Mark Nichols (he/him/his) 

Founder of Black Pine Counseling Center, Mark is Licensed through the Virginia Board of Counseling as a Professional Counselor. He is knowledgeable in a wide range of approaches to therapy, and takes a “what works” approach of fitting the theory to the client rather than the other way around. He operates by the philosophy that growing and encouraging health and resiliency is the most important part of truly overcoming adversity. In his own thinking, he primarily focuses on Cognitive Behavioral, and Existential approaches. Spirituality and religion are, for some people, highly important in their lives. Mark has a lifelong interest in world religion and philosophy, and is willing to work your beliefs into therapy if you so desire.

He has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver, and a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from George Mason University. He spent 3 years teaching graduate level psychology at Hebei University in China, designing and implementing his own curriculum across the span of their Master’s program. He then spent several years working in residential treatment for adolescents with a wide range of mental disorders, severe enough to be unsafe in the community. He has since spent several more years working in private practice, seeing individuals of all ages in the community as part of a large practice in Northern Virginia, and now independently in Newport News.

He has also been a movie theater manager, a runway model, a janitor, a voice actor, a consultant for an international company manufacturing oil prospecting equipment, a textbook editor, the sole proprietor of a lemonade stand, and does most of the work on his own cars.

His father was in the air force throughout Mark’s childhood, leading to quite a few moves around the USA. Mark continued his travels after reaching adulthood, exploring the US as well as living in China and Mongolia before finally settling here in Hampton Roads.

*We make efforts for our offices to be as accessible and accommodating as possible, however Mark's office is currently only accessible by stairs. If this presents difficulty, please let us know, so that we can discuss other accommodations. 

Leah Horrigan Smith (she/her/hers

Leah is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 15 years of experience supporting individuals on their journey to heal and thrive. She integrates a strength-based approach to therapy, utilizing evidence-based methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), solution-focused therapy, mindfulness practices and play therapy techniques. Leah is committed to creating a supportive space where clients can explore their inner world and work towards their personal goals with confidence and clarity.

Leah earned her Master's degree in Counseling Psychology and Counselor Education from the University of Colorado - Denver, with a focus on trauma-informed practices. She has particular experience in the public school system helping children and adolescents struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, maladaptive behaviors, executive functioning skills and life transitions. Leah often uses play therapy techniques, providing a natural and developmentally appropriate way for youth to process emotions, explore identities, build coping skills, and enhance social skills. Her goal is to create an inviting, imaginative environment where young clients feel safe to engage in therapeutic activities tailored to their needs and preferences. Her warm, nurturing yet direct approach fosters confidence, emotional intelligence, and positive self-expression. Leah is also passionate about supporting LGBTQ+ youth with issues related to gender identity, sexual orientation, and self-acceptance. Additionally, she is dedicated to providing compassionate care to individuals dealing with fertility challenges, pregnancy loss, family-building issues, and donor conception journeys.

As an adolescent, Leah experienced the ups and downs of frequent moves throughout the U.S. and in her young adult years. She has also worked as a professional equestrian and coach, allowing her to extend her travels to central Europe, instilling a passion for exploring cultures. These experiences taught her the importance of creating an empowering environment where individuals can grow, take risks, and reach their full potential. Leah is an animal lover and believes in the healing power of animals and nature; when she’s not in the office, Leah enjoys traveling with her family, playing with her dog and being outside (always debating mountains or beach)!

"I am here to help you navigate your journey to healing and growth. Together, we will explore your strengths and work through challenges, fostering a sense of confidence and resilience that will empower you to achieve your goals." Leah

Donna Searle (committed to unconditional positive regard for all people)

Donna is Licensed through the Virginia Board of Social Work as a Clinical Social Worker. With over 40 years of experience providing mental health services and a lifelong love of learning, she has gained a depth and breadth of experience and training that has enabled her to facilitate and empower a wide range of individuals in improving their relationships with themselves and their lives. Her most common techniques include cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused and emotional focused therapies, grief work, traumatic memory reprocessing and recovery, and a mindfulness practice of self compassion. 

Donna's approach to therapy is informed not only by her learning, but also her own rich life experience. Through her own losses and suffering in life, she learned profound lessons and  gained great compassion and a commitment to unconditional positive regard and acceptance of all people. A love of nature has given her a sense of peace and belonging. Working in the Alaskan bush where she went to work by dogsled, cohabitating with lizards in Mexico, and eventually immigrating to Quebec, satisfied her need for adventure. Painting, meditating, qigong, playing guitar, writing poetry, dancing and creativity feed her soul; as does learning, learning, learning about an endless number of interesting subjects. Her somewhat weird sense of humor is a source of never ending entertainment for herself, and to many of those around her. Reflecting on her own life, as well as her experience in her work with others, she can truly bear witness to the fact that our lives can become progressively better as we can come to know we are good enough and can be more kind and accepting of ourselves and each other.

Donna is wholeheartedly committed to being a part of positive change for every single person that sits down with her in her office. She approaches therapy as a creative, relational partnership that must be tailored for each individual. She holds that it is essential that you feel listened to, accepted, and that she understands what it is you want to accomplish. Her belief in the power of open communication and mutual understanding, within a safe relationship, suffuses her work. After many years of working with people, she will be heard saying "I love meeting every person who comes here. There have never been two people who are alike. It is an enormous privilege to be trusted and allowed to know what it is like for each person to live their lives and be who they are". 

Aishah Khursheed (she/her/hers)

Aishah is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Counselor. She works well individually with adults or children/adolescents, as well as families, couples, and partners. She aims to create an environment that radiates safety, security, acceptance and fosters growth. She uses an integrative approach based on the needs of her clients who have experienced different trauma from sexual/physical abuse, family conflict, grief and many others. In her own words " we are all individuals living a human experience while trying to exist in a system or number of systems. I have a deep sense of empathy, compassion and sensitivity of anyone dealing with mental health challenges."

Aishah values self-care and personal responsibility. She views empowerment as a necessity and loves assisting people with accessing their instruments of self-healing to create a more peaceful and functional life. On a more personal level, she comes from witnessing firsthand, the turmoil that mental illness can create in the lives of loved ones.

Seeking therapy is not only a brave and courageous step, but also scary. Being vulnerable to a complete stranger is not easy, but her focal point is to make the process easier. Change can be uncomfortable and does require a lot of work, but she believes that a more fulfilling life is worth fighting for. 

Michelle Duclos (she/her/hers)

Michelle is licensed through the Virginia Board of Social Work as a Clinical Social Worker and credentialed through the Virginia Board of Counseling as a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor. She completed her master's degree at The University at Buffalo School of Social Work, which incorporated a Trauma- Informed and Human Rights perspective throughout the coursework. She also completed a Veterans and Military Family Focus program during her graduate program.

Michelle is experienced working with adults and adolescents. She welcomes everyone who is suffering from anxiety, depression, addiction and those who are struggling with low self-esteem and self-worth. 

She works from a client centered approach, which allows her to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the people she works with. She uses techniques such as Mindfulness to find peace in the moment through acceptance of thoughts and emotions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to target and challenge negative thoughts, and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to help people explore emotions and learn how to regulate them, overall working together with you to reach your goals. Michelle strives to create a space for people to feel safe enough to step out of their comfort zone and explore the areas where one might overcome and grow in the problematic areas in their lives. 

“Together we will identify exactly what you want to work towards. It is easy to say that you want to find happiness, but what does that look like? How can you get there? Together we can lay out that road-map and navigate all the twists and turns.”

Stefan Dabkowski (he/him/his)

Stefan is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified First Responder Counselor. He obtained his Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling through University of Albany. He has a history of assisting clients in a variety of settings ranging from community mental health centers, managed care providers, private practice and psychiatric hospitals. His professional interest and experience includes working with individuals 18 years old and up, who may be facing challenges relating to Mood Disorders, Anxiety, PTSD and recovery from substance use disorder.

Stefan believes that therapy is much more than just the techniques and approaches one uses, and that the best things in therapy happen as a result of an honest and open exchange between the people in the room. As such, he strives to take a guiding, non-judgemental, warm, open, affirming, and motivational approach to helping individuals see things from different perspectives in a trusting environment where they can come to their own conclusions and answers. Stefan works with clients to develop and achieve their own goals through exploration of thoughts and feelings, with implementation of unique and interesting interventions to assist with development of personalized means of coping.

Stefan utilizes a wide-range of evidence-based approaches such as CBT, REBT and Motivational Interviewing to further assist his clients with the process of change and the ambivalence and feelings of discomfort that come along with the therapeutic process. He also enjoys utilizing a philosophical approach with his application of existential theory within the counseling setting to assist clients with the development of further understanding of their sense of being and meaning in the world and to assist with their confrontation of the acceptance of the finality of their existence.

In his free time, Stefan enjoys playing golf and has an ambitious goal to be a professional golfer in the next 4 years.  

Edie Moorcones (she/her/hers)

Edie has been a therapist for more than 30 years with extensive training in Trauma Informed Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brief Solution Focused Therapy, Structural Family Therapy and Family Systems Theory. She is an eternal optimist, which lets her see the good in the world, gives her hope in humankind, and has taught her that most of us are far more resilient than we realize. She loves to laugh and will bring her silly humor “into the room” with her clients, but also has strong compassion and empathy for the pain many people have endured. 

She is from the Virginia Peninsula and has worked in a variety of mental health settings in Hampton Roads to include Social Services, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Services, inpatient psychiatry, and the military. Edie is licensed through the Virginia Board of Health Professions as Clinical Social Worker. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University, and her Bachelor’s of Social Work from Radford University.

Edie believes that a relationship with her clients based on understanding, trust, and collaboration is the guiding principle that fosters change for them. She meets and accepts each person “where they are” and journeys with them to help them get where they want to be, bringing a perspective shaped by her training and experience over the years. Edie understands that people seek therapy from places of acute pain and feeling “stuck,” whether from feelings of sadness or anxiousness, issues related to trauma or loss they have experienced, relationship issues, or sometimes without even being sure where the issues originated. However, through the alliance she builds with her clients, they can find solutions that lead to positive change.  

Being from Tidewater, Edie has a deep love for the water and feels that being near it can be lifegiving and healing. 

Ellen Goodloe (she/her/hers)

Ellen is licensed through the Virginia Board of Social Work as a Clinical Social Worker.  She has experience helping clients with relationship issues, anger management, motivation, self esteem and confidence, and career difficulties.  Ellen is experienced with the military and veteran population and has helped many people dealing with trauma and abuse.

She has moved to and from, lived in and visited many different places, but settled in the Tidewater area after retiring from active duty. Ellen is also a painter and a maker and believes in the healing power of art.

Ellen believes in treating everyone with respect, sensitivity, and compassion regardless of the issues, and knows that you are the expert on you. We are all unique and have unique gifts.  Sometimes when we are feeling really down on ourselves, it's hard to see them and we begin to believe our negative self-talk. Building from a relational base, Ellen will help you identify your strengths. Using a variety of techniques, Ellen will tailor the dialogue and treatment plan to meet your unique and specific needs.  

Taking the first step to seeking a more fulfilling and happier life takes courage.  Ellen is here to support you in that process and help you grow.

Miigaa Nichols (she/her/hers)   

Miigaa is our practice manager, which means that she is the one who actually runs things. She has strong organizational skills, and is great at problem solving. She and Ashley will be your first/primary point of contact with us, and work with you to schedule appointments, sort through options with insurance and billing, and do her best to create an inviting atmosphere as you enter our practice.

She is originally from Mongolia and speaks Mongolian, English, Mandarin and a bit of Russian. 

She enjoys learning, painting, decorating, organizing, traveling, meeting people, going to outdoor concerts and relaxing at sunsets. Also she never skips her warm tea and pastry with dark chocolate.

Ashley Rivera

Ashley is our part time receptionist. She grew up in Hampton Roads, and is currently studying at Christopher Newport University with a major in psychology. She enjoys spending time with her family, and taking her sister shopping. She has experience in customer service in various backgrounds. Ashley is bright, patient, empathetic, has strong communication skills, and is eager to help you with any scheduling needs.