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:

Naveen Achar, MD

About Dr. Achar:

A true professional, Dr. Achar uses principles he has learned in his time spent in both India and the United States. Dr. Achar is a graudate of Kasturba Medical College in India and spent his residency at the Medical Colleges of Virginia. His calm and down to earth approach is highly respected by both his patients and his colleagues. He specializes in both General Psychiatry and the Bio-Psycho-Social Model of Treatment.

Hobbies/ Interests: Reading, Sports, and Traveling

Sean Chappin, MD

About Dr. Chappin:

A true master of education, Dr. Sean Chappin holds credibility as an individual who has conquered the most prestigious schools in the country. A graduate of both Yale University and Mount Sinai School of Medicine at NYU, Dr.Chappin has passed a true test of professionalism. With his main focus on addiction and substance abuse, he has been able to change peoples lives on a daily basis as a full time psychiatrist at Pinnacle Behavioral Health. Outside of the office, Dr. Chappin continues to strive through volunteer efforts with the Beth Israel LGBT community and by contributing his work through numerous publications.

Certifications/Awards:

  • APA Minority Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, National
  • Medical Association-Chester M. Pierce Award,National Medical Fellowship- Josiah H.
  • Macy Award,Albert Schweitzer Fellowship,Henry Sacks Summer Fellowship

Hobbies/ Interests: New World Archaeology, Reading, Cooking, and Traveling

William Cox, MD

About Dr. Cox:

Dr. William Cox, MD is a psychiatry specialist in Albany, NY and has been practicing for 26 years. He graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1988 and specializes in psychiatry.

Laura McMahon, MD

About L. McMahon, MD:

Dr. Laura McMahon is double board certified in both Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She has practiced psychiatry for twenty years. She subspecializes 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. She has also done cable, news and radio interviews regarding children and adult psychiatric issues. Dr. McMahon has written newspaper articles and has done a 20/20 interview on the risks of predicting violence and domestic violence issues. Dr. McMahon is now certified as a TMS specialist.

Hobbies/ Interests: Dancing, Music, Horseback Riding, Animals, Classic Movies, Learning

Nurse Practitioners:

Karen Ockenholt NPP-BC

Karen has more than 30 years experience working in the mental health field with children and adolescents within many different program levels including piloting one of the few Child focused ACTT teams in the country. She is a graduate from the Masters Program at SUNY Stonybrook.  

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.

Kenna Burns, PA-C
Ronald S. Monson, RPA-C

Ron Monson, PA has more than 30 years experience in his profession. He has worked in the fields of surgical assisting, geriatric medicine, family practice, pain management, rheumatology and psychiatry as well as addiction medicine. In his approach he includes not only traditional methods of western medicine however will review integrative or complementary ideas to assist on the path to wellness. Ron is a graduate of Hartwick College with a BS in Health Science and a graduate of Albany Medical Center College for his PA Degree.

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:

Ellen Brandon, LCSW

About Ellen:

Joined Pinnacle Behavioral Health in February of 2016.

  • BA Psychology SUNY at Albany
  • Masters in Social Work SUNY at Albany 4.0, completed a fellowship in mental health with an internship at Equinox PROS.
  • Previously worked as a clinician at Equinox Outpatient Clinic as a Social Work Clinician
  • Certificate in EFT (emotional freedom technique)
  • Currently facilitating Steps To Peace and Mindfulness Practice and Process

steps-to-peace-flyer-22619.pdf

mindfulness-ellen-brandon.pdf

“Making the decision to come to therapy is a brave and empowering step forward. By the time you take this step you are likely experiencing emotional pain. I’ll meet you where you are. Together we’ll take a collaborative approach to getting you ready to make the changes you want and need. Even small changes can seem daunting. We’ll break it down and take a pace that’s comfortable for you.

I have experience working with adults who are challenged by anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, trauma reactions and other chronic conditions such as pain and illness. I am dedicated to helping my clients overcome limiting beliefs and challenging past experiences.

I specialize in taking a mindfulness based approach to psychotherapy and combine this approach with education, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), EFT (emotional freedom technique) and skill teaching for better self-care. These are methods that are proven to encourage healing and empowerment. Together we’ll tailor these interventions to your preferences and needs.

You have the power within you to gain mastery over your emotional and physical experience. Please call and make an appointment today. Let’s work together to build a life worth living for!”

Interests/Hobbies: Yoga,Hiking, Mind-Body Awareness, Training For Relaxation, Anxiety Reduction

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 as 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.

Helen Klaeysen, LCSW-R

About Helen:

Helen is a very experienced LCSW-R who joined Pinnacle after working locally in the mental health field for the past 30+ years.

Her specialties include helping clients with grief and loss, divorce and separation, relationships, life transactions, women’s issues, trauma and anxiety and depression. She is also experience helping clients cope with chronic and terminal illnesses.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare from SUNY Albany where she actually graduated Magna cum laude as well as her Master’s degree of Social Work attained at the University of Michigan.

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!

Denise King, LCSW

About Denise:

  • Joined Pinnacle Behavioral Health in September of 2019.
  • BA Psychology, Honors Practicum & Research Track at SUNY at Oswego
  • Masters in Social Welfare at SUNY at Albany
  • Dedicated to providing behavioral health services for over 20 years

“In a judgment free zone, I use treatment approaches that have been proven to be effective in helping people improve their lives.  I will provide you with the support and tools you need to regain control, and make the changes you want to make”

Denise is known for being a genuine and compassionate clinician who truly cares about the people she is entrusted with.  She has provided therapy and case management to individuals from all walks of life across the state of NY, mostly adults dually diagnosed with severe mental illness, co-morbid medical conditions and/or substance use disorders.
Before joining Pinnacle, Denise was inspired to assist incarcerated individuals wanting to change criminal thought errors in order to not re-offend.  She then facilitated a Cognitive Behavioral Intervention group for incarcerated adults using the evidenced based curriculum “Thinking for A Change.”

Interests/Hobbies: fitness, creative and performing arts, being one with nature, essential oils and all good vibes, foodie traveler, open mic poetry/live music.

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

Eleanor Pearlman, LCSW-R

About Eleanor:

Since the very first day Laura Hunt opened the doors to Pinnacle, Eleanor has been there. Her dedication and contribution to Pinnacle is respected by all of her colleagues past and present. Eleanors kindness has landed her very loyal clients who have been with her for years. She holds a bachelors degree from Boston University and her masters degree from Brandeis University. Eleanor’s outstanding contribution also extends through her work with the Jewish Community in California, Massachusetts, and New York. She currently works part time at Pinnacle and specializes in Adult, Individual, and Couple Counseling.

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

Licensed Mental Health Counselors:

Susan Aiken, LMHC

About Sue:

Sue Aiken, LMHC has a strong background working in the field of mental health and counseling, and uses individualized therapeutic modalities to support clients’ healing and growth. Sue provides interpersonal, family and group therapies and works with clients on issues such as relationships, grief and loss, anxiety and depression, self esteem and acceptance, dual diagnosis, emotional regulation, and trauma.

Sue provides Expressive Art groups to Pinnacle and completed training through the NYS program for Expressive Arts. She is a DBT trained counselor and has worked for Four Winds, Ellis Hospital, SPARC, and Schenectady County, among other agencies and services. Sue is a trained CISM Mental Health Counselor and was part of the Schenectady County CREW team.

Education: Franklin and Marshall College, State University of New York, Albany

Mary Baker, LMHC

About Mary:

Mary is currently a full time employee at Pinnacle Behavioral Health. She uses tools she learned from her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. Mary enjoys working with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include relationship skills, trauma work, and cognitive behavioral counseling. As a full time employee, she enjoys being able to help transform individuals lives on a daily basis.

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.

Cayla Cahoon, LMHC

Cayla Cahoon is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). She holds master’s degree in Counseling and Community Psychology from Sage Graduate School in Albany, New York. Cayla’s experience includes working for Parsons Child and Family Center as the Clinical Supervisor of a Day Treatment Program. Additionally, Cayla has worked for various local Non-Profit agencies in the Capital District for the past 15 years. She has experience working with children, adults, Veterans and the LGBTQ community. 

She utilizes skills from treatment modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), Mindfulness and Motivational Interviewing. In her personal time, she enjoys traveling and attending music events.

Rebecca Cohen, LMHC

About Rebecca:

I have a passion for working in the counseling field and have dedicated my career to assisting individuals, couples, and families to live a happier, healthier and more balanced life. I have a great deal of experience in the counseling profession with an extensive background working with depression, bipolarity, anxiety, stress management, communication and life skills, healthy relationships, learning disabilities, ADD/ ADHD, addiction and substance abuse treatment and recovery. Additionally, I have facilitated groups in relapse prevention, healthy relationships, anger and emotion management, and problem solving. I work from an eclectic Adlerian/ client centered approach incorporating techniques from multiple therapeutic modalities. I strongly believe our therapeutic relationship begins from day one, building trust from the first time you enter my office. I feel strongly that therapy is a collaborative approach between the client and the clinician and I strive to provide a comfortable, open, non-judgmental and safe environment. I have a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Russell Sage, a Master’s Degree in Rehabilitative Counseling Psychology, and continuded education in Mental Health from St. Rose.

Hobbies/ Interests: Exercise, sports, traveling, reading and writing and spending quality time with my family and friends.

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.

Nicole Viscusi, LMHC
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!

Brigitte Weible, LMHC

About Brigitte:

Brigitte possess a rarity in today’s mental health field, and that is play therapy. Bridget uses techniques to connect with younger adolescents and help them grow into young adults. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Penn State University and her masters from the University of Rhode Island. She has received numerous certifications and she’s affiliated with different organizations revolved around play therapy counseling. Currently, Brigitte is a full time member of the Pinnacle staff.

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.