Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT is an expert trainer, respected speaker, and licensed therapist in trauma, development, and attachment. She is a certified yoga instructor and seeks to help her clients better understand how the body is often the first speaker to life's experiences: joy, stress, or even trauma. She is noted for her specialization in areas of development, attachment, trauma, and neuroscience, and her ability to communicate complex topics with clarity and humor.
Michelle has worked extensively with adults and child with severe disruptions in early life-care. This includes foster and adoptive families, attachment issues, child development, and healthy parenting. She is an infant mental health consultant for a variety of non-profits and community mental health teams. She is the co-author of Floortime Strategies to Promote Development in Children and Teens: A User’s Guide to the DIR® Model, a curriculum for parents and professionals to help young people with social, emotional, and cognitive challenges.
Michelle completed her doctorate in Psychoanalysis from The Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. She received her BA in English Literature from University of Oklahoma, MA in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and MS in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology.
Dr. Vanessa Spooner joined Michelle Harwell Therapy as part of our clinical and supervisory team. Vanessa completed her doctoral studies at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and came to Los Angeles in 2009 to complete her training with a fellowship at the Wright Institute.
She is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in helping adults work through anxiety, depression, grief, eating disorders, trauma, unhealthy relationships, creative blocks, and general feelings of helplessness or dissatisfaction. In addition to individual therapy, Vanessa also has extensive training and experience in group therapy, and is currently president of the Group Psychotherapy Association of Los Angeles (GPALA).
Sara Semal, MA, LPCC, has thirteen years of experience as a psychotherapist, clinical supervisor, and clinical director. She has an extensive background working with individuals in the areas of trauma, family conflict, parenting, grief and loss, depression and anxiety. Sara has held positions in a variety of mental and medical health settings working with underserved populations, survivors of interpersonal violence, women and the LGBTQIA community. Her diverse experience has shaped and informed all aspects of her clinical practice, which is grounded in providing a safe, comfortable, and honest place for clients to reflect, develop insight, and grow.
Outside of her private practice, Sara is the Senior Director of Occidental College's Wellness Center. She is a graduate of New York University's counseling psychology graduate program and was a University of Chicago Fellow in Advanced Psychodynamic Clinical Practice.
Creating space in our lives to process is important for our well-being and maintenance of healthy relationships. Therapy provides an opportunity to validate our experiences, explore behavioral patterns, and increase self-awareness.
I am passionate about working with individuals and families experiencing medical issues, chronic illness, and grief and loss, and am interested in supporting parents with children at all stages of development. I have substantial experience working with children and families in crisis, utilizing play therapy interventions with young children, talk therapy with older children and adolescents, and providing support for parenting issues.
Laura MacRae-Serpa, MA, CCLS is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF #81333, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, MFT 50732. Laura received her MA in Marriage & Family Therapy and MA in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College. She graduated from California State University Los Angeles (summa cum laude) with her BA in Child Development.
Previously, Laura worked as a certified Child Life (Development) Specialist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. She has substantial experience supporting children and families dealing with stress of medical issues, chronic illness, and grief and loss. Laura has also provided therapy on campus at K-8th grade school.
Growth and healing are components of a rich, vibrant life. Yet, sometimes, the change and healing we want seems overwhelming, vague, or even impossible. In these times, we need someone else to support us on our journey.
As a therapist, I work to provide this support to my clients through a warm, caring and honest relationship. In this context, we can work together to gain new insights into your story, remove obstacles and burdens, and take practical steps toward change. Therapy is a space where your wounds can be healed, your weaknesses held, and your potential engaged and explored. I would be honored to walk this journey with you or your child.
Allison (Allie) Ramsey, MS, is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF #94391, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, MFT 50732. She received her MS in Marital and Family Therapy from Fuller Theological Seminary, and her BA in Psychology and Philosophy from Yale University.
Allison (Allie) has worked with individuals on a broad range of issues, including anxiety, depression, relational challenges, faith integration, divorce, and aging. She has training and experience in a wide variety of treatment modalities, and works to tailor her therapeutic approach to the unique needs of each client.
Natalie Cargill, MA, is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern and Art Therapy Intern, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, MFT 50732.
After working for many years as an artist and educator, Natalie was inspired by her students to expand her skill in working with children, adolescents, and families by becoming a therapist. She is a longtime student of human development, with deep empathy for the challenges faced by families, and is passionate about helping children and young people thrive. Natalie has practiced Art Therapy with adolescents in residential treatment, where she was exposed to the traumatic histories experienced by many of them, leading her to focus her research on best practices in working therapeutically with cases of cumulative trauma and PTSD. Natalie works with clients of all ages, and approaches therapy with both individuals and families through relational models, seeking to understand attachment patterns, and the systems that impact them. Additionally, she uses the modality of visual art and image-making as a way for supporting clients in accessing, expressing, reflecting, and processing issues.
Natalie is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University's MFT/Art Therapy program, and has trained in Trauma-focused CBT and Structural Family Therapy.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl
Lauren Ziel, MSW, is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, ASW #76483, working under the supervision of Vanessa Spooner, PsyD. Her clinical experience in medical and mental health settings has shaped her understanding that physical and psychological wellness are interconnected. As such, Lauren approaches therapy from a holistic perspective wherein mind and body are seen as inextricably linked.
Additionally, Lauren is a certified 200-hour Yoga Instructor, and she incorporates both the physical and philosophical practice of yoga into her therapeutic work with patients. Through the use of movement and mindfulness, Lauren develops specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, challenges in life-stage transitions, relational difficulties, and identity/intrapersonal development.
Lauren received her Masters in Social Work (with Dean’s List Honors) from the University of Southern California. She graduated (magna cum laude) from Occidental College with her BA in Psychology. In her spare time, Lauren is a fitness enthusiast and loves to spend time engaging in all things active and outside...especially if it involves her friends, family, and/or dogs.
Many people seek relief through psychotherapy because they feel an inner call to make changes in their life. In response to this call, I believe in the transformative power of being witnessed in a warm, responsive relational context. I approach my work with individuals, couples, and families as a collaborative and creative process with particular focus on empowerment, emotional freedom, and building greater ease. In therapy, we will work together to explore the ways you have come to see yourself, your relationships, and the world, take stock of your resources and assets, and imagine pathways towards what is most alive and meaningful for you.
Taz Morgan, MA, is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF #99714, working under the supervision of Vanessa Spooner, PsyD (PSY 24942). Taz has training in Depth-oriented psychotherapy from Counseling West in Sherman Oaks, California. During her training there, she gained experience serving culturally-diverse adolescents, adults, and couples with a variety of presenting issues. Individuals facing challenges related to caretaking behavior, high sensitivity, and creative identity as well as couples seeking to reestablish trust and build stronger emotional connection often find Taz a good fit. Her therapeutic approach is grounded in Jungian, psychodynamic, and somatic perspectives.
Taz is a graduate of Pacifica Graduate Institute, where she studied Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Depth Psychology. Taz also has a special interest in working with families of individuals with developmental disabilities, and her thesis focused on sibling relationships, autism, and story-telling. She received her BA in Comparative Literature from The College of Wooster and MA in Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image from the University of Amsterdam.