Who We Are
We are a team of exceptionally experienced therapists, counselors, educators, and mentors who work diligently with your teenager to help them overcome obstacles and realize their full potential.
Gale Saler, LCPC, CRC-MAC, CAI, CIP
Gale has worked in the addiction, mental health and rehabilitation field for over 35 years, serving largely in executive level positions. During this time she has developed, opened and operated some of the most effective treatment and recovery programs in the metropolitan Washington DC and Maryland regions. Her experience includes working with adolescents, young adults and adults, including those who have co-occurring substance use, mental health and other related behavioral issues.
Leah Simmons, LCSW-C
Leah is a graduate of the University Of Maryland School Of Social Work and is a Licensed Certified Social Worker, Clinical (LCSW-C).
Leah brings with her a passion for working with adolescents and families. Her experience of over 15 years directing residential, transitional and outpatient youth and family treatment programs will ensure that NorthStar continues to evolve and excel.
Leah believes that recovery (from mental health and/or substance use disorders) is possible for everyone and enjoys being a part of a person’s journey to wellness.
Susan Rich, MD, MPH
Dr. Susan Rich is a board-certified child/adolescent and adult psychiatrist in Potomac, MD with an interest in diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders, executive functioning issues, and anxiety.
She holds both a Master of Public Health in health policy and a Doctorate of Medicine from the University of North Carolina; completed a residency in psychiatry at Georgetown University and a two-year fellowship in child/adolescent psychiatry at Children's National Medical Center.
Community Outreach Coordinator
Laura is the founder of The Sobriety Collective↗︎, a resource and blog created to celebrate multiple pathways to recovery from substance use disorder and mental illness, especially through creativity. Laura is a graduate of the University of Virginia with degrees in Sociology and Spanish, and found long-term recovery from alcohol abuse and mental illness in 2007, at age 24. After spending close to a decade consulting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Laura is excited to be in a field more suited toward her passion and purpose.
Colm brings a diverse inter-disciplinary approach to his many roles at Northstar Academy. His primary interests include health management, mindfulness, public health administration, health promotion, and the impact of fitness on mental health. Colm's background is in finance, mental health, youth yoga, and sustainable business. His framework for Business Management at Northstar uses a mindful approach to make treatment accessible to all types of families.
Sue, who spent the past 20 years as a stay-at-home mother raising three daughters, is NorthStar's part-time business associate and front-desk receptionist. She holds a degree from Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, VA. In her free time, Sue enjoys playing tennis.
Heather McMullen, LCSW-C, MT-BC
Heather is a Licensed Certified Social Worker, Clinical and a Board Certified Music Therapist. She received her Master’s in Social work from the University of New England and her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Therapy from Shenandoah University. As a Board Certified Music Therapist, Heather has been providing Music Therapy services to children, adolescents, and adults since 2008. She has a passion for working with children and adolescents with mental health diagnoses, addictions and special needs. She believes strongly in supporting the individuals whole well-being with particular attention to the creative and expressive aspect of every person.
Annie Bertran, LCSW-C
Annie is a Licensed Certified Social Worker, Clinical. She received her Master’s in Social Work from University of Maryland, Baltimore and her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. For the past four years, she worked as a therapist in a Baltimore City high school where she provided individual, group, and family therapy. She gained extensive experience dealing with crisis situations especially pertaining to suicidal and homicidal idealization as well as violence. Prior to this, she worked in New York City, NY, as a resident advisor for 18-21 year old males who were residing at the Covenant House homeless shelter.
Molly Zametkin, LGSW
Molly is a recent graduate of the National Catholic School of Social Services Master’s of Health Social work program. Molly spent 4 years doing research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and 4 years studying psychology at The Colorado College. Her primary interests include adolescent mental health, substance abuse, yoga, nutrition, cognitive behavior therapy, and collaborative models of health care.
Emily Rizzo, LPC, LCPC
Emily is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in DC and MD. She has been in the counseling field since 2007, utilizing an eclectic, creative approach to engage clients. She believes in using creative arts to explore feelings and connecting the body and mind to encourage movement in therapy along with talk. Emily loves to learn about diversity, race and culture, sex and communication, gender, the LGBTQ community, and family relations.
TJ Matton, LGSW
TJ is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker. She received her Masters from University of Maryland in 2011 and has been working in the field of social services since 2006. TJ has worked with individuals and families in a diverse range of settings from jails and legal clinics to outpatient mental health and a family mediation practice.
Michael Pretzer, MA
Michael received his master of arts in art therapy from George Washington University. In addition, he has a master of arts in teaching from the Rhode Island School of Design and degrees in journalism from Northwestern University and the University of Kansas. Michael specializes in art therapy for adolescents. His previous experience includes work at the John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents in Rockville, MD.
Maria Valencia, CTRS
Maria is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. She received her BS in Therapeutic Recreation from San José State University with a Minor in Child and Adolescent Development. Along with completing clinical internships for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto, and the National Institutes of Health, Maria spent her free time volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Autism Speaks, Team River Runner, and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Her areas of interest include leisure and recreation for rehabilitation, adaptive sports, mental health and early childhood education.
Ann Kennedy, LSET
Ann is a Licensed Special Education Teacher. She earned her Master’s Degree in Special Education from American University, with an emphasis on Learning Disabilities. Ann has spent over 20 years as a classroom teacher, teaching learning disabled students on the high school level. As a special education classroom teacher, Ann focused on teaching math to learning disabled students employing strategies which enabled students to succeed.
Candace Sahm, MA. Ed
Candace is the Learning Specialist at NorthStar Academy. She holds a MA in Special/Vocational Education from George Washington University and a BA in Special Education and Elementary Education from the University of Maryland. Candace has over 25 years of experience as an ADHD Coach.
Candace also brings to NSA her experience as an Interim Instructional Services teacher for over 12 years with Montgomery County Public Schools. She is familiar with the MCPS Curriculum and APEX learning. She believes that each student learns differently and she is innovative in creating a positive learning environment in the classroom at NSA.
Rachel recently graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with an undergraduate degree in Sociology. Her passion lies within adolescent therapy, addiction/recovery specialization and interventionism. Prior to joining the NorthStar team, Rachel held an internship position at the Maryland Department of Health and Human Services-Child Protective Services Treatment Foster Care Unit. In the future, she hopes to attend graduate school and earn her Masters in Social Work.
Harry's life experiences have brought him to NorthStar Academy to work one-on-one with students assisting in both school and other activities pertaining to mind and body growth and development. Some of those experiences include 14 years as a transporter, protectively transporting adolescents from their homes to distant academies or programs.