Our team is committed and dedicated to the missions of the SMart Center and the Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI).
Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum DO, is the President & Director of the Selective Mutism, Anxiety and Related Disorders Treatment Center (SMART Center) located in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. She is the Founder of the Selective Mutism Group (SMG) and a Director of the Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI) a foundation established to study her theories and treatment methodologies on Selective Mutism. In addition, Dr. Shipon-Blum is Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology & Family Medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is a board certified physician who specializes in Selective Mutism.
Dr Shipon-Blum practices in Jenkintown, PA, and has developed the evidenced-based Social Communication Anxiety Treatment (S-CAT)®from her years studying and researching individuals with Selective Mutism. She consults worldwide with families, treating professionals, and educators, and has helped over four thousand children from around the world overcome Selective Mutism.
Dr. Shipon-Blum lectures throughout the country on the topic of Selective Mutism, performs school evaluations and trainings for treating professionals, educators, and parents, and is considered one of the worlds leading experts in the treatment and understanding of Selective Mutism. She has been a featured expert on national television programs such as 20/20, CNN, Inside Edition, and Good Morning America, as well as other local, national, and international television and radio broadcasts. In addition, she has been featured in TIME Magazine, People Magazine and has interviewed with newspapers such as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, San Diego Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Palm Beach Post.
Dr. Shipon-Blum is presently involved in multiple collaborative research projects with top researchers and clinicians. In addition to her research she has written numerous articles and books on Selective Mutism and anxiety including ‘Easing School Jitters for the Selectively Mute Child,’ ‘The Ideal Classroom Setting for the Selectively Mute Child,’ ‘Understanding Katie,’ ‘Supplement Treatment Guide Book to Understanding Katie‘ and ‘ Selective Mutism and Social Anxiety Disorder in School .’ She has also produced numerous DVDs on the topics of treatment and assessment of Selective Mutism, and the development of school accommodations and interventions for mute children.
Dr. Shipon-Blum (or Dr. E as her patients refer to her) prides herself on being ‘down to earth’ and ‘easy to speak to’, and resides with her family in the northeast suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Notably, she is also the mother of a child, Sophie, who suffered from and overcame Selective Mutism and is the inspiration for the work she does each day.
Financial Disclosure: Dr. Shipon-Blum is the President and Director of the SMart Center. She is a Director of the Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI). She is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Psychology at PCOM. She has written many books on Selective Mutism for which she receives royalties. Dr. Shipon-Blum sells and distributes books and materials associated with Selective Mutism through the SMart Center website.
Non-Financial Disclosure: Dr. Shipon-Blum is the founder and Director Emeritus of SMG-CAN.
Jennifer Brittingham is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) who completed her Masters degree in the Clinical Counseling Psychology Program at Arcadia University. Jennifer has been a team member of the Smart Center since 2005. She conducts S-CAT® Program evaluations and treatment to families, S-CAT® Parent coaching and training sessions to families across the country and abroad, and provides school consultation and training to school districts and other organizations both on-site and via web workshops. Jennifer graduated from Arcadia University with her M.A. in Clinical Counseling Psychology in 2008 and was a Pennsylvania Counseling Association Graduate Leader from 2007 to 2008. Prior to her work at the SMart Center, Jennifer has worked as a case manager for children with mental retardation, elementary school special education resource assistant, and as both a college counselor, as well as a college drug and alcohol counselor and support group leader.
Dr. William La Valle earned an MA in Psychology from West Chester University, and an MS and Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He is a licensed clinical psychologist in Pennsylvania.
Dr. La Valle works as the Director of Clinical Training at the SMart center and SMRI. He is also the Director or Clinical Training and Psychological Services at Intercommunity Action, Inc., a non-profit community mental health agency in Philadelphia. Dr. La Valle oversees the doctoral internship/externship and Master’s training programs. He also oversees the assessment/testing department to conduct Autism assessments (using the ADOS-2), ADHD evaluation, and full-battery psycho-educational assessments. He also supervises and conducts assessments for school-aged children and teenagers to help provide diagnostic clarity and determine medical necessarily of treatment services. His specialties include assessing and treating Autism Spectrum Disorder & ADHD, CBT for anxiety/depression, and trauma- focused interventions. He is formally trained in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Motivational interviewing.
Dr. La Valle also teaches in the clinical psychology doctoral program at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine as well as in the Master’ s psychology program at Southern New Hampshire University.
Dr. La Valle serves on multiple mental health boards in the tri-state area and regularly conducts presentations, advocating for the psychology profession. He has been the receipt of PCOM’s Provost Award and APA’s Honorable Mention for Early Career Psychologist.
Leah Bowden graduated from the University of Rochester, earning a B.A. in Psychology and Brain & Cognitive Sciences. During her time at the University of Rochester, Leah expanded her clinical experience working at in-patient facilities for children with a variety of mental health concerns located in Rochester, NY and London, England. She has also worked to treat children with Selective Mutism in New York City where she facilitated in treatment sessions and led therapy groups. From that experience, Leah developed her passion for working with the population of children with selective mutism along with other child and adolescent anxiety disorders.
Currently, Leah is a masters level clinician and a doctoral student in La Salle University’s Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology Program. Since beginning this program, she has completed two practicum externship placements. Her first externship took place at a community mental health setting where Leah gained experience in providing individual therapy to children and adolescents with a variety of mental health diagnoses (e.g., ADHD, ODD, Depression, Anxiety, DMDD). Her second externship focused on delivering efficacious treatments to children and adolescents with anxiety disorders including but not limited to obsessive compulsive disorder, tic disorders, and body-focused repetitive behaviors (e.g., Trichotillomania, skin-picking). Leah is currently taking part in her final externship placement where she conducts neuropsychological evaluations aimed at evaluating individuals of all ages with varying concerns (e.g., ADHD, intellectual disabilities, sensory processing concerns, autism).
In addition to her practicum externships, Leah has been a valuable member to the Weight & Eating and Health-focused teams at La Salle’s community mental health clinic by conducting intakes and facilitating treatment to various individuals. As a fourth year student, Leah currently holds the prestigious role of Chief Extern within the doctoral psychology department, a supervisory position in which Leah holds the responsibility of supervising 20 students in their clinical work. Within the scope of her research interests, Leah’s clinical dissertation project will focus on the specific thoughts of children with selective mutism.
Leah has demonstrated her ongoing dedication to the research and treatment of children with selective mutism through her role as the Supervisor of CommuniCamp™ Counselors, as well as being the co-creator and Head Counselor of the teen group at the SMart Center’s CommuniCamp™.
Alexis is currently a third year Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). She graduated from PCOM in 2018 with a M.S. in Mental Health Counseling and earned both a B.S. in Psychology and a B.S. in Behavioral Health Counseling from Drexel University in 2016. Alexis’ prior clinical experiences include inpatient and outpatient treatment for individuals with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders. She is clinically trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and adapts treatment to the unique needs of each individual. Alexis is interested in working with a diverse range of individuals and is looking forward to gaining experience in psychological assessment! Alexis is a lead support clinician and consults with families and treats individuals with Selective Mutism and an array of mental health disorders. In addition, Alexis facilitates groups, both in person and virtually at the SMart Center. She is also a CommuniCamp counselor for the 4 day and 1 day for in-person and virtual programs.
Sara Knight graduated from Arcadia University, earning a MA in counseling. She is currently pursuing her Psy.D in Clinical Psychology at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Prior to beginning her doctoral program, Sara provided Applied Behavior Analysis services for children with Autism Spectrum disorder as a Registered Behavior Technician at Behavior Interventions Inc in King of Prussia, PA. Sara currently works part-time as an outpatient mental health clinician at SPIN in Northeast Philadelphia providing individual and family therapy for children and teenagers. Sara’s prior clinical experience includes early intervention, behavior therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and social skills instruction. Her areas of clinical interests include children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder and anxiety disorders. Sara is a lead support clinician and consults with families and treats individuals with Selective Mutism and an array of mental health disorders. In addition, Sara facilitates groups, both in person and virtually at the SMart Center. Sara is also a CommuniCamp counselor for the 4 day and 1 day for in-person and virtual programs.
Sara Naselsky is currently a masters level clinician and doctoral student in La Salle University’s Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology Program. She earned her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to graduate school, Sara worked as a full-time clinical research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh on a smartphone-enhanced child anxiety treatment study as well as studies examining children and adolescents at increased risk for the development of social anxiety and depression. As a research assistant, Sara administered psychological assessments to children and adolescents and assisted clinicians in the implementation of child anxiety treatment and exposure therapy. Sara has experience providing individual therapy to children, adolescents, and adults with a wide range of mental health diagnoses in a community mental health setting. Sara is primarily interested in the role of the parent-child relationship in the development and maintenance of child psychopathology and the treatment of childhood and adolescent anxiety disorders and OCD. Sara is a lead support clinician and consults with families and treats individuals with Selective Mutism and an array of mental health disorders. In addition, Sara facilitates groups, both in person and virtually at the SMart Center. Sara is also a CommuniCamp counselor for the 4 day and 1 day for in-person and virtual programs.
Alexis Trakhtorchuk is a master’s level clinician who graduated from New York University, earning a B.A. in Psychology. She is currently pursuing her Psy.D. degree in Clinical Psychology at La Salle University, and plans to concentrate in Child Clinical Psychology. Prior to beginning her doctoral program, she worked as a head clinical coordinator at the NYU Child Study Center, where she worked on psychological assessments and treatment group facilitation. Her research interests involve emotional regulation difficulties of children with a variety of anxiety disorders, as well as emotion regulation in children with eating disorders which she currently studies in the Timko Lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Alexis’s clinical interests include children and adolescents with anxiety disorders, depression, and ADHD. She is particularly passionate about early intervention and pediatric primary care. Alexis is a lead support clinician and consults with families and treats individuals with Selective Mutism and an array of mental health disorders. In addition, Alexis facilitates groups, both in person and virtually at the SMart Center. She is also a CommuniCamp counselor for the 4 day and 1 day for in-person and virtual programs.
Jenna Blum is currently a master’s level clinician. She graduated with honors from Muhlenberg College where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree and majored in Psychology and minored in Creative Writing. Jenna was a member of the Psychology National Honor Society (Psi Chi). Jenna is continuing her education by pursuing a doctorate in the field of Clinical Psychology at Chestnut Hill College. Jenna has years of experience working at the SMart Center. Over the years, she has developed a passion for this community. She explained that her favorite part about working at the SMart Center is the rewarding feeling that she gets every time she reads a story from a patient located anywhere in the world who has found a voice from the comfort and confidence that they have gained at the center.
Jenna treats children and teens at the SMart Center, currently trains on S-CAT® and is the CommuniCamp counselor superviser and lead CommuniCamp™ Counselor. Jenna helped to develop our Virtual CommuniCamp programs and has been a Lead counselor at CommuniCamp since the camp originated and enjoys meeting families from all over the world. Her favorite part of CommuniCamp™ is watching children and teens from various sides of the world come together for one weekend to find their voices together. She explained that it is so powerful to watch children act as leaders and helpers to other campers. She stated, “Every child walks out of CommuniCamp™ as a new, confident, and inspired young individual and feels encouraged and proud of the person that they have become.”
Paige Martin graduated from Cornell University, earning a B.S. in Human Development. She is currently pursuing her Psy.D. degree in Clinical Psychology at La Salle University, and plans to concentrate in Child Clinical Psychology. Paige has her Masters Degree and has has provided neuropsychological evaluations and intervention groups for children at various sites including the NYU Child Study Center. Her research interests involve the socio-emotional and executive functioning of children with a variety of anxiety disorders. Paige’s clinical interests include children and adolescents with anxiety disorders, ADHD, and Selective Mutism, in addition to her primary interest in pediatric neuropsychology.
Paige has been a lead Counselor at CommuniCamp™ since its inception.
Amalia Hubal is a master’s level clinician who graduated from Rutgers University, earning a B.A. in Psychology. She is currently pursuing her Psy.D. degree in Clinical Psychology at La Salle University, and plans to concentrate in Child Clinical Psychology. Prior to beginning her doctoral program, she worked at the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center in New Brunswick, NJ as a research assistant and classroom fieldworker. Amalia’s research interests include adaptation of therapeutic interventions for children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, ADHD, and other developmental disorders. Her clinical interests include children and adolescents with autism and other developmental disorders, as well as the family systems when a child has a developmental disorder diagnosis. She is particularly passionate about early intervention and sibling support.
Jaspriya Malhotra, is a doctoral student at Immaculata University studying Clinical Psychology. She has completed her Bachelor’s in Psychological and Social Sciences as well as her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Throughout her educational career, Jaspriya has taken part in many psychological research studies. She is best known for her research; the relationship between self-esteem and social media. Jaspriya received the honor to present her research findings at the 2018 MPA Conference in Chicago, IL. Jaspriya’s passion for psychology has led her to travel to Scotland, UK where she worked alongside local students to learn about the psychology of video gaming. One of Jaspriya’s future goals is to become an expert in the field of infant and child psychology. For fun, she likes to travel, run half-marathons, and spend time with family.
Melissa Genn is currently pursuing her PsyD in Counseling Psychology at Holy Family University. She earned a BS in Counseling/Clinical Psychology from Kutztown University and MS in Counseling Psychology from Holy Family University specializing in Marriage and Family therapy. Melissa is a licensed Behavior Specialist in Pennsylvania and certified in Functional Behavior Assessment and Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths. She is a member of the International Honor Society in Psychology (Psi Chi).
Melissa has conducted psychological assessments and provided therapy to children, adolescents, and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, trauma-and stressor-related disorders, disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders, and substance use disorders. She has supervised clinicians who provided community-based services for children and adolescents. Additionally, Melissa has taught psychology to undergraduate students.
Melissa’s research interests include understanding the impact of nonattachment (such as letting go of thoughts, feelings, and experiences) on mental and physical health in adults.
Kaitlyn is currently a third year Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D) student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). She graduated with a degree in Psychology from the University of Delaware, and earned a M.S. in Mental Health Counseling from PCOM in 2019. Clinically, she has experience as an outpatient therapist conducting assessments and using evidenced-based practices to treat a wide range of childhood psychological disorders. In addition, she has experience with Family Counseling and Parent-Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT). Kaitlyn is thoroughly trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and is able to adapt and implement interventions geared specifically to meet the needs and goals of each individual!
Jessica LaMont-George graduated from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), earning a M.S. in Mental Health Counseling. She is currently pursuing her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). Prior to beginning her doctoral program, Jessica provided Applied Behavior Analysis services from children with Autism Spectrum Disorder as a Registered Behavioral Technician at MCC Warwick Family Services, Inc. She currently works part-time as a Behavioral Specialist Consultant providing behavioral interventions in the Bucks County and Philadelphia Area. Jessica’s prior clinical experience includes group and individual therapy for individuals diagnosed with a range of Mental Health disorders. Her areas of clinical interests include children and adolescents with developmental disorders or traumatic brain injuries.
Adriana Pennacchi, M.A. is a rising fifth-year student in Immaculata University’s Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology. During her time at Immaculata, Adriana completed her first practicum placement at the SMart Center where she had the opportunity to work with children and teens with selective mutism at the SMart Center and through various CommuniCamps ™. After her placement at the SMart Center Adriana completed her second and third practicum placements at community mental health centers within the Philadelphia area, where she had the ability to serve various clinical presentations through therapy and psychological testing.
Prior to Immaculata, Adriana earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Rider University and her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Rowan University. In addition to clinical work, Adriana has completed and assisted with projects involving the health behaviors of those at risk for developing a serious mental illness, influence of media on levels of self-compassion and mood, neurobiology of binge eating disorder, influence of Greek life on eating pathologies and body dissatisfaction, and the effects of pharmacological treatments for anorexia. She is currently working towards the completion of her dissertation on the biology of binge eating behaviors across various populations.
Ami Van Dine, MS, CCC-SLP is a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist who received her Masters of Science at La Salle University in 2009. She received extensive training in typical and atypical child development, and now specializes in the pediatric population. She is currently employed by Goldstar Rehabilitation, where she treats the birth-to-three population through early intervention. She also works in a private practice servicing school-aged children at Goldman and Axelman. Ami is a consultant with the Selective Mutism Anxiety Research and Treatment Center (SMART Center), where she conducts comprehensive evaluations of the speech and language of children diagnosed with selective mutism. Past work experience includes Moss Rehab Hospital, where she evaluated and treated the pediatric population. She additionally was part of a multidisciplinary team headed by developmental pediatrician Wendy Ross, MD FAAP, where she was involved with the Autism Inclusion Resources (AIR) Travel Program. Her undergraduate research with Dr. Paul Evitts about listener perceptions of alaryngeal speakers was presented at two American Speech Language Hearing conventions, and she is published as co-author in the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology and the Journal of Communication Disorders.
Laura Bansemer is a valuable member of the SMart Center Support and the Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI) Team. Laura earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Muhlenberg College graduating magna cum laude and phi beta kappa. With over 10 years of customer service experience, Laura was previously a weight loss counselor and then a call center director.
LisaMarie Vargas was born and raised in Morristown, NJ and is the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants. She is a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor in science from Temple University. After graduating, she fell into, and fell in love with, a career in marketing and events. She is a seasoned event professional who brings her experience from various industries, including, but not limited, to sports, food, and tourism, to the SMart Center. LisaMarie has worked with popular public figures such as Serena Williams, Mike Tyson, Snoop Dogg, Allen Iverson, Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, and many others. She is a pro at creating unique events that leave a lasting impression by combining new trends and unmatched hospitality. At the SMart Center, you will find LisaMarie organizing CommuniCamp plans, building out other SMart Center events, and heading up marketing and social media efforts.
In her free time, she loves to cook, travel, and watch true crime documentaries. LisaMarie currently resides in Philadelphia with her fiancé and boxer puppy.
Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI) Research Consultants
Sharon Lee Armstrong, PhD, is Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of PsyD Research and Dissertations at La Salle University. She is also Associate Faculty Member at Rutgers University Center for Cognitive Science, Adjunct Scientist at Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, and Principle Investigator at the Selective Mutism Research Institute. Her specializations within Cognitive Science are psycholinguistics, concepts/categorization, reasoning, and metacognition. Her research has investigated these topics in typical and special populations (e.g., children and adults with schizophrenia, ASD, selective mutism, ADHD, aphasia, depression). She is a member of the Psychonomic Society, APS, APA (Experimental Psychology Division), ADAA, and has been on the Executive Committee of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. She is a consulting editor for The Journal of General Psychology.
Dr. Armstrong is the research coordinator for the Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI). She is a paid research consultant at the SMart Center and SMRI. She is a professor of Psychology and Director of PsyD Research and Dissertations at La Salle University
Dr. Armstrong is a member of the Selective Mutism Group (SMG-CAN) and she is a consulting editor for the Journal of General Psychology.
Dr. Armstrong has been a researcher regarding assessment as well as outcome studies examining Dr. Shipon-Blums Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®).
Evelyn R. Klein, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCS-CL is Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at La Salle University. She is a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist and licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania with post-doctoral training in neuropsychology. She holds Board Certification in Child Language from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) where she is an ASHA Fellow. Her specializations include evaluation and treatment in the areas of selective mutism, autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, language-learning disabilities, and acquired language disorders. She is an author of Focus On Function I & II, Hear It-Say It-Learn It, The Association Memory Test, and the textbook, Acquired Language Disorders: A Case-Based Approach. With more than 25 years experience as a clinician and educator, Dr. Klein conducts evaluations and supervises students at La Salle Universitys Communication Sciences and Disorders Clinic. In addition to being a PA State Coordinator with the Selective Mutism Group – Childhood Anxiety Network, she conducts research on assessment and treatment practices for children with communication-based anxiety disorders. She is the 2018 winner of La Salle University’s Faculty Distinguished Scholar award.
Dr. Klein is a consultant with the SMart Center and Selective Mutism Research Institute, where she is a principal investigator studying assessment and treatment methods for children.
SMart Center Therapy Dogs, Our Mascots, and Best Friends
Mr. B is Dr. E’s first therapy dog. He accompanied Dr. E to various conferences and SM retreats and has touched the lives of our families for 14+ years! It is with heavy hearts we announce the passing of this beloved ‘O.G.’ pug. He played an instrumental role in the lives of so many families affected by Selective Mutism. He was known to knock on the doors (with his paw!) when he wanted to join a session. He would either sit on a child/teens lap ‘n snuggle or sit by their feet. He instinctively knew who was comfortable and who needed more TLC. Mr. B was a true blessing to so many children who have suffered in silence.
Lil’ Girl (pictured left) or “SMall Lady of Love” joined the SMart Center team in 2014.She’s small and cuddly and our families adore her!
She often disguises herself as a stuffed animal to help kids (and parents) who may be afraid to realize she’s just like a stuffed animal but can move around and play!
Lil’ Girl attends CommuniCamp™ and will go from classroom to classroom helping children/teens feel comfortable.