At Social Sparks we are dedicated to creating a positive and supportive environment where clients can develop the essential social emotional skills needed to successfully navigate life and develop meaningful relationships. We believe our clients deserve an individualized and thoughtful therapeutic experience that empowers them in progressing towards their goals. Our client-centered approach incorporates strengths-based and evidenced-based practices to spark growth and positive change.
Kristen Spencer, LICSW
Kristen's clinical experiences include working as a public school social worker where she was a member of the district-wide behavior assistance and support team. She also has many years of experience as a classroom consultant in numerous special and general education classrooms throughout Rhode Island. Within these roles, she regularly collaborated with parents, educators, and other professionals to facilitate special education services and accommodations. Kristen is an experienced group therapy facilitator, trainer, and clinical program coordinator. She has provided clinical supervision to colleagues and clinical interns for over 10 years. Kristen has worked closely with individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, mood disorders, anxiety, behavioral challenges, sensory processing disorders, and more. She enjoys meeting new clients and families and developing creative interventions to meet their individual needs.
Director of Operations
Shane has a background in managing and developing small businesses. He is a scholar in the 2018 Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business cohort. Shane is often the first person that families meet when they begin their journey at Social Sparks. He is compassionate and empathetic and works hard to make sure every family and client feels welcome and comfortable at Social Sparks. Shane is responsible for overseeing business operations and assisting with program carry over, among many other things. He is always on the go, keeping the day to day running smoothly. Along with his passion for business, he also enjoys connecting with clients and families and occasionally can be found supporting clients and groups with transition supports, a listening ear, and breaks from group when needed.
Elissa Tortolani, BSW
Administrative Assistant & Intake Coordinator
Elissa has her bachelor's degree in Social Work from Rhode Island College. She was previously an Education major, having experience with elementary-aged children in schools in Bristol and Providence, RI. With her experience in co-teaching roles and the Social Work program, she has been able to gain knowledge of strength-based approaches, how to conduct and be part of a positive group setting, and is able to make children feel important and valued in her presence. For her, being with children from various backgrounds, ethnicities, and capabilities is so important for understanding and growth. She absolutely loves children and working with them. Elissa is very kind, patient, positive, and caring.
Lauren Bolster, LICSW, CGS
Lauren holds a Masters of Social Work degree from Rhode Island College and specializes in child and adolescent trauma. Lauren has 7+ years of experience working with teens and young adults in the family court juvenile justice system and DCYF, as well as adults involved in the criminal justice system, working as a social caseworker with the Public Defender. She has experience collaborating with schools and families to advocate for client needs. Lauren uses a person-centered therapy approach to help clients discover that they hold the power and strength to improve their lives. Lauren facilitates individual and group counseling using aspects of play therapy, social emotional learning, and gender-affirming care with individuals within the LGBTQ+ community.
Maggie Veiga, MEd, LICSW, BCBA
Maggie is a former school-based clinician and current school psychology PhD student at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She earned her BA in Psychology and Anthropology at Brown University and MSW at Columbia University. She uses Cognitive-Behavior Therapy techniques and principles of Applied Behavior Analysis in her work supporting the social emotional development of individuals diagnosed with ASD, ADHD, anxiety, mood disorders, and sensory needs. Her research interests include implementation and progress monitoring of evidence-based social skills groups, school-based social emotional learning programs, and strategies to support students with challenging behavior.
Kathryn Calle, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Kathryn works as a full time speech language pathologist in a hospital setting. She enjoys working with clients, families and other professionals to provide the most functional and beneficial therapy to meet each clients’ needs. Kathryn has also worked in a private practice, early intervention setting and most recently in a middle school providing group and individual therapy. She is experienced in working with children ages 1 to 15 with a variety of disorders including expressive and receptive language disorders, sensory processing disorders, articulation and phonological disorders, and Autism spectrum disorders.
Cathy Cochran, LCSW
Cathy has a Master’s degree in Social Work from RI College (Providence, RI), and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from William Smith College (Geneva, NY). She also participated in nursing courses at the Community College of RI (Lincoln, RI), and approaches her work from a holistic and strength-based perspective. Cathy has extensive experience working with children and families, as well as adults in a variety of capacities. This includes work with individuals experiencing mental illness, trauma, chronic illness,homelessness, developmental disabilities, and life changes. Cathy has a passion for helping individuals become empowered and connected to resources within themselves and the community. Her work is client driven. She utilizes mixtures of cognitive therapy, expressive activities (movement/craft), case management, and assisting individuals with crisis management.
Kira Cortese, LCSW
Kira received her Masters in Social Work from Rhode Island College. She has a particular interest in working with children and has spent the past year as an elementary school social worker. She has experience with both one-on-one and group work. Kira excels at connecting with children using playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy. Kira maintains a strengths-based perspective, believing in the power to change lives within us all. Additionally, Kira is solutions-focused rather than problems-focused, she gets excited about helping clients to recognize the helpful coping they are already doing and then building upon that. Kira’s therapeutic approach incorporates play therapy, art therapy, Rhode Island Social Emotional Learning goals, Mindfulness, Motivational Interviewing, and Solution Focused Brief Counseling. In addition to being an artist, Kira practices yoga and meditation daily and believes in the power of mindful breathing.
Kenzi DeFaria, LCSW
Kenzi has a Master's and a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Rhode Island College. She has experience working as a Behavioral Health Therapist, providing home-based therapeutic and supportive services to young children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Kenzi also has experience working as a school social work intern at an elementary school in East Providence, RI, facilitating individual support and small group sessions to model and support the development of social and emotional skills. For the past seven years, Kenzi has gained valuable experience working closely with children with various learning and behavioral disorders both in-home and in school environments. As a former MSW intern at Social Sparks, Kenzi made many connections with clients and families. Following her internship, she joined the Social Sparks team where she continues working with and providing support to clients and families.
Alicia Dias, LICSW
Alicia graduated with a Masters degree in Social Work from Bridgewater State University in 2014 and is a Licensed independent clinical social worker in both RI and MA. Alicia currently works full time in a supervisory role in an outpatient mental health clinic in SE MA which serves mostly children and adolescents with mental health diagnoses and complex trauma. In her role, Alicia oversees a team of clinicians and therapeutic mentors. Alicia has a range of past clinical experience including leading a DMH contracted therapeutic after school program for latency aged youth with severe and persistent mental health diagnoses, providing supportive services to youth with ASD in both a community based program and a residential school setting, a child and adolescent unit at a PHP, and juvenile probation. Alicia has a passion for working with youth with ASD and other social and communication disorders. Alicia utilizes the ARC (Attachment, Regulation and competency) Framework and provides trauma informed care. When not working Alicia enjoys spending time outside, running, biking, kayaking or hiking.
Colleen Dusel, LICSW
Colleen has a Master's Degree in Social Work from Simmons College (Boston, MA) and a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work from Providence College (Providence, RI). Colleen's experience includes work within a variety of settings including Youth Pride Inc., Providence Public Schools and the Cambridge Eating Disorder Center. Throughout these experiences, Colleen worked with young people of varying ethnicities, socioeconomic status, backgrounds, and abilities. She utilizes Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, among other treatment modalities, in individual and group settings. Colleen has a passion for kindness and empathy and is excited to share that with others.
Allori Fernandes, MSW
Allori Fernandes has over 13 years of experience working in the non-profit sector. She received her BA in Human Services at the University of Massachusetts Boston and began her career in social work as an in-home direct support staff working with school-age children. After years of case management experience, she became a supervisor for the Healthy Families Program, an evidence-based child development program. Under her guidance, the RI HFA program was one of the first to receive national accreditation.
In May of 2020, she received her MSW at Rhode Island College. She currently works as a Site Director assisting individuals seeking alternative job training and apprenticeship opportunities. Allori also has experience working with neurodiverse populations in group and individual settings. Her positive and caring attitude helps make clients and families feel comfortable and supported.
Michelle Hervieux, LICSW
Michelle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). She has her MSW from Boston College and her Bachelor’s in Health Sciences with a minor in Psychology from Boston University. She currently works as a full-time partial and residential clinician in a hospital setting, providing individual, group, and family therapy to adolescents. She has experience working with disordered eating and mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, trauma, and many more. Michelle utilizes a strengths-based approach, with a background in DBT and CBT, utilizing the strengths of each client to help cope with whatever life may throw their way. She has a passion for her work and approaches each moment with patience, empathy, and a sprinkle of humor. She is excited to help you reach your goals and support you throughout the process!
Krysta Jensen, LICSW
Krysta earned her Master's and Bachelor's degree in Social Work from Rhode Island College. Her experience spans a variety of populations including work with substance-affected individuals, child welfare, adolescents, and domestic violence. She has a particular interest and experience in working with clients on the Autism Spectrum as well as individuals with sensory regulation needs. Krysta has many years of experience working with children and young adults. She places great emphasis on building a meaningful and supportive relationship with her clients. She uses empathy, compassion, and humor to engage clients and meet them where they are at. She approaches each client relationship with patience and kindness. Krysta's therapeutic approach incorporates Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing, Mindfulness, Relapse Prevention, Play Therapy, use of social-emotional curriculum, movement-based activities, modeling/coaching, and parenting support.
Shannon Lemus, LCSW
Shannon is a graduate of Rhode Island College, earning her Masters's Degree in Social Work. She has many years of experience working with children and families. She works in a supervisory role overseeing a long-term family visiting program that focuses on attachment and bonding, child development, and school readiness. Shannon also has experience working with clients on the Autism Spectrum as well as related communication disorders. She utilizes various modalities in her work with clients including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness practices. Shannon has an upbeat personality and thinks outside the box. She works hard to creates opportunities for hands-on experiences to make therapy engaging and meaningful to all clients.
Michael Macedo, LICSW
Mike is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker earning his MSW in 2016 from Rhode Island College. Mike has extensive experience working with adolescents and young adults with Autism as well as individuals of all ages diagnosed with substance use disorders, mood disorders, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and individuals experiencing compassion fatigue. Mike currently works full-time as an Outpatient Clinician at Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP) by day, and has experience working in a variety of settings, including outpatient/inpatient settings as well as IOP/PHP, and home-based services. His main treatment modalities include CBT, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Motivational Interviewing, Narrative Therapy, Crisis Intervention, and group therapy.
Mike is also a passionate Autism advocate, doing public speaking events including keynote speeches, and contributing to online publications such as The Mighty. He is also an appointed member of the Rhode Island State Rehabilitation Council. In his spare time, Mike can almost always be found enjoying the outdoors. He is a distance runner at a competitive level, and always encourages outdoor exercise as a tool for coping with life’s stressors.
Alicia Petrarca, LCSW
Alicia is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree from Rhode Island College School of Social Work. Alicia has experience working with children, teens and young adults who have a variety of emotional, social and behavioral disorders. Her background consists of several years of experience supporting individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder through her work in home-based services. In her work in the public-school department she has facilitated mindfulness groups for students in middle and high school. Alicia also has experience supporting adults in the hospital setting who are experiencing an adjustment to illness, substance use, and new mothers coping with post-partum depression. In therapy she utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness techniques to promote client’s overall wellbeing.
Chloe Sammartino, LMHC
Chloe is a school-based clinical therapist with a background in clinical counseling and expressive arts studies. She received her Bachelor's of Science Degree in Kinesiology from the University of Rhode Island and her Master of Arts Degree in Clinical Counseling with a specialization in Dance Movement Therapy from Lesley University. She combines the freedom that the creative arts provide with evidenced-based, cognitive behavior therapy and dialectical behavior therapy in an effort to support her clients wield lifelong skills and coping strategies. Some of Chloe's specialties include working with children and adults who experience symptoms of, or who are diagnosed with anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, ASD, and developmental disabilities.
Having begun facilitating dance movement therapy groups during her internships at Eleanor Slater Hospital and Unique Steps Dance Academy, she then went on to provide one on one therapeutic dance classes to children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Her extensive clinical background working as a home-based therapist, outpatient therapist, and now a school-based therapist has afforded Chloe the opportunity to work with an array of different populations and age groups. She uses a strength-based approach with her clients, helping them to forge a meaningful, mindful sense of self, and is excited to share this with her clients at Social Sparks.
Bryanna Sands, LCSW
Bryanna is an MSW graduate from the University of New England. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Rhode Island in 2015. She has a wide range of experience working with children with behavioral and developmental disorders. Bryanna has worked as a behavior specialist for 6 years providing home-based therapeutic services to children and teens with Autism. She has also worked as a camp counselor for many years at a camp for individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Bryanna supports clients with a calm and positive demeanor, always assuring they feel comfortable and understood.
Freila Tejeda, LCSW
Freila obtained her Masters in Social Work from Denver University. She works as a full-time Elementary and Middle school Social Worker and Counselor. Freila has worked with all age groups and backgrounds in various settings for the last six years. Freila has experience in individual and group counseling and uses a strength-based approach; incorporating SEL, play therapy, CBT, and mindfulness. She has worked with children, adolescents, and adults diagnosed with mental health, learning disabilities, developmental disability, substance use, and trauma. Freila is bilingual and speaks both English and Spanish fluently. Freila enjoys biking, meditating, yoga, and hiking during her free time.
Stephanie Vece, LCSW
Stephanie Vece is a full-time school social worker, currently working by day in an elementary school in Providence. She has worked with young people of all ages, from elementary school through college. Stephanie is skilled at facilitating groups for children and adolescents with social, emotional and behavioral challenges. Over the span of her career Stephanie has worked with young people in residential treatment facilities and a variety of educational settings including charter schools, alternative schools, public schools and colleges. Stephanie has many years of experience advocating for students with disabilities who require accommodations. Stephanie worked for several years at Brown University where she arranged disability-related accommodations for university students and facilitated a variety of support groups. She has also provided after-hours crisis counseling to college students at Providence College and Johnson and Wales University. Stephanie is skilled at working with children and adolescents who have ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and behavioral difficulties.
Jackson "Jack" & Chloe
Meet Jack and Chloe, our emotional support bunnies! Jack is a Mini Rex rabbit and Chloe is a Marten mix. They enjoy visiting friends at Social Sparks, eating hay, playing in their wooden bunny castle, and getting banana treats. Both Jack and Chloe were adopted and are now a bonded pair. They don't like to be separated, so they will always travel together when visiting Social Sparks!
At Social Sparks we value the opportunity to work with interns who are pursuing degrees and licensure in the field of mental health. We see this as an opportunity to share some of our knowledge and experiences in a supportive and collaborative environment. Our interns participate in training and regular supervision with licensed practitioners to ensure they are supported in their clinical practice and that clients are supported to the best extent possible. We are proud of the work our interns do at Social Sparks and find that we learn something new from each and every one of them.
Jessica holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Early Childhood settings and a minor in Psychology from the University of Rhode Island. She is currently an MSW student at Rhode Island college and working towards a Certificate of Graduate Study with a concentration in the effects of Childhood and Adolescent Trauma.
Jessica is bilingual and has 11 years of experience working in early childhood. She has experience in early childhood classroom settings where she worked directly with young children and their families and more recently facilitates professional development opportunities for early childhood educators. In her current role, one of Jessica’s focuses is the trauma curriculum for educators.
Jessica has a passion for incorporating trauma-informed knowledge into her future practices. She truly believes this type of work improves outcomes for young children and adolescents when trauma-sensitive interventions are identified to support the client. Jessica believes it is imperative to understand how trauma can affect the daily living of trauma survivors and their families.
Cassandra earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Rhode Island College in 2021. Cassandra is currently an MSW student at Rhode Island College and is working towards a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Child and Adolescent Trauma . Cassandra is new to the field. Cassandra has been working for The Arc of Bristol County d.b.a ProAbility for over a year. Cassandra works with adults with a wide range of developmental disabilities. Cassandra’s mantra in her career is “be who you needed when you were younger”.
Mike is a second-year graduate student in Rhode Island College’s (RIC) accelerated 5-year Master's of Social Work program, having earned his Bachelor’s of Social Work in 2022. Mike is part of RIC’s trauma cohort, working toward his Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS) in Child and Adolescent Trauma. As a volunteer facilitator at Friends Way (family bereavement center), Mike knows that grief has no timeline, and that trauma can present in many ways. Mike also has experience working with clients on the Autism Spectrum. Mike describes himself as “relentlessly optimistic”. Mike utilizes a combination of several modalities including, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Rogerian talk therapy. Mike believes that with a strength-based, person-centered approach and the incorporation of a client’s system, individuals can reach their highest potential