Our Team

Danny Firestone

Team Supervisor: Danny Firestone

Individual & Family Therapist

Danny Firestone is an Individual & Family Therapist (RP) with over 30 years of direct service experience. He has an Honors BA in psychology and a M.Ed. in counselling psychology. He has spent his adult life working with adolescents, young adults and families struggling with the problems that result from overwhelming challenges in regulating their emotions, thoughts and behaviors. As a particularly empathetic and skillful therapist, he has built a reputation for working with the hardest to serve clients. Over the years, he has worked extensively with people dealing with problems related to attention deficit disorders (ADHD, ADD), Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Mood disorders (Depression; Dysthymia, Bi-polar), Anxiety disorders (OCD; GAD; PTSD), Borderline Personality Disorder, Eating Disorders, Addictions (gaming, drug use), Autism Spectrum Disorders (Asperger’s), and Parent/child relational problems.

Danny’s strengths lie in his ability to “go where angels fear to tread”. He believes that no matter how self-destructive or impaired someone is, they deserve a therapist who will do what it takes to help them find a better way to go through life, and he is confident enough to journey with them through their darkest thoughts, feelings and experiences. Danny’s ability to conceptualize the problem from the client’s point of view, allows him to engage more difficult clients and help them work towards a more integrated, less dysfunctional lifestyle.

Danny also understands that many young people and their families are struggling with powerful negative emotions, impulses and behaviours, and they have become trapped in “the blame game”. He believes “the truth shall set you free”, and he is known for his ability to take on “the elephant in the room”. He is prepared to fight the good fight, even when it gets messy. He will ask the difficult questions, challenge you when you are full of unresolved contradictions, and support you throughout the process. He believes that empathy and compassion are essential tools for living a good life, and that all people, no matter how hopeless they feel or how much they struggle, have the capacity for change and the desire to live a life worth living. He also believes that people have to live skillfully to get the most out of life, and he has devoted his professional life to helping people learn and live these skills. The skills to accept the things they cannot change, the skills to change the things they can, and the skills to determine the difference.

Danny’s primary focus over the past 13 years has been developing his skills and practice in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), a modification of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) developed by Marsha Linehan out of the University of Chicago. DBT was designed and adapted specifically to treat the problems related to emotional dysregulation, including behaviours such as self-harming, suicide thoughts, urges and attempts, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, or alcohol and drug problems. Over the past decade in particular, Danny has had intensive training in DBT, has taken a lead role in consulting with and developing a DBT residential treatment program, and has developed and presented several trainings and workshops in DBT for other service providers.

Danny believes that DBT is a therapy uniquely suited to the problems faced by the families of struggling adolescents, and to some extent, to everyone who wants to get more out of life. It avoids the blame game, while teaching skills and providing coaching to facilitate skills development in all areas of life. It brilliantly combines Acceptance and Dialectics to help clients experience their emotions fully while being in control of their behaviors in order to live “a life worth living”.

Melanie Cheskes MSW, RSW, B.Ed, BFA

Team Member: Melanie Cheskes

photo credit, Mark Zador 2017

Individual and Family Therapist

Melanie Cheskes has been working as a clinical social worker for five years, providing counselling services to youth, adults, couples and families. Melanie will work hard with you to develop an understanding of your strengths and challenges, and identify your goals. She will listen to you with compassion, empathy and curiosity. Melanie is direct and transparent, while being mindful of moving at a pace that works for you. She will not shy away from the things that are hardest for you, but will assist you in creating a safe space to deal with them. With you, Melanie will learn about and tackle habits and ingrained patterns non-judgementally, moving towards knowledge and skills that will improve your life.

Melanie works with clients on a wide range of issues, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidality
  • Self-harm
  • Emotional regulation
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • LGBTQ questions and concerns
  • Emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse
  • Grief and loss
  • Trauma

In individual work, Melanie will ask you the difficult questions to help you uncover thoughts and emotions, and make connections between your experiences, belief systems and behaviours. Melanie believes that the first step to recovery is in self-reflection and recognition of patterns that aren’t working.

With couples and family members, Melanie will work hard to learn with you what is underneath the anger and avoidance, ingrained patterns and hurt feelings. Coming to recognize common goals between her clients is a key step to making positive change in relationships. Through psycho-education, empathy, modeling, and facilitation of listening and sharing, Melanie will help you to be heard. She will help you to clarify your beliefs about the self and the other, and take responsibility for the impact that we have on one another.

Melanie’s career first began in fine arts and teaching in 2000, from which she has a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Education. Here Melanie developed a passion for working with ‘difficult students’, who had come to be identified as having learning and/ or behavioural challenges. Melanie’s compassionate, direct and creative approach with both students and their families allowed them to build a sense of connection and confidence, and learn skills to improve their school experience. Melanie’s love for working with students and families inspired her to return to school herself to earn her Master in Social Work so that she could continue working with people, but from a different lens.

In her career as a therapist, Melanie has provided counselling in multiple settings in the community including walk-in counselling clinics, home-hospice care, the public school system, and long term community counselling clinics. Through this experience, she has developed expertise in evidence-based practices including dialectical behavioural therapy, solution-focused therapy, narrative therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.

“I deeply respect your decision to engage in therapy. I will match your bravery in taking this step with a commitment to sticking by you through your healing process.”
– Melanie Cheskes

Michael Mazo Hons. BA, M.Sc, RP

Team Member: Michael Mazo

Individual and Family Therapist

Michael Mazo is a registered psychotherapist whose great passion for understanding people and helping families has allowed him to develop powerful therapeutic relationships with some of the hardest to serve clients and families. His primary treatment approach is DBT, which he has found to be extremely relevant to his own life as well as the lives of his clients. His educational background includes an undergraduate Honours BA in psychology (York University) and an MSc degree in basic-research (University of Alberta, Department of Psychiatry).

Michael attributes the bulk of his professional development as a psychotherapist to his experience in the Children’s Mental Health sector, where he has worked with adolescents often described as “the hardest to serve” due to their chronic struggle with suicidal ideation, disruptive behavioural problems, impaired family relationships, mood and anxiety-related disorders, personality disorders, trauma, attention-related disorders and oppositional defiant disorder.

Working with multi-problem adolescents and their families, Michael has learned powerful lessons about DBT and its transformative power in reducing the suffering associated with fear, shame, and guilt. His commitment is to share those lessons with you and demonstrate that your life, no matter how disorganized, scary and “unshareable”, can, in fact, make sense, and change is possible. Michael will make every reasonable effort to:

1) increase your motivation to accept and use therapy2) offer hope and relief when you’re drowning in your emotions
3) teach you skills that are relevant and meaningful to you
4) push you toward change while accepting how hard this may be for you.

Ultimately, Michael’s primary strength is his belief in his clients’ ability to succeed, and his unwavering commitment to work with them in attaining their goals.