Social Sparks creates a positive and supportive environment where clients can develop the essential 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 toward their goals. Our client-centered approach incorporates strengths-based and evidenced-based practices to spark growth and positive change.
Kristen Spencer, LICSW
Kristen is a graduate of the RIC School of Social Work and has over 15 years of experience working in the field. Following completion of her Master’s degree, she attended Johnson & Wales University for advanced autism studies. Her 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 various districts 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 enjoys providing clinical supervision to colleagues and clinical interns. Kristen has worked closely with individuals who are neurodiverse, have mood disorders, anxiety, behavioral challenges, sensory processing disorders, and more. Kristen uses a variety of therapeutic modalities including CBT, Mindfulness, and is certified in Advanced Dialectical Behavior Therapy. She is passionate about Social Sparks and providing services in a supportive, community setting where individual needs are valued and recognized.
Director of Operations
Shane is responsible for overseeing all business operations at Social Sparks. He has a background in managing and developing small businesses and is a scholar from the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business program, 2018 cohort. Shane works with billing and claims management, finances and accounting, and managing the office to be sure all operations are running smoothly at Social Sparks. Shane is often the first person that families speak to 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. Along with his passion for business, he is also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, providing rehabilitative care to injured and orphaned wildlife in RI.
Elissa Tortolani, BSW
Administrative Assistant & Club 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.
Kenzi DeFaria, LICSW
Therapeutic Group Coordinator
Kenzi is a licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW) and has been part of the Social Sparks team since 2019. She is passionate about helping children, adolescents, and young adults with Autism, ADHD, and anxiety disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorders, phobias, and selective mutism to learn the tools necessary to help them feel comfortable and confident in themselves. The majority of her practice focuses on coping with fears and intrusive thoughts, self-regulation strategies, and developing positive communication skills. Her approach utilizes aspects from play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure and response prevention (ERP), solution-focused therapy, expressive arts, and mindfulness practices. Kenzi enjoys incorporating humor and visuals into her practices as well as working collaboratively with families and outside providers.
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.
Jessica Calle, LCSW, CGS
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 received her MSW at Rhode Island College and 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, working directly with young children and their families and more recently facilitating professional development opportunities for early childhood educators.
Jessica has a passion for incorporating trauma-informed knowledge into her future practices. She truly believes this 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 lives of trauma survivors and their families.
Amanda Claus, LICSW
Amanda completed her undergraduate degree at Wheaton College where she received a BA with certification in secondary education. She went on to earn her Master's degree from Simmons School of Social Work. She has experience working with a wide range of ages from preschool to middle-aged adults. She has experience working with individuals diagnosed with ASD, social pragmatics, selective mutism, anxiety disorders, and more. Her therapeutic approach is eclectic and based on the client's individual needs. She incorporates Social Thinking and CBT in her work with clients. Amanda considers it an honor to have the opportunity to sit with each person, learn about them, and work with them.
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.
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, LCSW
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!
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 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.
Diane Lynn Marolla, LICSW, CFRC
Diane L. Marolla has worked in healthcare in both administrative and clinical roles for over 30 years. She has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration from Bryant University, and a Masters of Social Work degree from Rhode Island College. Her employment record includes working for Brown University, Women & Infants Hospital, Butler Hospital, United Healthcare, Neighborhood Health of Rhode Island, and East Bay Community Action Program, and Gershon Psychological Associates. In 2005, Governor Donald Carcieri appointed her to the Board of Social Work where she served two terms.
In addition to working as a therapist, Diane writes a monthly article for The Smithfield Times and teaches courses at the Substance Use and Mental Health Leadership Council (SUMHLC). Diane is also an independent consultant. Diane sees clients 18 years and older for depression, anxiety, couples counseling, family counseling, grief counseling, work stress and complications, women’s issues, anger management issues, PTSD, and Borderline Personality Disorder. Diane is licensed in the state of RI (ISW01545) the state of MA (123448) and the state of CT (12065).
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 has experience working 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. She 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 disabilities, substance use, and trauma. Freila is bilingual and speaks both English and Spanish fluently. She enjoys biking, meditating, yoga, and hiking during her free time.
Stephanie Vece, LICSW
Stephanie obtained her MSW in 2001 from San Diego State University. 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. She has specialized training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and incorporates these strategies along with CBT and mindfulness techniques into her practice with individuals and groups.
Maggie Veiga, PhD, 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.
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!
South County Staff
Lauren Bolster, LICSW, CGS
South County Supervisor
Lauren holds a Masters of Social Work degree from Rhode Island College and specializes in child and adolescent trauma. She is the supervisor of Social Sparks' South County location. 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 through work 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.
South County Direct Support Staff
Hillery (she/her) is currently attending Southern New Hampshire University for psychology with a concentration in clinical mental health. She has worked in the mental health field for several years and loves what she does. She currently works with Lauren as her assistant in group therapy at Social Sparks in South County. Hillery incorporates her learning experience from school through examples of mindfulness and social-emotional wellness. She aspires to earn her masters degree to become a licensed mental health counselor for all ages.
Cassandra Beach, LCSW, CGS
South County Clinician
Cassandra earned a bachelor’s degree and Master's Degree in social work from Rhode Island College as well as a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Child and Adolescent Trauma. She has experience in a variety of settings working with clients who are part of the neurodiverse community. Her recent experience includes working as a program director with adults with a wide range of developmental disabilities. Cassandra also has worked with a variety of ages and diagnoses in group and individual settings. Her mantra in her career is “be who you needed when you were younger”.
Jamie Duane, MS
Jamie has her undergraduate in Psychology from Rhode Island College and Graduated in 2022 from Johnston & Wales University with a Masters of Science in Clinical Mental Health. She has many years of experience working in a Therapeutic School setting with children with ASD, anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. Jamie primarily worked with children from the ages of 8 and up. She also worked with adults with severe mood disorders and co-occurring substance abuse disorders. Jamie has run many groups with upper elementary-age students. She uses a variety of modalities such as talk therapy, CBT, and mindfulness. Jamie enjoys working with and helping others.
Kate Lidestri, MHC, RYT
South County Clinician
Kate is a mental health counselor and registered yoga teacher. She completed her Master’s degree in Holistic Counseling from Salve Regina University in addition to obtaining a Certificate in Advanced Graduate Studies and a Certiﬁcate in the Expressive and Creative Arts. Kate’s years of experience working one-on-one with clients coupled with her education and experiential training makes her a skilled and welcoming therapist for both adults and children. She wisely integrates teachings of mindfulness, breath work, and body-centered therapy into her approach to provide clients with skills they can use in their everyday lives to increase self-awareness and foster self-empowerment.
Kate is committed to creating an environment that feels safe and non-judgmental so that clients can settle into the therapeutic process, learn, heal, and grow.
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.
Chrissy is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island Honors program with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and Psychology. She is currently an MSW student at Rhode Island College, set to graduate in May 2024. Chrissy has had experience working with a wide variety of client populations. She started out as a direct support professional and transitioned to a Home-Based Therapeutic Service Provider, working with adults and children with disabilities during her time as an undergraduate. Upon graduation, Chrissy worked as a counselor in a correctional facility working with adult male clients. Seeking a change, she began working with youth and families, both as a home-based case worker and a residential case worker. Chrissy is currently a case manager in the Senior and Disabled Services Department at Tri-County Community Agency. Chrissy has a passion for helping others and enjoys being on the front lines with clients. Upon
graduation, she hopes to practice as a clinician and work towards becoming an LICSW. Chrissy has practiced primarily using either CBT or ABA in previous roles but is open to exploring a variety of therapeutic frameworks. Chrissy believes in focusing on a client’s strengths and treatment matching according to what works best for each client. In her free time, Chrissy enjoys reading, music, binge-watching Netflix, and cuddling with her two rescue cats.
Lesley earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Boston College in 2017. She began attending Boston University in 2021 and is currently working towards her Master of Social Work degree. Lesley is bilingual and speaks both English and Spanish. Lesley has prior experience working in a foster care agency where she found her love for working with children and adolescents. She has a passion for advocating for their needs and holds the belief that every youth deserves to have permanency and supportive relationships in their life. Lesley is currently working at Adoption RI as a permanency specialist for the Teen Focus Program focused on helping foster youth build meaningful connections as they transition into adulthood. Additionally, she is currently volunteering at a bereavement organization facilitating a grief group with children ages 3 to 6. Lesley has experience interning at the Dorcas International Institute where she had the opportunity to provide counseling services to refugees, immigrants, and the unaccompanied minor population. Lesley holds the overarching goal of strengthening her clinical skills in areas that focus on therapeutic services with children and adolescents.