Karen Conterio – CEO
Karen Conterio is the CEO of the S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® Program. The program was founded by Karen Conterio in 1985 as the first outpatient support group for those who engage in repetitive self harm behavior. Then, in 1986, Ms. Conterio teamed with Wendy Lader, Ph.D. to offer the first structured inpatient program for deliberate self harm behavior.
Ms. Conterio was trained and certified as an alcohol and addictions counselor and is also a certified group facilitator. She is the co-author with Wendy Lader of the book Bodily Harm: the Breakthrough Healing Program for Self-Injurers (Hyperion, 1998) which outlines the S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® philosophy and treatment protocol. Ms. Conterio co-authored research on self-mutilation published in Community Mental Health Journal, ActaPsychiatric Scandinavia, and Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior.
She has given in-services and lectures since 1987 and has done hundreds of radio, magazine and newspaper interviews, including Time, Newsweek, the Sun Times, the Chicago Tribune, Forbes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nursing Spectrum, Cincinnati Enquirer, World Talk Radio and Ann Landers (who has frequently recommended the S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® program and 800- DONTCUT® information line in her column). Ms. Conterio has appeared on numerous television shows since 1987 including: CNN; Dateline NBC; Good Morning America; Oprah Winfrey; Phil Donahue; Larry King Live; Women’s Entertainment Network-Secret Lives of Women; CBS-2 Chicago and ABC World News Tonight. She was a featured expert on self-injury in the following magazines: Allure; Seventeen; Sassy and New York Times Sunday Magazine. Internationally, both Ms. Conterio and Dr. Lader were interviewed for CAPA (French television), Catholic University of Chile TV Network Corporation and Univision for multiple network programs, Telemundo, and Marie Claire (French). Lastly, Ms. Conterio has served as a consultant for several television and movie scripts including the television series 90210, 7th Heaven, CUT, Channel One News and 2 Lifetime productions (Odd Girl Out and Painful Secrets).
Wendy Lader, Ph.D., M.Ed. – Clinical Director
Wendy Lader, Ph.D., M.Ed. is President and Clinical Director of the S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® Program. Dr. Lader, an expert in women’s issues, teamed with Karen Conterio in 1986 to offer the first structured inpatient program for deliberate self-harm behavior. Previously, Dr. Lader was the Director of the Girls Program at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, and the Women’s Program at Hartgrove Hospital in Chicago. She also served as a consultant to the Women’s Services program at the Metro YWCA in Chicago (1991-2004) as well as a member on the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Task Force on Women’s Issues (1985-1989).
Wendy Lader earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Nova University in Florida and a M.Ed. in Special Education at Lesley College in Massachusetts. Dr. Lader is an international speaker on self-injury, and highly regarded as an expert in the field. Her workshops and seminars draw hundreds of professionals. Dr. Lader is published and cited in multiple professional journals including: Counselor; Paradigm; Advance for Nurse Practitioners; Counseling Today; Medlife; Ask Dr. Drew; The Brown University Child/Adolescent Behavior Letter and the Medical Tribune. In addition, Dr. Lader filmed a training video on self injury for the American Psychological Association Series 11-Specific Treatments for Specific Populations., ; She is also the co-author, with Ms. Conterio, of the book, Bodily Harm: the Breakthrough Healing Program for Self-Injurers (Hyperion, 1998). Dr. Lader is a member of ISSS (International Society for the Study of Self-Injury).
In addition, Dr. Lader has appeared on TV shows such as The Today Show, Dateline NBC, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, 20/20, Geraldo, The Morning Show, The Shirley Show (Canada), Sally Jesse Raphael, Hour Magazine, Regis, ABC World News Tonight, and A&E Interventions. She has been quoted in numerous print articles, such as the New York Times Magazine, Time, Newsweek, Teen Vogue, Teen People, Cosmo Girl, Today’s Christian Woman, Christian Parenting Today, Ask Amy, Seventeen, and Reader’s Digest. She has been featured in several medical productions including: WebMD, Associated Press and CBS News Healthwatch as well as a number of documentaries on the self injury.
Michelle Seliner MSW, LCSW – Chief Operating Officer
Michelle has been with S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® since 2001, working in a variety of positions. She started as a Clinical Therapist, then took on leadership responsibilities as Program Manager and today is the Chief Operating Officer responsible for the daily administrative and clinical oversight of the company. Under her leadership the program has expanded its services (S.A.F.E. Adolescent Expressions™, S.A.F.E. Choice™, and the S.A.F.E. Clinic), products and locations.
Michelle received her Masters in Social Work from Washington University-George Warren Brown School of Social Work and her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Truman University. Her media appearances include the Today Show, CNN, CBS and FOX News. She has consulted with HBO, A&E, Chicago Tonight, CBS, Women’s Entertainment Network, Hourglass Productions and Channel One News on self-injury documentaries.
Prior to joining S.A.F.E. Michelle was in private practice, provided clinical consultation, and was employed as a special needs adoption social worker and an emergency room social worker.
Volunteer and committee membership experience includes the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Adoption Coalition, Catholic youth and community organizations, and crisis team counseling (Columbine High School). In addition, Michelle has received the following awards and recognition: Woman of Heart 2007-Cor Jesu Academy; leadership and patient satisfaction awards-Edward Hospital; Social Worker of the Year-State of Colorado; Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Excellence-Denver Department of Human Services; and Canadian Special Needs Adoption Pioneer.
Joni Nowicki, BA – Admissions Coordinator
Joni has worked in the field of trauma, abuse, and recovery since 1989. She studied at Loyola University and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Western Illinois University. She has done masters level course work in adolescent and adult therapy. Her prior experience was as Executive Director of Heartways, a counseling and consulting center in Rockford, IL.
Joni joined the SAFE Alternatives team in 1999 as a behavioral Health Technician and in 2001 became the Admission Coordinator. She still loves that job. She also serves the organization by training onsite staff and assisting with agency publications. She may be the first person you talk to when you call SAFE. She is dedicated to helping you and your family find just the right treatment to meet your needs.
Pamela Leimberer, MS, LPC – Admissions Coordinator
Pam has been with S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® since 2005. She initially started as a Behavioral Health Associate, and moved into the role of a Clinical Therapist and Admissions Coordinator upon receiving her licensure.
Pam received her Master of Science in Clinical Psychology from Benedictine University in Illinois. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Taylor University in Indiana. Pam is also fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). She is proficient in information technology and assists S.A.F.E. with their social media, blog and website. Pam is licensed as a Professional Counselor.
Before she joined the S.A.F.E. team, Pam worked for several years as an ASL interpreter within multiple school systems. For more than 6 years, she was employed as the Intake Coordinator and Counselor at a large domestic violence agency. She has worked with survivors of trauma since 1990. Pam also worked for several years advocating for people with physical and/or intellectual disabilities in a variety of capacities.
Pam continues to be actively affiliated with GiGi’s Playhouse Down syndrome awareness centers. Pam is also and is a member of the American Counseling Association and the Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association.
Deanna Dopplick, MA, LPC – Clinical Therapist
Deanna Dopplick first began working with S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® as a Clinical Therapist in the Adolescent Intensive Residential program at Edgewood Children’s Center in St. Louis, Missouri in 2010. Deanna also served in the role of Lead Therapist in the Adult Intensive Residential program at CenterPointe Hospital from 2012-2016. She currently works as a Clinical Therapist at the S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® Outpatient Clinic in Clayton, Missouri providing individual and family therapy services, adolescent and adult groups, family education, and therapist consultation.
Deanna received both her Master’s degree in Counseling and Family Therapy and Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Saint Louis University. She is currently licensed as a Professional Counselor in the state of Missouri and is a member of the American Counseling Association.
Before joining the S.A.F.E. team, Deanna worked as a Clinical Therapist in both school and residential settings at Edgewood Children’s Center (ECC). Here she provided case management as well as individual, family, and group therapy to children and adolescents ages 10-18 with a broad range of mental health and behavioral needs. Deanna also worked as a Youth Care Specialist at ECC while completing her Master’s degree.
Deanna has volunteer experience working with Saint Louis Crisis Nursery as well as the Campus Kitchen & Big Brother programs at Saint Louis University. Deanna and her Pomeranian, Meeko, currently volunteer with Support Dogs, Inc. providing pet visitation therapy in both the PAWS for Reading and TOUCH therapy programs.
Anne M. Lucas, MSW, LCSW – Clinical Therapist
Anne began working with S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® as a Clinical Therapist in the Adolescent Residential and Outpatient programs in St. Louis, Missouri in 2010. Ms. Lucas is currently a Therapist in the S.A.F.E. Alternatives Outpatient Clinic in Clayton, MO providing individual and family therapy. She worked as a Clinical Therapist in both the S.A.F.E. Intensive Residential programs with adults and adolescents at CenterPointe Hospital and Edgewood Children’s Center.
Anne received her Master’s degree in Social Work from Southern Illinois University and undergraduate degree in Psychology from Grand Valley State University.
Prior to joining the S.A.F.E. Alternatives team, Anne worked as a Senior Care Manager with Missouri Alliance for Children and Families reuniting adolescents who had been in long term foster care with biological family members or finding permanent living arrangements for the youth.
Anne has volunteer experience working in crisis counseling at Cornerstone Community Mental Health, at Habitat for Humanity, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, and the United States Figure Skating Association’s 2006 Figure Skating Championships and Olympic Trials.