Meet Our Team
Our diverse team of counselors and professionals are here to help make a positive difference in the lives of the individuals we serve by helping them uncover their full potential.
Select a team member below to read their full bio.
LSP, Ed. S.
Mental Health Counselor Intern
Elizabeth Muniz, LMHC, RPT-S, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Play Therapist Supervisor and is co-founder of Thrive Therapy. Elizabeth received her Bachelors Degree in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies from Florida International University in Miami, FL. She continued her education and graduated from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL with her Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling. Upon graduation, she worked extensively with victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect providing them with individual, group and family counseling.
Currently, Elizabeth works with clients who experience difficulties with depression, anxiety, trauma, loss, divorce, behavioral issues and significant life changes. Elizabeth uses a variety of proven techniques in her counseling session that help process such experiences and promotes healing. She specializes in the treatment of childhood mental health and behavioral concerns through the use of play therapy interventions. This highly unique specialization makes her and Thrive Therapy the leading practice for play therapy in Lee and Collier County and the surrounding areas. She is a specialist in sand tray therapy and has received extensive training with this therapeutic intervention that can be used with children, adolescents, adults and families. She is also trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), the leading research supported therapy for the treatment of trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Elizabeth has been a presenter at the Florida Association for Play Therapy conference and at FGCU’s Annual Children and Youth Mental Health Conference. She served as a board member and as the co-chair of the Public Awareness Committee for the Florida Association for Play Therapy. She is a member of the Association for Play Therapy, the International Association for Sandtray Therapy, and the EMDR International Association.
Elizabeth is passionate about her work and is devoted to helping her clients attain unique solutions to their specific situation. Therapy is a collaborative process that is highly effective in alleviating symptoms. Forming a strong alliance with a client based on trust, genuineness, and care can create a safe and respectful environment that can be potentially life changing.
Elizabeth is bilingual and fluent in English and Spanish and is comfortable conducting therapy in both languages.
Rachel Stewart, LMHC, RPT-S, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Registered Play Therapist Supervisor and co-founder of Thrive Therapy. Rachel graduated top of her class from the University of Central Florida with her Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling and Certificate in Play Therapy. Upon graduation she worked at a residential psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents, providing crisis stabilization for the acute inpatient treatment and partial hospitalization programs as well as providing individual and group counseling services to children in intensive residential treatment struggling with severe mental health and behavioral concerns.
Rachel has extensive experience providing counseling to children, adolescent, and adult survivors of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. Rachel is trained in Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), the leading research supported therapy for the treatment of trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Rachel specializes in the treatment of childhood mental health and behavioral concerns through the use of play therapy interventions. Rachel addresses concerns of anxiety, aggressive outbursts, defiance, grief, parental divorce, trauma, ADHD, and low self-esteem with child centered play therapy and cognitive behavioral play therapy. This highly unique specialization and credential makes her and Thrive Therapy the leading practice for play therapy in Lee County and the surrounding area. She is the co-chair of the Public Awareness Committee for the Florida Association for Play Therapy.
Rachel also has a history of working with adults and young adults who have a history of anxiety, depression, grief, parenting issues, trauma, divorce/separation, and struggling with transitioning to college through the use of Cognitive Behavioral, EMDR, Client Centered, and Solution Focused therapies.
Rachel is an established presenter in the mental health field. She has presented on “Creativity in Counseling” at the annual conference, Krimes Against Kids; “Domestic Violence and Play Therapy” at the annual conference for the Florida Association for Play Therapy; and “Play Therapy and Trauma” at the annual Florida Gulf Coast University Children’s Mental Health conference.
Rachel is the author and creator of the book and therapeutic kit Zack and Zoie Safe Zones: A Guide to Help Keep Children Safe™ a prevention education and trauma processing tool for children.
As co-founder of Thrive Therapy, my passion is to help individuals reach their full potential. I provide counseling to children, adolescents, adults, and families through an accepting, empathetic, and client centered approach. I believe therapy is a collaborative process where we can work together to understand and process the challenges life presents. Choosing a counselor that best fits your needs can be overwhelming. My goals is to make the process stress free by doing everything I can to meet your expectations.
Natalia Owens, RMHCI, is a Registered Mental Health Intern, who recently moved to Fort Myers, Florida from Tucson, Arizona. Natalia’s first Master’s degree is in Linguistics and International Communication, which she received from Armavir Linguistic University, Russia in 1998. Natalia received her Master’s Degree in Community Counseling from the University of Phoenix, in Tucson, Arizona in 2011. Natalia conducted her practicum and internship with Arizona’s Children Association through Las Familias department, an expert provider of treatment for sexual abuse. Upon graduation, from 2012 through 2021 Natalia stayed with Las Familias as a crisis counselor and a long-term therapist to provide trauma treatment for children victims of crime and their families. Natalia specializes in treatment of complex PTSD in children and adults as well as in working with their families to help family as a unit to understand and connect with their loved ones and to heal from traumatic events. Natalia is fluent in English and Russian.
Natalia’s passion is working with children and families as well as adult individuals who have experienced both developmental needs and sexual and physical abuse trauma. Natalia works with victims of sexual and physical abuse, victims of assault and rape, as well as victims of internet-related crimes against children.
Natalia currently works with both children and adult clients who have experienced symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, victim blaming due to trauma and significant life changes, as well as with parents seeking consultation and psychoeducation about how to understand and support their children who experience emotional and behavioral challenges and struggle to create a balance between life, school and work.
Natalia is extensively trained in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which she uses as a foundation for trauma treatment. Natalia utilizes Neurosequential Models of Therapeutics premise, follows principles of person-centered therapy, and implements various techniques such as play therapy, sand tray therapy, elements of art therapy, family therapy, and mindfulness based practices. Natalia is trained in EMDR (part I and II). Natalia’s goal is to create a supportive, judgement-free space for clients to grow and learn from their traumatic experiences to achieve their full potential.
LSP, Ed. S.
Leslie Rae Danner is a Licensed School Psychologist. She was born and raised in Westchester County, New York. She completed her undergraduate degree from Salisbury University receiving a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology with a track in Childhood Development. Leslie worked as a preschool teacher before obtaining her graduate degrees from Marshall University which include a Masters of Arts in Elementary Education and an Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology. Leslie’s professional experiences have largely taken place in the public school setting, but she has also worked in a child residential facility with severe behavioral challenges, school aged program for children with developmental disabilities ages 5-21, as well as the preschool setting including Birth-to-Three.
Leslie has specialized training in school-related psycholoeducational assessment and educational interventions for children. Leslie’s experience has been multifaceted, as she specializes in with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Anxiety. Further, she offers therapeutic services using a variety of techniques to improve a child’s ability to cope with behavioral, social, communication, and self-esteem deficits as well as environmental disruptions such as divorce.
Alyssa Biestek, RMFTI, is a registered Marriage and Family Therapy Intern. She attended Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL and obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Applied Professional Studies in 2016 and her Master’s of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2018. Coming from a background in Marriage and Family Therapy, Alyssa highlights the importance of viewing each client’s life through a systemic lens. She understands that every behavior makes sense in context and that all of a client’s environments and relationships have an impact on who they are.
Since graduating with her Master’s degree, Alyssa has been working at an agency providing community based services to high risk adolescents and their families. She has extensive training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) in which she has worked with adolescents who are survivors of multiple kinds of abuse, as well as teenagers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and conduct disorders. She has a passion for working with children and teens from ages 10-18, as well as their families to help each individual grow in their own way. She understands that when working with children, it is equally important to work with their parents and/or guardians. Alyssa is well rounded in working with teenagers who struggle with suicidal ideations, self-harm, self-esteem, emotion regulation, trauma, and behavioral control.
Alyssa believes the biggest factor of change in therapy is the therapeutic relationship she can develop with her client. She takes time to build a relationship with each individual she sees that includes learning about their interests and hobbies and incorporating those into session, using client centered language, being authentic, highlighting client strengths, and role modeling healthy boundaries and communication with them. As much as Alyssa provides therapeutic intervention and support, she also understands that her clients can also teach her new things, so she is constantly growing and evolving as a therapist. She tends to practice from a strength based, solution focused approach and focuses on working collaboratively with each child and their family. In addition to building rapport with her clients, Alyssa takes pride in developing relationships with other individuals in client’s life that can help support their journey through therapy. She is excited to be part of the Thrive Therapy team and looks forward to continuing to help children, teenagers, and their families!
Crystal Rollefson, is a Florida Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern that relocated from Hawaii to join the Thrive team. She attended the University of Hawaii-West Oahu where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Psychology. She then pursued her graduate studies and received her Master’s of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from Wayland Baptist University. While pursuing her studies in Psychology, Crystal worked in Early Childhood Education and was a Registered Behavior Therapist in Hawaii while also active with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of America. After graduation at Wayland, she pursued a career as a substance abuse counselor working with adults with criminality, substance abuse, and dual diagnoses with other mental health concerns where she facilitated psychosocial rehabilitation groups and processing groups while also working with individuals in individual therapy sessions. Crystal is currently enrolled at Capella University working towards her play therapy certificate and to become a registered play therapist. Crystal is also a trained yoga teacher and practices meditation and mindfulness techniques.
Crystal has extensive experience with working with an array of individuals, such as children and teens diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, ADHD, victims of sex trafficking, adults with mental health and substance abuse concerns, anger and aggressive outbursts, low self-esteem, criminality, trauma, depression, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorders.
Crystal’s real passion is Play Therapy and she excels in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and therapy through art. Crystal is passionate about her work and devoted to helping her clients achieve their goals and increase in their overall health and wellness with positive outcomes. Therapy is a collaborative process that promotes healing through individualized treatment to meet each client’s individual needs and concerns. She helps the clients process challenges life presents and helps individuals find their full potential. It is important to establish a strong alliance through genuine unconditional regard for the client and their concerns. Crystal currently works with children, youth, and adults who have experienced trauma, anxiety, depression, behavior and anger concerns, sleep disturbances, and other life altering experiences that need a safe and non-judgmental environment to process and heal.
Kara Vanderhelm is an Administrative Assistant with over 10 years of customer service experience. She was born and raised in New Jersey. In high school Kara took classes focusing on Child Development for 2 years as well Ceramics Arts for 4 years. She has a passion for art as well as caring for the needs of others. She has spent time working with children and adults in the past such as a Live-In Nanny and a Home Health Aide. She enjoys making the intake process stress-free and a comfortable experience for you or your family.
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What happens at your first appointment?
What To Expect At Your First Appointment
At your first appointment, we conduct a Biopsychosocial assessment discussing personal background information and presenting concerns. Upon completion of the assessment, your therapist will advise you as to the appropriate plan of care. Typically sessions are provided on a weekly basis based on the level of care needed. Although clients present with individualized needs, the average clients attends treatment for 10-12 sessions. Some client require further sessions and others require less. Individual sessions last for 50 minutes. Family sessions last for 1 hour and 30 minutes. All sessions are by appointment only. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9:00am-6:00pm. Flexible evening appointments are available.
Prior to your first session, you will be provided with access to the client portal. There you will be able to fill out and review your intake paperwork. We will be glad to answer any questions about the paperwork at your assessment.