Abbey Shell, LISW

Abbey is a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) in the state of Iowa. Abbey received her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa and her Bachelor’s degree in Child, Adult and Family Services from Iowa State University.

She primarily specializes in working with children, adolescents, and families dealing with a wide variety of mental health issues. Her professional career has involved providing individual, group, and family therapy services to adolescent females in a residential setting. She has also worked with preschool-aged children into school-age with significant trauma histories, including abuse, neglect, removal, foster care placement, adoption, familial substance use, homelessness, and community violence. Treatment and consultation services were provided for these children experiencing anxiety, depression, attention difficulties, limited impulse control, anger, grief and loss, and attachment challenges.

She utilizes various strengths-based techniques and approaches, including, though not limited to, Person-Centered Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Play Therapy and Family Systems.

Abbey has had extensive training in Trauma Informed Care and has focused her professional care on educating others about this organizational structure and treatment framework.

Alexandra G. Skinner Walsh, M.S., tLMHC

Clinton, Davenport
Alexandra has her temporary license in Mental Health Counseling (T-LMHC). In her current position with Life Connections, she provides therapy in the office setting and in approved schools to families, couples, children and adults.

Alexandra received her Master’s degree in Clinical-Counseling Psychology from Illinois State University in May 2016. She double majored in Psychology and Theatre and obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2014 from Augustana College.

Alexandra is trained to work with a variety of populations including the LGBTQ community and has a special interest in working with clients who experience anxiety, depression, grief/loss, trauma, suicidal ideation and life changes. She specializes in providing therapy to children and their families as well as to victims and survivors of sexual and domestic abuse. In addition to working with individuals of various ages and families she has experience providing couples counseling to partners who struggle with their relationships and marriages.

Alexandra adapts and draws upon various treatment methods based on the individual needs and strengths of the clients. She utilizes various techniques and approaches, including, but not limited to, person-centered therapy, art therapy, play therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT). A family systems approach is used when working with families. Alexandra is available to provide assessment and counseling services to all ages, starting at age three.

Alyssa Hennings, tLMHC

Clinton, Dubuque
Alyssa Hennings began as a BHIS provider with Life Connections in April of 2014, and transitioned into a therapist role in October of 2016, upon the completion of her Master's program. Alyssa provides individual counseling, couples counseling, and family therapy. She also provides BHIS assessments for children seeking BHIS services.

Alyssa attended Loras College where she graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology in 2013. She worked at Hills and Dales residential facility while completing her Bachelor’s degree; working with children with mental and physical health concerns. Alyssa completed her Master's Degree in 2016 from Loras College, where she interned with the State of Iowa Department of Corrections at the Anamosa State Penitentiary.

Alyssa utilizes an eclectic theraputic approach, incorporating solution-focused, behavioral, person-centered, and cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches into the theraputic sessions, focusing on the individual needs of each client.

Erin Elm, LMSW

Davenport, Tele-therapy
Erin has her Master’s Degree in Social Work from St. Ambrose University and is licensed by the State of Iowa (LMSW). For her undergraduate degree, she attended Minnesota State University – Mankato where she earned a B.S. in Business Management with a minor in Business Administration. Currently she is working in the Davenport and Clinton areas of Iowa.

Erin has spent a large number of years working with children struggling with disabilities. Erin has also trained in, and extensively researched, Trauma Informed Care as well as school based aspects of therapy, such as Response to Intervention and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. While she works well with children ages 3 and up, she is also great at working with adults up to aging populations as well as LGBTQIA populations.

Erin utilizes individual, systems, and strengths-based approaches as well as motivational interviewing and cognitive-behavioral therapies. Erin has special interest in depression, anxiety, substance use problems, anger management, communication skills, and self-esteem improvement. Along with experience providing play therapy in schools, she also has experience in facilitating group sessions. Erin is available to provide assessments and therapy services to clients of all ages, starting at the age of three.

Elisa Lyons, LMHC, CRC

Clinical Director of Therapy

Cedar Rapids
Elisa started her career with Life Connections in December of 2012, and currently holds the position of Clinical Director of Therapy. She has her License in Mental Health Counseling (LMHC) and is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC).

Elisa received both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Iowa (Go Hawks!). She majored in Psychology and minored in Sociology, and received her Master’s degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling.

Although trained to work with a wide variety of populations, Elisa particularly enjoys working with children, adolescents, and persons with disabilities. She has clinical experience providing play therapy as a school-based therapist, group therapy, and providing behavioral health intervention services (BHIS). Elisa further has experience in working with children and adults with disabilities, providing direct care and support, facilitating a support group and providing therapeutic services.

Elisa utilizes an individualized, strengths-based approach, and uses techniques from solution-focused, person-centered, cognitive-behavioral, play and art therapies. She has special interest in trauma and abuse, grief and life transitions, and is trained to provide EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).

Elisa is available to provide LPHA assessments and therapy services to clients starting at the age of three, with flexible appointment times.

Jackie Lambert, tLMHC

Anamosa, Monticello
Jackie started her career with Life Connections in June of 2017. She has her temporary license in Mental Health Counseling (tLMHC) and is a National Certified Counselor (NCC). In her current position, Jackie provides therapy for clients in an office setting and at approved schools.

Jackie received her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from Northern Illinois University in 2013. In 2016, she received her Masters of Counseling from Governors State University in Illinois, specializing in marriage and family counseling.

Jackie works with kids, couples, and families of all ages. She has further experience with kids that have Autism and learning disabilities. She also works with clients that have anxiety, depression, trauma, infidelity, ADHD, suicidal thoughts, and adjustment disorders. Jackie utilizes various techniques including: play therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and person-centered therapy.

JohnPaul Nganga, MEd, tLMHC, NCC

I am a licensed Mental Health Counselor and hold a Master’s Degree from University of West Georgia. I believe that my background in education has been a valuable tool in helping my clients gain a balanced perspective on the life issues they are facing.

My areas of expertise include depression, anxiety, addiction, co-occurring mental health and substance abuse problems, bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, personality disorder, relationship issues, anger management, attention deficit disorder, low self-esteem, family issues, and adjustment to life changes.

I use a variety of treatment techniques in my counseling sessions depending on the needs of individual client. Among the approaches I employ are: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Person-Centered and Solution-Focused Therapies, as well as Existential. I see children, older adolescents and adults.

I believe that therapy is a two- way street and encourage my clients to be very active in their own treatment. I feel that I act as a guide for my clients on their journey toward self –awareness and self-discovery. I strive to provide a safe and peaceful space in which clients can learn coping skills to enable them to move toward their goals.

I believe that a supportive, caring, and honest relationship with each client is of the utmost importance and I strive to maintain a present, compassionate and open-minded consciousness throughout the therapy process.

My greatest reward as a therapist is helping my clients explore ways to make the changes in their lives that will allow them to look forward to the future with hope. I believe that we all need someone to talk with who will really listen and accepts us as we are, without judgment. I provide my clients that warm, nonjudgmental environment- a safe place to explore the issues that may be preventing you from living the life you want.

I would be happy to talk with you about how I can be of assistance in dealing with the issues you may be facing.

Juan Arjona, tLMHC

Juan Arjona has a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Psychology from the Catholic University of Santiago del Estero. Juan is originally from Argentina and came to the States three years ago. He is a temporary Licensed Mental Health Counselor (TLMHC) in the State of Iowa. Juan provides therapy in Spanish and English.

Juan obtained a specialization in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT); in therapy, he works together with his clients to find and evaluate dysfunctional thoughts in order to find more realistic, adaptive thoughts that will change emotions and behaviors. Juan uses this method with kids, youth, and adults. In his practice, he is flexible and integrative, constantly adapting to what his patients need.

Juan works with kids and their families, couples, teenagers, and adults who have a variety of mental health concerns such as adjustment disorders, anxiety, depression, lack of motivation or self-esteem, etc.

For Juan, being a therapist is more than a job; it is his vocation. He enjoys working at Life Connections because it is a place that provides resources to individuals and families who are struggling with different situations or problems. By being part of the Life Connections team, Juan is able to make a difference, and he feels a tremendous sense of reward when big or small positive changes occur in the lives of those he serves.

Latasha Cardenas, LMSW

Davenport, Muscatine
Latasha started her career with Life Connections in April of 2016. Latasha is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). Latasha received her Master’s degree from the University of Iowa School of Social Work in 2015. While in graduate school Latasha also received certification through the Iowa Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Program (ILEND). She majored in psychology and obtained her Bachelor’s degree from Iowa Wesleyan College.

Latasha brings her extensive background working with individuals with mental disabilities and behavioral issues to her work at Life Connections. With her experience in case management, crisis intervention, behavior management for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism, and person and family centered care, Latasha brings a unique skill set to the therapeutic process. Latasha is also trained to work with individuals with chronic mental illness.

Latasha prefers to pull from several different treatment modalities to individualize the therapeutic process to address the needs and strengths of each client and their family. Latasha utilizes various techniques including: play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), person centered therapy, and motivational interviewing (MI). Latasha is particularly interested in working with individuals with intellectual disabilities, autism, behavioral concerns, anxiety, and depression. Latasha is available to provide assessments and therapy services to clients of all ages.

Melissa Paulsen, MA, LMFT, RPT

Melissa Paulsen began as a therapist at Life Connections in October of 2014. Melissa is an independently Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She provides individual counseling, couples counseling, and family therapy. She also does assessments for BHIS services. Melissa is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), Association for Play Therapy (APT), and is also the Secretary and ​a ​Board Member for the Iowa Association for Play Therapy (IAPT).

Melissa attended Mount Mercy College where she graduated in 2010 with her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and criminal justice while also minoring in sociology. She received her Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Mount Mercy University in 2012. While in college, Melissa interned for the Sixth Judicial District and worked at Tanager Place in the PMIC facilities.

Melissa specializes in adjustment-related stressors, anxiety, depression, grief and loss, self-harm, and trauma. She works with all populations from as young as three-years-old to the elderly. Melissa is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). TF-CBT is a conjoint child and caregiver psychotherapy approach for children and adolescents who are experiencing significant emotional and behavioral difficulties related to traumatic life events. Melissa is also a Registered Play Therapist (T2859) with over 170 hours of play therapy specific training.
Click here to visit Melissa's Wixsite

Meryl Welsh, MA, LMHC, CPDM, CDMS, NCC


Rachel Larson, MS, tLMHC

Hello, my name is Rachel Larson and I am a therapist at Life Connections. I have obtained a Master’s Degree in Clinical Counseling from University of Wisconsin-Platteville and previously to that, I obtained my Bachelor’s in psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. I currently work out of the Dubuque and Guttenberg offices, but also work in Delaware County.

I have worked with Life Connections for two years and in this time, I have worked mainly with children who have Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), ADHD and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). I have also worked with many of the same siblings and work to strengthen the family system.

Previous to working at Life Connections, I worked with individuals with disabilities by managing their care and assisting them with their daily routines. I utilize evidence based curriculum and solution focused techniques. The mental health diagnoses that I especially enjoy working with are Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Reactive Attachment Disorder. I look forward to working with you and assisting you in your mental health needs.

Susan Fletcher, MS, Ed., LMHC, NCC

Anamosa, Cedar Rapids, Monticello
Susan started her career with Life Connections in May of 2014. She has her License in Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and is a National Certified Counselor (NCC). In her current position, Susan provides therapy for clients in the office setting and at approved schools.

Susan received her Bachelor of Education in Secondary Education from Truman State University (formerly Northeast Missouri State University), Kirksville, Missouri. In 2011, she received her Masters of Science in Education in Community Mental Health Counseling from Western Illinois University.

Specializing in grief and loss issues, including infertility and pregnancy and infant loss, Susan also enjoys working with a variety of clients who experience anxiety, depression, and life transitions. She has a special interest in helping couples who struggle with their relationships and marriage. Along with clinical experience providing play therapy as a school-based therapist, she also has experience in facilitating group therapy.

Susan utilizes an integrated approach when working with individuals, including solution focused and rational emotive behavioral therapies. A family systems approach is utilized when working with families. Susan is available to provide assessments and therapy services to all clients, beginning at age five.