Meet Our Team

Our team of clinicians are highly trained, professional, friendly, and compassionate. Our personalized and integrated approach inspires people to commit to overcoming obstacles that are interfering with the quality of their lives, changing destructive behaviors, and gaining insight and coping skills for underlying emotional psychological issues.


Monica Bezzi Demas – MA, RAS, LMFT

I was born and raised in Brazil and have Italian ancestry. I immigrated to the United States in 1992 and obtained my Masters in Counseling Psychology and Drug and Alcohol Abuse Study and Counseling. I am a Registered Addiction Specialist and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I  provide empathic and experienced therapy for adults, teens,...



Gail Andrews, LCSW

At the Department of Psychiatry, Kaiser South Bay Medical Center I treat patients combining different modalities such as psychodynamic, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapies, motivational interviewing and harm reduction. I am able to see all ages and family configurations. I run groups using dialectical behavioral therapy. I provide psychosocial support to cancer patients and their families...


Marla Holt wht

Marla Holt, MA, LMFT

In today’s multi-stressed world, one of the things you can count on in life is that things will change. Change can lend itself to the greater demand of having to skillfully juggle and keep many balls in the air. These life situations call for adapting in an effective and efficient way, but trying to find...


Leila Martinez wht

Leila Martinez, MA, LMFT

As your therapist I look forward to each session and to being part of the discovery of  your personal strengths, finding new ways to cope with change and to change when that is what is needed or desired.  Together we find hope and optimism, working to turn courage into comfort.  It is an honor to...


Ashley Kretzschmar wht

Ashley Kretzshmar, MA, LMFT

Welcome. I am so glad that you are contemplating the use of psychotherapy to help you through a challenging time. Negative feelings or stressful situations can push us beyond our typical coping strategies into a place of feeling overwhelmed and wanting some guidance. I strive to create an open, non-judgmental environment in which you can...



Brooke Aschidamini, MS, RD, CISSN

I am a registered dietitian and certified sports nutritionist specializing in behavior change, meal planning, weight loss/management, disordered eating and mind-body awareness. Anxiety and depression affect our eating behaviors and patterns, which often times leads to weight gain or loss and malnutrition. In turn, malnutrition has a significant effect on our mental state and is...



Timothy Hutson, MA, MCA

Assist families in direct intervention for loved ones’ alcohol and other drug abuse and or dependency problems Educate families on the symptoms and phases of addiction including family dynamics, enabling, treatment, aftercare, and recovery Educate governmental offices on the symptoms and phases of addiction including effects in the workplace, enabling, treatment, aftercare, reemployment and recovery...


Christine Salazar wht

Christine Salazar, MD

Dr. Salazar graduated from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in 1998. She specializes in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.


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Jill M Wussler, LCSW

As we travel this journey of life, sometimes the way to health and wholeness is not too clear. During these times, it’s helpful to have a partner to walk with you. I have been in practice for over 20 years, helping individuals, families, couples and groups facing a wide variety of challenges. I treat individuals...



Lisa Richards, LCSW, BCD

sbAs a Board  Certified  Diplomat  in  Clinical  Social  Work, I have had the privilege of serving individuals,  families  and  couples for over 25 years. I enjoy helping people  grow their  authentic  power. Even as we learn, we teach. What do you  want  us to learn from  you? Life is full of lessons, gifts and opportunities~but...


Lawrence-Braslow-fstep wht

Lawrence Braslow, MD

I have 20 years experience providing psychotherapy and medication support to my patients, children and adults. I completed my Child and Adolescent training at Cedars-Sinai Medical center. I have remained active training and supervising Child Psychiatry Residents at UCLA, USC, and Cedars- Sinai. I have also acted as Medical Director at Los Angeles Child Guidance...


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Jeffrey Nishii, Psy.D.

The presence of challenges in life is a universal truth that we all face. I believe that each challenge presents us with opportunities to grow, mature, and emerge as a stronger, more complete version of ourselves. My therapeutic approach focuses on removing roadblocks and empowering the individual to access their own strengths and achieve new...



Montoya Whitfield, MA, MFT-Intern

I have experience in working with children, adolescents and families, from various cultural, socioeconomic and developmental backgrounds over the past 7 years. I use an integrated therapeutic approach, consisting of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma Focused-CBT, Floortime, ABA, and RDI. The therapeutic modalities that I use are based on the client’s needs and what I...



Lauren Peake, Psy.D.

I am a licensed clinical psychologist in California and am dedicated to providing treatment and assessment services to children and their families presenting with various difficulties (i.e., ADHD, autism, behavioral difficulties, anxiety, and depression). I am passionate about helping children navigate their chaotic worlds and assisting them in becoming successful adults. I believe that in...



Harsukh J. Savalia, MD

Child Psychiatrists are primary care doctors for the mind. Dr. Savalia offers a wide range of treatment options that focus on treating the overall mental well-being in patients. Treatment approaches are designed to diagnose & treat various types of physical and mental illness. These may include depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder or anxiety disorders. Dr....


Teresa Guadiana

Teresa Guadiana, LMFT

My life purpose is to empower, encourage, inspire and assist individuals of all ages and walks of life, to unveil, develop, trust, and maintain their inner resources; to enjoy of a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life. I offer empathy, gentleness, respect, kindness and genuine care, during life transitions, anxiety, depression, losses and additional life...


Therapy is a step towards learning about ourselves, recognizing opportunities, improving relationships and healing. Our approach to therapy combines understanding, compassion and insight to empower our clients and help them fulfill their dreams and desires.

First Step Counseling prepares you to move forward into a new phase of your life. You are one step closer to becoming a new you, with stronger and healthier relationships with friends and family. Our commitment is to assist our clients in developing carefully constructed “pathsways”; which lead to healthier and more productive lives.

First Step Counseling is located in San Pedro and services the South Bay Area, CA and offers a wide range of mental health services to the community.