Our Team


Dr. Rhea Almeida, MS, Ph.D LCSW,
Founder of IFS

Rhea V. Almeida, MS, Ph.D., LCSW, founder of IFS, is a family therapist and Columbia Graduate. She has 25 years experience as a teacher, therapist, consultant, speaker and author. Creator of the Cultural Context Model, Dr. Almeida is the author of three books and numerous journal articles and book chapters.

  • Expansions of Feminist Theory Through Diversity,
  • Transformations in Gender and Race:Family and Developmental Perspectives and
  • Co-Author of Transformative Family Therapy: Just Families in a Just Society and numerous journal articles.

Dr. Almeida has published numerous articles on Intersectionality, Cultural Equity and the Displacement of Othering and Cultural Competency as an Otherizing scholarship.

Dr. Almeida received the American Family Therapy Award for Innovative Contributions to Family Therapy. She is annually honored by the Award from the Domestic Violence Hotline for her work with women and families with domestic violence. She is nationally and internationally recognized for her work with men.

She has served on the editorial boards of several distinguished journals in the field including The Journal of Cultural Diversity and Mental Health, The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy and The Journal of Feminist Family Therapy. Dr. Almeida has served on numerous boards including the Council for Contemporary Families, the National Association for Social Workers and Orthopsychiatry.

She currently serves as Consulting Editor for the White Privilege On-line journal and serves on the Council for Racial and Economic Diveristy at the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). She is a member of the American Family Therapy Academy and a clinical member of the American Association of Marital and Family Therapists. She is also an Approved Supervisor for the Association of Marital and Family Therapists.

Her interests include evolving paradigms that have social justice at their center; providing creative access and healing resources for diverse families, balancing work, family and recreational life; providing supervised therapeutic parenting for fathers and their children towards restoring parental rights; allying with parents whose children are confronted with inaccurate diagnosis and drug remedies by school systems; and providing innovative services for men with a range of life’s challenges.

She serves on committees for doctoral students interested in pursuing research in the area of liberation based healing. She has been featured in the Los Angles Times, CNBC, National Public Radio, USA Today and Pure Oxygen.

You can reach her or the IFS faculty at WeCare4UIFS@gmail.com. All IFS faculty are postgraduates trained in Family Systems Therapy, the CCM, and liberation healing circles.


Dr. Nocona Pewewardy PhD

Nocona Pewewardy, earned her MSW from the University of Oklahoma in 1993 and her Ph.D. in Social Welfare from the University of Kansas in 2003. Her social work practice experiences included being a children's mental health case manager in St. Paul, MN, home-based family therapist in Lawton, OK, Family Advocacy Outreach Manager for the United States Air Force in Altus, OK, Mental Health Data Specialist for the State of Kansas in Topeka, KS, and social work faculty at California State University, Fresno, and Portland State University. Dr. Pewewardy's publications include Challenging white privilege: Critical discourse for social work education (2007) and articles that focus on the adverse impact of white privilege in social work practice, education, and research.

Dr. Pewewardy began working with Dr. Almeida at the Institute for Family Services in 2003, and has presented with Dr. Almeida at the Liberation-Based Healing Conferences, White Privilege Conferences, Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meetings, and the 2011 Unsettling Feminism Conference. Their collaborations culminated in the 2014 article, Articulating the scaffolding of white supremacy: The act of naming in liberation, published by The Journal of Progressive Human Services.

Dr. Pewewardy entered law school at the University of Oregon in 2013. After she completes her J.D., she will frame her legal practice from what she has learned at IFS about the principles of the Cultural Context Model and theory of Liberation-Based Healing.


Dr. Mabel Quinones

Mabel Quiñones, Ph.D. is a staff clinical psychologist at the Veterans hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico where she coordinates the Psychology Fellowship Program specialized in Women's Psychology and Primary Care and Mental Health Integration. She also holds a private practice in San Juan Puerto Rico.

Dr. Quiñones' clinical interests are centered on gender issues and gender inequality, social power differentials, intersectionality and mind/body issues. She has presented at numerous conferences and authored papers on these topics. In 2012, Dr. Quiñones hosted the Liberation Based Healing Conference in Puerto Rico in alliance with numerous professional and activist organizations.

Dr. Quiñones has been faculty of Graduate Programs in Psychology in the U. S including The New School for Social Research in New York City, New York University, Albert Einstein School of Medicine and John Hopkins University. She directed the Multicultural Child and Family Training outpatient program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Quiñones' areas of expertise include psychology of women, contextual psychotherapy and family therapy.


Andraé L. Brown, PhD, LMFT

Andraé L. Brown, Ph.D., LMFT, professional career highlights include serving as professor at Hunter College, NY and Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. He has also served as the Co-director of Affinity Counseling Group in NJ, a Board member for the Council on Contemporary Families, and as member of several national boards.

Dr. Brown is faculty at the Institute for Family Services and conducts research on teaching pedagogy on the Cultural Context Model and liberation healing practices. He is co-founder of the Liberation Based Healing Conference.

Dr. Brown has published numerous journal articles and was awarded the Early Career Award from the American Family Therapy Academy. He is also a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists.

Dr. Brown’s research focuses on the development of treatment models that use the supportive structures of families, schools and communities to address trauma, violence and substance abuse. Research and clinical interests also include resilience in street-life-oriented Black men, the psychosocial development of adolescents living in the urban context, contemporary family structures, impact of infidelity on families, liberation psychology, and cultural equity in service provision.

Dr. Brown holds several grants to develop and implement re-entry and restorative justice services for youth and families involved in the justice system.


Diana Melendez

Diana Melendez was born in Mexico and raised there until she was 11 years old when her family moved to northeast NJ.  She graduated from the MSW program at NYU following her dual degree in Social Work and Psychology from Seton Hall University. She is currently a licensed clinical social worker working as Psychiatric Emergency Services Supervisor at Trinitas Regional Medical Center.

Diana has served on the Board and committees of her professional organization and has experience working within the education system, child welfare system, and juvenile justice system.  As a graduate of the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond “Undoing Racism- Community Organizing” training, she is a member of anti-racist organizing collectives in NYC and NJ. 

She is faculty on the Progresando en Comunidad program at IFS, where she works with the community through liberation-based therapy with families of diverse backgrounds and life contexts as part of her commitment to social justice.


Lisa Dressner

Lisa Dressner founded Affinity Counseling Group, a private community-based mental health center, in March 2000, and replicated the Cultural Context Model to work with families impacted by incarceration. She has developed clinical programs for professionals and institutions in the areas of liberation based healing and community organizing, including the Zakee Bowser Foundation and the Raritan Bay YMCA.

She has joined Dr. Almeida in presenting nationally and internationally on domestic and community violence, creating therapeutic healing communities, juvenile justice clinical practice and reform, as well as a presenter at the national White Privilege Conference. She is Director of Training at the Institute.



EunjungRyu, PhD, LMFT, LCSW, has over 20 years of clinical experience working with families. Her doctoral thesis from Drexel University researched the Cultural Context Model. Her dissertation was on "sponsoring change in self and others: Female sponsors in the Cultural Context Model". Dr. Ryu was a member of the Affinity Counseling Group beginning in 2005 providing the Cultural Context Model of family therapy to high-risk youth their families and communities. She has presented nationally and internationally on domestic and community violence, and transformative family therapy.  

Dr. Ryu's publications are in the area of Spousal Use of Pornography and Its Clinical Significance for Asian-American Women: Korean Women as an Illustration on the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy (20004), and on Korean American Families in Ethnicity & Family Therapy in 2005.

Dr. Ryu was honored as Therapist of The Year with The Essential Piece Award, by the Family Support Organization of Middlesex County and Coordinated Family Care in New Jersey in 2007.

Dr. Ryu continues her work with families in Korea using a transformative lens of family therapy: The Cultural Context Model. She is currently teaching at EwhaWomans University and Sungshin Women's University and runs an institute for family therapy training.

White Privilege Conference


Ohlaysha Hicks

Ohlaysha Hicks has a Master's Degree from Capella University in Human Services with a specialization in couple and family therapy. She is a postgraduate of the Institute for Family Services and Director of Progresando en Comunidad .

She has also served as an educator in the South Brunswick School District in New Jersey since 2002. Her work as an educator and her current training as a family therapist inform her efforts to promote healthy development in families through the collective engagement of larger systems and community-based therapy.


Denise Pflaumer Capici

Denise has a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Capella University and has completed a two-year postgraduate training program at IFS.  She is currently consulting faculty at the Institute and oversees the creation of media and technology.

Copyright ©2014. The Institute for Family Services. All Right Reserved.

Designed, Developed and Maintained by: AnandPawar