Providing mental health services for children, adolescents, and families.



Meet The Team

  • Clinical Staff
  • Support Staff

Gail K. Walter, Ph.D.

A licensed psychologist, Dr. Walter opened The Family Center in 1984 to provide effective, compassionate, and personalized care for the complex psychological challenges facing families in Howard County. Dr. Walter completed a graduate fellowship at the Institute for Child Study with a concentration in human growth and development and family systems theory. After receiving her Ph.D., she completed a post-doctoral internship in clinical psychology. Since 1982, Dr. Walter has specialized in the treatment of behavioral, emotional, and transitional problems of children, adolescents, adults, and families.

Nicky Lankerani, D.O.

Nicky Lankerani is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry. She completed her residency in general psychiatry at the University of Maryland/Sheppard Pratt Health System and at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she served as chief resident. Her specialties include mood and anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, pervasive development disorders, and diagnosis and early interventions for pre-schoolers.

Christopher Williams, LCSW-C

Chris Williams is a licensed clinical social worker with experience providing psychotherapy and other services to children, adolescents, and families. A graduate of Howard University, Mr. Williams is also certified as a sports counselor (C.S.C.) by the National Institute of Sports.

Bob Robinson, LCPC

Bob Robinson is a graduate of Loyola College of Maryland, where he trained in family systems dynamics with an emphasis on intergenerational patterns and challenges. He has extensive experience providing counseling services to children, adolescents, and families. At The Family Center, Bob specializes in helping clients address parenting challenges, couples’ challenges, normal development challenges of children and adolescents, and the challenges of at-risk teens.

Anne Arena, M.A., CAS

Anne Arena is a Maryland certified school psychologist with a master’s degree in psychology and Certificate of Advanced Study in School Psychology from Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Ms. Arena also completed a two-year post-graduate degree in clinical neuropsychology. In addition to working at The Family Center, she has also served as a school psychologist with Carroll County Public Schools. She specializes in diagnostic assessments of learning disabilities, attention disorders, and emotional impairments.

J. Shep Jeffreys, Ed.D., F.T.

Dr. Shep Jeffreys is a licensed psychologist and Fellow in Thanatology specializing in grief, loss, and end-of-life concerns. He is a grief psychologist with clinical focus on the life journey of individuals, couples, and families who are experiencing grief as a result of bereavement, life-threatening illness, or life-limiting disability. In addition to providing clinical services to The Family Center clients and short-term groups for grieving people, Dr. Jeffreys is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University Maryland. He is on staff in the Department of Psychiatry, Howard County General Hospital, and is a consultant to hospices, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, and corporations. He has also served as a trainer and workshop leader with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and as a consulting psychologist for the Johns Hopkins AIDS Service.

Dr. Jeffreys can be found on the web at and (audio podcast), where he addresses such challenges as caring for the family caregiver; using psychic gifts to heal; rescuing and grieving for lost pets; and healing after 9/11.

Shep Jeffreys is the author of the following books:
Helping Grieving People – When Tears Are Not Enough: A Handbook for Care Providers (Routledge/Taylor and Franis); Coping with Workplace Grief: Dealing with Loss, Trauma and Change, revised edition (Thomson/Axzel); and Grief Psychologist’s Corner, a regular column featured in Living with Loss magazine.


Michael Varhol, Psy.D.

Michael Varhol is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and behavioral problems in children, adolescents, and adults. Dr. Varhol received his doctoral degree from the George Washington University Psy.D. Program. He has worked on the UMBC campus and has extensive experience providing individual and group psychotherapy to young people with struggles of self-confidence, finding direction, and managing difficult emotions. Outside of The Family Center, Dr. Varhol  works in the Counseling Center at Johns Hopkins University, where he helps students prepare for and manage the challenges of college and young adulthood.

Mark A. Ritter, M.D.

Mark Ritter, M.D. is a board certified psychiatrist who specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry and treatment of post-traumatic stress, depression, mood, and anxiety disorders for military service-members and families. Dr. Ritter received his medical degree at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI and completed his adult psychiatric residency at the Detroit Medical Center. He then completed his child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at George Washington University/Children’s National Medical Center and the National Institutes of Mental Health.

In addition to his work at The Family Center, Dr. Ritter continues to serve the medical and psychiatric needs of fellow service-members as an active, drilling member of the Air National Guard. He has been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, where he has treated various medical and psychiatric conditions in theatre and state-side. As a result, Dr. Ritter is keenly aware and sensitive to the mental health concerns and challenges that active-duty and reserve-component military members and their families confront daily.


Krystin Wessner, Psy.D.

Dr. Krystin Wessner is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of children (ages 3+), adolescents, and families/couples. She received her doctoral degree from Loyola University Maryland. Dr. Wessner performs individual, family, and group therapy. Throughout treatment she emphasizes the importance of collaboration, working with each client, and the family, to develop a unique treatment plan and appropriate, obtainable, goals. In addition, Dr. Wessner conducts psychological evaluations that assess for learning disabilities, ADHD, and other social-emotional disorders.

Dr. Wessner consults closely with teachers, school personnel, pediatricians, and other health care providers to offer the most comprehensive treatment and advocates for the client’s educational, social, and mental health needs. Her areas of interest and specialty include behavioral and emotional disorders (e.g., ADHD, anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorders), trauma, adjustment disorders, high functioning autistic spectrum disorders, and childhood grief and loss. In addition, she has worked with military families who are in the midst of transition and struggling with unique challenges and adjustments.

Dr. Niveen Soliman, Ph.D.

Dr. Niveen Soliman received her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Fuller Graduate School of Psychology. She specializes in the treatment of children, adolescents, and adults, providing individual therapy, couples’ therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. She also conducts the full range of psycho-educational and psycho-social assessments.

Dr. Soliman’s clinical expertise includes treatment for anxiety and depressive disorders, as well as relationship challenges. Her approach is guided by the need to attain solutions to problems while finding balance in daily living. She has had specialized training to enable her to provide therapeutic interventions that respect diverse spiritual and cultural backgrounds, thus most appropriately meeting each client’s individual needs.

She has had clinical experience treating clients in a variety of settings, including Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, The National Institute of Mental Health, university counseling centers, and community mental health centers. Dr. Soliman has also conducted research focused on parent-child, marital, and family relationships.

Gail Jenkins

Tavell Collins