Our Therapists

Our Therapists

Leslie Shakespeare
Owner/Therapist
Leslie Shakespeare
Leslie cofounded Life Stages Counseling in 2004 with her colleague, Maria Muscente. Leslie has over 25 years of experience as a Social Worker after receiving her Master’s degree in Social Work from the State University at Albany. She worked for two different agencies providing social work services to developmentally disabled adults and their families. She moved to Ithaca in 1989 and began working for the Franziska Racker Centers as a social worker in a preschool special education classroom and then on their evaluation team where she evaluated children with social and emotional concerns. She provided social work services for preschool children through the Tompkins County Early Intervention Program and through local school districts in Tompkins County. In 2004 she left the Racker Centers to start Life Stages Counseling. She has extensive experience and training in working with young children and their families, with elementary age children, with adults and families. Leslie’s areas of interest and expertise include parenting education and support, social/emotional development in children, anxiety disorders in children and adults, and step-parenting. Her therapeutic focus is in growth-oriented work using a strengths-based perspective, play therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Maria Muscente
Owner/Therapist
Maria Muscente
Maria cofounded Life Stages Counseling in 2004 with her colleague, Leslie Shakespeare.  Maria holds a strength~ based philosophy and focus on the belief that people innately know what they need to feel whole and healthy. Assisting them on this journey towards mental health and balance through person-centered therapy is the key to her work with her clients, and part of the mission of Life Stages Counseling.  Maria specializes in child, adolescent, and adult therapy. Specific areas of interest include helping people with parenting support and education, adolescent counseling, play therapy with young children, supporting college students, and general counseling for adults. Maria grew up in a small community close to Ithaca, and has lived in Ithaca since 1997. Maria has over twenty years of experience in clinical social work. Maria graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1994, and from Marywood University with a Master's degree in 1996. Maria worked for the Franziska Racker Centers for six years, both providing social work services in their preschool classrooms for children with special needs, and providing play therapy to preschool children. Maria also co-directed the Family Resolution Project through the Racker Centers, and affiliated with the Department of Social Services, to assist families who had open cases in the child protective unit in strength-based care planning for their children. Maria facilitated a support group for foster and adoptive parents through the Department of Social Services also during this time. Maria has her Certificate in School Social Work, and has worked both as an elementary school social worker in the Ithaca City School District, and as a middle and high school social worker in the Spencer Van Etten School District. Maria also contracted with the state of New York Tompkins County Early Intervention Program, and currently with  the Committees on Preschool Special Education in surrounding school districts to provide play therapy and family counseling services to children within these two programs.   Maria believes that people innately know what they need to feel whole and healthy. Therapeutic support offers people an arena to search for their own answers with gentle guidance and clarity. This support can strengthen both skills sets and feeling of ownership and confidence in ability to care for oneself. Maria's therapeutic philosophy is a strength-based, person centered approach to well-being and mental health. Maria is also the mother of three daughters.
Lisa Pate
LCSW-R
Lisa Pate
Lisa grew up in downstate NY and came to Ithaca in 1987 to attend Cornell University. She completed her BS in Human Development and Family Studies in 1993 while working as an infant/toddler teacher at Ithaca Community Childcare Center. She stayed on at IC3 after graduating, where her interest in working with children and families led to a career in social work. Lisa received her MSW from Marywood University in Scranton, PA in 2003 and worked briefly after graduation as a clinician at Family and Children’s Service of Ithaca. Soon after this, Lisa began working for Franziska Racker Centers as a Day Treatment Counselor, working with children and teens with emotional and behavioral disabilities and their families. As a Day Treatment Counselor, Lisa has worked with children and adolescents who struggle with anxiety, and who experience mood and behavioral difficulties. She is experienced in using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy with children and adolescents, and has experience in teaching Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills to teenagers. Her approach to working with children and adolescents is to help them discover their own strengths, and to develop life-long skills to manage their emotions so they can engage effectively with others in their world. Lisa works to build partnerships with parents and caregivers as she believes families are the best advocates and supports for their children. Lisa has also been a Parenting Educator through Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County since 1999. In that position, she has taught classes including Parents Apart, the Parenting Skills Workshop Series, Parenting Styles, and Thriving with Your Spirited Child. She has also done in-home parenting education through their Facilitated Visitation program. Lisa takes a strengths-based, developmental approach to helping families through life-stage transitions. Her focus is on building on a family’s strengths and helping add new tools to their parenting skills, with the goal of improving communication and building positive relationships.
Travis Winter
LCSW-R
Travis Winter
Travis is a graduate of Tompkins Cortland Community College with an AS degree in Social Science (1991), Ithaca College, With a BA in psychology (1995) and the University of Pennsylvania, Master of Social Work (1997).  He also holds a post graduate certificate in non-profit management from SUNY Buffalo (2006). He has worked as a clinical social worker in a myriad of settings including: outpatient mental health, child welfare, social work administration, EAP, parent education, and private consulting. He served in a position as a Day Treatment Counselor working with emotionally disturbed children and their families through the Franziska Racker Centers Counseling for School Success Program at T-S-T BOCES located in Ithaca, NY for nineteen years. He then served as a clinical counselor and student advisor to students at Tompkins Cortland Community College for 2 years.  More recently he is a member of the Counseling and Psychiatry Services (CAPS) team providing therapy to students at Cornell University. What you can expect from work with Travis: Above all, you will find an unconditional respect and appreciation for you as an individual, your inherent greatness, and a reverence for sharing the journey of life.  My approach to therapy is to create a space that draws upon my professional and personal experience which allows you to feel safe and supported without judgment.  With compassion and kindness I will help you examine your life and identify the events and patterns that have kept you from having the life you desire. I will be honest, direct, and I will caringly challenge you as a way to encourage self analysis and exploration. I have had extensive training in meditation, relaxation techniques and mindfulness practices and offer these as additional opportunities for personal growth. You are your greatest resource. I believe that through the power of the therapeutic process you can identify solutions to the things that trouble you.  I will work with you to find healing, acceptance, and the freedom to be happy and at peace.
Amanda Spaulding
LCSW-R
Amanda Spaulding
Amanda has been a practicing social worker since 1994. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in psychology and received her Masters of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. She has extensive clinical experience, both within schools, agencies and private practice.  She has post-graduate training in play therapy, most recently from the Family and Play Therapy Center in Philadelphia. Her therapeutic approaches include play, cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic therapy. She has varied experience working with children, teens and adults and has a special interest in postpartum mental health issues. She currently works with young parents and their children at the Child Development Council and co-facilitates parenting classes for the Cornell Cooperative Extension.  Amanda is also a Certified Lactation Counselor. Her approach is strength-based and non-judgmental.
Deborah Loewe
LCSW-R
Deborah Loewe
Deborah received her MSW from Rutgers University and has been working in the field of social work in a variety of positions for the past 25 years. Deborah's positions have included working as a Hospice and Oncology Social Worker and as a Mental Health Therapist in a community Mental Health agency. For the past 8 years she has been working as a Day Treatment therapist for Franziska Racker Centers with children with a variety of mental health diagnosis and their families. Deborah's varied experience has given her the opportunity to work with individuals with many types of issues across the life span. She has some training in art therapy and as a lover of art, enjoys bringing creativity to the therapeutic process. Deborah believes that each individual has within them innate wisdom which can be a guide to their own healing and growth . She sees the therapeutic process as a journey toward that wisdom and as a container to nurture that growth. Currently, Deborah is specializing in working with teens and adults with relational, mood, anxiety and trauma issues. Modalities include psychodynamic, CBT and mindfulness practices.
James Burnham
LCSW-R
James Burnham
James graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Master’s degree in social work. He has over 20 years of experience as a therapist in a variety of settings and with people of various ages. After growing up in Israel and then living in several different states from the south to the west coast, James moved to Ithaca in 1999. He has been working since then as a therapist and supervisor for the Franziska Racker Centers in the adolescent day treatment program located at TST BOCES. He also teaches parenting classes at Cornell Cooperative Extension. James has expertise and interest in several areas including working with children and adolescents, couples work, and third culture issues. He is grounded in developmental and object relations theory. He is trained in CBT and DBT and has significant experience with mindfulness-based strategies. James’ approach is based on the belief that all people have within them that which is needed to cope with and navigate the challenges that life brings. By facing struggles directly rather than avoiding them, it is possible to find solutions to difficult issues.
Jessica Massaro
LCSW-R
Jessica Massaro
Jessica received her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY and her Master's Degree in Social Work from Boston University with a specialization and certificate in Family Therapy and Couples Counseling. She has worked for Walden Behavioral Care's Inpatient Psychiatric and Eating Disorder Units, in Waltham, MA, as well as their Partial Hospitalization Programs and Residential Programs. Jessica also worked for Tompkins County Mental Health Clinic for nearly a decade as a Psychiatric Social Worker, providing assessments/diagnosis, individual therapy, family therapy, couples therapy, and group therapy. Additionally, she currently works for Cornell Health as a Behavioral Health Consultant, as a member of the Primary Care/ Sports Medicine Team and has previous experience in a college counseling center, with special interest in this population. Jessica has significant experience in providing couples counseling, family therapy, treating eating disorders, providing behavioral interventions and therapeutic interventions for sexual difficulties which may interfere with ability to achieve or maintain pleasure, sleep disturbances which may best be treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, and in working with high school, collegiate or elite athletes working to achieve their goals around the area of sport psychology which may include performance anxiety, resiliency training and overall mental health issues that may arise. Jessica believes in a strength based, person-centered perspective and that a shift of focus from problem talk to solutions talk oftentimes makes all the difference in the world. Jessica works most comfortably with ages 15 through geriatric.
Pat Dematteo
LCSW-R
Pat Dematteo
Pat graduated from Penn State University with Bachelors degrees in Psychology and Spanish and SUNY Buffalo with an MSW. More recently, she earned a Post-Graduate Certificate in Adoption Therapy from Hunter College School of Social Work. She is credentialed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker(LCSW-R) in New York State. In Pat's practice, she uses an eclectic, integrative approach informed by: Solution Focused Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Play Therapy and CBT, among others. She believes that the client-therapist relationship is the foundation of her work. She provides a safe, non-judgmental space where people are able to find the courage, insight and skills to make their lives and relationships more fulfilling. She collaborates with parents and other family members as needed. She has been working with individuals, families and groups over 40 years. Most recently, Pat has worked with elementary age students in a school based mental health clinic. Her other experiences include settings in a county health department, nursing home and community counseling center. Pat has supported clients coping with a variety of problems including: life transitions, depression, anxiety, grief and self-esteem issues.
Lynn Podhaski
LMHC
Lynn Podhaski
Lynn has over 30 years of experience as a therapist, working with adults, adolescents and couples.  His past experience also includes work as a supervisor in a large clinic, offering mentoring and training to other therapists.  He understands that no two people are alike and each person starting therapy brings with them their unique set of life circumstances and individual temperament.  He draws on his extensive experience to address the needs of each person.  Therapy is not so much about technique as it is about a  therapeutic relationship.  In the context of that relationship Lynn may draw on a number of therapeutic approaches.  Some that he has found most helpful include working with one’s life narrative or story and an approach called mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy.  Both of these approaches involve looking at and understanding how habitual ways of thinking influence feelings and behavior.  Lynn has also worked with many individuals who have experienced life changing trauma.  People who come to therapy wanting to be free of the negative effects of trauma need first of all a relationship of trust as a kind of base from which the therapy can proceed.   Lynn feels grateful to be able to be a part of a collaborative process working towards change in his client’s lives.
Rebecca DeBell
LCSW-R
Rebecca DeBell
Rebecca received her Bachelor of Arts in sociology from State University of New York at Potsdam in 1996 and her Master of social work from State University of New York at Buffalo in 2002.  Upon receiving her MSW, Rebecca worked in a residential setting with children ages 10-18.  Within this setting Rebecca helped children learn healthy coping skills to manage behaviors that stemmed from varied mental health disabilities and environmental traumas.  For the past 13 years, Rebecca has worked for Racker as a Day Treatment Therapist at the Turning Point Program located at TST BOCES.  As a Day Treatment Therapist, Rebecca has had the experience of working with students from elementary ages through high school who struggle with behavioral and emotional disabilities.  In her work, Rebecca uses a myriad of therapeutic approaches ranging from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness practices, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, play therapy, and family systems work. Rebecca supports a client-centered approach where a person can become open to experience, trust in themselves and have a willingness to grow through self-reflection.  She believes that with support and guidance clients can effectively learn skills to overcome barriers that impact their ability to fully engage, be present in the moment and move closer to a contented life.