New Jersey's Premiere Intensive Mental Health Program Specialist

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We have assembled an elite team of clinicians who specialize in high levels of mental health care. Our dedicated staff of board-certified psychiatrists, and licensed counselors and social workers utilize empirically based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and a family systems approach to assist our clients in building a life worth living. Each of our clinicians embody values that center on caring and empowering people. These values are the foundation of Innerspace Counseling and they lay the path for your journey toward holistic wellness.

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Ajita Shah, LPC, NCC, ACS, PMH-C

Founder/Program Director at Innerspace Counseling, LLC

Ajita has been dedicated to creating and enhancing mental health and counseling programs across New Jersey for the last two decades. Her commitment to ensuring high quality care for all led her to opening Innerspace Counseling in 2014. Her goal in opening Innerspace was to create an environment that allowed clients to feel safe, empowered and heard; as well as to break the stigma regarding mental health and provide an increased awareness of both mental health and the supports available within the community.

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, she has treated hundreds of clients in a variety of settings (inpatient and outpatient) from ages 8 years all the way thru adult hood and across the life span utilizing a behavioral and trauma informed approach. As an Approved Clinical Supervisor, Ajita believes that education, training, and proper supervision are key to ensuring that clients receive the highest quality of care. In addition to her responsibilities overseeing the programs she also conducts training and education for mental health and school personnel. Furthermore, as a certified perinatal mental health provider, she also promotes awareness, prevention and treatment of perinatal mood disorders.

As a female and a person of color, Ajita has experienced firsthand the challenges that many face in their ability to acknowledge their mental health and gain access to the appropriate treatment and supports within the current mental health system. To that end, Ajita has created a strong DBT-based curriculum for each of the Innerspace Counseling programs. This curriculum, along with the system’s-based approach, ensures that clients are learning concrete and usable skills that can be translated into any area of a client’s life regardless of who they are and where they come from.

Recent Awards:

  • Innerspace Counseling, LLC:
  • 2016, 2017, and 2020 Best of Old Bridge Award in Mental Health Counseling
  • Personal Award: 2017 Women of Distinction Award Recipient

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Hema Vyas, MD

Medical Director

Dr. Vyas is a double board-certified child/adolescent and adult psychiatrist with two decades of experience in the field. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team and clients from her outpatient work as well as her work in intensive outpatient and partial care programs throughout New Jersey.

She brings a holistic approach to her work with children, adolescents, and adults by combining meditation and mindfulness techniques along with medication when necessary. She approaches issues from their core and finds the best approach for each individual patient. She collaborates with Innerspace’s team of therapists and Nurse Practitioners to ensure each patient’s needs are met.

Dr. Vyas has expertise in treating Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, OCD, Mood Disorders, Behavioral Issues, and ADHD. She is a caring and empathetic provider who listens to the needs of her clients and their parents/families, guiding them toward finding long-term healing and wellness.

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Ololade "Lola" Ekwere, PMHNP-BC, FNP-BC

Lola has practiced for over 12 years in various capacities in healthcare serving patients and their families. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Nursing, Cum Laude from William Paterson University in 2009, Lola began her career as an Intensive Care Unit nurse, catering to patients and families at their most vulnerable in the hospital.

Seeking advancement in her career and expanding her breadth of knowledge, Lola returned for further education and obtained a Masters Degree in Nursing from Rutgers University - UMDNJ, graduating with honors in her chosen concentration of Family practice/Primary care.

While practicing as a primary care advanced practice nurse (APN), she observed that several of her patients needed significant mental health care as part of their overall treatment and wellness maintenance plans. This led her to pursue additional training and certification in Psychiatric and Mental Health care from Maryville University, where she also graduated with Honors.

During her career and education, Lola developed comfort in treating individuals with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, sleep disorders and other common psychiatric disorders. Because she understands the interconnectedness of mental and physical health, she works collaboratively with each patient to prioritize and meet their mental health needs. Additionally, she is empathetic, listens and practices using evidence-based guidelines in order to provide the best available care for her patients.


Danielle “Dani” Paige, LPC, NCC

Clinical Coordinator

Dani obtained her master’s degree in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling from Georgian Court University. She is a firm believer in growing alongside of her clients, and takes a humble and relatable approach to providing support for those navigating through the obstacles life can present. For personal growth and development is a continuum, and Dani's motto is to always stay authentic, and above all else acknowledge that we are all human, sharing a very human experience.

Dani has experience working in an outpatient setting, providing support from acute to more substantial mental health difficulties. She has experience working with all ages and a broad range of cultural and ethnic populations. Dani utilizes an eclectic approach between CBT, DBT, Person-Centered therapy, and Existentialism when providing individualized treatment for clients. This is to ensure that each client is met with an individualized treatment plan that pertains specifically to their needs upon assessment.

Dani takes great pride in helping encourage a positive environment that fosters growth, compassion, and enlightenment.


Lauren Spiegel, MA, LAC

Senior Therapist

Lauren graduated from Kean University with her master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Prior to her masters, she graduated with her Bachelor of Art in Sociology from William Paterson University. Lauren has experience volunteering at a women’s crisis center and working in the partial care and IOP setting. She is eager help clients realize their full potential.

Lauren believes in having an open, honest, and empathetic relationship with her clients. She believes everyone’s situation is different and takes a personal and unique approach to each client and their therapy. Lauren utilizes a strength-based approach along with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in her approach to counseling. She works with children, adolescents, and adults. She is currently working towards gaining her LPC.


Taylor Strothmann, MA, LAC

Primary Therapist

Taylor earned her master's in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Children and Adolescents from Montclair State University. She also has a master's in Counseling Psychology from Felician University. Taylor has experience working with children who were patients of the Pediatric Subspeciality Hospital at St. Joseph's Hospital. She has also worked with adults who suffer from a dual diagnosis of severe mental health disorders and substance abuse in a partial hospitalization program. She also has experience as a community support service professional. Taylor’s approach includes an eclectic person-centered theory that focuses on changing your thoughts to reduce the frequency and intensity of symptoms. She is also very interested in psychoanalysis and inner child work. Taylor is excited to be working in this level of care so that she may help our clients reach their goals and improve their overall wellness.

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Francesca Canzoneri, LAC

Primary Therapist

Francesca is a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC) and earned her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Monmouth University. Francesca utilizes an eclectic approach including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, humanistic, and psychoanalysis. She has experience working with children, teens and adults. She provides a safe space for clients to authentically express their feelings and needs while also guiding clients toward growth and progress toward their therapeutic goals. In addition to traditional talk-therapy, Francesca enjoys implementing techniques and interventions to promote learning opportunities, personal growth, and facilitate desired change. Francesca strives to create and maintain a therapeutic space that creates opportunities for her clients to be vulnerable, feel heard, and be seen. Francesca understands there are various challenges people face throughout their lifespan, and along with challenges comes an abundance of varying emotions and stressors. She is passionate about helping her clients uncover their deepest needs and desires, understanding their own thoughts and feelings, and providing guidance on how to best meet their goals through self-exploration, communication, and appropriate action.

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Gabriela "Gaby" Valentino, MSW, LSW

Primary Therapist

Gaby earned her master’s in social work from Rutgers University. Prior to her masters, she graduated with a bachelor’s in Psychology from The College of New Jersey. Gaby has experience working in community-based settings, transitional living programs, and schools. Gaby has worked with children and adolescents with a wide range of intellectual and behavioral disabilities.

Gaby believes in the primary mission of the social work profession; enhancing human well-being and helping meet the basic human needs of all people. Gaby utilizes an eclectic approach that includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Person-Center Therapy, and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. She is currently working toward gaining her LCSW.

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Kristen Paladino, LSW

Primary Therapist

Kristen is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and earned her Master of Social Work degree from Rutgers University - New Brunswick. She takes a strength-based approach and believes in the inherent worth and value of all of her clients. Kristen utilizes an integrated therapeutic approach as unique as each of her clients. She has experience working with children, teens, and adults across partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, community, and school environments. She creates a therapeutic environment that encourages her clients to explore and achieve their desired treatment goals. Kristen is a strong advocate for her clients and aims to empower her clients to do the same in their lives.


Anthony Zazzarino, PhD, LPC, ACS, CPRP

Per Diem Therapist

Anthony Zazzarino, PhD, LPC, ACS, CPRP is a per-diem group therapist with Innerspace Counseling since 2016. Dr. Zazzarino uses an integrative approach when supporting clients, grounding his work from a strengths perspective. Additionally, Dr. Zazzarino is an Assistant Professor with Rutgers University, School of Health Professions, Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions where he is a core faculty in the master’s program in Rehabilitation Counseling and the doctoral program in Psychiatric Rehabilitation. Additionally, Dr. Zazzarino is the field experience coordinator for the Counselor Education and Supervision track. Dr. Zazzarino is actively presenting at local, state, national, and international conferences related to affectional and gender minorities; multiculturalism; psychiatric rehabilitation methods; counseling services; housing; and supervision practices. In addition to his work at Innerspace Counseling and Rutgers University, Dr. Zazzarino provides outpatient counseling services at his private practice and clinical supervision for counselors who need supervised clinical hours in New Jersey.

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Grace Montes, MA, LPC, NCC, ACS

Per Diem Therapist

Grace Montes is a highly experienced Licensed Professional Counselor with a distinguished career in the field of Mental Health since 2007. She runs groups for our IOP and PHP programs contributing her valuable expertise to our clients. She is experienced in treating various mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, relationship problems, grief, traumatic reactions, and sexual assault. Her diverse experience includes working as a therapist in partial level of care settings, providing essential support to individuals facing acute psychiatric challenges. Additionally, Grace has made a positive impact in the lives of children, adolescents, and families through her work as a school-based counselor in the Rahway school systems.

With a focus on empowering high achieving women, Grace specializes in addressing struggles related to depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, and life transitions. Her compassionate and collaborative approach to therapy has been widely recognized and valued by her clients. This is her current focus in her private practice. With a wealth of experience and a compassionate approach to therapy, Grace Montes remains a significant figure in the mental health field, empowering individuals on their path to emotional well-being and personal growth.

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Jordan Glass

Community Outreach Liaison & Clinical Support Worker

Jordan earned her Bachelors' Degree in Counseling and Human Services from The University of Scranton. Jordans background is in non-profit homelessness rehousing, case management and academic guidance counseling. She is dedicated to assisting clients and their families through difficult processes. To do this, she prioritizes maintaining/ building a large resource network in the community, in hopes to promote positive outcomes and wellbeing. Jordan also has a personal and professional passion for advocacy and advancement in the mental health and human services industry.

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Melissa Maranzano, M.A.

Director of Program Development & Quality Assurance

Melissa has 20 years of experience in nonprofit and mental health. Her work and life experiences have led to a commitment to building strong community relationships to promote positive health and well-being and improving outcomes for children and families affected by abuse, mental health, and poverty.

Melissa utilizes her experience to train both professionals and community members. Her expertise in program planning, quality assurance and evaluation assist in the improvement of systems and programs that benefit clients and the community. She believes in arming parents, youth, teachers, and community members with resources and knowledge to better support themselves and one another. Utilizing a trauma informed lens to educate, she works to create protective factors in our homes, schools, and neighborhoods.