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Counseling Staff

Director of Counseling and Psychological Services

Dr. Allison Peters

Allison Peters, Psy.D.

Dr. Allison Peters, (she/her/hers) received her M.A. and Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology, Los Angeles, and her B.A. at UC San Diego.  Before coming to CSUSM, Dr. Peters worked clinically with children, adolescents, adults and the elderly in various settings including community mental health centers and in her training at the USC, Cal State Dominguez Hills, and Mount St. Mary’s University student counseling centers.  She was active in program development and administration in community mental health.  She was an instructor of clinical psychology courses at the graduate level and served as the Practicum Training Director for the Clinical Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs at the California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles.

Her passion is working with young adults and college students with concerns about anxiety, depression, relationship challenges, transitions, self-esteem, formation of identity, as well as self-injurious thoughts and behaviors. She works from an eclectic perspective, with a belief that the best therapy is ultimately about self-discovery that is best nurtured in a safe and supportive space, free of judgment and guided by the client.  

She has a passion for clinical training and clinical supervision. Dr. Peters provides Supervision of Supervision and secondary supervision for our Psychology Interns.

CA Lic. PSY24321 

Clinical Psychology Staff

Dr. John "Jay" Howell

Dr. Jay Robertson-Howell

Dr. John “Jay” Howell, (he/him/his) received his Psy.D. and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University – Seattle and his M.S. in Social Work from University of Texas – Austin.  He completed his psychology internship at the University of Washington Counseling Center and has received formalized training in two community mental health clinics, a male adolescent inpatient facility and an alternative high school. 

Before joining Cal State San Marcos Student Health and Counseling Services, Dr. Howell worked for seven years at Seattle University’s Counseling and Psychological Services. He is a generalist clinically and has expertise, training and experience in college developmental and mental health concerns.  He utilizes an integrative approach for psychotherapy drawing upon psychodynamic, interpersonal, developmental and different cognitive-behavioral therapies. 

Areas of special interest include anxiety and depression, mindfulness, men and masculinity, gender and sexual identity, alcohol and substance abuse, couples counseling, multicultural issues, and grief and loss. Dr. Howell provides clinical supervision to Psychology Interns.

CA Lic. PSY 25920

 Dr. Juan Alvarez

Dr. Juan Alvarez

Dr. Juan Alvarez, (he/him/él) is a bilingual counselor who strives to provide multi-culturally competent student services in English and Spanish. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at Washington State University, and his B.A. in Cognitive Science at the University of California, Irvine. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Student Health and Counseling Services at California State University San Marcos, and an American Psychological Association accredited psychology internship in Health Service Psychology at the University of Northern Colorado Counseling Center.

Dr. Alvarez is passionate about college mental health and has worked in college mental health centers in Washington, Idaho, Colorado, and California. He is a generalist clinically and has experience working with a variety of presenting concerns typical of the college student population, including anxiety, depression, identity development, relationship issues, transitions, and sexual identity. Areas of special interest include Latinx mental health, working with Student-Athletes, sports psychology, and mindfulness.


Dr. Alvarez has experience providing individual, group, and couples therapy. He utilizes an integrative approach drawing from humanistic psychology, cognitive-behavioral therapy, narrative therapy, and self-compassion. Dr. Alvarez provides clinical supervision to Psychology Interns.

CA Lic. PSY 30185

Certified in Dialectical Behavior Therapy


Dr. Lissa Lim

Dr. Lissa Lim

Dr. Lissa Lim, Orientation and Didactic Training Coordinator, (she/her/hers/ella) is a bilingual counselor who specializes in Latinx mental health, sexual trauma, immigrant communities, and first-generation college students. She earned her B.A. and M.A. in Psychology at CSUSM, and her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Her treatment approach is integrative, rooted in Feminist-Multicultural, Interpersonal, and Person-Centered therapy. What this means for clients is that she attends to the ways relationships shape and affect us, attends to experiences of power and oppression, and focuses on empowering clients to heal in ways that are consistent with their sociocultural context. She also emphasizes empathy, compassion, and authentic connection, and uses a Trauma-Informed perspective when working with all clients. Dr. Lim founded the SHCS Health Assistance Fund, and co-founded the Gender Equity Center.

For self-care, Dr. Lim enjoys joyful movement like dancing, yoga, and exercise. She loves to garden and has a bountiful veggie and fruit garden. She enjoys cooking and considers herself a foodie, and can share some great local restaurant recommendations. She enjoys reading and is often in the middle of at least three different books at one time. She is a cat lover and fosters cats and kittens from a local shelter. She is also an extrovert and loves spending time with family and friends.

CA Lic. PSY  30077
Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP)

Dr. Ryan Stevenson

Dr. Ryan Stevenson

Dr. Ryan Stevenson, (he/him/his) received his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and his Masters of Social Work from the University of Utah. He completed his psychology internship at the UC – Santa Barbara’s Counseling and Psychological Services and his post-doctoral fellowship at UC – San Diego’s Counseling and Psychological Services. He has experience working in university counseling centers, community mental health, rape crisis centers, and private group practice. Prior to joining CSUSM’s Student Health and Counseling Services he worked at UCSD, the VA in San Diego, and on a clinical trial treating veterans with PTSD. He also taught a course called Strategies for Academic Success for three years in graduate school and he enjoys helping students with these skills in therapy and in campus workshops.

Dr. Stevenson has experience providing individual, group, and couples therapy. He utilizes an integrative approach drawing from interpersonal, mindfulness, feminist-multicultural, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Areas of special interest include PTSD/trauma, working with veterans/service members, anxiety, depression, mindfulness, multicultural issues, men and masculinity, conflicts around religion and spirituality, performance psychology, and substance abuse.

Dr. Stevenson enjoys working with students from diverse backgrounds and providing a safe space for healing and growth. Dr. Stevenson is the coordinator of the MSW Internship Training Program and also provides clinical supervision to the Psychology Interns.

CA Lic. PSY 27441 

 Dr. Leah Tappero

Dr. Leah Tappero

Dr. Leah Tappero, Psychology Internship Training Coordinator, (she/her/hers) received her B.A. and M.A. degrees in Psychology from San Diego State University. She was born in Cambodia and moved to the U.S. at a young age, and grew up in San Diego County. After enjoying much sunshine for most of her life, Dr. Tappero moved to the Pacific Northwest for her doctoral program, and got to experience all four seasons and learned to love coffee and hiking. She received her M.S. in Counseling, Family and Human Services and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Oregon. Dr. Tappero completed her pre-doctoral internship at California State University, Long Beach Counseling and Psychological Services. She completed her post-doctoral residency at the University of California, San Diego Counseling and Psychological Services.

Utilizing an integrative therapeutic approach, Dr. Tappero includes interventions from Interpersonal, Emotion-Focused, Cognitive Behavioral and Client Centered therapy in her work with clients. Some of her special interests includes Asian/Asian American mental health, first generation college student concerns, immigrant, refugee, & acculturation issues, and multicultural/diversity issues. When working with Dr. Tappero she helps clients explore and examine how relational, social, educational, and cultural factors impact life experiences. She takes a holistic view and adapt her roles to meet clients’ needs, creating a safe, supportive, and accepting space for clients to feel empowered to make decisions about their life. Dr. Tappero believes that therapy can help clients work towards creating positive changes to heal and live authentically. Dr. Tappero’s multicultural identities and life experiences shapes her work as a mental health provider. She is passionate about serving and supporting members of underrepresented and marginalized populations.

In her free time, Dr. Tappero enjoys spending time with her family, friends and three dogs. She likes reading and listening to audiobooks. She considers herself to be a foodie and likes exploring different restaurants, coffee, and boba shops.

CA Lic. PSY 28653

Dr. Sara Heinemann

Dr. Sara Heinemann

Dr. Sara Heinemann, (she/her/hers) received her PsyD. in Applied Clinical Psychology and has a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at UC San Diego’s Counseling and Psychological Services before joining CSUSM. She also has worked at a psychiatric facility as well as a community counseling center for teens in crisis in downtown Los Angeles. She also taught and lead two ADHD groups at UCSD and enjoyed working with LGBTQ teens and young adults.

Dr. Heinemann has experience providing individual, group, and family therapy. She uses a positive psychology approach drawing from cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches in her practice. Areas of special interests include anxiety, depression, adjustment to college life, LGBTQ, ADHD and focus, interpersonal concerns, multicultural issues, social anxiety, mindfulness, and assertiveness training. 

Dr. Heinemann will meet clients with where they are at, and will help them feel safe, and slow things down. She enjoys helping students to gain better control over their life, mindset, and choices.

In her free time, Dr. Heinemann enjoys reading, writing fiction, painting, and attending live music concerts.  She also enjoys spending time with her cat Kitkat, her own personal cougar at home.

Supervised by Dr. Allison Peters

Marcy Ryan, LMFT
Mary Ryan

Marcy Ryan, LMFT (she/her/hers) has provided therapeutic counseling to individuals, couples, and families for over 20 years. She has worked collaboratively within a broad array of community care systems including county mental health, residential treatment, hospice, schools, and in private practice. As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist her humanistic approach specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy to help clients cope with strong emotions and manage high-risk behaviors.

Other interests include the treatment of anxiety, ADHD, grief/loss, attachment, trauma, family and relationship struggles. She holds a B.A. in Human Development from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a M.S. in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University Santa Barbara. Prior to moving home to San Diego, she worked for Casa Pacifica, Centers for Children and Families, becoming Clinical Supervisor for their Therapeutic Behavioral Services program serving Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. 

Marcy is dedicated to inclusive practices supporting students while fostering a sense of safety and belonging.  She enjoys connecting with students from all different backgrounds and providing treatment that highlights her client’s individual strengths. Marcy is passionate about student social emotional health and wellness.  

CA Lic. LMFT 53126

Clinical Case Manager

Katie Ramos, LCSW

Katie Ramos, LCSW

Katie Ramos, LCSW (she/her/hers) received her double major bachelor's degree in Human Development and Criminal Justice Studies in 2010 from CSUSM. Katie then went on to obtain her Masters in Social Work at CSUSM and was in the first graduating cohort. Katie became a LCSW in August 2018.

Katie has focused much of her career working in community based organizations with former foster youth and young adults who are at risk of homelessness or who are currently experiencing homelessness. Katie is passionate about linking individuals to resources in the community and has a strong sense of community. Katie works in a way to teach individuals techniques in advocacy to one day become their own case manager. Katie's approach is empowering, empathetic, and trauma informed.

CA LCSW # 85336

Psychology Interns

Polly Merck
Polly Merk

Polly Merck, M.A. (she/her) is a psychology intern from William James College located in Newton, Massachusetts. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Bates College and worked in a pediatric inpatient psychiatric unit for two years. She then earned her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling from Boston University. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, she gained experience working as an outpatient therapist with children and adults at Arbour Counseling Services as well as a residential therapist for adults with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) at McLean Hospital. During her doctoral program, Polly has worked in a variety of clinical settings including a partial hospital program and college counseling centers. She completed her doctoral research on the relationship between conspiracy theory belief and the need for closure.

Her treatment approach is integrative and is grounded in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Person-Centered Therapy. She is committed to helping clients feel empowered to grow and make changes in their own lives by providing a therapeutic, safe space. Areas of interest include working with individuals with anxiety disorders, OCD, phobias, relationship issues, and issues related to identity development. When she is not working, Polly loves to spend time in the sun, with friends and family, or with her dog.

Supervised by Dr. Lissa Lim

Melvin (Mel) Walker, Jr.
Melvin (Mel) Walker, Jr.

Melvin (Mel) Walker, M.A. (he, him, his), is a psychology intern who provides services in English. He earned his B.S. in Sociology at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Upon graduation, Mel served as a commissioned officer (armor branch) in the U.S. Army. After honorably discharging from the military, he received his M.A. in Psychological Science from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He also earned his M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Hofstra University (Long Island, NY). He is currently a doctoral student (ABI) in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at Hofstra University. He defended his dissertation on how psychoeducation regarding suicide-specific treatments influences treatment-seeking behaviors among suicidal emerging adults.

Mel utilizes an integrative approach to psychotherapy, drawing upon cognitive-behavioral, schema, and interpersonal approaches. He particularly focuses on establishing a strong relationship with the people he works with.  His areas of interest include suicide, sexual & complex trauma, relationship challenges, identity issues, Veterans, people of color, and men’s issues. In his free time, Mel enjoys many forms of exercise, traveling, movies, food, watching his favorite sports teams, and spending time with his family and friends. 

Supervised by Dr. Jay Howell

Naomi Wu

Naomi Wu

Naomi Wu, M.A. (she/her/hers) is a Psychology Intern who provides services at CSUSM Student Health and Counseling Services. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Biola University, then moved to the PNW and received her M.A. in Clinical Psychology from George Fox University (Newberg, OR). Currently, she is a doctoral candidate earning her Psy.D in Clinical Psychology at George Fox University. She defended her dissertation studying the relationship between connectedness to nature and well-being. 

Working from a holistic and trauma-informed framework, Naomi integrates humanistic person-centered, feminist-multicultural, and psychodynamic therapy. She values cultivating safe spaces for vulnerability and curiosity, exploring the intersectionality of identity, attuning to the dynamic within the therapeutic relationship, and empowering clients toward healing. Her areas of passion include somatic work/embodiment, disordered eating/body liberation, sports psychology, integration of faith & spirituality, trauma (individual, collective/intergenerational), decolonizing psychology, and ecotherapy/ecopsychology.

To incorporate play into her life, Naomi loves surfing, hiking, practicing yoga, staying active, creating art, and writing poetry. She finds joy in cuddling with her English cream golden (Shiro) connecting with community, and being immersed in nature.

Supervised by Dr. Lissa Lim

Jenna Zusman
Jenna Zusman

Jenna Zusman, M.A. (she/her/hers) is a doctoral intern who is passionate about college mental health. After growing up in Southern California, Jenna moved to the east coast and received her B.A. in Applied Psychology and Human Development at Boston College in Massachusetts. After graduating, she moved back to Southern California to be closer to her family. Jenna went on to attend graduate school and received her M.A. in Clinical Psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) in San Diego, CA. She is currently a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Psy.D. program at CSPP in San Diego. Jenna has worked with clients with diverse identities and concerns, including working at a Reggio-Emilia preschool, Sharp Hospital’s Chronic Pain clinic, in private practice, and with college students at both at a private university and at a long-term community mental health clinic serving the greater San Diego community.

In working with students, Jenna utilizes an integrative approach to psychotherapy focusing on meet students where they are at. With this approach, she draws from different approaches, including Cognitive-Behavioral therapy, psychodynamic, Dialectical Behavior therapy and mindfulness to tailor treatment to best help her students. Jenna finds it important to focus on how identities, contexts, and systems impact an individual’s experience. Jenna also enjoys working with students and incorporating understanding of the mind-body connection and how mental and physical health can be intertwined. Jenna’s areas of interest include trauma, identity development, relationships & power dynamics, self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and grief & loss.

In her free time, you can find Jenna spending time with her family and friends, spinning at her local studio, enjoying live music at concerts, or enjoying time outside in nature!

Supervised by Dr. Juan Alvarez  

MSW Social Work Interns

Ashley WrightAshley Wright

Ashley Wright, (she/her/hers) is a MSW intern who will be providing individual and group services to CSUSM students. She is currently a graduate student at SDSU and is completing a dual-masters program to obtain her MSW and MPH degrees. She received her B.A. in Psychology and a Minor in Applied Psychology from UCSB in 2019. While at UCSB, Ashley played on the Division 1 softball team and understands the demands of being a student-athlete. While at UCSB, Ashley gained experience in coaching, mentoring, and helping adolescents manage their school performances and mental well-being. She is excited to be working with college students and their accompanying struggles here at CSUSM.

After graduating from UCSB, Ashley worked for three years at an outpatient, dual-diagnosis mental health and substance abuse facility. She helped serve adult and adolescent clients that were there to receive intensive outpatient services (IOP) and partial hospitalization (PHP) services at the individual and group level. She has experience in leading art therapy groups and enjoys helping others process intense emotions and thoughts through creativity. Simultaneously, Ashley provided Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), where she treated patients with depression, anxiety, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for nearly a year. Currently at SDSU, Ashley is a part of the Sport Social Work workgroup to spread awareness about the intersection between mental health and athletics and is hoping to further dismantle the stigmatization of asking for help. With a primary focus in macro work, Ashley looks forward to making systematic changes to improve the livelihoods of several communities in her career.

Through experience, Ashley strongly values a solid work-life balance and incorporates self care through spending time with her loved ones (including her pets!), exercising, eating yummy food, binging tv shows, painting, making her own clothes, playing board games, and working on puzzles.

 Medina Azim
Medina Azim

Medina Azim (she/her/hers) is first-year social work intern at CSUSM Student Health and Counseling Services. She earned her B.A. in Health Science from California State University, Fullerton. She is completing her master’s in social work here at California State University, San Marcos. Medina is looking forward to working and learning from her supervisors and colleagues.

She started her healthcare journey as a Clerical Coordinator for the Fudge Family Acute Rehabilitation Unit at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California. There she was exposed to the many different roles in the healthcare field. After two years, she accepted a position at Crystal Cove Care Center, a skilled nursing facility in Newport Beach, as their Admissions Coordinator. Her time there was spent gaining experience working with patients, families and different insurance company in the area. She enjoyed learning and being part of the process to help patients find placement to further their mobility through therapy to improve their health and overall well-being. Today, she is a Marketing Director for San Juan Hills Healthcare Center, a skilled nursing facility in San Juan Capistrano. She attends collaborative meetings at local hospitals to address current issues regarding patient care and discuss how to uphold the continuity of care. Medina is excited to continue her work in the healthcare field and loves helping the patients in her community.

Medina has realized how crucial self-care is when working in the healthcare system and how important it is to have a healthy work and school life balance. She looks forward to spending her weekends with her family and friends. When she is not busy with work and school, Medina spends her time going to the movies, watching sports games, going to concerts, golfing, camping and traveling.