Hello, I am Risa Garon. I welcome you to NFRC, a center for families that I co-founded with Barbara Mandell. Many years ago, we developed counseling and educational services that welcome all families and in particular, families in transition. Our model of serving families remains the same in terms of believing in comprehensive, customized services offered by a team of clinical staff who have extensive training and experience in working with families of all compositions. We are known for our work to help parents remain decision makers about their children and for training other professionals in a child-focused approach to making decisions about children.

I work with children, teens, adults, and couples who are seeking counseling to support concerns they have, make decisions about their present and future, and most importantly, strengthen relationships. I have had the opportunity to develop all of our programs at NFRC with a strong belief that parents need to remain decision makers about their children, and can, when given the opportunity to work as co-parents with child development experts. I specialize in helping couples develop parenting plans that focus on the child and are based on developmental needs and challenges for everyone in the family. I believe children benefit from a loving and healthy relationship with both parents and caregivers. I work with grandparents as caregivers, step parents and significant others in addition to birth or adoptive parents.

I work with individual adults or groups, provide marriage counseling and therapy, and offer blended family counseling. I enjoy working with teens and specialize in individual or group sessions for adolescents. Many of the teens I work with are initially hesitant about counseling. Through joining with them in their lives, we develop trusting relationships where teens can grow, gain confidence and cope with family and peer relationships.

I continue to learn from our clients and work to develop new programs and services to better support and advocate for all families. I was a member of the recent Maryland Child Custody Commission, Howard County Public School Student Services Committee, and I serve on the board for the Maryland Association of Families Conciliation Courts.

My philosophy is to help families or individuals to achieve their goals by working together using a variety of techniques to help my clients feel comfortable, while building a trusting relationship through humanistic, cognitive and behavioral therapy.

My best rewards are hearing from clients about how they are doing, working with them as they return with new challenges and celebrating their achievements in life.

I am honored to work as a team with a highly professional staff.

I am the Associate Director of the National Family Resiliency Center and have been committed to my work at the center for the past 25 years. I have a master’s degree in health administration from Johns Hopkins University.

I bring to the center and to you as clients, not only a degree and extensive experience in business administration and health administration but a deep respect and caring for people. When a potential client calls or walks into our office in Rockville or Columbia, I welcome them and take time to explain our services and discuss what might be most helpful to them and other members of their families.

I am a certified mediator, also trained in collaborative divorce and have been certified in human resource management which reflects my ability to help others problem solve, a skill I have and use in all of my work at NFRC. From helping older adults and their adult children, to helping children feel comfortable with counseling, I truly enjoy the “people” part of my work.

As associate director, I manage our administrative staff, our college interns and participate in trainings with our clinicians as well. I work very closely with our executive director. I love working at NFRC because of our team work, the dedication we all have to helping families through challenging times and the caring that we show to each other as well.

I have worked at NFRC for almost 25 years, and feel like I live and breathe the issues that families in transition deal with on a day-to-day basis. From adults to small children, to teens and even grandparents, working with families means dealing with every age, shape, form and constitution. During these years, I have started with children as young as 8 to help them deal with the changes in their families. I've even watched some of them grow and develop into their teen years and beyond, as they struggled with new challenges and developed new coping skills. I've guided many families through separation, divorce and remarriage, helping parents make child-focused decisions regarding their parenting and how they work together to nurture and care for their children.

Some of my specialties:

I enjoy helping newly single parents re-discover themselves and figure out what they want their future to look like, and how to mesh that with being a single mom or dad. Sometimes it means changing jobs, re-training or joining the workforce after many years. Sometimes it's reconnecting with their child or children in a new way.

Working with teens has been an especially enjoyable part of my work. Creating a safe and trusting connection with the teen allows me to be a "guide" in their journey to find their way in the world. Discovering their truths, developing a sense of confidence using their voice and practicing new skills all help in dealing with the social challenges, relationship issues or family conflict they face.

Helping healthy parents find a way to keep their divorce out of the court room has been one of my most important career goals. In a safe space, parents come together to creatively develop parenting plans. Without the pressure of lawyers or the court, parents can make the most creative and flexible arrangements for their children. Using a Child and Family Focused Model, the parents decide together what each of their children need and how they can each be a part of making that happen.

I enjoy the work of listening, caring, and self-discovery that has come with being a counselor over the past 25 years. As a clinical social worker, I work with individuals and families, couples and small groups, helping people find meaning in the changes they encounter.

“Life goes on, within you and without you.” George Harrison

Crisis prompts change. It disrupts our status quo and offers a window into new ways to live life, though at the time it is rarely welcomed.

Short-term therapy helps to navigate a crisis, provides necessary skills and helps you to find your balance.

Longer-term therapy helps you to understand patterns in your communication or behavior that could contribute to potential problems in the future and offers skills to change those as well.

“My dear, you’ve had the power all along.” Glinda, to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz

If you are experiencing low level dissatisfaction right now, or if a larger life crisis event has occurred, talking with a trained counselor may help you to sort through your feelings.

Please call or contact me to see if working together with me is a good fit for your needs. I have been actively involved in professional trainings over the years in family therapy, complicated grief counseling, anxiety and depression disorders and trauma concerns. I incorporate mindfulness practices with a practical skills approach to my work with clients.

Specializations in adult group therapy, step-family adjustments Ready? Or not? People generally think for some time on their own before contacting a counselor. While you are waiting here are some tools that may be of some use to you.

As a psychotherapist with an extensive background and specialty in working with children and families, I have a passion for supporting thoughtful design and implementation of individual, family and group therapy sessions.

Through continuing education and the experience of partnering with both children and adults, I recognize the significant impact that families gain from professional help throughout the hills, valley and mountains of their lives. I work closely with children and caregivers to address family transitions by extending a warm and practical understanding to all family members. My aim is to support each individual’s discovery of the most effective, comfortable, and positive adjustment to the challenges they encounter.

When working with families experiencing change, I find that empowering parents to help their children through loss, grief and adjustment to change in today’s fast-paced, ever-evolving climate is a fascinating challenge at the core of my approach. Through coaching and consultation, I apply a systemic eye to developing co-parent relationships. My careful craft of Parent Plans guides effective reunification and sustainable co-parenting.

I leverage brain-based concepts to inform therapy, including mindfulness and the integration of our brains in relationship to others. Through a cognitive behavioral approach, I find that families and individuals reach their full potential regardless of where they are in their developmental journey. To complement this approach, I utilize expressive therapies to guide each individual toward accessing their inner strengths.

In addition to practicing as a psychotherapist with individuals and families, I offer specialized programs to families and children and the education of professionals working with families in transition.

Welcome to my profile and congratulations on your first step to feeling better, stronger and more confident. My goal while working with children, adolescents and adults, is to provide them with the emotional and mental tools that will empower them to handle the ups, the downs, and struggles that are part of everyday life. You will discover ways to reduce stress, experience personal growth and acquire tools to make informed, rational decisions.

I have more than 20 years’ experience in the public school system working with children and teens. I have focused on: anxiety issues, Social Skills, Grief/Loss, Divorce, Self Esteem Building, and Coping Skills. I have worked with NFRC as a counselor and group presenter for 3 years. I have training and experience with a county crisis team that provides emotional support to children, teens, and adults when a community is faced with an unfortunate tragedy.

Ellen Levin, LCSW-C, LICSW, is a clinical therapist licensed in both Maryland and the District of Columbia. Prior to obtaining her graduate degree, she worked for 20 years as an early childhood educator. She has experience assessing and treating children of all ages, for numerous concerns such as transition and divorce, depression, anxiety, bullying, school related issues, attachment, and grief. Ellen utilizes multiple clinical approaches including play therapy, family therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, mindfulness, and parent education and coaching. Her goals include fostering healthy relationships in all families regardless of their composition.

My work is based on the ecological perspective simply defined as “life in the homestead.” Guided by these twin elements, I have applied a studied practice over three decades of experience to individuals, families and groups, with a specialization in group work with middle school children. Encased in the context of a protective envelope, practice encompasses trust and respect, humanely and dynamically expressed reciprocally between the parties. Cognitive behavioral methods are employed as essential to the helping process. The deeply human aspect of the endeavors reinforces the spirit of renewal.

The agency based teamwork approach facilitates the cross fertilization of practice ideas and knowledge among staff in implementing our work together and with other participating professionals.

Flexible application of these components to specific clinical cases over years of practice constitutes the basis of my expertise in professional social work.

Carolyn is a certified professional school counselor with a twenty-year history of working with children and families in the school and private, non-profit settings. Carolyn believes in a strengths-based approach to helping families create thoughtful, durable parent plans for their children in a non-adversarial manner.

For the past sixteen years, Carolyn has coordinated educational programs at the National Family Resiliency Center, Inc. (NFRC). Carolyn has co-authored NFRC’s on-line parent plan program and KidsConnex, a children’s education program. Carolyn teaches professionals in other jurisdictions the curriculum and guidelines for presenting each of the educational programs around the state and country. Carolyn currently works full-time for the Howard County Public School System as a School Counselor at Deep Run Elementary School. Carolyn assists in writing school counseling curriculum for Howard County and mentors first year counselors. She was awarded “School Counselor of the Year” by the Howard County Association of Professional School Counselors in 2015.

Julie is a full-time school counselor for 7th and 8th graders at Cradlerock Middle School in Columbia. In her after school hours, Julie is a licensed therapist working for NFRC who works with individual clients and co-facilitates youth therapy groups. In addition, Julie facilitates Co-Parenting Seminars at NFRC. Years ago, Julie was a volunteer peer counselor at NFRC and we are thrilled that Julie has returned to us as an experienced counselor.


Libby Killo, Office Manager
Hannah O’Connor, Parent Seminar Administrative Coordinator and Clinical Intern
Richard Radhe, Bookkeeper
Nicole Zuniga, Administrative Assistant


Elsy Castillo
Holly Tiedeman
The staff was thoughtful, caring and wonderful working with my children and myself.”


Tricia Adkinson
Pam Blackwell
Tiffani Bradley
Carlos Camino
Dora Camino
Maria Casasco
Lisa Covington
Erica Davies
Monique Finch
JoMo Fowlkes
Lora Guidi
Cortland Jones
Ronda Lennon
Joe Pacifico
Effie Smith-Macklin
Tracey Williams
Lauren Woodfork
CO-PARENT SEMINARS: Click here for directions on how to register for online programs. COUNSELING SESSIONS: If you are seeking individual, couple, co-parenting, group therapy or our KidsConnex and other online programs, please contact our office at 410-740-9553 x100. For all other questions, please call 410-740-9553 at either x100 or x208.