Dr. Vito, as he is called by the Auldern students, comes with many years of clinical experience in both schools and private practice. He holds a Ph.D. in Clinical School Psychology from Hofstra University. He received his Master of Science in Clinical School Psychology from City University of New York. He is a Licensed Psychologist in both North Carolina and New York and holds several other certifications. He has worked with adolescents and families in private practice as well as served as a Consulting Psychologist with several schools for many years.
Dr. Vito recently relocated to Raleigh with his wife, Elizabeth who is a Clinical Social Worker. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two grown children, and his dog, Baxter. He is an avid tennis player, has taken numerous acting classes and is often seen working out in the gym. He is passionate about helping young people learn and grow.
Karen Smith, MSW, ACSW, LCSW
Karen Smith brings over 20 years’ experience in medical and clinical mental health to Auldern, working with diverse populations in health care, intensive in-home, outpatient, and inpatient treatment settings. And over at least ten of those years, she has provided supervision and support to numerous clinicians. She is well known as a compassionate clinician who brings her excellent interpersonal and communication skills to bear as she fosters not only a collaborative work environment for her team, but also a strong commitment to the healing of the individuals, couples and families who have received her counseling.
Along the way, Karen has had a number of leadership positions as a clinical director, a program coordinator, and director of social work. Working with adolescents has always been a focus of her career and she feels Auldern is the perfect place to practice her passion for helping adolescent girls become strong and capable young women. Karen sees Auldern as an emotionally safe place for girls to hone their academic and social skills as they experience and learn emotional resilience. Karen has worked with a range of modalities, including CBT, DBT and Mindfulness and will coordinate with her staff to make certain the right combination of methodologies are used to engage all of Auldern’s students.
Karen is especially experienced and dedicated to family therapy, which she sees as being “at the heart of Auldern’s approach.” She strives to foster an environment that will encourage collaboration among her team of therapists, the students themselves, their family members and everyone on each girl’s treatment team. She considers the work with the entire family system to be crucial to the ultimate success of each student in treatment.
Married with children, Karen lived in Honduras for 20 years and is fluent in Spanish. Needless to say, she has a strong commitment to cultural competent practice.
Karen Storm, LPC
Karen received her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology in 1995 and has been practicing as a licensed therapist for over 17 years. She joined the Auldern team as Clinical Therapist in 2011, but has always had a passion for working with teenage girls and their families.
Prior to receiving her Master’s, Karen taught high school math at an alternative high school, worked as an assistant aquatic director at a YMCA and spent over 2 years as a group counselor at a wilderness program for adjudicated youth. Before Auldern, Karen worked as a licensed therapist in a variety of intense settings, including in a domestic violence agency and in a maximum security women’s prison. She also worked as part of a community mental health crisis team.
Karen believes that a trusting and therapeutic relationship can be healing in itself, and she excels at building strong, genuine and trusting therapeutic relationships with each girl she works with. She uses this connection to challenge and empower girls to work through their issues and encourages them to strive to be a better version of themselves each day. Karen uses a strength-based approach and a variety of psychological theories and therapeutic approaches, including Reality Therapy, Person-Centered Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).
Karen’s interests are broad, and she especially enjoys helping teen girls tackle trauma, body image, disordered eating, attachment issues, behavioral issues and anxiety. She also has an assistant, Mr. Magoo, a 13-year-old beagle, who steps into the therapeutic role as needed. He usually helps with grounding techniques, anxiety reduction, mood stabilization, laughter therapy, and he does a great job teaching the girls how to relax and enjoy the moment.
Outside of work her interests include volunteering at the local animal shelter, her church and her son’s school. She also enjoys yoga, hiking, running, and reading. At home she spends time enjoying her three rescue hound dogs and caring for the neighborhood feral cats. Her favorite hobby is spending time with her son Luke and attending his various sporting events including baseball, soccer and basketball.
Hali Calcut, LCSWA
Hali Calcut received her undergraduate degree in psychology and criminal justice. During her undergraduate studies, Hali worked for the University Chaplain and as a Peer Lead Counselor, where she helped to develop and maintain both fellowship and academic programs for young adults. Hali’s devotion to working with adolescents flourished as she volunteered with children’s homes across the state.
She received her Masters of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and holds a certificate in Substance Use Disorders and Addictions. Hali has extensive experience working in community mental health services, therapeutic wilderness, family conservation programs, parenting programs, and residential settings. She practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and Solution Focused Therapy.
Hali is passionate about helping adolescents and young adults discover opportunities to cultivate skills that will empower them in fostering resiliency and autonomy. She works to integrate mindfulness exercises into practice, as she feels that providing adolescents with coping skills is critical to working to induce focus and intentionality, allowing for growth and development.
In her free time, Hali enjoys spending time on the coast, kayaking local rivers, and exploring the beautiful North Carolina mountains.
Shondell Hawkins, MS, LCSW
Shondell Hawkins is a DBT-informed, mindfulness-based psychotherapist with 12+ years of interpersonal practice with a mental health concentration, including substantial experience working with adults, teens, and families through a variety of agencies. Shondell also has specialized training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and has a passion for working with individuals who struggle with oppositional defiance, depression, mood disorders, anxiety, trauma and personality disorders. Having received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan, Shondell uses an array of therapeutic modalities as she seeks to identify and help change students’ potentially self-destructive or unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. She has specialized training working with client’s who are victims of sexual abuse, have attachment issues, and who are working on developmental and social deficits that have effected their cognitive and social development.
At Auldern, she focuses on providing psychoeducation to young women so they can better learn to problem-solve and communicate. Shondell believes it is one of her primary responsibilities as a therapist to provide students and families with skills, education and resources in an empathetic and supportive manner, while helping them understand that thoughts and beliefs can influence moods and actions. Shondell supports young women in learning to focus on their current problems while working to resolve their interpersonal conflict affectively and appropriately. While learning and implementing these new skills, she believes they are also increasing their self-esteem, confidence and resiliency to manage their own mental health and personal life. Shondell affirms that young women can learn to practice loving themselves and learn to set healthy boundaries for themselves, their peers, and others.
In her free time, Shondell loves spending time with her daughter and friends, as well as volunteering at local animal shelters.
Jess Curtis, LCSWA
Jess Curtis received her B.A. in psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill. While completing her undergraduate program, she volunteered at a local rape crisis center and served as a big sister in the Big Brother Big Sisters of America program. After graduating from college, Jess interned for a year with an organization called Resource VT. There, she assisted youth in learning job skills and finding employment.
Jess received her M.S.W from N.C. State’s Master of Social Work program. During that time, Jess had the opportunity to take part in the Health Resources and Services (HRSA) Behavioral Health Workforce Development program. As a HRSA scholar, she received training in Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. During her second year, she was an intern here at Auldern Academy. At Auldern, she led life skills and case processing groups and taught DBT skills to students. Jess is thrilled to be back at Auldern as a clinical therapist. She uses a variety of therapeutic techniques to help Auldern’s students tackle their problems assertively and develop their sense of self-worth.
In her free time, Jess enjoys hanging out with her family, friends and her chiweenie dog, Bugsy.