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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Beth Miller, CSWA
Certified Social Work Associate
Adults, Child & Family
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.
Becca Schwartz, CSWA
Certified Social Work Associate
Becca strives to support clients in identifying and living into their values, understanding and regulating their nervous system, building self-compassion, deepening the mind-body connection, and cultivating relationships with themselves and others in their lives.
Becca identifies as a sex positive and pleasure centered therapist. As one of her clients you can expect a safe and warm space where all parts of your life can show up and be explored in therapy with respect and curiosity.
Her practice is informed by past experience working in community mental health organizations, addiction treatment, and college counseling. Each of which has promoted her understanding of the diverse and complex struggles we face as humans.
Becca’s approach to therapy is relationship based, trauma informed, client centered, and at times playful. Becca utilizes several different therapeutic modalities including Psychodynamic therapy, Polyvagal Theory, Compassion Focused Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Motivational Interviewing, and Anti-oppressive frameworks.
Katharine Frothingham, LPC-I
Licensed Professional Counselor - Intern
Katharine invites clients to share what is most real and urgent in their lives. She believes therapy can be a collaborative space allowing individuals to access their own knowing. Through the relational experience of therapy, Katharine supports the people she serves in developing more integrated ways of seeing themselves. She believes that all emotions can become allies once we learn to understand their contribution and regulate their energy.
Drawing from her studies of narrative and Gestalt therapy in graduate school, and of contemplative practice and the arts in undergraduate school, Katharine facilitates the process of uncovering those parts of a person’s story that bring them back to their embodied selves. She invites the paradoxes of being human into session, holding room for contradictions to co-exist and converse. Through this process, clients may reclaim their unique stories in a lens of strength and resilience.
Katharine creates an environment of gentle curiosity. She also seeks to learn about each person’s identity as it relates to their larger community context and believes that the people, places, and things we interact with on a daily basis have great influence. She works with teens and adults, returning to the heart of each client’s goal, to clarify what is the next most meaningful step and how best to move forward.
Edward Quedado, CSWA
Certfied Social Work Associate
Edward’s therapy is informed by his belief that people are vastly more complex than our lives permit us to show one another. While therapy is never a promise, it is a place filled with possibility.
What is possible is at once an individual and interpersonal question. His experiences have instilled his belief that what can and cannot emerge in therapy is related not only to an individual’s patterns of relating but also to your connection to your therapist. He takes the view that the role of the therapist is to cultivate in others what they hope for themselves.
Edward’s work has given him the great privilege of entering into the question of what is possible from a range of conditions: homelessness, serious and enduring mental illness, crisis, suicide, addiction, trauma and attachment ruptures.
He has responded to such problems in living using principles coming from change, attachment and trauma. He practices using strengths-based, solution-focused and client-centered ideas.
Zoe Zuschlag, CSWA
Certified Social Work Associate
Zoë believes we each already hold within us the inner wisdom needed for healing ourselves. Zoë approaches therapy by honoring that wise voice and by collaborating with you to create a space for that voice to grow. In Zoë’s experience, this wisdom is rooted in the body and by working holistically through both mind and body we are able to grow the connection to our truest selves.
Zoë’s approach is relational at its core. By building a strong, authentic relationship with space to explore how power and interpersonal dynamics impact us, we work together to recognize what makes relationships feel hard and what we can do to ease them. She is guided by mindfulness-based practices, feminist multicultural therapy, and narrative therapy. She integrates pieces from polyvagal theory, attachment theory, and appreciates a psychodynamic approach to exploring how past experiences continue to influence present day.
Along with these therapeutic tools, Zoë leans towards optimism, trusts in the power of a positive reframe, and knows that while therapy can be challenging it can also be fun. She offers a deep awareness of LGBTQ+ concerns and holds an anti-oppressive lens crafted from her background in community organizing. This work, like therapy, begins with cultivating safer and more compassionate connections between people and within ourselves. She believes that therapy is the key not only to improving personal outcomes, but to a just and equitable future for all people.
Tori Penner, MSW
Masters in Social Work
Tori’s approach to therapy stems from her core belief that everyone has intrinsic value and needs to be validated and affirmed. She takes a strengths-based and empowering style to underscore the capacity shared by all people to cope effectively with life stressors, improve well-being, and achieve social justice for themselves and others. Her practice is also informed by her past work with community child and family mental health organizations, adult community mental health organizations and in-home services for families.
Tori draws from training in TF-CBT, Attachment Theory, mindfulness practices, Solution-Focused Family Therapy, CBT and the Satir Model.
Tori will work with you to help you enhance your self-awareness and self-expression and to get in touch with the inner resources to grow and self-actualize.
Slavica Kojadinovic, LCSW
CDWF (Certified Daring Way Facilitator)
(503) 427-1952 ext 0
Slavica Kojadinovic, LCSW is a cofounder and clinical director of ConnectionsFirst.
She provides clinical supervision, consultations and trainings for community service providers, and individual and group mental health therapy.
Her years in learning many theories of working with human experiences of trauma and shame have resulted in a deep orientation that our truth, our stories, the wisdom to our salvage lie in the integrity of our bodies. When we learn to listen to
our nervous system we get to heal through an ongoing learning of its vulnerabilities, transparency, and desire for integrity. And as such we develop stronger connections with self and interpersonally. We then get to create a healing and flourishing community.
Slavica is originally from Bosnia & Herzegovina (former Yugoslavia). She completed her undergraduate and graduate schooling in Portland, Oregon with a strong interest in studying embodied connections of trauma and shame as driving forces of complexity of human expression and suffering. 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 is trained in EMDR, Brainspotting, Yoga Pranayama for Mood Management, CBT, ACT, Emotion Focused Therapy, and considers herself a forever student of Focused Somatic Mindfulness practices. Because she believes we can’t live a life of integrity without being courageous, and being brave and courageous can not go without feeling vulnerable, Slavica decided to get trained and certified in The Daring Way, an empirically based training and certification program for helping professionals, based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown.
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 the 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.
(503) 427-1952 ext 0
Boris brings a relational touch to technology combining a keen eye for detail with a kind sincerity and a sense of humor. Boris’ passion for computers, cars, and technology goes a long way back bringing together his drive for perfection with his interest in design. We are fortunate to have Boris building and maintaining the systems that run in the background of our daily operations.
Amy Hergert, MBS
Medical Billing Specialist
Having over 20 years experience in the medical field, Amy contributes great insight into the workings of insurance billing. She strives to make sure insurance claims are handled quickly and accurately so the patient’s are getting the coverage they are due. Having worked for Doctors in general surgery, internal medicine and primary care Amy is well versed in navigating the sometimes complicated world of medical insurance.
Amy is from Portland and currently lives in Tigard, where she enjoys spending time with her family. Some of her favorite hobbies include gardening and baking.