Until further notice, all appointments are conducted via video. Contact your location's admin team for more information.


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.

Our Santa Cruz location is accepting appointments via video for all California residents!
Start video therapy or psychiatry now!

Genuine & Supportive
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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.

Giovanni Emblen

Office Manager

Alex Pappas

Therapist | LMFT

Megan Hougardy

Therapist | LMFT

Dr. Mark Kutcher

Psychiatrist | MD

Dean Khambatta

Therapist | AMFT

Dr. Rachel Fader

Psychologist | PsyD

Andrea Lochtefeld

Therapist | LCSW

Jennifer Chowaniec

Therapist | LMFT

Ariana O'Day

Therapist | LMFT

Santa Cruz Services

All of our Acacia offices offer individual therapy, psychiatry, couples 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, UCSHIP, Aetna, MHN, Cigna, 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.

Payments using our online service are for completed or ongoing sessions.
Contact your office front desk if you have additional payments you would like to make.

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

I believe the client is the expert in their own lives and as a therapist, my role is that of a supportive guide in the process of self-exploration, psychological, spiritual and emotional integration. Therapy is a form of self-care and all are welcome!

I draw from multiple theoretical orientations, including cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices, to provide care curated for each individual client and their unique needs.

Prior to working with Acacia, I worked as a high-school counselor, as a Seven Challenges Facilitator with Santa Cruz County, with Scotts Valley Counseling, and with youth, ages 5-19, and their families.

I was raised in Santa Cruz, CA and Tucson, AZ and received my Masters in Counseling Psychology with a Correctional Emphasis from Santa Clara University in 2016.



I provide psychiatric evaluations that include depressive & other mood syndromes ,anxiety problems & learning/ attention difficulties such as ADHD.

I have experience using a wide range of medications and provide medication management treatment as well as supportive psychotherapy. I also provide education around concerns presented in the evaluation.

about me

I am a Board Certified Psychiatry with over 35 years of experience providing psychiatric services to a diverse adult population. I joined the Acacia team in March 2020. Previously I worked in College Student Counseling and Mental Health Centers for over 20 years, including a position as the Lead Psychiatrist at the University of California Santa Cruz. I have also worked in integrated community mental health clinics and University centers.

I have been part of the Santa Cruz ,CA community the last 10 years, working both in the University and community settings. I enjoy outdoor activities including walking, hiking ,cycling and organic gardening.



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.

andrea lochtefeld


Stress Management, Depression, Anxiety, Eating & Body Image, Substance Use, Trauma, Grief & Loss, Schizophrenia, Bipolar, LGBTQIA+, Multiculturalism, Women's Issues

therapeutic orientation

Collaborative, Self-reflection, Existential & Relational oriented, CBT, DBT, Mindfulness, Meditation

about me

Andrea works in the mental health field with adolescents, adults and families for over 10 years, and especially values working with college students. She began her career working with survivors of sexual abuse, assault and intimate partner violence, and is passionate about helping clients understand and recover from trauma. She worked at HIV/AIDS clinics helping clients manage chronic health issues and cope with grief and loss. Andrea also has extensive experience in the field of behavioral health conducting psychotherapy with clients that struggle with substance use and mental health issues, including schizophrenia, acute and post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and mood disorders.

Andrea is collaborative and always genuine and respectful in her approach to therapy. She promotes non-judgemental self-reflection in sessions, and enjoys helping clients gain insight into their struggles, strengths and motivation to reach goals in order to better navigate stressors, relationships and life transitions.

Andrea appreciates existential and relational therapeutic orientations, as she enjoys building strong alliances with clients to promote self-awareness and insight into how clients can create their own sense of meaning and purpose in life to facilitate change. She utilizes evidenced based approaches from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, enjoys mindfulness based therapeutic approaches and meditation.

jennifer chowaniec
#LMFT #10966|LPCC #6288


Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, PTSD, Self-Esteem, Interpersonal skills, Stress Management, & Life Transitions

therapeutic orientation

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

about me

I am excited for the opportunity to work with the Acacia Counseling and Wellness team and work with UCSC students. I grew up in the Bay Area and visited Santa Cruz often with my family as a child. I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and returned to the Bay Area to get my master’s degree in Clinical Psychology (MFT/LPCC track) from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont.

I utilize an eclectic mix of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, Client Centered, Strength based, and Solution-Focused therapy to assist my clients work through the complexities that life may present. By focusing on clients’ strengths, I provide a safe space to explore and validate individuals’ feelings in the hopes of providing practical and helpful feedback.

My friendly demeanor and approachable disposition make any therapy session comfortable for the client, putting them at ease as we work together to facilitate a strong therapeutic alliance and meet their treatment plan goals. With both colleagues and clients, I believe in creating an environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and nonjudgmental. My passion for mental health is the “why” that drives me to support the collective effort in changing the current narrative around therapy; I am equally as passionate about destigmatizing mental illness and working with young adults.

Outside of the therapy office, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, traveling, reading, exploring new restaurants, and going to the beach.



Trauma (PTSD and trauma related issues), Depression, Anxiety, Grief & Loss, Spiritual Issues, Emotional, Physical & Sexual Abuse, Codependency

therapeutic orientation

EMDR, Trauma informed/focused, Cognitive Behavioral, Mindfulness, Person Centered, Expressive Arts

about me

Ariana has been a practicing therapist since 2014 and received her professional license in 2018. She attended UC Santa Cruz from 2004-2008 and received a BA in Modern Literature and Education. Ariana went on to teach High School part time but realized her favorite part of teaching was interacting one on one with the students. So she decided to pursue a career as a therapist! Ariana attended Western Seminary of San Jose, graduating in 2015 with her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. During Graduate School she experienced the most powerful personal transformation in her life as she learned more about herself in learning about therapy. At the same time, she experienced the deepest grief of her life as her Mother was diagnosed with and died of Pancreatic cancer in 2013. Ariana believes her own experiences with loss have made her a more compassionate and skilled therapist. Ariana has worked in private practice and in residential setting with Foster Youth in Santa Cruz County. She has found that she greatly enjoys working with teens and young adults, giving them the tools and support they need to live their lives to the full from a young age!

When she is not in the therapy office, Ariana loves being outside! She enjoys being near or in the ocean and is an open water SCUBA diver. She also loves playing with her dog Samson at the beach or hiking in the forest. She also loves to sing and play guitar and sees music as one of her outlets and ways of processing her experiences and emotions.

Ariana loves being a therapist and feels blessed and honored to get to work with so many amazing clients! There is nothing else she would rather do with her life.


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.

Until further notice, all appointments are via video. Contact your office to discuss this further.

All Acacia offices offer video therapy appointments*. Existing clients can discuss with their provider to switch appointments to video as a one-off or ongoing.
*Video service may not be covered by your insurance plan, it's important to know before finalizing your appointment.


Video therapy, also known as telehealth or teletherapy, allows you to connect with a therapist without having to travel anywhere.

Similar to services you receive in person, video therapy 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.


Acacia Reach is our video therapy services that allows everyone access to video services, even when there is no physical Acacia location nearby. Check out the link below to learn more!

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.