Nick Pinkerton, PsyD
Director of Counseling Services
Nick Pinkerton, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist and the Director of Counseling Services at Southern Connecticut State University. Dr. Pinkerton has clinical experience working in community mental health centers, hospitals, and other treatment facilities working with children, adolescents, and adults. Dr. Pinkerton has trained and worked at several institutions of higher education, including Connecticut College, Eastern Connecticut State University, Northwestern University, the University of Hartford, and Southern Connecticut State University. Dr. Pinkerton has taught doctoral-level classes on group therapy and the foundations of clinical practice and is involved in professional organizations related to collegiate mental health at the state, regional, and national levels. Dr. Pinkerton regularly presents on issues related to college student mental health and has been featured on news and media outlets for his prevention efforts focusing on stigma reduction, suicide prevention, and holistic well-being promotion.
Elaine Allen, MTS, MSW, LCSW
After earning undergraduate degrees in English and Math and a Master’s Degree in Theological studies, Elaine finally found her professional calling and completed a Master’s of Social Work at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before coming to Southern, she worked as the Program Coordinator of the Duke University Women’s Center and as a clinical social worker in a broad range of settings, including hospitals, a non-profit rape crisis center, partial hospital and intensive outpatient programs, a non-profit midwifery practice, and a community mental health agency.
Elaine enjoys working with the varied challenges and concerns encountered by both traditional and non-traditional aged college students and loves the diversity of the Southern student population. She draws from a variety of clinical approaches in order to best address each student’s individual needs and learning style. She views therapy as an experiential learning process in which students can test hypotheses about themselves, identify and let go of self-defeating assumptions and behaviors, and practice new, more fulfilling ways of relating to themselves and others.
Elaine’s counseling style is engaging, collaborative, supportive, and non-directive. She works to create a safe, respectful environment in which students can allow themselves to acknowledge, express, and clarify all aspects of their inner conflicts and concerns at the pace and in the ways that feel right to them. By helping students honor the healthy intention (a longing for connection, competence, or self-preservation) underlying even our most self-defeating behaviors, she helps them develop the self-compassion and courage necessary for risking positive change. Using therapeutic conversation and mutually-determined experiential homework, she actively assists them in developing the motivation, strengths, and skills necessary for resolving problems, overcoming fears, and building more satisfying lives. She is also a strong believer in the power of group therapy for students struggling with confidence or relationship challenges, as it provides direct interpersonal learning and real-time feedback and offers an encouraging community of support, where students can build deep connections and quickly realize they are not the only ones struggling with social or emotional challenges!
Elaine serves as the Center’s Associate Director and training coordinator, overseeing the Center’s Internship program, which provides professional training to graduate students in Social Work, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Psychology, and Student Affairs. She previously served as a coordinator of the Safe Zone LGBTQIA+ Ally Training program. Her professional interests include graduate student development, counselor education, group therapy, LGBTQIA+ and multicultural concerns, anxiety disorders, trauma, sports psychology, existential and spiritual dilemmas, and relationship and family of origin challenges.
Elaine earned an advanced post-graduate Certificate in Clinical Practice with Children and Adolescents at Smith College, and has pursued specialized training in group therapy, clinical application of control-mastery theory, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) trauma treatment, existential and mind/body approaches (including Mindfulness and Focusing), and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment therapy). She and her 8-year-old Dalmatian, Cosmo, have worked as a certified Pet Therapy Team.
Elaine competed as a debater, gymnast, and diver during high school, and was a member of her college cross-country team. She edited a literary magazine and played Puck in a college production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She studied piano and organ with limited success and barely survived a “Songs for Non-Singers” voice class. She is currently an enthusiastic outdoor athlete, who competes in off-road triathlon, mountain biking, and long distance trail running events across New England. Born in the South (Kentucky), she has learned to cope with Connecticut winters by pursuing a variety of winter sports. Elaine enjoys reading fiction, devising elaborate costumes, vegetarian cooking, thrift shopping, outdoor adventures, and hanging out with her two quirky Dalmatians. She is a volunteer guide with Achilles International, an organization supporting runners with disabilities.
Matthew Ouimet, MS, NCC, LPC
Matt is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) who has been providing treatment to college students since 2009. Matt has an integrative approach to treatment which includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), and Humanistic Therapy. His style as a clinician is often direct while conveying empathy, identifying individual strengths, and incorporating humor and understanding to build the therapeutic relationship. Students commonly find Matt to be approachable, rational and adept at being able to provide new perspectives on situations that are often both complex and difficult.
Matt’s primary goal when providing treatment is to provide a comfortable, safe and professional environment where students can gain the skills and insight they need to better manage the issues that are adversely impacting their lives. He is experienced and skilled in providing treatment and support to students facing many different challenges such as depression, anxiety, transition issues, homesickness, relationship concerns, social integration difficulties, major/career decisions, sexual orientation/gender identity issues, grief and loss, as well as many others.
- Hobbies: Watching and playing sports, camping, playing games (lawn, board, video), cooking for others, trying new restaurants, being by the water, grilling outside, traveling
- Birth Order: Youngest of three- two older brothers
- Strengths: Active listening, communication, humor, rational and critical thinking
- Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
- Favorite Seasons: Summer and Fall
- Favorite TV Channels: HGTV, Food Network, ESPN
- Favorite Food: Please don’t make me choose…
- Pets: Jacoby (cat) and Paisley (dog)
- Personal Pronouns: He/Him/His
Eileen Bonyai, APRN
Pronouns: No Preference
Eileen is an ANCC Board Certified Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC) who specializes in outpatient psychopharmacologic management. She is a graduate of Yale University School of Nursing. Prior to becoming an APRN Eileen was a science teacher for many years and has a BS from the University of New England and an MS in Biology from SCSU. She reports that seeing the ways in which mental health issues affected her student’s lives and academic success led her to pursue a second career in MH treatment. She started her career as an APRN in a community mental health clinic in New Haven, which allowed her to gain expertise in treating a wide range of MH concerns. She offers medication consultations, evaluations, and medication management for a range of issues including anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, OCD, mood disorders PTSD, and psychotic disorders. Eileen believes that therapy is the first line treatment for college students, and that judicious use of medication can facilitate the therapeutic process. Eileen has a certificate in Integrative Mental Health and will work with students to ensure safe use of evidence based alternative treatments. She is certified to use auricular acupuncture as part of treatment. Her recent group, “Calm Body, Calm Mind” used alternative and complementary modalities to address anxiety.
She recognizes the importance of the link between physical and mental health disorders and orders laboratory tests, and referral to a PCP when appropriate. Eileen works collaboratively with the counselors at the center and carries a therapy caseload. Eileen uses a combination of treatment modalities and favors short term insight and strengths based treatment, she is client centered, supportive and non-directive. She places a high value on providing care that is developmentally and culturally appropriate and believes in supporting each individual's innate personal strengths and capacity for change.
Eileen prefers to spend her free time outdoors in the woods or near the ocean, and while at home she enjoys reading, baking and learning basic carpentry. One of her favorite quotes comes from Maya Angelou: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”, but she reports she still needs a lot of work on the style part.
Michelle Lawler, MS, NCC, LPC
Counselor, QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Instructor,
Grief Recovery Specialist, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional
Michelle A. Lawler, Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), Connecticut State Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) is a first generation college graduate having received her Bachelor’s Degree from St. Bonaventure University and Masters from Southern Connecticut State University.
Michelle has worked at SCSU within the Division of Student Affairs for over 30 years and 20 plus of those years have been as a clinician in the Counseling Services Department. Her passion is working with Southern’ s diverse student population and helping all clients discover their resilience, strengths and values in life resulting in peace, hope, meaning and well-being. She is a certified Grief Recovery Specialist with specializations in loss by suicide and trauma and pet loss and a Clinical Trauma Professional. She is a long time certified instructor in QPR, a Suicide Prevention method and was the founding co-chair of Southern’s Support and Resource Team (SART). Her areas of expertise also include spirituality, positive psychology, self-care, sexual assault, domestic violence, bullying and post traumatic growth. She is an active member of state and national professional development.
Michelle believes in facilitating hope and meaning in one’s life. Two important quotes: Australian psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankle (author of Man’s search for Meaning) writes: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” And Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”
Stephanie Perez, MS, LPC, NCC
Stephanie Perez, MS, LPC, NCC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and assistant counselor at Southern Connecticut State University. Stephanie is a 2016 graduate of Southern’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Stephanie also has her bachelor of science from Northeastern University in Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology. Stephanie has experience working with children, adults and families and previous higher education experience while working with students at Gateway Community College as a counselor and academic advisor. Stephanie finds passion in working with individuals struggling with self-esteem, anxiety, depression, trauma and suicidal ideations and self-harm. Stephanie utilizes a person-centered approach which allows treatment to be specific to individual client based on their needs. Stephanie continues to attend trainings that allow for respecting client diversity and learning new skills to assist clients in overcoming their own personal struggles. Stephanie finds it important to engage in the social justice initiatives on campus as a way to bring awareness on a macro level with emphasis on battling mental health stigma.
Sarah Keiser, MS, LADC
Coordinator of Alcohol & Other Drug Services,
Project Director - Seeds of Hope (SCSU Collegiate Recovery Program)
I am a licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor with over 23 years of experience working with both adolescents and adults providing counseling and support to individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse disorders. I have worked for the past 17 years as a student affair professional within higher education providing both prevention and intervention services to a college age population. I have extensive training in motivational interviewing, group facilitation, program development and grant writing. I work in collaboration with agencies and organizations within the community to assist students and staff with accessing services and supports both on campus and within the greater New Haven region.
I oversee the SCSU Collegiate Recovery community which is support based and student oriented with the goal of providing a resource for college students in long-term recovery and for any student seeking recovery. Additionally, we support and provide resources to students who have been directly or indirectly affected by the substance use of friends or loved ones. The CRC provides a safe, supportive place for students to receive peer-based support designed to facilitate their recovery, connection, engagement, and success. The CRC also serves as an entry point for students not yet in recovery, but who are seeking help and resources for substance use disorders. There are currently several pathways to recovery support groups on campus which include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting, SMART recovery, and a support group for students who identify as being Adult children of Alcoholics (ACOA).
I am a member of the Connecticut Healthy Campus initiative, Statewide Integrative Medicine Collaborative, Northeast Collegiate Recovery Collaborative and the National Association of Addiction Professionals.
In my role as an AOD interventionist, I work to meet students where they are at with their substance use, and through harm reduction strategies and motivational interviewing techniques assist them in identifying their own reasons for wanting to make changes in their behavior.
I believe strongly in advocating for students who are in recovery from substance use disorders and other addictive behaviors. An important part of my role involves outreach to educate others about substance abuse issues and recovery in the hopes of reducing the stigma associated with addiction and connecting students with resources and peer support.
My personal interests include doing anything outdoors like hiking, running, etc. I am an animal lover who enjoys traveling and finding new adventures especially if it involves being near the ocean.
Randolph Brooks, Ph.D.
Multicultural Programming and Outreach Coordinator
Dr. Randolph Brooks, Ph.D. (He/Him/His) is a Licensed Professional Counselor, from Virginia. My primary area of focus is Multicultural Counseling. I earned my BA from Morehouse College ‘04, in Atlanta Georgia and my MS and Ph.D. from Virginia State University ‘09, ‘16 in Petersburg, Virginia. I completed my Predoctoral internship at Keene State College and my Postdoctoral Fellowship at Connecticut College. I have worked, trained, and studied in various areas including college counseling centers, military installations, geriatric hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, therapeutic day schools, regular public schools, private practice, and with mobile crisis. I have also worked with individual and group clients. These varied experiences have helped to refine my lens and scope of practice while also helping me to refine my theoretical orientation. I use an integrative approach with my clients, and I am committed to helping my clients achieve their goals. My philosophy with respect to the work that I do can be summed up in the following statement:
At some level everyone has the goal of being their best self, but sometimes we get frustrated, burned out, anxious, depressed, and confused. Sometimes this is a result of some sort of transition that we are experiencing, whether it is a change in status or situation. At times, these transitions can be overwhelming, and we just don’t know what to do. All we know is that we want relief from the pain, worry, and confusion. We want to feel normal again. We want to be at peace. And my goal is to help you feel and be more empowered to achieve your goals.
My research current interest is The Utilization of Available Campus Resources by college students.
Campus Liaison Relationships:
- Multicultural Center and all clubs and organizations in the center
- University Access Programs
- International Education
- BRoSe (BROTHERHOOD OF SCHOLARSHIP AND EXCELLENCE)
- Wilkenson Hall & Neff Hall
- Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Undocumented Students
Christine Thornton, BA
A proven administrator with 30+ years’ experience; Christine felt the urgency to make a career change focused on helping others, and returned to her “first love” of mental health and wellness after years of working in corporate America and small business. Receiving a BA in Leadership and Organizational Studies from Bay Path University in 2019, she is currently enrolled in the MS program in Health Care Management at BPU, with an expected graduation date of Fall 2022.
Prior to joining SCSU, Christine has worked at CCSU, Rushford Center, Inc., Community Health Center, Positive Choices Therapy, Recovery at Wildwood Farm, and DHMAS/Hartford Office of Forensic Evaluations. Enjoying 14 years of experience in mental health and recovery, her fondest memories are working with university students, young adults, and teens.
She approaches each day with a positive energy and collaborative spirit, always looking for the win/win. She draws on her easy-going sense of humor to bring out the best in everyone, instill pride, and engage and mobilize colleagues and students to make their university the best it can be.
She believes strongly in multi-dimensional living – mind, body, and spirit – and the importance of balance. She believes that as we are mindful of our journey and self-exploration, we will evolve into our best and truest selves and impact our world in a positive way. This understanding of ourselves places us in a better position to understand others. This creates a culture where colleagues and students can thrive. This creates the win/win.