CORE TEAM

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Our Leadership Team

Dr. Keith Higginbotham

Co-Founder | CEO | PsyD

Dr. Brett Donnelly

Co-Founder | CVO | PsyD

Jess Rodriguez

Business Director | CBO

Dr. Robbyn Jackson

Lead Director | COO | PsyD

Our Directors

Dr. Kristen Strong

Isla Vista & Goleta, CA

Announced Soon

Davis, CA

Dr. Haran Kingstan

Minneapolis, MN

Kerri Cole

Westwood, CA

Soraiya Khamisa

La Jolla, CA & Acacia Reach

Dr. Jen Banta

Santa Cruz, CA

Our Central Business Team

Andrea Deuring

Acacia Roots Director

KorbyQuan Reed

Site Development Manager

Amy Shirley

Human Resources Coordinator

Jonathan Troung

Talent Recruiter

Brayan Barron

Billing & Credentialing Manager

LaFlora Pierre

Billing Specialist

Ashley Kauk

Billing Specialist

Shawn Canley

Billing Specialist

Luis Hernandez

Telehealth Office Manager

Danielle Sharkey

Administrative Specialist

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 office (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.

Dr. KRISTEN STRONG|#PSY30375

AREAS OF EXPERTISE

Anxiety, Depression, OCD, ADHD & Executive Functioning, Autism Spectrum, Social Skills, Relationships, Self-esteem

therapeutic orientation

Person-centered, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Behavioral

about me

I am honored to be a part of the Acacia Counseling & Wellness team and to work with the Santa Barbara community. I am a licensed psychologist and obtained my doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from UC Santa Barbara in 2017. I completed a pre-doctoral internship at UNC Chapel Hill and post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University. I am happy to return to Santa Barbara and get to work with the diverse and wonderful population in this area.

It is important to me to foster a strong and collaborative relationship in therapy. You will find a real person in me, genuine in our interactions, caring, nonjudgmental, and encouraging. It is my goal that you feel comfortable and supported to open up, grow, and work on areas that are challenging for you. Whether it be worrying, feeling down, difficulties in relationships, self-esteem, stress, feeling lost, academic challenges, or low motivation, it is my hope that we can explore and work together to help you accomplish your goals.

I have received specialized training in treating individuals with anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, and Autism/Aspergers. I also work with students on relationship concerns, stress management, self-esteem, family difficulties, identity and diversity issues, life transitions, academic concerns, and learning disabilities. I will individualize therapy to fit your symptoms, needs, and treatment goals. I generally approach therapy from an integration of person-centered, behavioral, and cognitive behavioral (CBT) strategies, and I incorporate evidence-based strategies for your unique concerns. It would be my pleasure to get to know you and work alongside as you navigate college and adulthood.

Outside of work, I enjoy watching sports, hiking, spending time with friends and family, games, and exercising.

KERRI COLE|#LMFT110563

AREAS OF EXPERTISE

Trauma, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Anxiety, Depression, Relationship Issues, Couples Therapy, International Students, Cultural Issues, Identity Issues, Life Transitions, Stress Management, Spirituality, Additional Language: Frech

therapeutic orientation

Cognitive-Behavioral, Psychodynamic/Attachment-based, Restoration Therapy, Trauma- Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Mindfulness

about me

Hello! I am thrilled to be a part of the Acacia Westwood team! I grew up in the LA area, but after completing my graduate studies in Psychology I moved abroad to France, where I lived for nearly 9 years. I spent my time in France working with international college students dealing with issues around identity, relationships, culture, and spirituality. I returned to my native Los Angeles in order to complete my Masters and enter into the therapy field, because I believe deeply in the power of therapy to help us find wholeness, healing, and freedom in our lives. Also, I really missed tacos.

As a marriage and family therapist, it is a privilege and honor for me to hear your story and actively partner with you in your process toward positive change in your life. I believe in creating a safe, accepting, genuine space in the therapy room where you are free to bring all of yourself, discover your truth, and know that you will be heard. In this space, we will work together to discover new insights into your story, remove obstacles in your path, and take practical steps towards growth and healing. I look forward to walking alongside you in this journey!

SORAIYA KHAMISA
THEY/THEM/THEIRS | #LCSW81951

AREAS OF EXPERTISE

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Gender Non-conforming, Culture of Origin & Identity Concerns, Multiculturalism, Life Transitions, Self-Esteem, Foster Care, Relationship Concerns, Anxiety, Depression

therapeutic orientation

Cognitive-Behavioral (CBT), Gestalt, Interpersonal, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)

about me

Welcome to Acacia Counseling & Wellness, La Jolla! I am honored to be your Director and feel incredibly privileged to serve the communities of La Jolla and San Diego. After spending almost four years helping students achieve their personal and educational goals at the University of California, San Diego, I am grateful to continue working with students in this capacity. My work at UCSD has attuned me to the needs of our students, and I look forward to bringing my knowledge and passion to this role. College represents an exciting and challenging time for many, and students often benefit from support along the way. It is my hope that Acacia will be viewed as a space of support, warmth, openness, and safety to those of you seeking mental health services.

I have spent the past several years working in diverse settings, including non-profit agencies, medical centers, and university campuses. I have worked with clients experiencing anxiety, mood disorders, medical issues (e.g., HIV+ young adults), life transitions, and relationship struggles. My work with persons at various life stages has deeply informed my therapeutic approach, which is direct, authentic, and empowering. At core, I aim to help those I work with identify strengths and learn how to use them. I also recognize the importance of providing culturally sensitive support, and strongly believe in the importance of viewing mental health in a holistic manner to address all areas of wellness. Additionally, I have a special interest in working with members of our LGBQIA+, Transgender and Gender Nonconforming communities, specifically those who may have other racial, cultural, and religious identities. My personal and professional understanding of the struggles that accompany intersecting identities motivates me to become increasingly involved in being both a support to and an advocate for members of this community.

Regardless of where you are in your journey, whether you are merely trying to get through the day or working on being your best self, I hope to have the opportunity to meet you and I look forward to embarking on this journey together!

PORTIALYN BUZZANGA | SOCIAL WORKER

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☺).

Andrea Deuring | she/her/hers

minneapolis Therapist & Director of Acacia ROOTS

ABOUT ME

I began working at Acacia in September 2018. I spend part of my time as a therapist, providing direct services to students, and the remaining time to strategize and fundraise for the Acacia ROOTS Fund. Acacia ROOTS Fund provides need based grants to students who have difficulty affording therapy, as well as educational and development opportunities that benefit students. Before becoming a therapist, I worked in fundraising for seven years. I’m grateful that I’m able to combine my on-the-job and academic training to benefit students.

My road to Acacia had lots of twists and turns. I have two degrees in Russian and tried to make a career in international development. That didn’t work out, and I ended up working in fundraising. Eventually, I went back to school to get a master’s degree in Counseling and Psychology. I knew had made the right choice because I got energy from my evening psychology classes, even after working an eight hour day.

The thing that most excites me about coming in to work is the exploration I get to do everyday. I love sitting with people as they question ideas, make connections, and form identities. I love strategizing for the Acacia ROOTS Fund, and watching well laid plans come to fruition. It’s hard work, and it’s a lot of fun!

Outside of Acacia I typically recharge my batteries by cooking with my husband, going for walks or bike rides, playing with my nieces, or getting together with friends.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake in the morning?

“Why did I adopt this wretched cat who starts meowing at 4:00 am?” Then she curls up in my arms and starts purring and I think, “Oh yeah. That’s why.”

What is the most amazing fact you know?

The Russian word for bear is medved. Med is the Russian root for “honey” and ved is the root for “to know.” So in Russian, the word bear literally means the one who knows where the honey is.

KorbyQuan Reed | He/him/his

site development manager & marketing co-lead

ABOUT ME

Howdy! I am KorbyQuan (Korby) Reed and I’m the Site Development Manager and Marketing Co-Lead. When we open new offices, I am the man on the ground, designing the space, onboarding our initial staff, developing front desk policy, and assisting with outreach and community connections. When we aren’t opening an office I’m helping to create marketing content, providing continuing education for our front desk staff, and working on our next location!

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.

Jonathan Truong | He/him/his

Human Resources Recruiter

ABOUT ME

Hello! I am Jonathan Truong, the Human Resources Recruiter for Acacia Counseling and Wellness. In my role, I screen and assist in the hiring of prospective therapists for the different locations we have throughout California and our location inMinneapolis. Before coming into the HR role, I started off at Acacia Counseling and Wellness as an administrative assistant in January 2017 while I was en route to finish my Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development at UC Davis. Upon graduating in June 2017, I obtained the role of Office Manager for our Davis location. As the office manager, I quickly learned how to maintain day to day functions unique to our Davis location.

The therapists and staff are definitely one of my favorite parts about working at Acacia because we all support each other while supporting our clients. My other favorite part of working here is witnessing the results that our support nurtures. When I am not at work, you can count on me watching the latest on Netflix or enjoying the sun and the sound of waves at the beach.

What kind of art do you appreciate the most?

I am not sure if this counts as an answer but I really appreciate tattoos. I am not sure if the same stigma applies to tattoos nowadays but the fact that someone would want something (a thought, idea, image) to stay with them forever assures me that there are people who care more about life than just their day to day interactions. Also, every tattoo is so unique and is a reminder that everyone has their own story. Rather than judge someone for having a tattoo, ask them about it.

If someone came up to you and said “Hey, do that thing you do!”, what thing would pop into your head first?

Honestly? I instantly think: Hugs. Everyone compliments me on my hugs. I don’t know why! I wish I could give me a hug to understand what everyone raves about.

brayan barron | he/him/his

Credentialing Manager & Billing Supervisor

ABOUT ME

Hi there! My name is Brayan and I am Acacia's Credentialing Manager and Billing Supervisor. In my current position, I am responsible for making sure Acacia's clinicians are added to our insurance panels while also overseeing most aspects of Acacia's billing department. I grew into my current position after having learned a lot about the inner-workings of insurance billing in my previous position as a billing specialist. I was lucky enough to start working with Acacia as an administrative assistant in 2016 during my third year at UCSB, where I majored in Cell & Developmental Biology and minored in Applied Psychology.

I look forward to work every day because I get to work with a group of people who are also motivated and passionate to to be a part of the driving force behind Acacia's growth and our mission of putting our clients first. It also helps that these co-workers are more like friends and contrbute to an enjoyable environment.

What was the last thing you were really excited about?

I was really excited to take my 5 year old brother on his very first DisneyLand trip. We had a blast and it was so special to experience all the Disney magic with him.

What food do you love that a lot of people might find a little odd?

I'm a big fan of bagels and all the unique variety of toppings/flavors but my favorite on-the-go breakfast version is a cinnamon-raisin bagel with cream cheese and peanut butter. I swear it tastes good but I get a strange reaction from people every time I bring this up. Don't knock it till you try it.

LaFlora Pierre | she/her/hers

billing specialist

ABOUT ME

I was born and raised in Pasadena, CA and after turning 18 I moved back and fourth from LA, Arizona, and northern California. I officially moved to Santa Barbara in 2017 after my spouse received a job opportunity. Around that time I was struggling with my own mental and medical conditions, but I was determined to not allow these issues to take over and get back to work. I didn't know what to expect when I first walked into Acacia, but I was blown away by incredible atmosphere and energy of the employees. I immediately felt comfortable and welcomed from the day I interviewed. Once I learned the mission of Acacia I knew this was the place I wanted to work! The mission at Acacia is genuine and all colleagues share the same value when it comes to the importance of taking care of your mental health. It feels incredible to know that I am working for a company that doesn't feel like a "job" but rather a mission. A mission to let students know they are not alone and they are valued no matter what. Because of this I am extremely thankful to come into work everyday and happy leaving everyday knowing I am making a difference.

What household chore do you enjoy doing that most people don't?

Now this may should strange, but I absolutely love doing the dishes. Yes, I said dishes. It gives me time to myself and peace of mind knowing that I making something dirty, clean again. I truly love the feeling I get after I'm done.

What period would be the best to be born in?

If I had the opportunity to pick a time period to live in I would have absolutely loved to have lived in the 70's! From the music, fights for equality, and all things love and peace. I sad I missed out, but happy that there's still so much to fight for that the vibe of the 70's still lives on.

Ashley Kauk | she/her/hers

billing specialist

ABOUT ME

I'm originally from Northern California, but my family moved a lot when I was little. Before I was 8 years old, I lived in California, Pennsylvania, Maine, Minnesota, and Arizona. Arizona is where I spent most of my childhood until moving to Santa Barbara, California to go to school at Westmont College. I studied Kinesiology at Westmont and became very aware of how inaccessible health care could be. Mental health particularly was nearly impossible as every provider in Santa Barbara had a wait list that was several months long. Even if they were available, it was extremely expensive. I was intrigued by Acacia because of their mission to make behavioral health an option for college students, who really need it, but can't usually afford it. I work in the billing office and help make sure insurance companies are paying what they're supposed to so that patients only have to worry about their visits with their provider. I love coming into work because I know everything I'm doing is helping accomplish that goal.

What do you buy way more of than most people?

I spend way too much money on concert and theater tickets and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. I like to go to at least one per month, but more is definitely better. I'm a big believer in spending money on experiences instead of things and I've never regretted a concert or theater experience. I highly recommend buying season tickets to your local theater and if there's an artist you really want to see, just go for it!

What is the best gift anyone's ever given to you? And why?

My roommate gave me a vinyl album of X&Y by Coldplay for my 21st birthday. It's my favorite album from my favorite band and it showed me how well she knew me, especially because I had never specifically asked for it.

luis hernandez | he/him/his

reach office manager

ABOUT ME

I'm originally from Los Angeles, but came to Santa Barbara to attend UCSB in 2011. After graduating in 2015 and working various jobs in the city, I ended up finding my way to Acacia towards the end of January 2019 in the role of an Administrative Assistant.

Since then, I've truly enjoyed being a part of this organization, and find myself constantly inspired to offer my contributions in upholding our mission and values. It helps that Acacia genuinely embraces a fun, diverse & supportive work environment--all the therapy dogs help too!

What do you do to unwind after a hard day?

After a long day at work, I enjoy getting home and either going to the beach to unwind, or spend a couple hours practicing the piano.

Would you rather watch a movie at home or on the big screen in the theater, why?

Depends on the movie--but I definitely enjoy seeing movies in large, modern theaters that you find in bigger cities. I love the spectacle of watching a movie on a large screen with loud audio and comfy seats to help really pull you into the film! But some movies are better suited for just seeing in the comfort of your own home--and you get to have whatever snacks you want!

Danielle sharkey | she/her/hers

administrative specialist

ABOUT ME

My role allows me to interact closely with clients and therapists on a daily basis. Developing individualized relationships enables me to create a warm, welcoming space where clients may begin to shift attention from the outside world to a more therapeutic mindspace. My day to day work aims to maintain balance and order in the office to ensure a fluid experience for clients, providers, and office staff. I graduated from UCSB in June 2019 with a degree in Psychological Brain Sciences and a minor in Academic Writing. My goal to become a LMFT inspired me to seek a career in the mental health field. As a recent graduate myself, I felt I could connect with Acacia’s clientele while gaining experience working closely with therapists and psychiatrists. Acacia felt like the perfect fit, and so far it has been!

One of my favorite things about working at Acacia is the opportunity to gain diverse professional experiences within the company. In addition to my Administrative Specialist responsibilities, I also write for and edit our blog, am on our marketing team, and am the Fundraising Chairperson for the IV/Goleta offices. Acacia’s growth-centered mindset inspires me to take initiative and to continue learning every day.

In my free time, I enjoy doing anything outside- spending time at the beach, hiking, yoga, gardening, picnicing at the Rose Garden with friends. Santa Barbara is so naturally beautiful and I feel grateful to call it home.

What’s your favorite thing about the area/city/state you live in?

My favorite thing about SB is its proximity to both the beach and the mountains. I love that I can go for a scenic hike and then head straight to the beach for a cooling dip in the Pacific.

What useless facts do you know?

I can list all 50 states in Alphabetical order.