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Our Practitioners

Our practice contains both full time and part time independent practitioners to tailor your needs at all times of the day. 

INDEPENDENT PRACTITIONERS

Please click on the names for detailed biographies of our Pinnacle Behavioral Health independent practitioners:

 

Psychiatrists:

William Cox, MD

About William:

William F. Cox, MD, residing in Albany, New York, is a board-certified psychiatrist with 26 years of post-residency experience who has accumulated extensive experience over the past six years with independent medical examinations and reviews. Most of these IMEs have been for New York state Workers Compensation cases

Dr. Cox has also performed several examinations for the Department of Veterans Affairs for post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric impairments, Railroad Retirement Board, short- and long-term disability, and employee and military fitness for duty.

Reports are timely, detailed, and well-written.

Laura McMahon, MD

About Laura:

Dr. Laura McMahon is double board certified in both Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She has practiced psychiatry for twenty years. She sub specializes in child, adolescent as well as women’s mental health throughout the life cycle. She has a special interest with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Prior to becoming a doctor, Dr. McMahon had two nursing degrees, and as a nurse worked with children and adolescent on an inpatient psychiatric unit, and then worked the rest of her nursing career in high risk obstetrics. Dr. McMahon did her medical school and training at Detroit Medical Center. She completed her adult psychiatric residency at Henry Ford Hospital Medical Center in Detroit, Michigan. She completed a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Dr. McMahon worked in her own private practice focusing on children and adolescents, specializing in autism and women’s mental health issues. Dr. McMahon was on the state of Michigan referral source for post-partum depression. She has done teaching with medical students, residents, and has done grand rounds for Pediatrics and OB/GYN. Dr. McMahon is now certified as a TMS specialist.

Nurse Practitioners:

Jodi Carson PMHNP-BC

About Jodi:

Jodi is a board certified psychiatric mental healthJodi Carson PMHNP-BC nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC). She is passionate about providing quality, compassionate, and comprehensive mental health services to adults. With over 20 years of nursing experience Jodi possesses strong clinical skills enhanced by natural ability to build rapport with
patients and families. She follows evidence-based guidelines blended with clinical experience, personal observation, and intuition. Jodi values interdisciplinary education and inter-professional collaboration for a whole person, patient centered approach to mental health and healthcare.

Michael Conley Ph.D., ANP-BC, CCTP, CHC

About Michael:

Michael is veteran Nurse Practitioner with over 30 years of practice, as well as a Ph.D., in Counseling-Psychology. Dr. Conley is a graduate of Upstate Medical University, Dallas Seminary, University of Renfrew and has completed fellowships at Villanova and Harvard Universities.

His passion is to see humanity return to healthcare. His special interests are in the treatment of Complex Trauma, Adult ADHD and Persistent Grief disorders through psychopharmacology as well as integrative psychotherapy. He is an avid gardener and loves the outdoors.

“Focused attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”    Simone Weil

Elmer Jones Elma, PhD., DNP, PMHNP-BC

About Elmer:

Being a compassionate Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, I am dedicated to promoting holistic mental wellness for individuals of all ages. With my board certification and vast clinical experience, I strive to empower those facing mental health struggles. My approach is grounded in evidence-based care and deep empathy, creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for individuals from diverse backgrounds. I understand the importance of cultural competency and show unconditional respect for each person’s unique experiences and needs. Whether confronting anxiety, depression, or complex diagnoses, I work collaboratively with my clients to create a personalized treatment plan that fosters healing, resilience, and overall well-being. Let’s team up and unleash your potential for a satisfying life.

Amy Nistico, PMHNP-BC

About Amy:

Amy NisticoAmy J. Nistico is a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC). She is a graduate of Binghamton University’s master’s program. She spent the first 15 years of her career as a registered nurse in behavioral health working with adults in multiple inpatient settings who suffered from a variety of complex mental health issues, including PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, substance abuse, and mood disorders. She treats each patient as a unique individual and tailors care accordingly using a combination of evaluation and medication management services for clients aged 18 and older. Amy values a therapeutic relationship that involves establishing trust and promotes collaborative decision-making. She is empathetic, listens attentively, and addresses all inquiries and concerns with patience. Amy enjoys spending her leisure time with her family, at the beach, and watching a good movie.

Karen Ockenholt NPP-BC
About Karen:
Karen is a graduate of SUNY Stonybrook as a board-certified Nurse Practitioner. She has more than 30 years’ of experience working in the mental health field with childrenand adolescents within many different program levels including piloting the first-ever child ACT team in the country.
Karen also works with oncology patients, centering her focus on the whole person.
She is passionate, empathetic and values the trust, respect, and communication she will share with each client as they grow through their journey.
Grace Pfeifer, NPP-BC

About Grace:

Grace Pfeifer started her nursing career in 2016 after graduating from, Utica College with her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. Three years into a criticalcare nursing career, Grace realized that she was treating multiple patients in her Intensive Care Unit with unmanaged mental health conditions that unfortunately contributed to their critical illness.  Inspired by these patients Grace pursed an Advance Practice Nursing Degree in Psychiatry in order to help serve mental health provider gaps and expand psychiatric care within the Capital Region. In 2021 Grace graduated from Russell Sage College with her Masters of Science in Nursing as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner in New York State.  She quickly became Board Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Across the Lifespan.  She started her career as an inpatient and outpatient adult psychiatric nurse practitioner at a local upstate NY hospital before having the wonderful opportunity of joining Pinnacle Behavioral Health in February of 2023.  Grace treats a variety of various mental health conditions but takes special interest in anxiety disorders.  Believing in the importance of the pathophysiological connection to mental health treatment due to her critical care background, Grace utilizes laboratory data, treatment of underlying physical conditions, vitamin and supplement replacements and potential use of alternative therapies when treating clients’ mental health conditions.  This methodology provides a comprehensive, holistic approach.

Erin Phinney, PMHMP-BC

About Erin:

Erin is a Board Certified Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner with a Post-Masters certificate from SUNY Upstate University, and has spent the last 8 years as a clincal instructor for a local nursing program. She has experience with children, adolescents, and adults and holds a Clincal Nurse Specialist degree in Gerentology. She is also qualified to provide medically assisted treatment to those with substance use disorders. She spent the first 15 years of her career as a critical care nurse specializing in cardiac care.

Amy Sullivan, MSN, PMHNP-BC

About Amy:

Amy SullivanAmy I. Sullivan, MSN, PMHNP-BC is a Board-Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner who works with patients with psychiatric disorders across the lifespan.  She received a Master of Science in Nursing degree, with a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner specialization, from Russell Sage College.  Amy has over 17 years of acute-care nursing experience in areas including inpatient behavioral health, substance use disorders, and emergency medicine.  Amy assists patients in meeting their mental health needs through performing psychiatric evaluations, determining psychiatric diagnoses, and case conceptualizations, and by providing psychiatric treatments including conducting psychotherapy and prescribing psychotropic medication.  She works closely with patients to establish advanced therapeutic relationships that display empathic understanding, authenticity, and genuineness.  Areas of clinical interest include anxiety, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, and trauma-related disorders.  In her free time, Amy enjoys spending time with her family, yoga, hiking and traveling.  Additionally, Amy is actively involved in her community and volunteers her time at local shelters and at the regional foodbank.

Deborah Sweeney, PMHMP-BC

About Deborah:

Deborah has established a respectable career as a long time Nurse Practicioner at Pinnacle Behavioral Health. Her engaging personality and comforting approach is appreciated by everyone that surrounds her. Her professional philosophy is based off the importance of healthy mind and healthy body. Over the course of her career she has served as both a Family Nurse Practicioner and a Psychiatric Nurse Practicioner. Deborah has a bachelors degree in Health and Human Services from Empire State College , and holds a masters of science in Nursing from Sage College. She has played an important role in the success of Pinnacle up to this point and truly enjoys working
with her colleagues.

“We Are All in This Together!”- Deborah Sweeney, PMHNP-BC

Physicians Assistant:

Paul D. Clarke, Physician’s Assistant

About Paul:

Paul D. Clarke, CAQ, PA-C is a Board Certified Physician Assistant, with 37 years of experience. He is NCCPA Board Certified with a Certificate of Advanced Qualifications in Psychiatry. Paul is a member of the NY State Society of Physician Assistants as well as the national association, the American Academy of Physician Assistants. He is a Board Certified Diplomate of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and Board Certified in Pain Management. He is a member of Dr. Stephen Stahl’s Neuroscience Educational Institute. Paul is a graduate of Saint Michael’s College, Winooski, Vermont with a BA in Biology. He received a BS degree in Health Science and his Physician Assistant training from Hahnemann University-Drexel, Philadelphia. He has worked in Occupational Medicine, General and Vascular Surgery, Emergency Medicine, Dermatology, Allergy and Immunology, Family Practice and Interventional Pain Management. He has spent the past 13 years in Psychiatry. Paul now works with Sean Chappin, MD at Pinnacle Behavioral Health. His areas of expertise within General Adult Psychiatry include Pain Management as it relates to Psychiatry, OCD, Anxiety and Depression, all with a focus on Psychopharmacology. His background in Family Practice enables him to concentrate on the whole person, rather than just on the pathology.

Albert Arceri, RPA-C

About Albert,

Albert Arceri is a Board-Certified Physician Assistant (RPA-C). Albert received his Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies from Albany Medical College and his undergraduate from Wake Forest. Albert strives to give back to aspiring medical professionals through volunteering at Albany Medical Center where he teaches current medical students. Albert is on the advisory committee at the Albany Medical College where he strives to implement changes that will improve the efficacy of their programs. Albert utilizes his diverse work environment experience including inpatient, outpatient, and telehealth to develop psychiatric treatments for the mental health needs of his patients. 

Psychologist:

Jay Hamer, PhD.

About Dr. Hamer

Dr. Hamer received his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from SUNY Albany.  He has been in practice for over twenty years, including a long tenure as the Director of Counseling Services at The College of Saint Rose, where he provided culturally sensitive psychotherapy, supervised dozens of psychologist and counselors in training, and provided clinical supervision to professionals at the college.  He has held faculty appointments at both The College of Saint Rose and SUNY Albany, and has published extensively, particularly in the area of social anxiety.  Dr. Hamer has developed an effective, unique approach to the treatment of anxiety, which he describes as “the symptom of our times”.  He also has particular expertise and experience working with couples.  Dr. Hamer is known for his gentle demeanor, as well as an ability to blend humor and a sense of lightness with intelligent, creative therapeutic process.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers:

David Burns, LCSW-R

About David:

David is a new member of the Pinnacle Behavioral Health team. With twelve years of experience as a social worker, David spent the last eight years working at an outpatient treatment facility with those suffering from serious mental illness. His specialties include the treatment of anxiety and depression. David also has experience working with people suffering from anger management and substance abuse issues. Utilizing a compassionate approach to therapy that helps clients feel safe and valued, David has a strong interest in helping others find meaning and purpose in their lives. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the State University of New York, College at Brockport, and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University at Albany.

Interests/Hobbies: Exercise, Reading, Writing, Music, Camping, Spending time with family and friends.

Jamie Coscia, LCSW-R

About Jamie:

If you are someone who desires a more peaceful life and wants insight a

s well as concrete skills to cope, call for an appointment today. I enjoy working with people who struggle with loving themselves and engage in negative, unproductive patterns that leave them feeling frustrated and hopeless. I love helping people identify their limiting beliefs in order to clear the path for a more rewarding life.

I see many people who feel they are beyond hope and struggle with things such as: anxiety, depression, stress, negative self image, low self- esteem, lack of confidence, anger, poor communication skills, strained relationships, lack of purpose, lack of life satisfaction, trauma, toxic relationships, etc.

I engage in strengths-based, solution-focused person-centered work and use a variety of modalities. I enjoy connecting spirituality and intuitive guidance work in sessions if this is in line with client’s desires. An assessment can be done to determine if life coaching or individual/group therapy is more appropriate.

Certificate: International Coaching Federation / Life Coaching (2017)

Jennifer Forster-Green, LCSW, MA

Using a strengths-based approach, Jennifer has over 10 years of experience as a trauma-informed therapist, specializing in dual-diagnoses, complex-trauma, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, self-esteem, Bipolar Disorder, relationships, grief and loss, and personality disorders. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of human services, including supervisory and administrative positions.

As a SUNY-Albany Social Work graduate student, Jennifer received a competitive Internships in Aging Project Scholarship. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from SUNY-Albany and has served as an Adjunct Professor at SUNY-Albany, providing Field Instruction to graduate-level social work interns. In 2015, the New York State Coalition for Children’s Mental Health Services bestowed Jennifer with the honor of Employee of the Year.

Jennifer’s practice encompasses clients from 5yo through adulthood, and she particularly enjoys working with families. She draws from a wide array of therapeutic modalities, collaborating with clients to help them gain insight, build healthy coping skills, maximize opportunities, and “do the work” to overcome adversity and challenges. Jennifer supports clients with celebrating individuality in the journey to discover self, empower change, and realize “aha” moments. 

Interests/Hobbies: Gardening, research, travel, organizing, cooking, movies, reading.

Christine Koster, LCSW-R

About Christine:

Christine brings a unique presence to the Pinnacle Behavioral Health staff. Before she joined private practice she held various supervisor and administrative positions in the mental health field. She provides an energetic vibe that her patients love to feed off. Christine is a bachelor’s graduate of Binghamton University and has her masters from the University at Albany. Specializing in both trauma informed treatment and dual diagnoses, Christine is able to give individuals the tools needed to help transform their life. Currently, Christine is a full time member of the Pinnacle Health staff.

Hobbies/ Interests: Cooking, Gardening, Crochet &Cross Stitch, Jigsaw Puzzles, Traveling, Reading, and Her Cats!

Frank Macri, LCSW-R

About Frank Macri:

A role model, would be the simplest way to describe Frank from his colleagues at Pinnacle. Not only has he dedicated a majority of his career to Pinnacle, but he has fought and overcame Colon Cancer. Although Frank had to take a leave of absence, he came back in 2015 to great respect and admiration from his patients and Pinnacle staff. Frank holds a bachelors degree in Business Administration from Utica College of Syracuse University and his masters in Social Work from the University at Albany. He has completed numerous trainings and certifications from world renound social worker Mary Sise. Also, he works part-time at Pinnacle and continues to endeavor in various trainings.

Interests/ Hobbies: Trombone Player for Yankee Doodle Band, Natural Healing Arts, Energy Medicine and Meditation

Jerald Petell, LMSW

About Jerry:

Jerry Petell, LMSW is an independent practitioner at Pinnacle Behavioral Health LLC, IPA who received his masters in Social Work from the University At Albany. Jerry runs the Tai-Chi Group at Pinnacle which is a Chinese art form of meditation in motion using posture, breath and mental focus in balancing the body’s energy systems.

Elizabeth Tunison, LCSW-R

About Elizabeth:

Elizabeth Tunison joined Pinnacle in early 2014 to help transform patients lives on a full time basis. She brings a relaxed, approachable feeling to her psychotherapy talent. She holds both her bachelors and her master’s degree from the University at Albany. She also was the valedictorian at her high school. Her talents are greatly recognized daily and she’s currently the co-facilitator of the Wellness Group at Pinnacle.

Interests/Hobbies: Tennis, Movies, Theater, Running, Yoga, Travel, and Kayaking

Carol Savelli, LCSW-R

About Carol:

Carol Savelli, LCSW-R is a Registered Nurse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 30 years of clinical and administrative social work practice in the Capital District. She received her Master of Social Welfare (MSW) through The University of New York at Albany. She has since continued to take advanced clinical courses in the field of mental health.

Carol has worked in a variety of mental health settings including inpatient hospitals, outpatient clinics and practices and partial hospital program settings providing mental health services for a variety of populations.

Carol believes that each client is an individual and strives to tailor the treatment to the client, borrowing from multiple treatment modalities, including but not limited to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and strength- based and solution-focused techniques to help people navigate through challenging times in their lives. Carol provides a supportive, non-judgmental, caring environment that is therapeutic and effective to those she assists. She works to help her clients meet their personal goals and live a life that promotes a healthy mind, spirit and body.

Carol works with clients who have social and emotional issues that impact their daily functioning and cause them discomfort in personal and work areas such as anxiety, stress, depression, adjustment issues, trauma/PTSD, self-esteem, interpersonal relationship problems, difficulties with emotional regulation or anger management, grief and loss, chronic mental illness and substance abuse.

Hobbies and Interests:
In her free time Carol enjoys, listening to music, taking walks in nature, going to museums, live theater and caring for her pets.

Staci Dury, LMSW

About Staci:

Staci is a Licensed Master Social Worker who is working toward her clinical licensure. She has been practicing since 2012 working with children from the ages of 3 up through adolescence, young adulthood, adults up through retirement age, and beyond.

Staci has over 10-years experience in outpatient therapy, medical settings, and community mental health.

“When you come to work with me we will work on cultivating a treatment plan that works for you, and your specific needs at that time. What is most important to me is that my client’s can begin the process to improve their emotional health no matter where they are in life.

I am committed to empowering my clients with the tools, training, and knowledge they need to perform optimally in their daily lives.

I utilizes a variety of techniques and skills drawn from recognized therapeutic modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused, Psychoeducation, Behavior Modification, and Mindfulness and Relaxation.

I believe in working in partnership with my clients to utilize their strengths to help them sort out their individual challenges and achieve their goals. I also realize how important it is to identify all aspects of an individual’s life that impact their well-being including their physical health, support systems (family, friends, etc.), work or school environment, and faith/spirituality in this process.

My goal as a Therapist is to always provide a safe environment where we can explore your primary interests/needs, develop goals and determine strengths and assets as you move toward your aspirations.”

Licensed Mental Health Counselors:

Sana Bhatti, LMHC

About Sana:

Would you like to join me on a journey to improve ways to care for oneself emotionally, physically, socially and/or spiritually as a whole? I provide psychotherapy in an understanding, safe and supportive environment. I work with adolescents and adults in my current practice.

I have experience in treating individuals using various treatment techniques as I have worked in many treatment clinics. This experience is as diverse as the people I have had the fortunate opportunity to work with. I have worked with people struggling with homelessness, trauma, substance use, refugees and unexpected physical health diagnosis which can impact one’s mental health. I am able to tailor my approach to meet the needs of my clients as necessary. Let me help you on this journey of being the best version of you in an empathetic and compassionate atmosphere.

Stephanie Do, LMHC

About Stephanie:

Stephanie plays an important part as a full time counselor at Pinnacle Behavioral Health. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Russell Sage College and has a master’s degree from St. Rose College. Her specialties include Depression, Anxiety Disorders, Substance Abuse, Addictions, Dual Diagnoses, Women’s Issues, LGBTQ Issues, CBT, REBT, and Motivational Interviewing.

Stephanie in her own words: “When I first meet with a clients, I am often told that I am “not what they expected.” I sincerely take this as a compliment. My clinical approach is firmly rooted in the concepts of self-efficiency, empowerment, and self-acceptance. There is no “normal” and no one needs “fixing”. It is in learning to make meaning for ourselves that we find our place in the world. There is nothing I enjoy more than helping people find their place.”

Hobbies/Interests: Reading, Baking, Travel, Psychopharmacology, Evolutionary Psychology, World+ US History, Cultural Anthropology, Modern Art, College Basketball, and Social Justice Issues.

Mark Leach, LMHC

About Mark:

Mark is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor as well as a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor who took a talent for listening to others and developed a passion for helping individuals become who they were meant to be. He graduated from Oswego State University with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. Since that time, he has worked in outpatient, inpatient, and residential programs for individuals with mental health concerns as well as addictions and is acutely aware of the daily struggles faced by those trying to better their lives. Mark specializes in using CBT and DBT techniques to aid individuals in building mastery in their ability to cope with symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health diagnoses.

Hobbies/Interests: Cooking, baseball, kayaking, gaming, and reading.

Christine Usyk, LMHC

About Christine:

Christine is currently a part time therapist with Pinnacle Behavioral Health. She holds a BA from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Forensic Psychology and an MS from St John Fisher College in Mental Health Counseling. Christine’s specialties include Medication Assisted Therapy, Substance Abuse, Addictions, Infectious Disease (HIV, Hep C), Depression and Anxiety.

Hobbies/Interests: Outdoor activities, hiking, kayaking, wellness, music and spending quality time with family and friends!

Certified Hypnotist:

George Guarino, CH, CI

About George:

George has been working in private practice as a Medical Certified Hypnotist and CFB Specialist for a decade in the Capital Region area. After being trained at Samaritan Hospital in Troy NY through the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH) he has gone on to study with Cal Banyan (5-PATH Hypnosis), Ron Eslinger (Pain Management), Michael Elner (Mindfulness), Jerry Kein (Ultra-Height Hypnosis), Dr. Mike Mandel (Hypnosis Academy Toronto), Dr. Brian Weiss (PLR), Jeffrey Stephens (Direct Hypnosis), and Igor Ledochowski (Conversational Indirect Hypnosis).

George specializes in stress management especially in regards to habitual addictive behavior that has been keeping the client stuck in the past. Guarino’s two main client centered approaches to change are 1, to move the client from today into a successful future, and 2, to neutralize old feelings connected to old thoughts, memories and behaviors of the past. Bypassing the critical faculty and directly addressing the client’s deeper subconscious mind allows insight and resources to be discovered and take hold, strengthening the client’s power to take back control of their wellness.

The body and mind are always naturally heading toward wellness and it is this practitioner’s role to stimulate the client’s own power to feel good, feel well and to be happy in concert with and to complement the advice and prescription of their healthcare provider. Whether it’s physical or emotional pain, negative patterns and habits, feelings of overwhelm, fear, worry and stress, hypnosis and the work of George Guarino can guide the client toward resourceful outcomes that better the client and help make them more deeply and naturally receptive to the work of their healthcare provider.

To find out more: HypnosisWorksWell.com

Group Instructors:

Chrys Ballerano, Yoga Instructor

About Chrys:

Chrys is a lifelong yoga practitioner and certified yoga instructor, having 200 hours of Yoga Teacher Training in 2009 from Karuna Yoga in Northampton MA. She has taught at the Yoga Loft, The Next Step and the Holistic Network in Albany as well as in Vermont at Farm and Wildnerness adult summer camp.

Chrys engages with a wide network of individuals and communities both through her music and her professional work as the Sr. Director of Collaboration & Training for NYSCASA (NY’s Coalition Against Sexual Assault). She has worked extensively with rape crisis counselors, individuals who have survived trauma and diverse community advocates for over 20 years. She is frequently requested to teach drumming and yoga and lead workshops on trauma and recovery throughout NYS.  A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and Hippocrates Health Institute, Chrys is a certified Holistic Health Coach currently enrolled in advanced studies with IIN.

Gardening, mentoring young people, and snowboarding are among her favorite activities besides making music with others. Chrys is passionate about interweaving the vital work of environmental and human rights as we create and build sustainable possibilities for future generations.