Postpartum Support International

New Jersey
PSI-NJ

Postpartum Support International (PSI) is the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to helping those suffering from perinatal mood disorders, the most common complication of childbirth.

Our Mission is to increase awareness, education, prevention, and treatment of perinatal mental health issues affecting individuals, their families, and support systems in all areas of New Jersey.

Our Vision is that all pregnant and postpartum individuals and their families, including those from underserved communities, will have access to perinatal support, mental health/healthcare providers, education, and resources to improve overall well-being through advocacy, training, and increased awareness of perinatal mental health.

Katie McGowanChair: Katie McGowan

Katie McGowan, Ed.M, is founder and facilitator of Beyond the Baby Blues, a free virtual mom-to-mom support group for postpartum mothers. She is President of the New Jersey Chapter of Postpartum Support International, following her roles as Communication Chair and Advocacy Chair. After her own experiences with birth trauma and PMADs, Katie became passionate about helping women struggling in the postpartum period. She is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Masters Degree in Elementary Education and taught kindergarten through 2nd grade in the public school system for 9 years. She received her certification in Perinatal Mental Health through PSI. She is a 2022 honoree of the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award for her volunteer work. Katie is a proud wife and the mother of two beautiful children.


Vice Chair: Kristy Champignon Kristy Champignon

Kristy is a NJ and NY licensed counselor with over 15 years experience working in the mental health community and the founder of Meadowlark Counseling, Supervision, & Consultation. Since the birth of her son and her own experiences as a first time mom, Kristy has acquired additional training and certification in perinatal mental health with the mission and belief that all parents deserve the compassion and support of a village. Kristy is a passionate speaker and advocate educating her community on various mental health topics and stigma reduction. Kristy’s goal is to help moms and dads cherish and care for the person they become in parenthood.


PMHA-POC Chair: Shanita Alvarez-Crawley

Shanita Alvarez-Crawley, LSW (She/Her/Hers) is a Social Work Manager at AtlantiCare Women’s and Children’s Services.  She provides mental health and support services across the healthcare system to perinatal and postpartum patients during the pregnancy and up to one year after birth.  She also works with women prior to pregnancy and provides substance use support services.  As the Social Work manager, She also oversees the operational and day to day activities of the Safe Beginnings Program at AtlantiCare that provides in home medical and social service support to pregnant women and their infants up to one year of life.  She is trained in PMH and will be seeking PMH-C certification.  Shanita has worked in the field of social services for 17 years and has experience in trauma, grief, and loss.  Her background is extensive in preventing child abuse and neglect and supporting families that have experiences incidents of abuse and neglect.


The Climb Chair: Erin Begendorf

Erin is a licensed counselor with over 12 years experience working in the mental health community.  She is co-owner of Meadowlark Counseling, Consultation, and Supervision alongside Kristy Champignon.  Erin is a mom of two who experienced first hand, just how isolating being a new mom could be and was eager to find support.  Erin obtained her certification in perinatal mental health in 2020, and also has been a Climb leader for the past two years. Coordinating and leading a climb ignited a passion to help bring community support together to raise awareness and funds for PSI-NJ.  As The Climb Chair, Erin is responsible for coordinating and assisting in educating climb leaders and advocates around NJ to ensure that the message, “You are not alone,” is heard throughout the entire state, especially with mom’s and caregivers alike.


Community Outreach and Engagement: Deborah Flam

Deborah Flam, M.A., LAC, PMH-C, is a perinatal and reproductive therapist in N.J. and P.A. She has experience in providing psychotherapy to those struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, infertility, pregnancy and infant loss, and she works with sexual abuse survivors in their childbearing years. Deborah has training in EMDR therapy, Exposure and Response Prevention, Compassionate Bereavement Care from the MISS Foundation, and trauma-informed care for survivors of sexual abuse. In addition, she has her Perinatal Mental Health Certification from PSI. Since 2021, Deborah has been facilitating a perinatal support group for PSI, a primary infertility support group for Yesh Tikva, and has been a PSI NJ support coordinator. Deborah is passionate about helping others and ensuring that all birthing people and families have access to mental health support and quality healthcare.


Yvelisse GonzalezFundraising and Development: Yvelisse Gonzalez

Yvelisse Gonzalez, MSW, LSW, has dedicated over 16 years to serving New Jersey women, children, and families. Yvelisse is passionate about working with people experiencing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADS). Yvelisse received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Special Education from York College and a Master’s in Social Work from Rutgers University. Over the years, she has provided education and training to professionals and consumers about PMADS. Yvelisse has served as a subject matter expert participating on panels facilitated by First Lady Tammy Murphy and 2020 Mom and presenting at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and the PSI Annual Conference.

Yvelisse works at the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health as Manager of the Emotional Well-Being Program for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders funded by the NJ Department of Health. She and her colleagues developed the Emotional Health Phone Support program, a phone follow-up service for those in the perinatal period. The program also offers perinatal support groups, professional education to healthcare providers, and workshops for families in Northern NJ. Yvelisse’s mission is to educate professionals and families, empower and support families in the perinatal period, and advocate for increased awareness and equitable access to treatment and services for families.


Colleen ImlerCommunications Chair: Colleen Imler

Colleen is a communications professional with a decade of experience working on national consumer PR campaigns, engaging audiences through messaging and weaving stories across various media platforms. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from Rowan University and masters degree in Organizational Leadership from Rider University. She is a proud mom, advocate for mental health and a survivor of PPD. As the Communications Chair, Colleen is responsible for spreading awareness and promoting various PSI-NJ programs through social media and PSI-NJ’s monthly e-newsletter.


Kara KushnirEducation and Training: Kara Kushnir

Kara Kushnir is a psychotherapist/LCSW, licensed in NJ, PA, FL and SC. As a clinician she founded A Work of Heart Counseling in Bergen County, where she and her team focus on the needs of families – including new parents – navigating a variety of life challenges ranging from perinatal mental health conditions, to NICU stays, infant loss or stillbirth, termination for medical reasons, and parenting children with disabilities. Kara’s journey into perinatal mental health and obtaining her PMH-C was inspired not only by her work with families but also by her own personal experiences with birth trauma and perinatal anxiety/obsessive-compulsive disorder (PPA/OCD). These experiences led her to pursue specialized training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), equipping her with a powerful tool to help clients heal from trauma and regain emotional well-being.

In addition to her work at A Work of Heart Counseling, Kara serves as an adjunct at Montclair State University, where she teaches Child & Family Policy to MSW students, instilling in them the importance of mental health support for women, children, and families. Moreover, Kara is the proud owner of Nurtured Nest Consulting and Education, a platform through which she trains other professionals dedicated to supporting women, children, and families.


Vanessa ParisiAdvocacy Chair: Vanessa Parisi

Vanessa Parisi, DO, MS, MPH, FACOG, NCMP, PMH-C is a graduate and former Global Health Academic Medicine Scholar from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. While in medical school, she earned her Master’s Degree in Neuromusculoskeletal Sciences & Certificate in Global Health from New York Institute of Technology. She simultaneously earned her Master’s in Public Health from A.T. Still University’s School of Health Management. Dr. Parisi continued her training in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program at Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC) in Livingston, New Jersey where she served as administrative chief resident.

Dr. Parisi is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist who worked as an OB/GYN generalist for six years. She has now transitioned out of solo private practice to a hospital-based and administrative setting. She is fully licensed without restriction in New York & New Jersey. She serves as a Hospitalist and Senior Attending OB/GYN physician at Bassett Healthcare in Cooperstown, New York. She works per-diem as a Hospitalist with OB Hospitalist Group (OBHG) at Bellevue Women’s Center of Ellis Medicine in Niskayuna, New York. She also works per-diem as a Laborist with Mountainside Medical Center of Hackensack Meridian Health in Montclair, New Jersey.

In addition to general women’s health, obstetrics, and surgery, she has expertise in Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). Dr. Parisi earned her Postpartum Support International (PSI) and 2020 Mom’s Maternal Mental Health Certificate & PSI Advanced Psychopharmacology Certificate. In 2021, she completed her Certification in Perinatal Mental Health (PMH-C) and has worked as a PSI Maternal Mental Health Hotline Counselor. She serves as the Advocacy Chair for PSI New Jersey’s chapter. She also is a North American Menopause Society Certified Menopause Practitioner (NCMP) and has special interests in menopausal medicine and sexual wellbeing.

Dr. Parisi is the President of the New Jersey Obstetrical & Gynecological Society (NJOGS) and serves on a variety of subcommittees. She is also very involved in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) for District III, participating in community service, advocacy, and education of young physicians and patients. She is one of two Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Champions and the Social Media/Communications Chair for her District. She is active in education and outreach in the Dominican Republic and visits regularly.

She has held several academic appointments at residencies, medical schools, and nursing programs. In 2019, she received the Teacher of the Year Award from the Mountainside Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program. In 2021, she received the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Hackensack Meridian Health School of Medicine. She is interested in pursuing teaching again in her new chapter-didactics, simulation, clinical skills, and group learning.

Dr. Parisi has participated in teaching and medical service trips to Ecuador, Uganda, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Peru, and the Philippines. Some of her hobbies include travel, gardening, snorkeling, candle making, and ballroom dance. Her passions include spending time with her family & friends, volunteerism, community education, and medical outreach. She is affectionately known as “Zizi” by her nieces and nephews which is her most fun role to date.


Stephanie SwaseyMembership Chair: Stephanie Swasey

Stephanie serves as a full spectrum doula who supports any pregnancy path and outcome. She is working toward a Certification in Perinatal Mental Health (PMH-C) and has a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Rutgers University, which led her to a career as a pharmaceutical research and development scientist.

As Membership Chair, Stephanie is responsible for the recognition and welcoming of new members and guests. She organizes and hosts special events for meeting and greeting prospective new members to share how the chapter supports families in New Jersey.


Hazel WalkerSocial Media: Hazel Walker

Hazel Walker is a licensed marriage and family therapist who is dedicated to teaching moms and couples how to thrive in their postpartum experience. She supports moms as they navigate the journey of rediscovering who they are after having a baby. Hazel is the CEO of It’s aPARENTly Time, LLC. Through her work, she provides tools on how to improve self-care as moms, she works to help couples understand how to work better as a team, and she provides practical tips on how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. Hazel has hosted the “Am I Ready For Parenthood Workshop?” and she has collaborated with many community providers such as doulas, OBGYN’s, and other mental health professionals to ensure that moms and couples feel more supported.


Secretary: Ronnise L. White

Ronnise L. White is a certified Life Coach and graduate of the Art of Training and Development Coaching and Training Institute. She is the founder of Authentic Alignment, a coaching and educational organization that helps women identify their significance, strength, and influence. The concern for the well-being and positive outcome of families drives her attention toward familial issues. This passion has cultivated her focus on family programs that positively build the capability and capacity of individuals and collective family networks. Her advocacy efforts have significantly impacted youth, young adults, and women. Most recently, Ronnise has completed a DONA International Approved Birth Doula Workshop as well Community Lactation Educator Training.

Ronnise has worked in the education system for over 15 years and has been a recognized recipient of numerous awards for her contributions to the educational system of Buena Regional School District.  She also served as a Township Committeewoman in her local community serving on various advisory boards for many years. In September 2022, Ronnise became a co-author of the book, Released, which details women’s inspirational stories of freedom. She is the wife of a US Army Veteran and the mother of three adult children.


Sarah WhiteTreasurer: Sarah White

Sarah White is a native midwesterner but has lived in NJ for almost 20 years. She is a mom to two children, one biological child and one bonus child. They are 4 and 8. Sarah is passionate about mental health, particularly women’s mental health and is a fierce advocate for disability services and accessibility. Both Sarah and her son are disabled.

Sarah has spent most of her career working in pharma, and most recently worked for a company that focuses on helping individuals have a family if the “traditional” method doesn’t work for them. She is very passionate about this cause and is grateful for the ability to make a difference in that space. Sarah has a broad background in finance, treasury and strategy type roles.


Mei ZhaoCLC: Mei Zhao

Mei Zhao, MPH is the Program Assistant and Adjunct Faculty in the Public Health Department working in an academic environment. With over 14 years working in Public Health, she brings six years of experience managing grant funded, health related programs. She is certified in Mental Health First Aid and is completing training/certification in Perinatal Mental Health. She is passionate to help more moms and parents to make a smooth transition to their parenthood, and create a happy family! As Chapter CLC, Mei is happy to be a bridge to better connect the NJ chapter with PSI.

Want to make a difference in New Jersey?

Become a member or donate today!

PSI relies on members and contributions from the community to promote awareness, prevention, and treatment of maternal mental health issues related to childbearing.

All memberships are tax-deductible.

Become a PSI-NJ Volunteer

There are many ways to help and volunteer with PSI, and we would love to have you join us. All are welcome at PSI! Survivors, mental health professionals, doulas, clinicians, and anyone else interested and passionate about raising awareness about perinatal mental health can volunteer through the chapter in order to give back to their local communities.

PSI Chapters are made up of a variety of local advocates and stakeholders who further the mission of PSI on a grassroots level. Chapters work on a wide range of initiatives that they develop based on their communities needs. While some chapters may focus on passing legislation, others may create a robust network of peer support groups, and all chapters provide scholarships for PSI trainings and events.

Contact the Chapter to find out about volunteer opportunities near you. Explore other volunteer opportunities on the PSI website.

Training

Advanced Perinatal Mental Health Psychotherapy
July 28, 2023 – Edison, NJ
Learn More | Register

Perinatal Mood Disorders: Components of Care
July 26-27, 2023 – Edison, NJ
Learn More | Register

Scholarships

PSI-NJ offers scholarships for PSI perinatal mental health trainings and conferences.

Please contact the Chapter for more information.

PSI-NJ News & Events

We gather as a community to walk and socialize. We meet fellow survivors, supporters & providers. #climbout