self-acceptance, healthy boundaries, increased intimacy, and clarity of direction allowing depression, anxiety, and relationship problems to be relieved.
John has experience working with the LGBTQ+ community, performing artists, as well as with individuals and couples navigating open relationships, polyamory, and other non-traditional sexual expressions in a sex-positive atmosphere.
Teal Inzunza, LMSW
Teal received her Masters in Social Work from Fordham University with a focus on clinical work. She has many years of experience working with LGBQ and TGNC survivors of violence and believes in a trauma-informed and client-centered approach. She has expertise in supporting clients with understanding and working through depression, anxiety, healing from childhood trauma, navigating relationships, dissociation, internalized shame, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, grief, and self-esteem issues.
Teal believes that therapy should be relatable and accessible for everyone. It takes tremendous courage to start therapy and Teal believes that healing from trauma and gaining self-understanding is possible through a trusting and supportive therapeutic process. Teal practices supportive psychotherapy and has experience working with many different modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, harm reduction, and narrative therapy. She believes therapy should be a creative and collaborative process and she strives to bring a non-judgmental and affirming approach to working with her clients.
Eve Blazo, MSW
I believe in facilitating a strong and compassionate therapeutic relationship. Understanding the therapeutic process to be collaborative and deeply dynamic, my approach is attuned to your evolving needs. We will work to identify and mirror core strengths and inner resilience, unearthing greater self-compassion and self-acceptance--in service of both healing and growth. We will uncover insights to help you develop a deeper understanding of your innermost self. While maintaining an alliance of mutual trust and respect, we will take risks and tackle issues creatively.
My approach is warm, genuine, and devoted to providing a non-judgmental, safe space to work through both past and present issues.
I have experience working with anxiety and depression, personality disorders, eating disorders, trauma, and relational dynamics. I have training in LGBTQ+ affirmative therapy and issues related to ethnic and racial identity, sexuality, and gender identity. My integrative practice includes working from a psychodynamic, relational, and existential perspective. As I certified yoga teacher, I incorporate mindfulness-based modalities, as well as skills from cognitive behavioral, dialectical behavioral, and art-based modalities as needed.
Nadia Swanson, LMSW
Nadia Swanson received their Bachelor’s Degree in Dance and Anthropology from Hofstra University and their MSW from Rutgers University. Nadia has a warm, friendly, empathic and relaxed nature that comes across in their work as a therapist.
They have worked domestically and internationally with families, youth and LGBTQ youth. They have extensive experience with LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, families involved with the foster care system, immigrant communities, people affected by HIV, people engaged in sex work, trafficking survivors, IPV, polyamory, BDSM/Kink communities and people affected by serious and persistent mental health issues. Nadia currently works to grow NYC’s capacity for family and community acceptance for transgender and gender expansive youth and their families. Nadia brings her long history of community organizing and advocacy work into the therapeutic experience as they believe clinical work and social justice go hand in hand.
Nadia knows that it can take time to build trust with a therapist and will work with you to feel safe and affirmed. They utilize a psychodynamic approach that incorporates Relational Therapy, CBT, Anti-Oppression work, and Client Centered Therapy styles. Nadia tailors their therapeutic approach to best support each person as a unique individual.
CorEy Bryant, M.A., MHC-LP
Corey received his Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Saint Joseph’s University, and his Master of Arts degree in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness from New York University.
Corey uses an eclectic approach to treatment, mainly featuring psychodynamic theory, with emotion-focused, cognitive-behavioral, and relational components.
Corey specifically tailors the therapy to best serve the client’s needs and to work with clients to foster insight. Additionally, he places considerable importance on the client-therapist relationship, using it to provide clients with new experiences and understandings in therapy. With all clients, he strives to promote changes in how they might experience themselves, other people, and the world.
Some of Corey’s areas of expertise include LGBTQ+ challenges, helping those with HIV/AIDS, cultural and racial concerns, trauma, depression, anxiety, anger, intimacy issues, grief and loss, identity exploration, and tolerating a wider range of emotions.
Christina Tesoro, MSW
Christina Tesoro (she/they) is a writer and certified holistic sex educator. She has worked at the Ali Forney Center as a youth counselor, providing LGBTQ+ specific sex education to homeless queer and trans youth, and LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming sex education trainings to staff. She also has experience as a Rape Crisis Health Educator at Mount Sinai’s Adolescent Health Center, where she conducted pleasure-based consent culture anti-sexual violence workshops, as well as gender and sexuality workshops to teens.
As a therapist, Christina works with individuals, couples, and folks in non-monogamous relationship styles, and practices from a relational cultural, intersectional feminist, anti-capitalist lens. She firmly believes that everyone holds within them the keys to their own healing. Through the establishment of a warm and mutually respectful therapeutic alliance, she seeks to help her clients unlearn harmful cultural conditioning and, with the courage of authenticity, uncover their own innate inner wisdom. In 2019, Christina earned her Masters of Social Work at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. She considers it of central importance to “stay where the client is,” recognizing that clients are the experts of their own lived experiences. As a therapist, she brings a trauma-informed, somatic and movement therapy focused approach that integrates mind-body approaches to healing. She specializes in sex worker affirming and culturally competent care.
STEPHAN GODDARD, M.A., MHC-LP
Stephan received his Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Brooklyn College and his Master of Arts degree in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness from New York University.
Stephan uses an eclectic approach to therapy, with an emphasis on Psychodynamic theory, Person-Centered Therapy, and with a Cognitive-Behavioral approach to treatment.
Whether they are adaptive or maladaptive, our thoughts and feelings serve a function in our lives. Through treatment, Stephan will assist Clients in gaining a deeper awareness of what those functions are and the role they play in their lives. In addition, Stephan believes our problems manifest in the ways we interact with the people closest to us. Thus, it is through the therapeutic relationship is where the healing process will begin by the formation of developing different ways of relating to others.
Stephan is well versed in working with individuals from diverse multi-cultural and sexual backgrounds. Stephan’s areas of expertise include exploration of sexual orientation and sexuality, gender identity issues, depression, anxiety, stress, compulsive behavior, substance abuse, grief, suicide, reaching career goals, relationship/family problems, phase of life issues and self-actualization barriers.
Levi Stolove, MSW
Levi’s work begins with an environment that is open, warm, and free of judgment. He believes the relationship between therapist and client is of utmost importance. After building a therapeutic relationship that is based on genuine connection and trust, Levi utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic theory to assist clients in deepening their understanding of themselves and how their minds work. Levi works with his clients to cultivate ways to become more flexible, connected to others, and resilient. Levi has helped clients with a wide range of struggles including depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, body image issues, LGBTQ+ concerns, gender identity, gender transition, communication difficulties, anger, and stress.
Levi earned his Bachelor of Arts from Bard College and his Master of Social Work with honors from the Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work.
Avital Isaacs, MSW
Avital holds a Bachelor of Arts honors degree in Cinema Studies from Oberlin College and a Master of Social Work honors degree from Hunter College's Silberman School of Social Work. As part of her graduate coursework, Avital specifically pursued clinical work with incarcerated people and sex workers, populations that the mental health field traditionally underserves.
Avital arrived at social work after years as a sex educator, where she taught workshops and led trainings on gender, kink, sex-positivity, and boundaries for medical schools and universities. This work illuminated the need for spaces that are free of stigma and shame, particularly for marginalized populations.
Avital practices therapy from a trauma-informed, anti-oppressive, and social constructivist lens. Her therapeutic approach is integrated, and can incorporate narrative therapy, CBT, and arts therapies alongside her psychodynamic orientation, depending on a client's interests and strengths. She believes that all people deserve collaborative, culturally competent care, and strives to create a warm and non-judgmental environment where people can come as they are.
J. PARKER MOrris, MHC
Parker (he/him) is an action-focused therapist specializing in CBT and DBT-informed therapy, among other behavioral techniques. Parker takes a client-centered, strengths-based approach, adapting his work to allow clients to use the therapeutic space in any way they choose.
Parker has experience working with LGBTQ youth, couples, and families, and individuals at high risk for and living with HIV/AIDS. His previous work focused on exploring gender identity and sexual orientation, guiding TGNCNB people through transitional care, and working through difficult life transitions.
Parker is interested in helping people develop coping mechanisms, manage emotional dysregulation and interpersonal concerns, build self-esteem, and develop insight into their moods and behaviors. He is trained to treat mood disorders, sexual concerns, grief and bereavement, and a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues.
Above all else, Parker strives to create a positive, safe, affirming environment for all clients to explore identity, gain insight, and create a life worth living.
Parker earned his Dual-Master’s degree in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness & LGBT Health, Education, and Social Services from New York University.
Advanced clinical interns
(2019-2020 interns to be announced soon)