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Meet Our Staff
Are you looking for a therapist that is the right fit for you?
We believe the fit of the therapist is extremely important in your search for change in your life. Here's a little about us:

Denise Ardito, LCSW


You sometimes find yourself wondering how did I get here, where am I going in life, what is important to me, how am I doing this same behavior AGAIN, why do I keep ending up in relationships like this, and who am I?! We all have a story and we’ve all pondered these same questions and struggled with these human feelings. Each of our stories is unique and includes events and relationships that shaped who we are today. You’re curious about how you became who you are today and how you can best make some healthy changes. ​These feelings left you feeling stuck in the past, anxious about the future, disappointed, lost, depressed, and anxious. You want change but don’t even know where to start.

Here’s a little about me:

I am the founder and Clinical Director of Healing Connections Counseling Center, LLC. I am also a wife, mother to a just teenage son (how will I survive the teen years?!), dog mom to two pups, Eli and Nikki (if we do telehealth, I’ll introduce you), daughter, sister, friend, and a business owner learning new things everyday.  I have been on the ‘other side of the couch’ in my own therapy, because hey, what business do I have being a therapist if I haven’t worked on myself first? I know therapy can be a vulnerable process and am humbled that you would work with me on your own personal journey. I love this field.  I enjoy helping and watching people gain those “AHA!” moments of why they are doing the things they are doing. Making these connections helps us make REAL change and growth in our lives to become the best versions of ourselves. 


Here are my credentials:

I am an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) in New Jersey and a psychotherapist, intake coordinator, and founder of Healing Connections Counseling Center, LLC.  I received my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Montclair State University in 2001 and received my Master’s Degree in Social Work from Hunter College in 2003 and have been practicing in the field ever since. I am also a NJ Certified School Social Worker and am certified to provide Clinical Supervision through the NASW (National Association of Social Workers) to other therapists and those seeking licensure in the state of New Jersey. I am also a graduate of The Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies, Inc, making me a certified Psychoanalyst for those of you seeking traditional psychoanalysis.


I have extensive experience working with adolescents and adults with anxiety and depression and have a strong background working in schools with children, adolescents, and their families. I received much of my postgraduate clinical training working in a local therapeutic high school (Sage Day Schools) in Rochelle Park, NJ  for ten years with at risk, emotionally fragile teens where I provided individual, group and family therapy to students and their families while also receiving intensive clinical training via individual, peer, and family supervision. I then went on to run an in-district therapeutic program through Sage In-District Services in Wayne Public Schools while having a small private practice on the side.  As life happens, that program got cut out of the district’s budget and left me jobless! This gave me the needed guts to FINALLY launch into full time private practice, something that scared me for years, but alas, life poses challenges that oftentimes give us the nudge we need to CHANGE and GROW.  After working solo for a few years, I established Healing Connections Counseling Center, LLC in November 2019 and hired therapists so we could create a therapeutic community together as colleagues and to serve even more clients in our community.

Call 201-749-1750 to start your journey today. 
The good news is that therapy is a great way to begin to look at what is beneath the surface of why we do the things we do and what has brought us to this version of ourselves.   You and I will form a trusting, open, non-judgmental therapeutic relationship in which we will come to a deeper understanding of your story and how you can become the best version of yourself. During this journey, we will explore the patterns you have formed in relationships in your life, gain insight into what drives your emotions, come to a greater understanding of who you are and aid you in gaining better control over your life.  Through therapy, you can improve your relationships, experience relief from the symptoms that brought you into therapy, increase your feelings of self-worth, and live a happier, emotionally healthier, and balanced life.   I say a lot to clients, but also to family and friends, life is hard enough, why do it alone? This is where yours and my story begins as I walk alongside you in this therapy journey. We all have our stuff, let’s sort through it together. I'm excited to be part of this next chapter in your life with you.

Cathy Lawrence, LPC


Cathy is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in New Jersey and received her Masters in Education in Counseling from William Paterson University in August 2010. Previously an elementary school teacher with over 10 years experience, Cathy began practicing as a counselor in 2012.

Cathy has extensive experience working with children, adolescents, and their families. Cathy’s experience with families was gained through working as an IIC (Intensive In Community) therapist for 6 years. In this position, Cathy visited families in their homes and provided therapeutic services to children and families in crisis situations, often helping these families find clarity and establish more healthy relationships. Cathy also has experience working in private practices where she has worked with adults experiencing anxiety, depression and life changes.

Cathy is also a graduate of The Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies, Inc. and is a certified Psychoanalyst. Cathy works with adolescents and adults ages 16 and up.

Melissa Citron, LPC, NCC, ACS

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Melissa is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the State of New Jersey and received her Masters of Arts and Education Specialist Degree in Professional Counseling from Seton Hall University in 2013. She is a member of the National Board of Certified Counselors and is an Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) for licensed associate counselors seeking licensure in NJ.

Melissa began her career as a therapist on an acute care unit at the only free standing psychiatric inpatient hospital in New Jersey where she provided emotional support and crisis stabilization in a safe therapeutic environment. Melissa worked with children, adolescents, and adults in an individual and group setting to assess psychiatric needs, identify life stressors, develop a discharge plan, and prevent relapse.

Melissa then transitioned to a community mental health agency where she works with adults providing wrap around in-community therapy and support. Melissa utilizes an individualized and strength based approach with teens and adults struggling with anxiety, mood, and psychotic disorders to promote independence and develop coping skills/techniques to manage stressors in the their lives. Melissa works with adolescents and adults ages 15 and up.

Mara Yacobi, LSW

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Mara is a Licensed Social Worker in the state of New Jersey who received her Masters of Social Work from New York University Silver School of Social Work in 2006. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists.

Mara started her career as a Sexuality Educator for Planned Parenthood gaining extensive experience in the field of reproductive health and sexuality education. For nearly 20 years, Mara taught adolescents, teens, and college students comprehensive sexuality education. In addition to being a leading speaker and trainer on sexuality education, Mara has held educational and clinical roles at mental health clinics and drug prevention agencies. Most recently, Mara has been a school social worker,  providing individual and group counseling to children, adolescents, and their families. From each of these experiences, she cultivated her passion and expertise to provide a strength-based approach in collaboration with her clients. Her areas of expertise include: sexual and intimacy challenges, stress, anxiety, depression, body image, low self-esteem, parenting concerns, pregnancy loss and infertility counseling, relationship issues, and personal growth. 

Mara utilizes a multi-dimensional approach to therapy, exploring each individual’s biological, psychological, social, and spiritual self. By implementing this approach, Mara can evaluate each individual or couple to provide solution focused and insight oriented therapy. Mara works with individuals age 14 and up as well as couples. 

Emily Conte, LAC


Emily is a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC) in the state of New Jersey and received her Master’s in Professional Counseling and Education Specialist certificate from Seton Hall University in 2021. She is a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), American Psychological Association (APA), and is in the process of becoming a nationally certified counselor through NBCC (National Board for Certified Counselors, LLC). Emily currently teaches part-time for Seton Hall University’s Graduate Counseling Program in addition to seeing clients. Prior to counseling, Emily worked in higher education as a student-centered professional serving both undergraduate and graduate students in various administrative and advising roles.  


Emily’s counseling experience began when she worked as an Academic and Career Counselor where she worked with undergraduate students between the ages of 18-50 who were on academic probation/at risk of academic expulsion and/or navigating career and major indecision. Emily utilized an individualized, solution-focused, and strengths-based approach to assist her clients in creating reasonable and achievable goals in order to progress in their academic journey. During this position, Emily served college students who struggled with school related-issues, such as poor academic performance and truancy, transitional and life-stage issues, interpersonal and relationship concerns, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and neurodevelopmental disorders. 


Emily considers her approach to be client-centered and based around what the client is hoping to gain from therapy. She takes into consideration the whole person; exploring biological, psychological, social/cultural, and spiritual factors that make an individual who they are. Emily recognizes that therapy is not a “one-size fits all” approach and that collaboration is key for a genuine counseling relationship. Emily works with adolescents, teens, and adults ages 14+.

Lisa Pisano, MEd Candidate


Lisa is currently pursuing her MEd in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, when upon graduation, she will become an LAC. She is a member of Chi Sigma Iota, the national counseling honor society, and also serves as a Special Education Parent Advisory Group program leader within a Bergen County school district.

Lisa previously had a 20+ year career in Corporate Marketing and Public Relations and holds a Master of Science degree from New York University in Integrated Marketing. She owned her own boutique marketing agency for 7 years before making the career change to pursue mental health counseling as a chosen vocation.

At Healing Connections Counseling Center, Lisa assists the Clinical Director and team of clinicians with handling intakes as well as coordinating the marketing and social media for the growing group practice.

Jill DePeri, LPC

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Late Teens: 

You are trying to figure out some tough decisions regarding your future, college, peers and what you want to do next in your life and are anxious if you will make the right choices. You are tired, procrastinating and frustrated because you want to excel. You want to be social with friends or are in a relationship that is keeping you from focusing on where you want to be and it is causing an inner struggle. You are about to close one door and open another and understand that you cannot take past emotional baggage with you to where you are going. You want to resolve some past conflicts and go forward with confidence. You don't want to waste time and miss the mark of what you are aiming for in life. If this is you, it is time to move and press on towards your goals, therapy can help.

Young Adults:

You are looking for change or maybe you are in the transitions of life. You are tired of not being able to rise above your circumstances and reach for your goals. You lack stamina and the ability to pursue your dreams. You have the desire to reach higher in your life but feel stuck, anxious or depressed. You know that you need to deal with some of your past and present issues, but are fearful to take the first step towards healing. It is hard for you to surrender knowing that you have a choice and that you may not follow through. You yearn for more and know that it would help for you to grow in your personal development. You need a breakthrough to start on your transformation. You wonder when is a good time to start counseling. You need guidance, hope and courage to take this journey to the next step. If this is you, this is your time to take action, therapy can help.

Older Adults: 

You are unhappy with where you are in your life and you don't know why. You have buried some emotions and don't know how to deal with them. You are anxious about the future, saddened about the past and don't know how to navigate ahead. You don't want to pretend that everything is fine anymore; you want to be your true self and rediscover who you are. You have a lot to offer in a relationship, but you don't feel you love yourself. You lack self-esteem, self-confidence and want to learn how to overcome the storms in life that come your way. You lack the zeal for life you once had and are holding on to hope that counseling will help once you take the first step. If this is you, take the first step, there is hope, therapy can help.

Are you living your best life? There are so many areas of our lives that we can neglect such as relationships, work, social life, health and personal goals. In therapy with me, I help clients to optimize those areas in life. It is important to have times of self examination to see where we may fall short and learn where and how to make some changes. I help my clients bring alignment in life to help enable them to live their best life. My passion is to empower those I counsel towards healing, wholeness and to reach for their dreams.

Here's a little about me:

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of New Jersey. I received my Master's in Counseling at the Alliance Graduate School of Counseling in Nyack, NY in 2002. I have gained extensive experience working in the mental health field and while working at the Division of Child Protection and Permanency for eight years. During that time I enjoyed helping children and families reunite and heal from abuse, domestic violence and crisis. I also worked in the area of foster care and adoption as well. I began practicing as a counselor in 2016. I have counseling experience working in several private practices in the area of parenting, divorce, trauma, anxiety and depression. I really enjoy working with late teens, young adults, older adults, couples and families. I specialize in the area of trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief, life transitions and childhood sexual abuse. In addition, I received my certification as a Master Life Coach through the American Association of Christian Counselors in 2019.

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