Meet Our Team

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Meet Our Team 2020-04-27T14:23:41+00:00
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Clinicians

Bukky Kolawole

Bukky Kolawole, PsyD
Bukky Kolawole, PsyDFounder/Therapist

My Specialty

Dr. Olubukunola (oh-loo-boo-koon-aw-lah) Kolawole (caw-lah-wah-le), better known as Dr. Bukky (Boo-key), is a bicultural, licensed clinical psychologist with a strong value for collaboration and effectiveness. Over the past years, she has provided psychotherapy to help individuals and couples in New York City make desired changes in their life. She has helped her clients improve their mood and self-esteem, manage feelings of panic and anxiety, communicate effectively and feel close and secure in their relationships.

Dr. Bukky specializes in providing couple’s therapy, pre-marital counseling and discernment counseling for couples, including those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community. She helps couples communicate and relate to each other in more emotionally responsive ways, guiding and supporting partners to use skills that are critical for improving and strengthening relationships so they last and are filled with comfort, security, and joy. She also works with partners who are exploring open relationships and polyamory.

Dr. Bukky has an active, engaging, warm and empathic style guided by approaches including Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing, each of which research studies have shown as effective for relieving relationship distress and symptoms of emotional disorders and for making lasting behavior change.

Dr. Bukky Kolawole completed her doctoral internship in clinical psychology at New York City’s infamous Bellevue Hospital. She received her doctoral degree (PsyD) in clinical psychology from Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus after defending her dissertation on subtypes of perpetrators of intimate partner violence. Dr. Bukky has provided care in numerous inpatient and outpatient settings for adolescents and adults, including Long Island University’s Psychological Services Center, Bellevue Hospital, NYU Child Study Center, LIJ Schneider’s Children Hospital, and Long Island Center for Cognitive Therapy.
Dr. Bukky knew she wanted to become a clinical psychologist at the age of 12. At the time, she had recently moved to the United States from Nigeria and the school psychologist at her high school invited Bukky to meet with her in order to ensure that she was adjusting well to her new environment. Led by natural curiosity, young Bukky inquired about why the psychologist valued spending so much time chatting with her instead of working. The 12-year old was pleasantly surprised to discover that talking to people to improve well-being was, in fact, a profession. Bukky’s mouth hit the floor when the school psychologist explained how talk therapy works and that it could be useful in supporting people during times of transitions, or helping them make change so they could fulfill their potential. Bukky went home from school that day declaring that she no longer planned to become a pediatrician but, instead, a psychologist!

(Side note: You might be tickled to know that when the young Bukky encountered difficult situations or intense emotions, one of the strategies she used to cope was engaging in self-talk with her future self, whom she then named “Dr. B.” She still has her journal entries from childhood that reveal this.)

Dr. Bukky’s post graduate career began at NYU’s Child Study Center’s Institute for Prevention Science, where she was recruited to join Dr. Laurie Brotman’s team evaluating the efficacy of ParentCorps, the now evidence-based, universal prevention program for young children. As a senior clinician, Dr. Bukky worked with school administrators, teachers and parents to increase their use of effective behavior management skills, promote young children’s socio-emotional development and increase family involvement. Dr. Bukky left her mark as a lead designer and trainer of the professional development workshop series for early childhood educators and mental health professionals focused on a variety of topics, including the use of motivational interviewing with teachers and parents, and effective family engagement practices for school staff. By experimenting with experiential learning as a way of engaging adults, she discovered the power of this approach in making behavior change, and ultimately transformed the ParentCorps training series into a fun and evocative training program that inspires real change in its adult participants.

During this time, and while maintaining a small private practice, Dr. Bukky encountered research that showed that it takes married couples seven years from when they know they need professional support to actually walk through the doors of a therapist. She knew this research to be true given the number of couples that had walked through the doors of her private practice as a last resort, often meaning that the relationship first required emotional CPR before being able to strengthen anything. She understood this delay to be the result of different factors such as cost/accessibility, the stigma that surrounds therapy including feelings of shame about needing support or seeking help, fears about being judged or blamed, and misunderstanding of the therapy process. Having experienced distress in her own relationships, she could not fathom that partners stayed in such states for seven years, especially given the availability of effective interventions, such as Emotion Focused Therapy for Couples. She was pained by this finding and decided to do something about it-- she would build a different type of psychology practice; one that would unbalance the status quo of the way psychology is practiced and ultimately change the way people view therapy, particularly couple’s therapy.

Dr. Bukky decided to begin by creating a place where the needs of people of color and the LGBTQ community are not an afterthought but rather at the forefront. She wanted to design a place where all people, from all walks of life could feel safe, comfortable, accepted and valued; she wanted to provide a space that felt like your close friend’s home – offering all the typical comforts, including the option to remove your shoes.

With a clear formula in hand, and couples and relationships in mind, Dr. Bukky left her role at ParentCorps to build that place, your place, Relationship HQ. Dr. Bukky continues to maintain her faculty status as adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor at New York University’s Department of Population Health. She is also a contributing writer for Elixher, an online magazine for queer women.
Since Dr. Bukky decided to become a psychologist, she has never looked back. She describes the privilege of being a psychologist as having the opportunity, daily, to be with clients as they arrive at the birthplace of change. She loves her work so much that she can’t imagine anything more rewarding.

Dr. Bukky is passionate about helping her clients feel accepted, important and loved in their relationships. She is committed to helping you feel equipped with the skills you need in order to reach the people you care about and enjoy a more productive and fulfilling life.

If pressed, Dr. Bukky states that if being a psychologist were not an option for her, she would have been a drummer and a DJ. We’re glad she chose psychology as she does not have a single musical bone in her body—in fact, she might be the only person who’s ever been kicked out of private voice lessons.

My Specialty

Kimberly joined our team to expand our services for parents from diverse backgrounds including parents that identify as LGBTQI. Clinically, Kimberly specializes in working with parents seeking to address children’s behavior problems, as well as couples whose intimacy and closeness are being affected by disagreements about children or parenting roles/styles. She also works with separated and divorced parents navigating co-parenting relationships and LGBTQ families with elective co-parenting arrangements. Kimberly is highly skilled at helping parents create a harmonious home and cohesive family unit, regardless of their relationship status.

Kimberly Vasallo earned her Masters in Mental Health Counseling and her Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Yeshiva University, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. Kimberly has completed specialized training in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Collaborative Problem Solving, Motivational Interviewing, and Substance Abuse Counseling.

Kimberly Vasallo’s journey to become a therapist wasn’t a traditional one. After years of training as a performer, Kimberly continued to have difficulty finding a way to express her value for service toward others within the theater profession. She had spent her entire life identifying as a singer and actress and had landed herself in theater conservatory, the Holy Grail for singers and actors in her community. But, the fear of redefining herself and letting go of all she knew as safe and familiar could not match the pain of feeling disconnected from her value for caring directly for the well-being of others. So, after 16 years, Kimberly made the hard decision to walk away from it all.

Kimberly coached Special Olympics teams and taught social skills to children on the autism spectrum using acting and performance, and she wanted to find a career that built upon these experiences and would allow her to foster wellbeing and happiness in others. In 2009, Kimberly found the courage to pursue her love for teaching and working with children and secured a position teaching 25 Kindergarteners. What Kimberly did not expect was that her interaction with her students’ parents would be the most fulfilling part of her role. She was energized by listening to parents’ challenges, whether their struggle was about their difficulty implementing a morning routine, conflict with a partner who had different parenting values, or just general parent/human burn-out. Kimberly supported these parents by modeling effective strategies and encouraging them to attend to themselves and their intimate relationship so they could create the best environment for themselves and their children.

Kimberly observed that the parent-child relationship improved when parents took time to focus on their own relationship, as it increased their intimacy, communication and alignment of values and parenting styles. She quickly became known as the “child whisperer” by the parents and colleagues with whom she worked and was inspired to dedicate her career to helping parents as a way of helping children. Kimberly had finally found her clear path, one where she could do something she loved and serve others without compromising any of her values.

Kimberly’s journey has been filled with wonder and “wonderful accidents,” which have left her feeling deeply rewarded by her work as a therapist. By integrating her background in performing arts with experiential and evidence-based therapeutic approaches, Kimberly is able to be creative and disarming in the therapy room as well as during home visits. These strengths, along with the whole-hearted way she engages and listens, are what draw clients to her and maintain their interest in their work together.

Kimberly Vasallo

Kimberly Vasallo, LMHC
Kimberly Vasallo, LMHCTherapist

Elisa Cameron

Elisa Cameron, LMHC
Elisa Cameron, LMHCTherapist

My Specialty

Because of Elisa’s unique background and focus on cultural competence, she specializes in working with individuals and couples from inter-racial and bicultural families, families formed through adoption, those within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community, and individuals hoping to increase clarity and/or comfort around their various identities. Whether she’s helping clients proactively create a strong foundation through pre-marital counseling, or helping them navigate and resolve current tensions in their relationships through couples therapy, her focus on increasing her clients’ understanding of themselves, and their ability to relate to others helps her clients achieve more meaningful, fulfilling, and sustainable relationships.

Elisa earned a Master of Education (EdM) in Psychological Counseling from Teachers College, Columbia University, where her focus was on cultural competence and social justice. She received her Masters of Public Administration (MPA) in Education Policy and Reform and her Bachelors of Business Administration from the George Washington University. She has specialized training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy through Behavioral Tech, LLC and experience providing trauma-focused therapy for adolescents and young adults. She is also a certified facilitator of True Colors for Personal Success, an interactive program designed to promote respect and appreciation of differences, increase self-esteem, and help individuals, families, and teams achieve stronger, more rewarding relationships.
Elisa began her professional career as an organizational development specialist, working in the corporate, not-for-profit, and higher education arenas. Elisa spearheaded the design and delivery of programming focused on improving the effectiveness of individuals and teams within organizations. Whether she was providing standalone leadership training and communication workshops or developing competency models for entire organizations, Elisa found joy in helping others reach their professional goals. With her demonstrated commitment to equipping others with the tools necessary to achieve their full potential in the work place, Elisa quickly became a respected and sought out advisor for individuals at varying stages in their careers.

While Elisa found her work to be rewarding, she felt it was incomplete. Although she was making a difference at individual, team, and organizational levels, she craved more. What exactly she craved, however, wasn’t immediately clear. While on a consulting project in New York, a family friend reached out asking for guidance for how to address her granddaughter’s struggle with being adopted. The request stopped Elisa in her tracks. As a transracial adoptee, Elisa knew this territory well; yet this was the first time her status as an adoptee proved to be an asset. This moment changed everything.

This moment clarified a way in which Elisa could synthesize her professional experience with her social justice interests – the interests that encouraged her to join a social psychology research team focused on understanding how racial identity could impact an individual’s development process, that motivated her to provide programming for at-risk youth focused on creating and maintaining healthy relationships, that inspired her to continuously work towards helping others become agents of change, for themselves and for their communities. With a newly clarified direction, Elisa returned to school to become a therapist committed to reducing distance and increasing understanding between people, focusing on gaining insight into the ways in which various identities (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, culture, age, religion) influence belief systems and affect the ways in which people relate and connect to one another.
Elisa is committed to providing transformative experiences for individuals, couples, families, and organizations by encouraging individual exploration, promoting acceptance, broadening perspectives, and enabling growth.

If being a therapist weren’t an option, Elisa would have loved living life as an artist. While she has a great eye for color and design, her drawing abilities are far from acceptable -- even when it comes to drawing stick figures people often ask “What’s that?” We’re relieved she chose psychology, as Elisa channels her creativity into her work with clients.

My Specialty

Danny specializes in working with individuals and families impacted by trauma, anxiety and acculturations issues. He also works with couples to help them communicate better and feel more emotionally connected.  Danny is also experienced in helping families better understand the behavior of their young children (0 to 6 years old).

Danny earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work, where his focus was early childhood development and family practice and earned a Bachelors in Fine Arts from East Carolina University. Danny has received specialized training in Emotionally Focused Family Therapy and has provided care in many settings including, Roberto Clemente’s Family Guidance Center, LaGuardia Community College’s Wellness and Counseling Center and New York City Public Schools.

Danny’s journey to become a therapist started in 2008 working for a Drama Therapy organization that matched professional actors with Licensed Drama Therapists to provide care to adolescents with behavioral problems. He loved getting to know the teens and families he worked with and particularly enjoyed facilitating the parent workshops provided to the families. Wanting to have a deeper impact in the lives of the families he worked with, Danny returned to school to become a therapist. Feeling he had a good grasp on therapeutic interventions for teens Danny focused on early childhood and family practice. What he learned regarding childhood adversity and the lifetime health implications it has on individuals that have experienced early childhood adversity had a profound effect on him. Since then Danny has devoted his life’s work to improving the lives of children and families. In addition to providing therapy at Relationship HQ, Danny also provides mental health consultation to numerous preschools across the city.

“Everything you need is already within you!” Danny believes in empowering clients with what’s already inside of them. He believes that people already carry with them the ingredients for change. With this in mind he is committed to establishing a collaborative relationship based on empathy, trust and respect where clients feel safe to explore their strengths and make the changes they desire.

Danny Gomez

Danny Gomez, LMSW
Danny Gomez, LMSWTherapist

Aleja Parsons

Aleja Parsons, PhD
Aleja Parsons, PhDTherapist

My Specialty

Dr. Aleja Parsons specializes in getting couples “unstuck,” whether from high conflict or painful distance. She is excellent at helping partners become aware of any underlying negative patterns that may be keeping them trapped and providing tools for them to join together against the issues tearing them apart. Dr. Parsons has extensive training in working with people of color and uses a multicultural framework to help couples navigate the ways that their racial identities shape their interactions in their relationships. Dr. Parsons’ work helps couples rediscover the love and compassion that brought them together and equips them with the understanding and responsiveness to help them maintain their bond.

Dr. Parsons earned her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Denver. Her research focuses on the reduction of relationship and family distress in underrepresented populations, with a specific emphasis on African American couples and families. Dr. Parsons’ research focuses on identifying culturally unique factors that help strengthen couples and families in marginalized communities despite social stressors (e.g. racism). Her work allows her to design effective, culturally relevant programs/treatments accordingly.  Dr. Parson has received intensive training in couples therapy and has extensive experience working with black and brown people, the LGBTQ community, people with physical and cognitive disabilities, as well as veterans.  Dr. Parsons is skilled in using approaches that research has shown to be helpful for couples in a flexible and culturally sensitive manner that prioritizes each couple’s goals and values.

Aleja was immediately drawn to psychology during her senior year of high school, when she first learned there was an entire field of study dedicated to understanding the way people think and behave.  As a child, she was always fascinated by how people could have the same experience and leave with completely different perspectives about what happened. After the first day of her Advanced Placement Psychology course, she was hooked. Though she immediately knew her heart was locked into psychology, her undergraduate studies more deeply honed her passion for the field. As Aleja had received most of her early education at predominately White private schools, attending a Historically Black College and University, Howard University, opened her eyes to the breadth of diversity within the Black community. There, she realized that her upbringing in a two-parent home was not as common amongst her peers as she had known it to be.  Aleja began wondering what parts of people’s experiences and backgrounds made it challenging for sustaining relationships and both how and why these patterns were connected to race and culture. Aleja went on to pursue her PhD in clinical psychology in aims of finding answers to these questions. During her training, she fell in love with being involved in research that typically occurs behind-the-scenes as well as providing direct client care; she strongly believes that having a foot in both research and direct client care strengthens her effectiveness and balance as a researcher and clinician.

Aleja is committed to creating spaces where all people have the freedom to live and love as their genuine and authentic selves. She believes that our differences as human beings enrich us and enable us to have a collective journey that is more powerful and impactful than could have been achieved in homogeneity. Given her deep value for authenticity, she is committed to coming to her work with clients as her full self, pulling not just from her expertise, training, and research, but also from her heart. Her life experiences have exposed her to extraordinary highs and earth-shattering lows – the breadth of that emotional journey is what allows her to connect with clients with deep empathy and compassion. 

My Specialty

Andi has a unique and extraordinary ability to deeply empathize with people.  In fact, she was recruited to join the Relationship HQ team because of this remarkable characteristic.  Andi specializes in: 1) supporting the healing of individuals, couples and families whose lives have been impacted by trauma, including racial trauma; 2) strengthening the emotional connection and communication between couples experiencing conflict and/or distance in their intimate relationship; and 3) helping parents of young children, including those with special needs (i.e., cognitive delays, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, social-emotional and behavioral delays), balance attending to the needs of their children with caring for themselves and their relationships.  Andi is dedicated to the service of all people, with a special interest in strengthening black and brown couples and families.

Andi earned her Masters in Social Work (MSW) at Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work, where her focus was on clinical work with children and families. She has ample experience working with adults, families and young children ages 2-5 in early childhood education settings.  Andi’s work with couples is informed by the attachment-based model, Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples.  She has specialized training in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and is a New York State Department of Health approved provider of early intervention, special instruction and social work services for infants/toddlers and families.

In the context of her role as a case manager in a non-profit residential treatment program for adults with severe mental health disorders, Andi realized how gratifying it was for her to build relationships with clients and support them in attaining their goals. She then decided to attend graduate school to become a social worker.

Given her deep interest in strengthening families, Andi kicked off her clinical career engaging in early intervention and capacity building with parents and their infants and toddlers with special needs.  This experience shaped her fundamental beliefs about the human capacity for growth and connection.  As a parent herself, she viscerally understood her clients’ desires to give their children the support and tools they needed in order to reach their maximum potential.  There, she also gained insight into some of the unique challenges faced by families of children with special needs.

Dedicated to strengthening outcomes for all children and families, Andi’s path ultimately led her to serve as a social worker in NYC DOE’s Division of Early Childhood Education, where she offers consultation to early childhood education programs. In this role, Andi supports behavior change in teachers, leaders and parents, and builds their capacity to attend to the social emotional needs of young children. Andi’s wealth of experience with parents in the context of her work with families inspired her interest in working with couples; she ultimately chose Emotionally Focused Therapy as the best approach to helping couples strengthen their bond. Dr. Bukky met Andi while providing a training to 150 social workers and was blown away by the depth of Andi’s empathy for human beings. Andi’s rare ability to feel people deeply, combined with her wisdom and dedication to families that know the pain of marginalization made it clear that Andi is a one-of-a-kind clinician. By the end of the training, Dr. Bukky begged Andi to join the RHQ team and the rest is history.

Andi is committed to practicing from a framework that is culturally relevant, mindful and harnessing of the strengths already within her clients.  Whether she is working with an individual, a couple, or the entire family system, she is focused on increasing her clients’ self-efficacy, ability to express and cope with difficult emotions, and capacity for healing and building lasting and fulfilling relationships.

Andi Sutherland-Johnson

Andi Sutherland-Johnson, LMSW
Andi Sutherland-Johnson, LMSWTherapist

Denise Ramirez

Denise Ramirez, LMSW
Denise Ramirez, LMSWTherapist

My Specialty

I am a bicultural (Dominican-American), bilingual therapist that specializes in working with individuals and families impacted by trauma, depression, anxiety and immigration-related issues (e.g., family unit separation, adaptation and adjustment while holding onto one’s own culture).  I also work with couples in inter-racial/inter-cultural relationships to increase their ability to have conversations about race, and navigate cultural differences in their relationships.

I use a holistic approach that considers the interaction between my clients’ psychological and physical health, spirituality, race, culture, day-to-day experiences, and relationships.  I engage my clients in a warm, relatable and compassionate manner.  I offer a practical style that balances helping my clients gain insight with finding the skills to effectively manage their concerns.  I aim to support my clients in increasing their confidence in navigating life’s challenges and their relationships.

I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Rutgers University and a Master of Social Work from the Silver School of Social Work at New York University. I am experienced in providing psychotherapy, trauma-focused therapy, family therapy, crisis intervention, stress reduction, and mindfulness techniques.

My journey to becoming a therapist was incited by the separation that is common for immigrant families. Before I was born, my parents immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic, leaving behind their two young daughters (my older sisters) in search of a better future. While in the U.S., they had me and, when I was about six years old, their hard work paid off and they were able to reunite my sisters with our family. This separation to my family unit caused undeniable pain and confusion, and impacted all of us in different ways.

As a child, I was aware of feeling deep sadness for my sisters, who had spent most of their early childhood without our parents. I was also keenly aware of the pain (sadness and guilt) that my parents carried for the many special moments and milestones they had missed in my sisters’ young lives. With the hope of lessening the pain of my family, I found myself in the role of trying to help my family communicate better and strive for understanding. This experience influenced my desire to become a therapist and laid the groundwork for what would become my life’s passion: helping others work through their own difficult experiences.

Inspired by the power of therapy to heal and transform lives, I am committed to cultivating my own self-care and personal growth so that I can show up, ready and present, for my clients and help them attend to their own care.

I am invested in accepting you wherever you are and guiding our therapeutic work at a pace that is tailored to you and your needs. I am dedicated to being present with you, showing you acceptance while also challenging you with love. It will be a privilege for me to be a witness for you and the richness of your inner life.

My Specialty

I specialize in helping individuals, couples and families communicate better.  I use a holistic approach to work with individuals, couples, and families of color, impacted by trauma, expected and unexpected life transitions, anxiety, and/or depression.  My aim is to help my clients feel more empowered, accepting of themselves, and in control of their life.  I work with couples navigating transitions, cultural differences, and conflict, supporting them to identify the patterns that are in their way and explore healthy and effective ways to communicate and strengthen their emotional bond with each other.  I also provide coaching and/or family therapy to help parents and children communicate better so they can feel more emotionally connected to each other.

I hold a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from Fordham University, which was focused on client-centered care.  I received specialized training and have extensive experience in providing trauma-informed care to people of various ages including children, adolescents, adults and families.
I grew up in the South with the richness of southern black culture, in the care of my paternal grandparents.  My family’s culture was one that prioritized education, the church, and success.  Though I felt very supported by my grandparents, my family culture was also one that devalued emotion, which left me with lots of unanswered questions, especially in the face of major transitions.  My father was trained as a social worker and, at some point, he became more willing to communicate more openly with me, including setting up protected time to talk about life, our feelings and the underlying reasons for decisions.  This was deeply empowering for me and critical for my wellbeing.  Even more, it strengthened my bond with my father.

My lived experience has taught me about the importance of relationships and the power of communication for healing.  This, along with the observation of my father’s passion and dedication to his clients inspired me to become a social worker.  Being a therapist has not only enhanced my ability to support individuals and families to develop their ability to communicate, it has also enhanced my own communication and relationships.

I am passionate about my relationships, reading a good book and listening to some bomb music—these things fuel my joy for life and my work. I am also passionate about providing a safe, culturally relevant experience for individuals, families, and couples who work with me.  I encourage transparency, vulnerability and knowledge building in my work and am dedicated to helping you feel more comfort with being uncomfortable, as I believe that to be necessary for growth.  I am committed to relating to you in an authentic way,  offering you transparency, and partnering with you in every step of our work so that you can feel confident that you are not alone and that I am alongside you.

Briana Scott

Briana Scott, LMSW
Briana Scott, LMSWTherapist

Call Relationship HQ at 212-730-7400 to schedule a 15-minute or complimentary phone or in-person meet and greet to learn more about our clinicians.

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