Speakers & Sessions

How Learning Motivational Interviewing Can Help Engage and Support Students 

Dr. Kristin Dempsey

Dr. Kristin Dempsey

This workshop will provide an overview of the "spirit," tasks, and skills of motivational interviewing. Attendees will learn what motivational interviewing is and how the approach can be helpful in having conversations with students and parents about change. The workshop will end with a summary of suggested tips that anyone can use to improve their ability to have helpful and productive conversations with students and those who care about them. This workshop is made possible by The Child Training Institute, a program of JFCS's Center for Children and Youth.

Kristin Dempsey Ed.D. is a Bay Area psychotherapist, counselor educator and trainer. Kristin has almost a decade’s worth of experience working in public schools K-12 providing mental health and substance use education and treatment services. She currently supports individuals and families in her San Francisco and Burlingame offices as well as through telehealth. Kristin is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT), and she currently teaches motivational interviewing to school and other allied professionals. She is an associate professor at the Wright Institute’s Counseling Psychology Program and lecturing faculty at San Francisco State University. 

Path to Funding Racially Just, Relationship-Centered Schools

Alex Brisco

Alex Brisco

The state’s unprecedented investment in children and youth represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine our mental health system centered on equity and justice. California's bold action acknowledges a growing national consensus that the mental health crisis among children has become a national emergency.  Key to achieving the state's vision is creating a workforce that engages people with lived experience and expertise as peer providers, developing social models that rely on mutual aid, and working toward racially aligned service delivery. It is up to all of us to move these strategies from the margins to the center—and the career pathway starts with the growing Peer-to-Peer programs in middle and high schools. 

Alex Briscoe, Principal, California Children’s Trust. Prior to Alex’s work with CA Children’s Trust, Alex was the director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency in 2009 where he led one of the state’s argest public health systems, overseeing health and hospital systems, public health, behavioral health, and environmental health departments with an annual budget of $700 million and 6,200 FTE contracted and civil service staff. Before joining the county, he was the director of the Chappell Hayes Health Center at McClymonds High School in West Oakland, a satellite outpatient center of Children’s Hospital and Research Center. Mr. Briscoe’s work has helped design the nexus of public health and public education. He has designed and administered a number of mental health and physical health programs and services in child serving systems, including home visiting programs, programs for medically fragile children, and clinical and development programs in child welfare, juvenile justice, and early childhood settings. Mr. Briscoe has served on the Alameda County First Five Commission, The Alameda Alliance, and The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and The Uninsured, as well as a number of other public and private boards and commissions. Mr. Briscoe is a mental health practitioner specializing in adolescent services and youth development. He has advised or collaborated with a number of local and national foundations including The Atlantic Philanthropies, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The California Endowment, and most recently with Tipping Point Community. He has specialized in Medicaid policy and administration, emergency medical services, youth voice and crisis counseling, and safety net design and administration. 

Creating a Path to Comprehensive Mental Health Supports in Schools

Dr. Caroline Perry

In this session, participants will receive an overview of the complexities of building comprehensive mental health services in schools with a focus on the role of the school counselor in creating robust structures of support. We'll discuss the importance of a multi-tiered system that addresses the needs of all students and integrates mental health services into the school culture. Participants will learn practical strategies for creating a sustainable and effective mental health program that prioritizes structures of support. 

Dr. Caroline Perry

Caroline Lopez-Perry, PhD is an Associate Professor and school counseling coordinator at California State University, Long Beach. Her research focuses on the role of school counselors in promoting equity in education through leadership in program design, service delivery, advocacy, and educational reform. She co-authored the Best Practice Guidelines for California School Counselors and contributed to the recently updated CTC school counselor training standards. Dr. Lopez-Perry serves as the Co-Director of the California State University Center to Close the Opportunity Gap (CSU CCOG), a state-supported initiative to identify and refine strategies to eliminate equity gaps in K-12 education. 


Compassionate Grief Work

Rachel Andrews

Managing grief and loss, along with the profound changes that come with it, can be daunting for students trying to manage school work and maintain extracurricular activities. Counselors in schools are on the front lines in ensuring that grieving students receive adequate and compassionate care, connection with resources, and supportive accommodations. Join me as we explore the elements of the grief counseling process, and the behind the scenes logistics that counselors perform, from receiving the initial information on a loss, to supporting students and families as they navigate one of life’s most difficult realities.

Dr. Caroline Perry


Advocating for School Counselors: The Journey to Passing Assembly Bill 2508 and Transforming School Counseling in California’s Schools

Dr. Loretta Whitson

CASC and its partners have worked together to educate legislators about the critical role school counselors play in providing mental health services. They have effectively lobbied and have successfully secured funding for scholarships, workforce development and for a wholistic approach to educating students. The workshop will dive into the elements of Assembly Bill 2508 (Educational Counseling) and the complexities for California public schools to provide mental and behavioral health support services to all students. It will highlight the consistent, unwavering, and strategic work of the CASC Board, and the community at-large. New provisions for school counselors as Medi-Cal providers and new professional standards to be released in late 2023 will be discussed. Participants will gain insights on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in ensuring school counseling services maintain relevance for decades to come.

Dr. Loretta Whitson

Dr. Loretta Whitson is the founder and executive director for the California Association of School Counselors, the largest state association representing school counselors in the nation.  CASC guides schools towards linking school counseling to their overall mission and vision, as well as leading school counselors in engaging in high caliber, research-based practices. In 2000, Whitson led the effort to establish CASC as the nationally chartered school counseling association for California. Dr. Whitson, well regarded within the profession of school counseling, provides policy recommendations and advises state and local decision-makers on educational issues that include school-based mental health services and college and career preparation.  She earned her Ed.D. in 2014 in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne. Prior to receiving her doctorate, Whitson spent 25 years as a school district administrator and school counselor in the Monrovia Unified School District. Dr. Whitson’s work in Monrovia was instrumental in the interconnections between school- and community-based mental health services. She designed and administered a number of mental health and physical health programs, creating child serving systems that included after-school programs, community-based health clinics, and child nutrition programs. She also served as a Commissioner on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and was an Assistant Professor and Chair of the Educational Counseling Program at the University of La Verne.   

Advocating for the Safety and Well-Being of LGBTQ+ Students

Dr. Vincent "Vinnie" Pompei

The increased politicization of LGBTQ+ inclusion and the intensity of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric at school board meetings and state legislatures profoundly impact the mental wellness of LGBTQ+ students and their families. Recently, data trends on school climate and suicidality among LGBTQ+ young people are trending in the wrong direction. At the same time, youth-serving professionals are increasingly more hesitant to address LGBTQ+ inclusion work as they fear pushback or lack of support from district leadership. Our students need adult advocates with the knowledge necessary to advocate for safe and affirming environments and the skills to effectively overcome resistance. This session is for those looking to sharpen their skills. Participants in this session can expect to improve their advocacy skills in creating environments where LGBTQ+ youth can thrive.
Dr. Vincent Pompei

Dr. Vinnie Pompei is an education consultant and assistant professor in the doctoral program for educational leadership at SDSU. Before joining SDSU, he spent a decade as the National Director of the Youth Well-Being Program for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ equality. He is a Past-President of CASC, author of the LGBTQ Section of the ASCA National Model, and a member of the Equity Working Group for the California Health and Human Services. Pompei’s dedication to creating safe school climates has been acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education, the NEA, Equality California, and the California PTA. 


Equipping our Future with the 'Mental Hygiene Toolkit'

Raghu Appasani, M.D.

Dr. Appasani will discuss the current mental health pandemic and reflect on how we can integrate tools to better equip our youth from an early age. He will also provide insight and the neuroscience backing up a framework, which he refers to as “Mental Hygiene”. Audience members will formulate their own mental hygiene routines through Interactive activities as well in this keynote session. 
Dr. Vincent Pompei

Dr. Raghu Kiran Appasani is an Integrative Psychiatrist, Neuroscientist, and Social Entrepreneur focused on bridging the gap between western and eastern practices to create a wholesome society by taking a proactive approach to health. Currently he is an Addiction Psychiatry Fellow at University of California-San Francisco where is also a member of the TrPR (Translational Psychedelic Research Program) team where he is focusing on the treatment of mental illness using psilocybin. His current interests lie at the intersection of psychodynamic psychotherapy, integrative/nutritional psychiatry, mental health literacy, advocacy, wellness, entrepreneurship, and psychedelics. His alter-ego's life goal is to become a chef integrating farm-to-table experiences in stunning landscapes around the world.

For his contributions he has been recognized as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, One Young World Delegate Ambassador, StartingBloc Fellow, Nexus Global Delegate, EchoingGreen, MassChallenge, and Kellogg Innovation Network Delegate. Through his extensive scientific research, he has published over 35 peer-reviewed articles and edited five books. He has given over 120 talks on mental health, entrepreneurship, global health, and consciousness in parallel with authorship and features in CNN, Vogue, The Boston Globe, ThriveGlobal, The Better India, The Zoe Report, and The Huffington Post.

Clinically, Dr. Appasani is trained in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP), Cognitive Processing Therapy for Trauma, Motivational Interviewing (MI), Group Therapy, Exposure Response Prevention. He also completed the MAPS MDMA Psychotherapy Program as a Health Equity Scholar. His clinical interests lie in psychedelic therapy, mood disorders (depression, bipolar), addiction, anxiety disorders, OCD spectrum, eating disorders, trauma, and personality spectrum conditions.


More Than Self is Needed for Self-Care

Jeremiah Aja, M.A., LPCC

Educators and youth-serving professionals have participated in, and likely led, numerous sessions on "self-care.” Countless resources are pouring into this topic, and this can be helpful to a certain point. This workshop has a different focus- major paradigm shifts with sustainable, equitable practices as we reflect on our own mental health. This workshop will equip you to care for the most important intervention in your school communities- YOU. Attendees will also learn about Wellness Education Lab (WEL), the FREE practical & empowering online mental health training recently launched in partnership with the California Department of Education.
Dr. Vincent Pompei

Jeremiah Aja is the Director of Business Development for the national nonprofit organization, Wellness Together School Mental Health, and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. He also serves as the Blue Shield of California BlueSky Liaison, a five-year initiative to increase mental wellness in students across California. Jeremiah has worked with youth and families since 2001 and now helps to lead a team of therapists across the country partnering with school districts and universities to deliver mental health services on school campuses or online. Jeremiah is a member of the California Department of Education State Suicide Postvention Response Team and an original member of the California Department of Education Mental Health Collaborative. He holds a Bachelor's in Leadership from William Jessup University, a Master's Degree from Asbury Theological Seminary, and a Master's Degree in Psychology from Brandman University. Jeremiah lives in the Sacramento, CA area with his wife and two daughters.