La Mesa Clinicians

Karina Desai, LPCC


Karina is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with a passion for providing quality services to individuals struggling with mental health concerns. She received a Master’s of Science in Counseling from San Diego State University with an emphasis in Child Development in 2017. Karina’s vision is to ensure a safe therapeutic atmosphere is created for clients and their families to experience their vulnerabilities while sharing the challenges or barriers they may be facing. She is experienced in Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral, Psychodynamic, and Solution Focused Therapy and strives to help individuals understand and overcome their unhealthy thought processes.

Karina’s focus is with children and adolescents. Her compassion for working with younger clients is rooted from experience and understanding. Karina has a broad range of clinical experience working with individuals in the following areas: Depression, Special Needs, Anxiety, Behavioral Challenges, Self-Harm Behavior, Anger and Stress Management, Trauma and Abuse, and Self-Image and Self-Esteem issues.

Karina’s approach emphasizes the mutual development of goals for therapy and ongoing evaluation throughout the therapeutic process. She continues to seek growth professionally by constantly updating and improving her skills and knowledge base. Karina is invested in an integrative and dynamic approach to mental health and looks forward to supporting you on your journey!

Joanna Krasnisky, LCSW

LCSW #90386

Joanna (or Jo) specializes in working with children, teens, and families challenged from anxiety, PTSD, mild to moderate depression, post-natal depression, attachment challenges, substance abuse, identity or transition difficulties, and acute/complex trauma (including generational, systemic, and historical). She also provides individuals and/or couples seeking infant mental health treatment to provide attachment, emotional health, and developmental guidance.  Joanna’s spiritual quest guided her to study in India to become a certified yoga teacher.  She is passionate about wholistic healing and believes that within a safe environment 'bottom-up' approaches can be a beneficial supplement to traditional talk and or play therapies. (Our bodies hold so much wisdom and can teach us so much.  Sometimes our issues can get stuck in our tissues). 


Joanna consistently provides an unconditional positive regard, warmth, and authenticity within the therapeutic relationship. She believes that in order for organic and long term healing to take place, a strong therapeutic alliance needs to form and be assessed over the course of treatment. Her framework is culturally humble, trauma-informed, and mindfulness-based. One of Joanna’s core beliefs is that change is only effective is there is a level of autonomy and self-empowerment. You are the expert of your self and your life.  Joanna’s clinical training during and after Fordham and the University of Michigan, has been in trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, internal family systems, infant mental health/attachment-based, play-therapy, trauma-conscious yoga method, mindfulness based-substance abuse treatment, and humanistic psychology. Before moving to California, Joanna provided individual, family, and group therapy within community mental health, health, schools, and child welfare systems in NYC and Michigan. She looks forward to meeting you on your path towards healing and wellness.

Victoria Sarmiento, MFT

MFT #80843

Victoria Sarmiento is a bilingual Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 12 years of experience working with adults, children, adolescents and families with ADHD, Anxiety, High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, Depression, Trauma and related diagnoses.

Victoria received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Boston University and her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of San Diego.


Victoria began her career working for a non-profit organization that serves adult survivors of sexual assault, sexual abuse and domestic violence. After several years she transitioned her career to serving children, youth and their families inside the educational system working for San Diego Unified School District. Over the past four years Victoria has focused on working with adolescents in the high school setting and adolescents with high-functioning Autistm in a specialized school setting. Each work location provided Victoria with an opportunity to work with diverse populations from a variety of socio-economic, religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.


Victoria is often described as a welcoming, kind, attentive and attune therapist. She values the importance of creating a warm and safe environment for individuals to focus on themselves and address the issues that bring them to therapy.  She utilizes a strength-based approach and works closely with clients to identify what they do well and help them identify the answers they are looking for from within. Victoria has extensive training and experience utilizing a variety of therapeutic modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma-Focused CBT (TF-CBT), Prolonged Exposure, Relaxation Therapy, Mindfulness, Motivational Interviewing, Play Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy, and Imago Therapy. She is also a certified Youth Mental Health First Aid trainer.

Julia Ris, LPCC

LPCC #7372

Julia is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor offering individual, couples and family therapy. She received a Masters of Science in Multicultural Community Counseling from San Diego State University in 2016. Her approach is authentic, kind, effective, intuitive, welcoming and dynamic. She is passionate about helping you heal, feel alive and experience joy.


Many of us may experience depression, deal with overwhelming emotions or find that our relationships are struggling at times. Trauma, grief, anger and intergenerational patterns show up in our lives making it difficult to find a new way. We may struggle with a sense of belonging or be unsure how to balance the expectations of our cultures with our needs. At times, it might be difficult to find and use our voices. We may want to learn more about who we are and love ourselves more fully.


Julia is available to help support you through these challenges and many more. Her areas of expertise include: identity, LGBTQI communities, trauma and grief, culture and ethnicity, difficulty managing emotions & behaviors, anger, mood disorders, relationship challenges, gender therapy, anxiety, depression, mental health stigma, substance use, spirituality and personal growth. Julia’s style is open, warm and collaborative. She uses the following types of therapy to support you: Mindfulness, Attachment, DBT, Psychodynamic, Strengths-based, Gestalt and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.

Thuy-Linh Thi Pham, MFT

MFT #114805

Thuy received her Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Literature/Writing from UCSD. She later went on to earn a Master of Science degree in Counseling, with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy, from SDSU. She enjoys connecting with clients from all cultural backgrounds, and provides psychotherapy in Vietnamese for clients seeking a Vietnamese-speaking therapist. She understands that life is full of challenges and everyday stressors, but is excited about being a part of her clients’ journey in overcoming obstacles in their path towards achieving their goals. Her mission is to help clients discover and utilize their strengths to improve their mental health, manage stress, develop healthy boundaries, maintain healthy relationships, and foster positive change in their lives.

Thuy uses Narrative Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), and Motivational Interviewing. She has experience working with youth, adults, and families whom have faced a variety of challenges including anxiety, depression, concerns with parenting, gender identity issues, anger management, substance use, concerns with aging, self-harm and suicidal ideation, and psychotic disorders. She also collaborates with couples to create a safe space where they can strengthen their relationship by learning skills that promote effective communication, intimacy, and trust.

Liza (Helitzer) Carr, MFT

MFT #77128

Liza is a strengths-based, empathic, client-centered therapist with a passion for working with children, adolescents, and transition-aged youth on their journey of self-discovery and developing ways to cope in the world we live in.  She has also worked with numerous couples on not only improving the ways in which they communicate with one another, but also working on really trying to understand each other on the deepest levels in order to improve their marriage. Liza has over a decade of experience in mental health which ranges from treating those with anxiety and mood disorders, as well as victims of various kinds of trauma and their families, to those that struggle with drugs and alcohol to cope with life’s stressors.

Liza graduated with her Masters in Counseling Psychology from Boston College and has worked in community and nonprofit settings for the past ten years before coming to Positive Change.  Liza has experience working with the effects of various kinds of trauma and is trained in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). Liza’s mission as a therapist is to empower others to create their happiest and most fulfilling lives by confronting any challenges that they face and implementing the healthiest ways to manage their stress. 

Rachel Day, MFT

MFT #116177

Rachel is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who brings warmth, compassion, and humor in her work with clients. She implements a strengths-based approach in helping clients identify what is going well, rather than solely focusing on what is wrong. Rachel knows the issues clients bring into treatment often stem from an earlier time in their lives, and strives to assist her clients in gaining insight and awareness as the first step towards change. She is particularly interested in working with couples and young adults by helping them feel empowered, and collaboratively finding practical solutions during the transitions and challenges that inevitably arise.

During her clinical training at Azusa Pacific University, much emphasis was placed on the importance of healthy interpersonal relationships and utilizing self-care. Rachel understands the need for both of these in order to have positive self-esteem and a sense of overall peace. Rachel draws freely on her clinical training and experience working in schools, group homes, non-profit community mental health, and private practice settings.

Sarah Ebert, MFT

MFT #77158

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Sarah specializes in working with children, adolescents, adults and families.  After graduating from San Diego State University in 2003 with a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice Administration, she went on to work at a homeless family shelter in San Diego and it was there she developed a passion to counsel individuals and families from various backgrounds and help them to discover their strengths and grow.  She went on obtain a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from National University in San Diego. Following graduation, Sarah worked within a local police department and school district treating clients with ADHD, depression, anxiety, trauma, communication issues and anger management issues, prior to coming to Positive Change Counseling Center. 

Sarah uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing, Motivational Interviewing, Solution Focused and Family Systems Therapy.  She is also a member of California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT).  

Ashley O'Quinn, MFT

MFT #84860

Ashley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who approaches therapy from a solution focused and strength-based lens. She enjoys providing clients with a place for meaningful collaboration of ideas in order to find short and long-term solutions to problems. Ashley has experience providing mental health in a variety of settings, working with individuals, families, and adolescents, and greatly appreciates the diversity of people she has had the opportunity to work with. 

Ashley earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Family Studies from Baylor University in 2007 and her Master of Science degree in Counseling from San Diego State University in 2011. Ashley has had years of work with children and families, but began her therapeutic work providing therapy to children and at-risk foster youth. She then had the opportunity to work with military families navigating pregnancy, parenting, and life transitions. Most recently, Ashley has worked with adolescents, and their families, dealing with depression and anxiety.  

Ashley is interested in providing clients with a safe place where they can really be heard and be their true self, while finding solutions that move them towards happiness. 

Kasi (Kazaran) Barkawi-Buck, MFT

MFT #50604

Kasi was born and raised in Southern California. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from CSU, Long Beach and Master of Arts in Counseling Educational Psychology, emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy, from the University of Nevada, Reno.  Kasi is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional with the International Association of Trauma Professionals. She relocated to San Diego, California with her spouse who is active duty in the United States Navy.  

Kasi provides therapy to individuals, couples, children and families.  Kasi helps to guide her clients to achieve their optimal level of contentment.  Specialized to work with life stressors, conflicts with interpersonal relationships, difficulty with communication, feelings of sadness and worry, grief, fluctuations in energy and mood, loss of interest, negative thinking, self-esteem, abuse and trauma.  Familiar with the military community; welcome military spouses and children.   


Trained in Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectal Behavioral Therapy, Brief/ Solution Focused Therapy, Stress Management, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.    

Chris Dooley, MFT

MFT #104705

Chris has provided mental health services in a variety of settings since earning his Masters Degree from San Diego State University. These settings have ranged from working with at-risk youth involved with CWS to corporate executives addressing workplace issues.  Throughout his experience, Chris has learned that understanding and valuing each client’s unique stories and the contexts of their problems is essential to the therapeutic relationship and achieving progress. He greatly values diversity and his continual work with a wide range of clientele.  Chris strives to help empower his clients, and seeks to achieve realistic gains through goal setting and self-exploration. He utilizes cognitive behavioral and solution focused approaches and sees individuals and couples.

Chris works with clients facing anxiety, depression, substance abuse, workplace issues, stress and anger management problems, communication problems, relational conflict, intimacy issues, and sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Chris approaches therapy with humor and compassion to create a safe and collaborative environment for clients. He works with each client to find and practice practical and realistic solutions and gain and master new skills and knowledge to create their desired change. Chris enjoys working with couples in order to help them strengthen their relationship, improve communication and increase connection.

Kelly Williams, MFT

MFT #96873 

Kelly Williams is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 10 years of helping children and adults achieve healthier family dynamics. It was in her beginning work with children where Kelly gained an interest in helping adults work to contain their interpersonal stressors that without treatment impact the rest of the family.

Kelly provides therapy for, couples, families and children.  When seeing children, she finds it important that the parents have an active role in treatment, as it is a family effort to seek improvement. 

Kelly strives to provide a space for clients to feel as comfortable as they do discussing their problems with a friend over coffee or while meeting for a play date.  One way she helps build this feeling of familiarity is through her own awareness of cultural, sexual, and gender variances that impact everyone in different ways.  Kelly understands that it can be a big step to start therapy for the first time. So it is in the relationship between client and therapist that encourages you to come back even after the hardest of sessions. Overall Kelly utilizes her sense of humor, humility and overall enjoyment of the therapy process to help her clients succeed.

Carol Dawidowicz, MFT

MFT #49433

Carol Dawidowicz is passionate about helping people improve their well-being and relationships. She has been working as a therapist with children, teens and adults since 2005. Carol started her counseling career at a non-profit agency serving at risk youth. Carol has over 6 years of experience working with military service members and their families. She supports clients dealing with anxiety, depression, trauma, family of origin issues, grief & loss, separation & divorce, issues of identity/self-esteem, and relationship problems. She also works with couples facing a variety of challenges including parenting issues, infidelity, communication difficulties, intimacy problems, conflict and domestic violence.

Carol received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Virginia in 2000. She obtained her graduate degree in Marital and Family Therapy from the University of San Diego in 2006. Since graduation, Carol has continued to further her education and training by participating in programs focused on Gottman Therapy for working with couples, Prolonged Exposure for working with PTSD and multiple anxiety treatment related programs.

Carol values diversity and strives to understand the unique needs of each individual. She helps clients identify their strengths and develop the tools and relationship skills to lead a more productive and satisfying life.

Margaret "Meg" Olinger, MFT

MFT #104394 

Meg received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Loyola Marymount University and a Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy at University of San Diego. Meg has experience working with children who have experienced trauma and uses a trauma informed approach when meeting with her clients.

Prior to Positive Change Counseling Center, Meg supported families and children in foster care as well as individuals and families who have experienced adoption, in a non-profit setting. As an adoptee, Meg has learned the importance of providing support and guidance to families and individuals who have been touched by adoption. She uses an attachment-based lens to help strengthen the family bond and help find success and resiliency through the core experiences of adoptees and adoptive parents.

Meg is trained in EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which can help individuals who have experienced trauma as well as those who are experiencing anxiety and mood disorders. Meg utilizes Solution Focused techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness-Based practices, as well as other interventions, tailored to the needs and goals for therapy. 

Lea Walchshauser, MFT

MFT #53663 

Lea has been providing mental health services for over 9 years helping families and individuals with her holistic approach to therapy. Lea has extensive experience developing treatment plans that combine talk therapy, play therapy, lifestyle modification, and incorporating yoga as a means for long lasting lifestyle changes. Lea serves a broad spectrum of clients with experience ranging from marriage and family therapy, drug addiction, trauma, and children, adolescents, and adults with anxiety and depressive disorders. Lea will work with you to build a personalized treatment plans aimed at helping you reach your specific goals. 


Lea earned her bachelors degree from the University of Kansas in 2004. In 2010 she fulfilled her passion to be of service to others by completing the Master of Counseling Psychology program at National University in La Jolla, CA. Lea has certifications in Play Therapy and Mindfulness. In the spring of 2016 Lea graduated from yoga teacher training and offers weekly classes for the community. Lea incorporates elements from yoga such as breathing, mindfulness, meditation, and physical movement where appropriate for her clients. 

Jennifer Lundy-Aguerre, MFT

MFT #42025 (not currently accepting new clients)

Jennifer specializes in treating adults with a variety of anxiety and depressive disorders. She will work with you to address past trauma, decrease work-related stress and teach you skills to help get "unstuck" with challenges you may be facing. She also does a great deal of work with couples and families to address common relationship concerns, such as: communication, conflict resolution, trust, intimacy issues and financial concerns. Relationship therapy focuses on providing couples with skills to help increase trust, gain intimacy and strengthen their overall relationship. 

One of Jennifer's passions includes working with expectant and new parents on their journey as they work toward creating a special space for the newest member of their family.  As an advocate for parents, Jennifer believes in the importance of understanding your rights during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond in providing the care you feel is best for you and your family. Jennifer is a Certified Facilitator for Gottman’s “Bringing Baby Home” curriculum.

Jennifer received her Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of Iowa in 2000 and a Masters of Arts from the University of San Diego in Marital and Family Therapy in 2002.  Jennifer founded Positive Change Counseling Center in 2006 and with over 15 years of experience she continues to provide effective treatment to her clients. She has worked as a Research Therapist at the Veteran's Medical Research Foundation in La Jolla providing evidence-based Prolonged Exposure therapy to U.S soldiers returning home from combat who are challenged by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from combat and other traumatic events. Success rates are high in minimizing and eliminating issues such as increased fear, depressed mood, flashbacks, and poor concentration related to traumatic events including physical violence, sexual and combat trauma. Jennifer's background also includes human relations and diversity trainings, supporting survivors of domestic violence, providing in-home services for at-risk youth, facilitating anxiety support groups and providing residential treatment for adults with chronic mental illness and addiction.

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