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ABOUT US

College mental health,
reimagined.

Learn our story and meet our team!
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Our Mission

Provide college students a safe, supportive space in which they receive quality and consistent mental health care that is highly accessible, affordable, specialized, and culturally sensitive.

“We love serving students! It is our passion and our life’s work. There is nothing more fulfilling to us than to see students thrive in the face of adversity and develop into even more amazing versions of themselves. We feel so excited and privileged to have served so many students and cannot wait to watch them grow into tomorrow’s leaders!”

Founded in 2014

Founded in 2014 by psychologists and prior college counselors, Dr. Keith Higginbotham and Dr. Brett Donnelly, Acacia Counseling and Wellness began in response to a great need for outpatient mental health services in university communities.

Expanded to two states

Brett and Keith saw first hand that the student demand for mental health services was increasing rapidly and how difficult it was to find long term treatment options that are accessible, affordable, and specialized to students. They opened in both California and Minnesota.

Looking forward

Acacia was formed to tear down barriers and advocate for students in their search for better outpatient mental health care. Today, Acacia is the leading provider of outpatient, college student mental health in seven cities across California and Minnesota

Our Core Values

Our values are mirrored within every Acacia team member from the minute you walk in the door.

Passionate

We care about the students we serve and it shows in the quality of care Acacia students receive.

Fun

The work we do is very serious but it’s important for us to laugh, smile, and have fun when we can!

Inclusive

Different identities allow us to provide a more enriching environment and find more creative solutions.

A more inclusive environment is a more loving environment. At Acacia, we want to feel the same safety and warmth as we do in our own homes. We do everything we can to ensure anyone walking through our doors feel the same way

Growth-Oriented

Acacia works to open new clinics, expand services, and promote personal and professional growth.

Supportive

We know that no one can do it by themselves and it takes a community to do great things.

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Dr. Keith Higginbotham

Co-Founder & CEO
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Dr. Brett Donnelly

Co-Founder & CVO
jess2

Jess Rodriguez

Chief Business Officer
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Dr. Robbyn Jackson

Chief Operations Officer

Our DEIJ Committee

Portialyn Buzzanga

Advisor

KorbyQuan Reed

Advisor

Jeff Burdick

Member

Pallavi Kumar

Member

Victoria Terrill

Member

Caroline Stark

Member

Our Board of Advisors

Saji Gunawardane

Principal Attorney | US Business Counsel

Jim Smith

Business Mentor, Retired Business Owner | SCORE

Greg Pfeuffer

Certified Public Accountant | Mueller Prost

Jay Johnson

Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, CEO/Owner| Small Lot Wine

Golnaz Agahi

Owner | SocialWise Consulting

Drew Melendres

Chief Client Servicer | Ardeo Education Services

Carl Schwab

Transformative & Strategy | West Monroe Partners

Steve Boschken

Business Mentor, Business Owner | Boschken Properties

Alumni

Blake Olson

Sales & Leasing Tenant Rep | Avison Young (AY)

Alumni

Jonathan Larsen

Principal & Management Dir. Tenant Rep | Avison Young (AY)

Alumni

Our Board of Advisors

Saji Gunawardane

Principal Attorney | US Business Counsel

Jim Smith

Business Mentor, Retired Business Owner | SCORE

Greg Pfeuffer

Certified Public Accountant | Mueller Prost

Jay Johnson

Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, CEO/Owner| Small Lot Wine

Golnaz Agahi

Owner | SocialWise Consulting

Drew Melendres

Chief Client Servicer | Ardeo Education Services

Carl Schwab

Transformative & Strategy | West Monroe Partners

Steve Boschken

Business Mentor, Business Owner | Boschken Properties

Alumni

Blake Olson

Sales & Leasing Tenant Rep | Avison Young (AY)

Alumni

Jonathan Larsen

Principal & Management Dir. Tenant Rep | Avison Young (AY)

Alumni

DR. KEITH HIGGINBOTHAM
HE/HIM/HIS | #PSY26572

Co-founder & chief executive officer (ceo)

ABOUT ME

I’m a co-founder and co-owner of Acacia and wear several hats including Chief Financial Officer, HIPAA Security Officer, contracts and leasing lead, construction management, and therapist. I helped start Acacia in 2014 to address the growing need to help UC Santa Barbara students connect with a qualified, affordable, and accessible therapist to meet their long-term needs for mental health treatment. I love being part of helping more and more students get the support they need and at the same time providing a fun, supportive, and rewarding work environment for our staff. When I’m not working, I enjoy being outdoors--hiking, biking, climbing, riding my motorcycle, or just hanging out at a local coffee shop.

What is your favorite children's story?

I actually have 2 books that I remember well from my early childhood--Curious George and The Little Engine that Could. I really connected with George’s curious mind and penchant for new adventures. As for the Little Engine, well I think I felt inspired by the courage and determination of this little character with such a giant heart.

What, in your opinion, is the most amazing animal?

The dog. We have so much to learn from their simplicity, ability to forgive, loyalty, and unconditional love.

dr. brett donnelly
he/him/his | #PSY26685/#LP6331

co-founder & chief visionary officer (cvo)

ABOUT ME

I'm originally from a small town in Wisconsin called Lake Geneva. Growing up, my family struggled with addiction and other mental health issues. We also were low-income and, as a first generation college student, I had a hard time finding the appropriate therapy services while I was in school. Services were either unaffordable or inaccessible, or both! I will never forget when I finally found a therapist who helped me work through a trauma I experienced while in college. It was life altering! It was through this personal therapeutic journey that I became passionate about college student mental health. It's what gives me the passion to work with young adults everyday and help them through their journey. I feel so excited every day that I continue to work at Acacia. I feel inspired by the students we serve and continue to feel motivated to remove mental health barriers for college students. Currently, I feel thrilled about our work in the telehealth arena as we can reach even more students than ever before!

If you had one extra hour of free time a day how would you use it?

I would definitely spend it outside! Although this might be challenging in the winter as I live in Minneapolis. During my free hour I would walk through the park to Lake Nokomis with my wife, Stefanie, and our dog Coda. We would all go paddle boarding with a cooler and music on us at all times! Coda loves the water and enjoys pulling us on the board (or tipping us over when he tries to get up on the board). After our time on the lake, time to head straight to Sandcastle for some food in the sun. That sounds like a perfect way to spend my extra hour - or more likely 90 minutes.

What’s your favorite car that you’ve owned?

Just last year I purchased a Tesla Model 3. I have to say that it is not only my favorite car, but the best purchase I have ever made (other than my house I suppose). Keep in mind, I LOVE to go on long road trips. There is nothing better than going out with my brothers, friends, or family and touring the country. I have already had the chance to take the Tesla, or "Elle" as we affectionately refer to her as, to the East Coast and the West Coast. My brother and I went on a college football road trip (I am a lifelong Wisconsin Badgers fan) last November and ended up going to Penn State, Gettysburg, Fredrick, Anapolis, Baltimore, DC, Roanoke, and finally West Lafayette. Then, Stefanie, Coda and I took a road trip to our favorite place last winter...California! It was so nice to put the car on auto pilot and cruise. Not paying for gas in an additional bonus! We have already made so many memories in Elle and can't wait for so many more!

Dr. Robbyn Jackson
she/her/hers | #PSY21576

Chief operating officer (COO)

ABOUT ME

I am a Clinical Psychologist of over 20 years, and the Lead Director for Acacia Counseling & Wellness. I oversee all of the Acacia offices by working closely with the directors to provide excellent mental health services to university and college communities. I play a significant role in the development of new locations and I strive to ensure that each office is filled with passionate, competent and diverse therapists. My favorite thing about working at Acacia is the people! We create teams of therapists and staff who enjoy coming to work each day, not only because they are eager to work with students, but also because they are part of a committed team that values mental health, as well as fun and laughter.

Prior to being the Lead, I was the Director of the original Acacia in Isla Vista, California which serves the UC Santa Barbara community. As an alumnus of UCSB, this was a special honor! I am also very proud to be the first therapist chosen by the owners to work for Acacia in 2015. I love spending time with my partner and sons, Max and Chase, as well as my family-of-friends, who bring me joy and realness.

where are you from and how did you get to acacia?

I am originally from a small town in Texas called Aransas Pass. My journey to Acacia started as a trainee at Northwestern University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, and then took me to DePaul University where I did my post-doc and became a senior staff psychologist. I later realized how these experiences shaped my career and passion to work with emerging adults.

What is something interesting about you?

Some interesting (or not so interesting) things about me are that I figured out the hard way that axe throwing is not as easy as it looks! In Texas, we grew up with archery and target-shooting, so I naturally assumed that I would impress my colleagues when we signed up to go axe throwing...Not so much! Another little-known fact about me is that I surf, and while I do not shred...I do LOVE to surf! I wish all of my dreams could be of me catching waves.

PORTIALYN BUZZANGA
#LCSW95795

AREAS OF EXPERTISE

COMING SOON

therapeutic orientation

COMING SOON

about me

Greetings and welcome to Acacia Counseling and Wellness—Irvine! I am thrilled to be a part of the Acacia family and to serve the students of UCI and the surrounding community.

Transitioning to university life, whether it be undergrad or graduate school, can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience but it can also come with many challenges and obstacles that may be difficult to face in this new space. My goal is to create an environment where students can present “where they are”, develop, embrace, and understand their identities, establish security in themselves, and develop the skills to successfully navigate and enjoy their time as they pursue their academic and social goals.

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work with individuals from all walks of life and in a myriad of settings. I have built my career in a variety of roles within the mental health realm, mostly in leadership, operations, community work, and direct practice. I started as a community social worker/therapist providing crisis stabilization services before working my way into the acute care world as an inpatient mental health social worker. I then developed an interest in leadership and have managed teams in both acute care and freestanding hospitals working with individuals across the lifespan, opportunities that allowed me to oftentimes work with college students experiencing difficulties transitioning into adulthood, adjusting to the demands of rigorous academic programs, and feeling overwhelmed with reframed definitions of success. I believe my journey thus far has led me to Acacia and I am honored and happy to be here.

I am dedicated to cultivating a supportive, stimulating, and inclusive environment that will allow students and the Acacia Irvine team to reach their full potential and be the best they can be. I look forward to getting to know all of you and working collaboratively to help the students served be well, do well, live well.

When I am not busy trying to be a blend of Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, and Olivia Pope from Scandal, I am otherwise busy chasing my two toddlers and supporting my husband’s desire to be cast as Batman (he’ll take Wolverine as well). I am fairly new to SoCal so I enjoy exploring the region, attempting to craft, uninterrupted naps, college basketball, and traveling although I do not recommend international travel (or even cross-country flights) with toddlers…just don’t do it (totally kidding…kind of☺).

KorbyQuan Reed | He/him/his

CREATIVE DIRECTOR

ABOUT ME

Howdy! I am KorbyQuan (Korby) Reed and I’m the Creative Director. I do a host of things: establish our marketing, develop our website and materials, design our office spaces, and lead our outreach coordinators.

During a quarter-life crisis while attending graduate school for Counseling & Student Personnel at the University of Minnesota, I discovered Acacia’s new position of marketing lead and decided it would be a good way to blend my counseling work with more creative and versatile projects. I met Dr. Brett Donnelly, Co-Owner, for one of the best interviews I’ve ever had, in the Minneapolis office that featured a couch, a water cooler, and two chairs. I was then hired to be the marketing lead and eventually took over as Office Manager, where I finally got the opportunity to expand my work and expand the furniture situation in that office! In 2018, I moved to California to open our Westwood and La Jolla offices as Site Development Manager and will be opening many more!

I love working for Acacia for many reasons, some of them being that there is so much room to voice your opinions, offer perspective, and make change that is meaningful to you and your teams. Our company is growing fast and it’s important for everyone to maintain our community and to expand it in a way that feels right and feels growth-centered. In my free time I enjoy staring at my cute pup and cat Bishop & Nile, crafting new play ideas, and exploring new places to go. I want to push myself to keep discovering and to keep finding new ways to enjoy life.

What book had the most significant impact on you?

When I was a wee little one, I read a book that I feel was impactful for a few reasons, which was The Westing Game. I loved that it was essentially a murder mystery for kids. The characters we easy to follow but it has twists and social interactions that skew more adult but gave us kids the opportunity to think outside the box and problem solve. Now, I thank books like The Westing Game for feeding my inner puzzle solver which now translates to my pull towards true crime and escape rooms.

Would you ever try space tourism, if you had the money for it?

I have a total fascination for space! Something about the vastness, the mystery, and the possibility of what’s out there is utterly awesome but it is also utterly terrifying. I would definitely try space tourism but with some limits, perhaps only a moon or two to start.

JEFF BURDICK
HE/HIM/HIS | #LCSW88685

AREAS OF EXPERTISE

Bipolar Disorder, Coping Skills, Divorce, Family Conflict, Grief, Life Coaching, Men's Issues, Parenting, Self-Esteem, Spirituality, Sports Performance, Stress

therapeutic orientation

Attachment Based, Cognitive Behavioral (CBT), Family Systems, Interpersonal and Social Rhythms Therapy, Mindfulness, Narrative Therapy, Play Therapy, Strength Based

about me

Hello! Several years ago I left a career in business to pursue my passion of empowering others to address challenges and reach their goals. Personally, I have used therapy since college to improve the quality of my life. If you are new to therapy, it’s important to know that you are in charge of the process and can share what you want and when. You also get to decide if you feel comfortable with a therapist. Therapy works best when you are completely at ease with the person you are working with. I’m excited about potentially being that therapist for you.

In my free time, I love hiking, anything outdoors, yoga, reading, nature shows, creating Spotify playlists, movies, documentaries, and The Office. I also enjoy spending time with my daughters, family and friends, and traveling. Fun fact about me is that I once road-tripped across the country for 5 months and worked in Europe for a year. Thank you for reading!

Pallavi kumar
she/her/hers| #LMFT119287

AREAS OF EXPERTISE

Anxiety, Depression, Communication skills, Couples Therapy, Family Conflict, Grief, Life Transitions, Premarital/Marital Relationships, Multiculturalism, Parenting, Interpersonal Relationships, Racial Identity, Self Esteem, Spirituality

Additional Languages: Hindu, Urdu

therapeutic orientation

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Existential, Family Systems, Gestalt, Narrative, Multicultural, Psychodynamic, Solution Focused Brief Therapy

about me

Welcome! Taking the first step to heal and getting to know your self is challenging... but I am here for you! I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a graduate of Antioch University Santa Barbara. I have experience working with young adults, adults, seniors, couples and families at various sites in Santa Barbara.

I am passionate about mental health/well being and offer a safe, warm and inviting space in my sessions. My style is holistic, integrative and collaborative. I focus on empowerment while helping you reach your goal and find your inner voice. I firmly believe our emotional well-being is closely tied to everything we do, whether it’s making a life decision or pursuing a relationship. A well integrated mind, body and soul can help us find balance in life and move on from unfinished business.

As someone from a different cultural background I appreciate other cultures and understand how our culture can impacts us. It fuels me to be open to the experience of others and be a witness to their struggles/triumphs.

When I am not working, I can be found in my kitchen experimenting with recipes and spending time with family and friends.

Victoria Terrill
SHE/HER/HERs|#LCSW26103

AREAS OF EXPERTISE

Anxiety, Depression, Family Conflict, Grief, Life Coaching, Life Transitions, Parenting/Co-Parenting, Relationship Issues, Self Esteem, Stress Management

therapeutic orientation

Cognitive Behavioral (CBT), Dialectical (DBT), Motivational Interviewing, Person Centered, Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), Trauma Informed, Strengths Based

about me

I am so honored to have the opportunity to work with Acacia and to assist motivated individuals and families in their personal journeys to increased life satisfaction. My background includes working in a variety of settings, including in the Court setting, hospital setting, school setting and nonprofit setting. I am also currently an adjunct professor with California State University, Northridge teaching and supporting graduate students. I am married and a mother to two sons, one in college and one in high school. I feel like I have firsthand knowledge, personally and professionally, of the challenges that come along with navigating the world as a college student or during other types of life transitions.

My therapeutic approaches include drawing from various modalities to assist you in meeting your personal goals. I consider myself a life-long learner and am always looking for ways to improve my practice and incorporate approaches that will assist my clients.

Since becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, my experience has taught me that the most important aspect of therapy, by far, is the connection you feel with the person you choose to share your personal struggles and vulnerabilities. Providing a supportive and non-judgmental space for you to share is the most important thing to me. I believe we can all grow through challenging experiences by increasing our self-awareness, reflecting, and understanding the role internal and external factors play in our daily life.

I hope to assist you by offering a different perspective and additional support that will provide some insight when you are feeling stuck. We all want to be able to share our personal truths and be accepted and understood. I will provide you with my genuine and authentic self as we navigate and explore ways to improve your life and meet your goals for therapy.

When I am not working, I enjoy exploring nature, being active in the outdoors, traveling, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

CAROLINE STARK
SHE/HER/HERS | #LICSW26684

AREAS OF EXPERTISE

Depression/Anxiety, Life Transitions, Career Counseling, Life Coaching, Attachment Trauma, Racial Trauma, Adoption, and Racial Identify Issues, Relationship Issues, Family Conflict, Loss and Grief, Parenting, Narcissistic Personality, Spirituality and Spiritual Crises, Women's Issues

therapeutic orientation

Psychodynamic, Attachment-Based, Coaching, Culturally Sensitive, Internal Family Systems, Jungian, Narrative, Existential, Emotionally Focused, Play Therapy, Relational, Transpersonal

about me

My approach to therapy can be stated more beautifully by the writer Audre Lorde, who tells us that "we are all in the process of becoming." I believe that therapy can be an integral part of this process.

My job is to partner with you so we can explore your multiple layers, the ways in which they work together or come into conflict, how your past informs your present, and the stories in which you live. While I can't offer you SOLUTIONS or THE ANSWER, I can offer you a space where we can sit in the uncertainty and the questions together; a space where I'm fully present and you feel listened to and seen.

My experiences as a trans-racial adoptee has informed my areas of interest and expertise including: race-based identity issues and trauma, attachment trauma, adoption, life transitions, existential and spiritual crises, and depression/anxiety. I also have a deep passion for first generation college students and clients who are new to therapy.

I grew up in Minnesota and got my B.A in Art and Sociology at Macalester College. After graduating, I moved abroad and have lived in a number of different states before moving back to Minnesota. I value what can be learned from travel, leaving your comfort zone, interacting with others who I may disagree with, and re-evaluating what you think you know on a regular basis. I enjoy deep, meaningful conversations, dark and/or silly humor, beautiful music and art, transcendence, a well-crafted pun, and fluffy animals.