Santa Cruz

Acacia Santa Cruz offers individual, group, and wellness activities. Located within a short bus ride (#15, #16, #19, & #10) from UC Santa Cruz, near Trader Joes and next to Insight Santa Cruz. Come into the office to experience a little slice of modern design featuring a Take & Give wall, study space, and three dynamic spaces to relax before your appointments.

Genuine & Supportive
Read More
Acacia is an absolutely amazing place to go for college students. The staff and counselors are all very welcoming, genuine, and supportive. The counseling services deliver specialized care and create a kind environment.

Santa Cruz Team

Acacia providers have experience working with diverse clients in a variety of areas including anxiety, depression, stress management, relationship issues, attention difficulties, eating/body image concerns, identity exploration, trauma, and substance use issues.

Click on a provider to learn more about who they are and their individual specialties.

Dr. Jen Banta

Director | PsyD

Giovanni Emblen

Office Manager

Alex Pappas

Therapist | LMFT

Megan Hougardy

Therapist | LMFT

Juliet Tran

Therapist | LMFT

Dean Khambatta

Therapist | AMFT

Dr. Rachel Fader

Psychologist | PsyD

Andrea Lochtefeld

Therapist | LCSW

Santa Cruz Services

All of our Acacia offices offer individual therapy, couple’s therapy, group therapy, and wellness events. Below are services offered specifically in Santa Cruz!

Santa Cruz Rates

At the time of session, you can pay with credit card, cash, or paypal although a credit/debit card is required to be on file.

*We accept Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna, MHN, and Optum insurances. Pricing of services will vary by plan and will be discussed prior to your first session. 

Please note, you are required to provide us with notice of cancellation at least 24 hours in advance. Failure to do so will result in late cancellation or missed appointment fee charge. Coordinate additional billing inquires with your Office Manager prior to your sessions.

giovanni emblen | he/him/his

santa cruz office manager


I'm originally from Houston, Texas, but moved to California soon after graduating from the University of Houston. After a little whirlwind of moves, I found myself in Santa Cruz looking for a meaningful job where I could make a difference in the community. Luckily, it was just in time for the opening of Acacia's new Santa Cruz location! As the Office Manager, I look forward to being a part of the students of UCSC's journey and watching their growth.

If you traveled to another country ( a planet in a galaxy far far away?) and got to introduce one Earthy thing to that planet, what would it be?

I would bring the concept of art and all forms of it. Music, food, art, dance, theatre, movies, games, architecture, all of the things people (and even animals!) can create. I think the joy of the act of creation and the joy of enjoying creations are an essential part of life here.

What do you enjoy most in your free time?

In my free time, I like to draw or watch/play games! The coolest thing I got to do was draw art for a video game special edition art book and travel to Los Angeles to be a part of an art gallery and launch event.



Trauma, Physical/Sexual/Emotional Abuse, Attachment & Family of Origin Issues, Adoption/Foster Care, Religious Issues, Depression and Suicidal Ideation, Interpersonal Skills, Substance Use

therapeutic orientation

Family Systems, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Mind/Body Mindfulness, Psychodynamic, EMDR, Narrative Therapy, Developmental Psychology, Art Therapy, Group Therapy

about me

I believe that pursuing a path of healing through therapy takes courage and bravery, so welcome! My journey to this helping profession began from a passion for people, a belief in hope, and faith in the power of human connection. I was raised on the Monterey Peninsula and completed my undergraduate studies at San Diego State University. I moved up to the Bay Area for grad school and found myself settling in Santa Cruz. 

My professional experiences have been with children, teens, young adults, and families seeking to overcome trauma, attachment disruptions, relational dissatisfaction, and other mental health concerns impacting their functioning. I have worked for various non-profits supporting behavioral and emotional needs of the community. I am consistently honored by the privilege to witness vulnerability in the lives of my clients as they pursue healing and wholeness. I am a firm believer that healing happens in relationships, and that wholeness is the best way to embrace life!

  My goal is to help my clients discover authenticity and belonging through unconditional positive regard and connection. I especially love working with young adults and being able to walk alongside people as they navigate an exciting, yet challenging, life stage. I take a client-centered approach to all my work and believe in holistic healing, integrating mind and body in order to achieve greater wellness. The majority of my experience has been with trauma and coping with the secondary effects of depression, anxiety, and relational difficulties. No matter what the concern, I use compassion and openness as I journey with my clients to uncover a better quality of life, big or small!



Attachment & Trauma, Food & Mood Connections, Mindfulness & Meditation Practices, Anxiety & Stress Management, Depression & Self-Worth Concerns, Alcohol & Other Substance Misuse, Social & Generalized Anxiety, Developmental life transitions, Emotional Intelligence, Eating & Nutritional Concerns

therapeutic orientation

Cognitive Behavioral, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Psychodynamic, Mind/Body Mindfulness, Internal Family Therapy, Solution-Focused, Emotionally Focused Therapy (Couples)

about me




Anxiety/Social Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, Self-Esteem, LGBTQ+, Anger Management, Communication Skills, Coping with Stress, Drug & Alcohol Use, Time Management, Grief & Loss, Women's Issues, Psychosis

therapeutic orientation

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Client-Centered, Strength-Based, Solution-Focused, Mindfulness, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Interpersonal

about me

I take a collaborative approach in the work that I do with clients and believe that you are the driver that steers the direction of your treatment, and I am the passenger that is there to support you on the road ahead. I will be there to gently challenge you in order for you to recognize the strengths and resilience that lies within you. I believe that in order to achieve your goals, however big or small they may be, it is important to break them down into smaller, approachable steps. We will work together to explore what your needs and goals are in order to help you gain skills to cope with day-to-day life and to improve your overall well-being.



LGBTQ+ Counseling, Gender Diversity, Sex Positive, Kink Aware, Substance Use, PTSD/Trauma, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Acute Mental Health, Multiculturalism, Self-Esteem

therapeutic orientation

Person-centered, Strength-Based, and Trauma-Informed

about me

I am excited to be part of the Acacia Counseling and Wellness team! I am an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #111311. I have over a decade of experience working with the LGBTQ+ community in a variety of capacities including peer support groups, queer focused sex education, community activism, and therapy. As a queer trans man of color, advocating for and supporting the LGBTQ+ community is close to my heart. I understand the importance of an intersectional multicultural approach that incorporates race, ability, socioeconomic status, individual experiences, and spiritual identity.

My approach to therapy is person-centered, strength based, and trauma informed. I firmly believe that you are the expert of your own experiences and that my role is to guide and support you through the therapeutic process. I partner with my clients to find the therapeutic approach that best meets their needs.

I received my Masters’ in Counseling with a Marriage, Family, and Child emphasis from Palo Alto University and my Bachelors’ in History of Art from the University of California, Berkeley.



LGBTQ+ Issues, Bisexual Identity, Trauma & PTSD, Attachment & Relationships, Identity Development, Non-Monogamy, Grief & Loss

therapeutic orientation

Psychodynamic, Relational, Narrative

about me

I am thrilled be part of the wonderful clinical team at Acacia! I am a proud former Banana Slug, and am overjoyed to return to a place that has always been so special to me. As a queer- identified therapist, I have a passion for serving the LGBTQ+ community and am excited to bring my wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the student population at UCSC.

I received my undergraduate degree in Intensive Psychology from UCSC, and received both my Master’s and Doctorate degrees from the Wright Institute in Berkeley. My dissertation was on the impact of iphobia/internalized biphobia on bisexual identity development and bisexuals’ relationships. My professional training and clinical experience includes three years at the Pacific Center for Human Growth (the LGBTQ+ center in Berkeley, CA), where I helped individuals, partners, and families navigate the unique experiences and challenges of holding diverse sexual and gender identities. I completed my internship at Cal State Long Beach’s Counseling and Psychological Services, where I had the opportunity to work with students from very diverse backgrounds as they adjusted to university life.

My approach to therapy is collaborative, interactive, and authentic. My focus is on understanding each individual’s unique circumstances and cultural context in order to create a therapy experience that is uniquely tailored to each person. I most enjoy supporting my clients in exploring and making meaning of their past experiences in order to experience a more fulfilling present and future. I seek to empower my clients by drawing on their own personal strengths and resources, with the goal of facilitating lasting healing and growth. The demands of college life can often feel overwhelming, and can activate our deepest wounds and insecurities. With that in mind, it is my priority to create an environment of safety, trust, and warmth so that I can best support each client in meeting their personal and academic goals.


Also known as psychotherapy, talk therapy, or counseling, Acacia individual therapy is a collaborative process between you and your therapist, aiming to understand problems, facilitate change, and improve quality of life.

A staple of every Acacia office, we believe that individual therapy is an incredibly effective process of healing through self-exploration, skills training, and other various forms of change. Ask your therapist how they view the change process. Remember, not every therapist is a good fit and it is important for you to find an Acacia therapist who you feel connects best to your specific needs. If you don't get a good fit, don't fret. You can ask for a change and we will accommodate you!

The therapeutic process can range in length from a few sessions to several years and is appropriate for goals ranging from focused on solving immediate problems to facilitating self-growth and discovery.

Sessions generally last 50 minutes and provide a safe, caring, and confidential space where you can deeply explore the challenges in your lives and, with the help of the therapist, find effective responses and solutions. The process of therapy is largely determined by your individual needs and the nature of each problem but will likely involve exploration of emotions, beliefs, behaviors, internal conflicts, relationships, and both current and past experiences.

Individual therapy can be effective in helping you better understand, manage and express your emotions, learn to deal effectively with stress and anxiety, improve relationships, heal from past traumas, change behaviors that are counterproductive to your goals and values, gain confidence and self-esteem, work through difficult family dynamics, and many other situations. Individual therapy has been shown to be highly effective for many mental health conditions.

STUDY room

Come relax and study in our study space. Intended to offer you workspace, you can reserve to study before an exam. There is enough room for six people in the room if you need to bring along a few study buddies.

Check in with the front desk to reserve the room.