About Us

11059689_10152875963076326_8718338921518805212_nThe Family Center began in 2004 in response to an assessment of the agencies’ needs by Executive Director Chuck Myers, PhD. Dr. Myers recognized that a multi-services mental health clinic was necessary to help broaden the continuum of care services at NFI. The original design included a focus on therapy, consultation and evaluative services. Dave Melnick, LICSW was hired as the Program Director in November, and the Family Center began accepting clients immediately.

From the beginning of its operation, the Family Center focused on providing family therapy as a central modality of treatment. This was a primary focus for two reasons. First, there was a significant shortage of family therapist in the local community, and throughout the state. While many practitioners worked with children and adolescents individually, few worked systemically with the whole family. Second, substantial evidence and clinical experience has demonstrated that working with families is often the most effective, efficient and respectful way to address clinical concerns. Identifying and promoting the positive qualities of each family in a culturally-sensitive, strength-based manner often helps to build bonds between people, and to reduce symptoms and challenges. Working with families also respects the importance of caregivers in the lives of children and adolescents; family work rests on the notions that healing the family system is one of the most powerful ways to promote change, build resilience and improve relational health.

The Family Center expanded in the fall of 2005, adding Tina Bleau, M.A. and Joelle van Lent, Psy.D. as staff psychologists. Tina and Joelle had worked for many years (along with Dave) in NFI’s residential treatment programs. They brought a new dimension to the clinic as they soon helped broaden our services to include psycho-educational evaluations. While Tina and Joelle worked directly with therapy clients, they also began to provide evaluative and consultative services to local schools and agencies. This initially started on a small scale, and slowly began to expand.

In 2006 we began a graduate internship program which developed into a much valued placement for students from the University of Vermont, St. Mike’s, Antioch University and Smith College. This program has evolved over the years and many former interns are now experts and leaders in the field of mental health.

From 2006 until 2013 The Family Center experienced significant growth in referrals for therapeutic services as well as for consultation, evaluation and in-service training. To help address this growth, longtime NFI clinician and Group Home Director Pete Cudney, LICSW was hired in March 2013 as a staff clinician. Pete had just completed over 10 years as the Group Home Director and had also worked closely with Dave, Tina and Joelle during their time at NFI’s residential treatment programs. With increased capacity, the Family Center continued to expand substantially from 2013 until the present. In 2014 we sadly said goodbye to our much admired colleague, Joelle van Lent, Psy.D, who left in March to start her own private practice.8

By 2015, the Family Center has consulted with over 35 public schools and seven private day-treatment schools from around the state, helping them develop trauma-informed approaches with their students. While trauma-informed practices have become central to our work with schools, we continue to consult and train on a variety of other issues as well. The schools have been excellent partners have provided much needed leadership to address the needs of many youth and families. The Family Center also has a strong partnership with DCF, providing both evaluative and consultative services dating back to 2010. Our work with DCF has been instructive and productive; our staff has remained impressed with the motivation and desire of DCF to meet the needs of Vermont children and families. We have been inspired by the numerous workers and supervisors who have been willing to implement creative and innovative approaches into their work.

Our most recent staff expansion occurred in 2014 with the addition of Mike Piche, M.A. and Kate Houston, M.A. Mike has been at NFI for over 10 years and recently worked as a program coordinator at NFI’s St. Albans office (he began in residential services). Kate was a program coordinator in NFIs DAP program in South Burlington, and she has 5 years of experience at our agency. Both Mike and Kate were part of the first Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) training cohort (through our partnership with ChildTrauma Academy), and have begun providing evaluation and consultation to DCF and schools, in addition to their therapeutic services to our clients.

The Family Center is especially proud of our partnerships within Vermont, as well as those across the country. For many years now, NFI Vermont has had a strong partnership with the ChildTrauma Academy (CTA) and its Founder and Senior Fellow Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. The Family Center senior staff (Dave, Tina, Pete) has completed the NMT Training Certification through the Phase II level. This partnership has been instrumental in promoting our own expertise in working with developmental trauma. We have also has a longstanding partnership with Daniel Hughes, Ph.D. a pioneer in working with children with attachment challenges. His integrative family therapy model has strongly influenced our clinical work. Finally, NFI Vermont and the Family Center work closely with the Trauma Center at JRI using their ARC Model as an important practice tool in helping youth and families recover from chronic trauma exposure.


Please contact us at FamilyCenter@nafi.com for more information.



Phone: (802) 951-0450
Fax: (802) 652-2008
3000 Williston Rd.  Suite #2
South Burlington, Vermont 05403