We are a team of therapists serving the Portland area. We are striving to make a company we can be proud of. Something that expresses to our customers what we believe in. Caring and efficient service. Effective and rewarding therapy. A culture of trust, integrity, and growth.
We each have our own personality and way of relating the vision of our team. We are also committed to working together to develop a unified understanding of what is really effective in therapy. We know you are taking a risk in trusting us with such an important thing as your inner life and your relationships. We want you to get the best return on your investment.
Ebony Holly, LPC
EMDR & Brainspotting
Ebony works from the belief that mental health comes from feeling more deeply connected to ourselves and to others through the safety of transparent, emotionally honest relationships.
Confronting change can be difficult and leave us feeling off track, without direction, spiraling in a negative vicious circle of ineffective beliefs and patterns of behavior that lead to somatic distress and physical symptoms. During these times our relationships, emotions, and identity can be fragmented and unbalanced. Ebony’s stance is that through the support of a therapeutic relationship, these negative patterns can be challenged to encourage personal growth and live a symptom-free life.
Ebony has 10 years of experience in the mental health profession helping people in hospital, clinic, and community based settings working with adults and teenagers. To tailor therapy for her clients’ needs, Ebony draws from extensive trainings in EMDR, Brainspotting, CBT, DBT, ACT, Attachment Theory, Family Systems theory, and mindfulness practices.
Ebony understands that engaging in psychotherapy is a life-altering experience. Sometimes difficult, sometimes fun, requiring a commitment to self acceptance of the many aspects of ourselves. She provides psychotherapy that energizes and helps you to discover a better life for yourself.
Allison Spector, LCSW
Allison’s approach to therapy stems from her core belief that we are all wired for connection and that forming and maintaining strong connections can allow us to engage in self-discovery and overcome challenges. Allison provides a reflective space where individuals can examine their thoughts, feelings, and experiences free of judgement with the aim of identifying and disrupting negative patterns and improving one’s overall well-being.
In her work, Allison pulls from a variety of theoretical approaches, including Brainspotting, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Family Systems Theory, Attachment Theory, and mindfulness practices.
She believes in staying client-centered, meeting each person where they are, and working together to find solutions and strategies for reducing stress and increasing self awareness and empowerment.
Deborah Ranker, LCSW
EMDR & Brainspotting
Deborah believes each person can access the innate wisdom and capacity to heal within themselves. She sees her role as that of a compassionate guide, leading clients to discover and navigate their own pathways towards healing and wellness. Deborah often focuses on collaboratively finding, uprooting, and transcending negative, self-limiting beliefs that get in the way of having the self-compassion, relationships, and achievements her clients seek. In addition, Deborah makes sure to tailor therapy to meet each individual's needs and goals in treatment.
Deborah has over eight years of experience providing individual and group counseling to adults in residential and outpatient settings. She also received training through the Psychotherapy Center for Gender and Sexuality in New York. She draws from a variety approaches in her practice, including EMDR, mindfulness techniques, and traditional talk therapies. She also incorporates skills from cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies.
Prior to becoming a therapist, Deborah worked for various social justice organizations, and she approaches therapy from an anti-oppressive framework. She also strives to be a trauma-informed and culturally competent clinician. Deborah is known for her calming presence and insightful, objective feedback. She understands how vulnerable one can feel entering therapy and seeks to create a responsive and secure therapeutic relationship so clients feel cared for and supported in their work together.
Ama Freeman, LPC
Ama’s approach to therapy stems from a place of respect and empathy for the human experience. Her style is one of curiosity that inspires collaboration and creative intervention. Ama is client-centered, viewing individuals through the lens of her training in Marriage and Family Therapy. She believes that individuals, couples and groups are unique members of a system that have a culture and a rhythm of their own. She is especially interested in interpersonal dynamics and communication and is skilled in helping individuals improve their communication with themselves and others.
Ama draws from many therapeutic styles including CBT, DBT, Mindfulness Practice, ACT, Motivational Interviewing and Family Systems. She takes an optimistic and strengths-based posture to obstacles that prevent individuals from reaching their goals.
Pema Chodron states, “It takes bravery to stay with pain when it arises and not run or erect barriers.” For Ama, therapeutic relationships are first a privilege, then a journey. Growth is often uncomfortable and at times painful causing us to go into our most basic survival modes of fight, flight or freeze. Throughout the years, Ama has been honored to hold hope for others in challenging times and uses compassion to encourage growing insight to become your best self.
George Poliszuk, LMFT
Emotion Focused Therapy for Couples
George believes that when therapy is conducted in a safe and warm environment, and a client feels heard and understood without judgment, it can be an incredibly powerful tool in providing healing and growth for life's difficulties and challenges.
His clinical experience has included integrating theoretical approaches that includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Solution-Focused, Motivational Interviewing, Family Systems Theory, and Attachment Theory. He has worked with adults, adolescents, couples, and families in a variety of settings that has included private practice, community agencies, and schools. He has worked with clients who have experienced a variety of issues such as depression, marital struggles, boundary issues, ADHD, anxiety, anger management, grief, self esteem, issues, sexual addiction, codependency, grief and loss, complex trauma, abuse, relationship and family conflict, and substance use.
As a strengths-based and client-centered Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, George seeks to identify a client's existing internal strengths and resiliency, then work with them to create goals that combine their existing resiliency with the goal of achieving healing and growth and positive change.
Sarah Gallugi, CSWA
Certified Social Work Associate
Sarah brings a genuine self to therapy meeting each of her clients as unique with their own ways of seeing the world. She puts the client at the center of therapy so that their own circumstances, problems, and goals lead the dialogue and the approach. True to her belief in the importance of relationship and communication, Sarah is collaborative and strives to create a safe space for expressing feelings honestly and allowing the natural process of self discovery and healing to happen.
Sarah emphasizes a process for developing a stronger relationship with one’s own feelings and emotions, learning to communicate those feelings more effectively, and improving relationships and life goals through that process. Sarah is focused on helping a person work through emotional patterns to move away from surviving to thriving. Sarah’s broad range of experience with different ages and populations lends to her ability to recognize the inner needs of growth and healing towards improved development.
Sarah will work to help you connect to what you are feeling and develop language and self understanding around your needs and how to meet them. Her approach puts a strong focus on one’s present, unique feeling experience. She is informed by attachment, relational, developmental and experiential approaches.
Regina Hughes, LPC-Intern
Licensed Professional Counselor Intern
Throughout our lives, we experience times that are overwhelming, confusing, and challenging. Regina believes that the process of therapy supports individuals in accessing their own inner strength and resources to navigate such times and to grow through the process. Her counseling style is warm, nonjudgmental, and compassionate which creates the space for clients to express themselves openly and honestly. By viewing the client holistically, she works to meet each client’s individual needs.
Prior to becoming a therapist, Regina taught yoga in the community for over ten years. This experience as well as several theoretical approaches inform her work with clients. These approaches include mindfulness practices, Attachment Theory, Restoration Therapy, and Systems Theory. However, she believes an authentic person-to-person connection and the quality of the therapeutic relationship are central to change.
Regina walks alongside her clients as they explore presenting concerns, develop self-understanding, increase self-compassion and experiment with new ways of being. She has worked with a variety of populations in individual and group settings and is especially passionate about helping women address the unique issues and concerns that present throughout the lifespan.
Margot Reilly, CSWA
Certified Social Work Associate
Margot’s practice is guided by the belief that everyone has an innate capacity for health, well-being, and internal ease. She offers integrative clinical support to help uncover and support each client’s unique path to healing.
Margot’s approach is collaborative, and she works with clients to strengthen self-awareness and build skills to manage symptoms.
Painful past experiences and relationships can often underlay feelings of anxiety, low-self esteem, internal conflicts, emotional reactivity, and/or mood imbalances. A core part of Margot’s clinical practice is gentle and manageable trauma integration work.
Margot offers calm and compassionate presence, provides attuned feedback and insight, and incorporates a range of clinical skills and tools. Margot draws on post-graduate training in EMDR, Progressive Counting, Somatic Experiencing, Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy, and Psychodynamic Theory.
Zev Levavi, CSWA
Certified Social Work Associate
Zev approaches therapy with the belief that people seek authentic and meaningful connection to themselves and others. His practice is grounded in the understanding that each individual is the expert of their own experience, and focuses therapy on empowering folks to actualize their preferred narratives.
Zev offers supportive clinical guidance and gentle curiosity to walk with clients on their path to healing and recovery. His own bi-cultural identity is a strength in working with clients from multicultural backgrounds. Zev draws on a number of lenses, including anti-oppressive practice, narrative therapy, psychodynamic/relational therapy, attachment theory, acceptance and commitment therapy, and grief and loss frameworks.
Zev works collaboratively with clients to develop trust and safety in relationship. Building emotional honesty and transparency are important parts of this process. He finds that this approach facilitates a space where vulnerability is a strength and a key to profound shifts in the body and brain. These shifts can strengthen client’s connections to their physical and emotional experiences, and redefine our relationship dynamics.
Beth Miller, CSWA
Certified Social Work Associate
Beth holds a value that each person has a story that impacts who they are and how they interact with others. She understands the feelings of vulnerability in opening up about yourself in therapy. That is why she places priority on building trust with clients first and continuing to approach her practice with gentle transparency.
Often when we have been through difficult times we begin to simply survive. This survival can feel never ending and lead to physical, emotional, relational, spiritual and employment problems. We may even view ourselves as unimportant or unworthy of change. We may have been told that things will never change. Beth guides others to understand their story, process the impact and grow from their past in a safe non judgemental manner.
Beth has seen in her work that it is possible to thrive. She has over 20 years of experience and training in trauma and mental health issues for adults and children working with domestic violence organizations, adoption/foster care agencies, and family support organizations. Beth has spent five years working intensely with children in mental health seeking to support parents and families in overcoming barriers. Through this work she has seen that an approach that works for one may not work for another. Therefore, she seeks to get to know her clients and issues they wish to work on in therapy. She uses a collaborative and individual approach and checks in throughout the therapy relationship for effectiveness often reflecting back to the client on progress.
Beth considers herself a constant learner and naturally curious. Due to this she has training in various therapy approaches such as Story Informed Trauma Therapy, Parent-Child Interactive Therapy, Sand tray therapy, Child-Parent Psychotherapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Collaborative Problem Solving, ARC (Attachment, Regulation and Competency), Mindfulness and tapping.
Slavica Kojadinovic, LCSW
(503) 427-1952 ext 0
Slavica approaches therapy in holistic, integrative, interactive, and relational ways. Her guiding principle of “feeling felt” by your therapist is fundamental to recognizing, honoring, and supporting your vulnerabilities. Slavica strongly believes in the powers of emotional honesty and transparency with yourself and others. Her motto is “living life with integrity is the only way towards healing.”
Slavica is originally from Bosnia & Herzegovina (former Yugoslavia). She completed her undergraduate and graduate schooling here in Portland, Oregon.
Her multicultural background allows her a greater perspective and deeper understanding of the complexity and diversity of human expression. She has over 20 years of experience in the helping profession working with a diverse range of individuals, couples, and families through difficult life transitions.
She has extensive clinical training in assessment and treatment of emotional disturbances, self-esteem problems, trauma and abuse, anxiety and mood disorders, adverse childhood experiences, relational and interpersonal challenges, group therapy, and couples therapy. Slavica uses many modalities, among them, EMDR, Brainspotting, AEDP, EFT, ACT, CBT, Yoga Pranayama for Mood Management, and Mindfulness. She believes in individualized therapy for each client by combining complementary methods she continues to acquire in her process of learning and developing as a therapist.
David A. Ryan, LCSW
(503) 427-1952 ext 0
David’s approach in working with people is to inspire a creative, moment-by-moment process of self-discovery and self-validation. David has faith in the potential and inner wisdom of each person to realize their deepest expression of self. He believes that the "why" is important only if it helps to grasp the "what" and “how" towards opening one's heart to the personal risk and relational safety that is needed for real awareness and change to happen.
David has over 20 years in the helping profession that has drawn him close to the human experience. Although he is a life-student who never ceases to seek new ideas, new science findings, theories and practices, his attitude is towards what is useful in practice.
He believes that something concrete must happen experientially in the session or we have only talked "about" our ideas of the situation. Theories are only helpful if they generate this kind of usefulness to experience. For that reason, David’s work is intended to be a dynamic, practical, and creative response to what comes up for you in the moment. He stays close to your growing edge to facilitate the next step.
(503) 427-1952 ext 0
Danijela is a result oriented and driven manager with 10+ years of experience in business operations, management, marketing and customer service. With a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Portland State University and experience as the operations manager for one of top two sports companies she is responsible to make sure our clients have the best possible engagement experience.
Danijela strives to be the business operations glue that helps make Connections First an extraordinary organization that it is. She holds a minor in Psychology from Portland State University.
Danijela is originally from former Yugoslavia and she has lived in Portland since 1996. She enjoys reading, hiking, yoga and spending time with her family.
(503) 427-1952 ext 0
Lisa brings enthusiasm and energy to everything she does. She has over 20 years of experience educating children, running her own business and volunteering in various capacities. As a child educator Lisa created lesson plans, wrote IEPs, followed up on progress, and conducted home visits - all with an eye to the success of each child. She brings that same approach to ConnectionsFirst’s clients and clinicians.
Lisa loves the challenge of managing multiple tasks, but most of all she loves working with people. For Lisa, the needs of each individual are critical to a team's success.
Lisa has a Bachelor of Science degree from Utah State University in Family and Human Development. She and her family live in Portland where she enjoys an occasional getaway to the beach and reading a good book.
Dave's goals are twofold. First, that each client has a quality experience, and second, that the team is able to foster lasting client relationships.
An armed forces veteran, Dave understands the vital role mental health plays in our lives. Compassion and empathy is his approach to billing. No one is a number and everyone deserves service excellence.
Upon returning home from the military in 2008, Dave attended Concorde Career College, graduating with honors in the Medical Billing and Coding program. Though an Alaskan by birth, he grew up locally in Canby. In his free time he enjoys fishing, playing ice hockey, and spending quality moments with his family.