We are a team of highly qualified mental health professionals and we love what we do. All of our staff are trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and to work with a variety of ages and issues. In addition to these core components, each team member brings a unique approach and clinical specialty to practice.

Our Executive Team

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Melissa R Swartz, PhD, LPC/S, CEO

Executive Director Licensed Professional Counselor & Supervisor

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Melissa is the co-founder and Executive Director of Firm Foundations Counseling & Wellness. As executive director, Melissa’s role involves quality assurance for clinical services, staff training and supervision, as well as research and development. Melissa received her Bachelor’s in Experimental Psychology from the University of South Carolina, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Francis Marion, and a Doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision (PhD) from the University of South Carolina. She is licensed by the State of South Carolina as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Supervisor (LPC/S). She holds national certifications in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Triple P Positive Parenting Program, as well as Trauma Focused CBT. Melissa’s clinical specialty areas include child and adolescent behavioral and emotional disorders, spiritual integration, family issues, as well as trauma. Melissa is a published author on the topics of counselor advocacy and parental alliance. When Melissa is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, the Carolina coast, and Gamecock football.

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Johnathan Swartz, BSBA, CBO

Chief Business Officer

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John is the co-owner and Chief Business Officer of Firm Foundations. As CBO, John’s role involves overseeing administrative operations, purchasing and procurement. Prior to joining Firm Foundations full time in 2014, John enjoyed his years managing Dispatch operations for a major cable provider. John earned his Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from Bowling Green State University. John enjoys watching sports, playing golf, as well as spending time with family and friends.

Lugoff South Carolina Location

Our Administrative Team

April Barnes

April Barnes

Administrative Assistant

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April Barnes, also known as, one half of the dynamic front desk duo “Maypril”, is often the first smile you’ll see walking in the door at Firm Foundations. Originally an Arizona native, April got to plant her southern roots here in South Carolina when she moved to the state in 2018. At that time, she transitioned from her 2012 start in the physical health industry to mental health - Her true calling. Being an administrative assistant, April handles everything from intake forms, scheduling assessments, billing, and even cleanliness and quality control. (Counselors, don’t touch the glass!) Since being at FFCW, April has had the privilege of working with people from all walks of life. She understands the impact of mental health awareness in today’s society and is proud to be part of a team working to end the stigma. April believes {L}ove is love and all obstacles can be overcome with the right support. When not decorating the office, April enjoys listening to podcasts, playing with her pit bull, and strong coffee on Sunday mornings.

Mary Bratos

Mary Bratsos

Administrative Assistant

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Mary received her Bachelor’s degree in Experimental Psychology from the University of South Carolina. Since 2013, Mary has worked in managerial and administrative roles. She has been with Firm Foundations since January of 2019. Along with daily administrative tasks, Mary also helps with the referrals, billing, and is a customer service expert. She is truly passionate about her role here and hopes to continue to grow with Firm Foundations. When she is not working, you can find her hanging out with her family. She is an avid Gamecock fan and loves attending football games. You may also know her as “Maypril”.

OUR CLINICAL TEAM

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Tarah R. Davis, MSW, LISW-CP

Lead Clinician
Licensed Independent Social Worker – Clinical Practice

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Tarah is a transplant to South Carolina, having moved to this area from the Northeast in 2013. She has been a Social Worker for more than 20 years and brings a wealth of experience working with children, adults and families in schools, hospitals, correctional environments and community-based settings. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Connecticut College and her Master’s degree in Social Work from Fordham University. Her therapeutic approach is eclectic, with a strong emphasis on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Interpersonal Psychotherapy, incorporating psychoeducation and mindfulness practices into her work helping clients to manage emotional distress. She is also a strong proponent of holistic (mind, body, spirit) care. Her specialties include treating depression and anxiety in adolescents and adults, working with LGBTQ individuals and trauma survivors. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her family, working out, baking, going to jazz concerts and reading suspense novels.

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Marquita Heyward, M.A., LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Marquita holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and a Master’s of Art Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. She is licensed by the state of South Carolina as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Marquita approaches counseling with a passion for assisting clients to discover ways to make changes in their lives for a brighter and hopeful future. Marquita believes strongly in using a therapeutic partnership approach with children, young adults, adults, and families, to uncover personal resources for change and to sort through their individualized issues. Marquita incorporates principles from Solution-focused, cognitive-behavioral, and experiential modalities. Marquita’s specialty areas include childhood behavioral issues, parenting, mood disorders, self- esteem, women issues, eating disorders and body image concerns.

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Sydney Jennings, MSW, LMSW

Licensed Master Social Worker

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Sydney received her Bachelor’s in Social Work from the University of South Carolina. During her time at USC, she served as an AmeriCorps member with working with children and adolescents through the Communities in Schools program. She then served another AmeriCorps term with United Way Black River’s Growing Great Readers program before going back to USC to receive her Master’s in Social Work.  She is licensed by the state of South Carolina as a Licensed Master Social Worker.  Sydney has worked with a variety of ages and uses Cognitive Behavioral, family and play therapy approaches in her treatments. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her husband and two cats.

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Stephanie Brashear, M.A., LPC/A

Licensed Professional Counselor / Associate

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Stephanie received her Masters in Clinical Counseling from Columbia International University in 2017. She is a National Certified Counselor and is licensed in South Carolina as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate. Stephanie is a Prepare and Enrich facilitator and and enjoys working with couples, families, and adolescents. She is also passionate about working with individuals and families of the LGBTQA+ community. Her other areas of interest include anxiety, depression, trauma and mood disorders. Stephanie approaches counseling from a Narrative theory perspective with an emphasis on utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques.
In her free time Stephanie enjoys photography, musicals, and playing with her pups, Goober and Darling.

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Elizabeth S Creed, Ed.S., NCC, LPC

National Certified Counselor
Licensed Professional Counselor

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Elizabeth received her Bachelor’s in Experimental Psychology from the University of South Carolina and an Education Specialist (Ed.S) degree in Counselor Education with a focus on Marriage, Family, and Couples Counseling. She is a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and is licensed by the state of South Carolina as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPC/A). Elizabeth approaches therapy out of a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) model and incorporates techniques from experiential and narrative therapy. Outside of work, Elizabeth enjoys relaxing at home with her husband, spending time with family and friends, enjoying nature and being outdoors, going to Litchfield Beach, drinking coffee, and eating delicious food!

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Karissa Rector, EdS., LPC/A

Licensed Professional Counselor Associate

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Karissa received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Furman University and an Education Specialist Degree (Ed.S) from the University of South Carolina. She is licensed by the state of South Carolina as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPC/A). She uses Narrative Therapy and Emotion Focused Family Therapy during her sessions. She enjoys working with a variety conditions, including anxiety, depression, family issues, as well as eating disorders. In her free time Karissa enjoys trying new foods, traveling with family and friends, and catching up on her favorite Netflix shows.

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Alexandria Scarpaci, Ed.S., LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Alexandria joined the Firm Foundations Counseling & Wellness team in 2013. Alexandria received her Bachelor’s in Experimental Psychology and a Counselor Education Specialist Degree from the University of South Carolina. She is licensed by the State of South Carolina as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). She holds certifications in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma Focused CBT, and has undergone extensive training in Emotion Focused Couples Therapy. Alexandria’s specialty areas include couples, adolescents, and adults. When Alexandria is not in the office, she enjoys Gamecock football, shopping, and spending time with her family and friends.

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Andrea Cox, M.A., LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Andrea is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has over ten years of experience working with children, adolescents, young adults, and families in residential, group foster care, the juvenile justice system, and the mental health hospital setting. She enjoys walking alongside and equipping individuals with tools for healing and wholeness and she believes counseling to be most effective when approached holistically. Her areas of therapeutic interest are depression, anxiety, trauma, attachment issues, life adjustments, spiritual integration, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. Along with her Master of Arts degree in Clinical Counseling from Columbia International University, Andrea holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Therapeutic Recreation with a minor in Psychology from Clemson University. In her personal time, she enjoys investing in her relationship with the Lord, spending time with friends, working with the youth at her church, and relaxing by the ocean or on the lake.

Levi Hall, MA, NCC, LPC/A

National Certified Counselor
Licensed Professional Counselor / Associate

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Levi received his Master’s degree in clinical counseling from Columbia International University. He is licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA) and is a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Levi has experience working with children, adolescents, adults, and couples who have faced a range of issues such as anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, relationship issues, and ADHD. His approach is largely eclectic, but primarily focuses on using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and principles from Bowen family therapy. He understands that each client that walks into the office is unique, meaning that counseling will look differently for each client. Levi hopes to work with you collaboratively to help you overcome difficulties and achieve a high quality in both life and relationships.
When not in the office, Levi enjoys spending time with his wife and Goldendoodle puppy. He has a variety of interests including (but not limited to) hiking, climbing, kayaking, snowboarding, playing Ultimate Frisbee and Spikeball, cooking/baking, playing music, reading, and traveling.

Columbia South Carolina Location

Our Administrative Team

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Keshia Alexander

Administrative Assistant

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Keshia received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology-Christian Counseling at Liberty University and will soon complete her Master’s in Professional Counseling-Crisis Counseling at Liberty University. She recently ended her three-year term of service on the Board of Directors with the YWCA of Lynchburg, VA. While serving, she led weekly small groups at the local domestic violence prevention shelter as well as volunteered with SARP (Sexual assault rape program). There she gained a better understanding of crisis counseling, the different levels of anxiety and depression, as well as, trauma and grief therapy. Keshia brings passion for others, empathy, professionalism, and charisma to our office. On her spare time she loves to travel, tour museums, read, and spend quality time with her family and friends.

OUR CLINICAL TEAM

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Trudy Naylor, M.A., NCC, LPC/A

National Certified Counselor
Licensed Professional Counselor / Associate

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Trudy is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Family Ministries with a Pre-Counseling Emphasis from Moody Bible Institute followed by her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She is a Nationally Certified Counselor primarily using a Family Systems and Cognitive Behavioral approach. Trudy works with all ages and specializes in topics of Families/Couples in distress, Loss, Anxiety, Depression, First Responders/Caretakers, as well as Identity/Self-Worth Issues. When not in the counseling office Trudy can be found in the kitchen working her way through cookbooks and trying new meals with her hubby and three kids. She enjoys reading, coffee, and quiet.

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Cynthia Roark, EdS, NCC, LPC

National Certified Counselor
Licensed Professional Counselor

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Cynthia received her Bachelor’s in Experimental Psychology and Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in Counselor Education with a focus on Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling from the University of South Carolina. She is a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and is licensed by the state of South Carolina as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).  Cynthia is skilled in trauma-informed therapy and personal advocacy which guides her philosophy of empowering clients on their journey to health and healing.  In her sessions, Cynthia incorporates cognitive- behavioral, family systems, and narrative therapies. Additional training includes Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR) and victim service provider. Cynthia works with all ages and specializes in topics of adoption & foster care, attachment, family distress, trauma, self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Outside of work, Cynthia enjoys going to the beach, drinking coffee, and spending time with her friends, family, and pets.

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Janae Kachikis, MA, LPC/A

Licensed Professional Counselor / Associate

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Janae is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate with experience working with children and adolescents in foster care and school-based mental health. She received a Bachelor’s Degree from Moody Bible Institute and worked overseas in non-profit communications among cross-cultural projects. Her desire to join individuals on their path toward growth and healing propelled her to receive a Master's Degree in Clinical Counseling from Columbia International University. Her therapeutic interests include working with children, adolescents and adults experiencing anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, grief and loss, as well as identity and acculturation issues. As a firm believer in the power of play, Janae enjoys spending time in nature, creating art, and relaxing with friends and family.

Cory Koester, MS, LPC

Cory Koester, MS, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Cory received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from Bowling Green State University and obtained his Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Murray State University. Cory is licensed by the state of South Carolina as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Cory works to explore challenging experiences with his clients and develop an opportunity to redirect the negative impacts these events can have on an individual’s life. Cory has experience in working with military personnel (active and retired) during his time living near Ft. Campbell military base, and also has experience in working with non-military traumatic events. Through a cooperative effort, Cory utilizes Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR) alongside other treatment modalities to help client’s meet their treatment goals. Cory’s therapeutic interests are in working with adults experiencing anxiety, Posttraumatic Stress (PTSD), grief/loss, men’s issues, depression, and relationship difficulties. When not in the office, Cory is often found exploring the beach with his friends and family, attending sporting events, and indulging in anything Star Wars.

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Elisha Johnson, MA, NCC, LPC/A

National Certified Counselor
Licensed Professional Counselor / Associate

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Elisha Johnson, MA, NCC, LPCA, received a Masters of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from South University from Liberty University. She is a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and is licensed by the state of South Carolina as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA). Elisha’s passion for counseling is based on her belief that each person’s story has great value and contribution to this world.  Elisha’s primary therapeutic method is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which focuses on your thoughts, feelings and how they impact your behaviors. Other therapeutic approaches used include Solution Focused Brief Therapy, Motivational Therapy, Family Systems Therapy, HOPE Couples and Family Therapy and Strength-Based Therapy. She believes that having knowledge of multiple approaches allows her to tailor therapy to fit each client. Her counseling style is unique and person-centered to each individual. She is known for being warm, caring, possessing a comfortable approach to counseling. She likes to work from an integrative approach, which means that she utilizes a variety of orientations and therapies, depending on the client's individual needs. This includes a genuine, non-judging, caring, with full acceptance environment. She also works with a wide range of issues, including depression, anxiety, unresolved emotional issues, couple/family concerns, spiritual issues, and other mental health disorders. Elisha considers herself to be blessed to work in a profession that she truly loves and feels passionate about. She believes it to be a privilege to be invited into her clients’ inner lives, and to walk alongside them as they travel the journey through healing, change, and self-empowerment. She looks forward to serving others because her life experiences and adversity has helped her overcome many internal obstacles that hindered life contentment. When she is not wearing her therapist hat, she loves to spend time with family and friends, crafting, DIY projects, eating cultural foods, and traveling. She looks forward to starting this journey with you!