Dr. Serena Butler-Johnson – Director of the Counseling and Wellness Center

Serena Butler-Johnson, Psy.D.

Dr. Serena Butler-Johnson is a Licensed Psychologist and the Director of the Counseling and Wellness Center at the University of the District of Columbia.   Dr. Butler-Johnson is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the George Washington University Professional Psychology Program and a faculty member of the DC Department of Behavioral Health – St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatry Residency Training Program.  She has a wealth of leadership, clinical, and programmatic experience as an administrator, direct service provider, and supervisor.  Dr. Butler-Johnson particularly enjoys policy development, clinical administration, grant writing, and strategic planning.  Dr. Butler-Johnson also has experience leading health services, disability services, and peer education programs, and she has served as an Assistant Vice President for Student Wellness.  Dr. Butler-Johnson is passionate about providing accessible, quality mental health service to members of underserved, BIPOC, and marginalized populations.  Dr. Butler-Johnson is an elected Board member of the Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD).  Dr. Butler-Johnson received the UDC 2023 Student Development and Success (SDS) Impact Award for extraordinary service to SDS.

As a clinician, Dr. Butler-Johnson is warm and strengths-based in her approach, integrating psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, and acceptance and commitment, and client-centered therapeutic techniques.  Dr. Butler-Johnson’s interests include therapeutic use of creativity and the arts, clinical supervision, first generation college students, relational concerns, depression, anxiety, movement and physical activity, nutrition, and women’s issues.  Dr. Butler-Johnson is also a Certified Cardio Sports Instructor.

Dr. Butler-Johnson received her Doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D.) from The George Washington University and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Emory University in Atlanta, GA.

Dr. Lauren Cross

Dr. Laruen Cross

Dr. Lauren Cross is a native Washingtonian who graduated from School Without Walls Senior High School. She received her Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology from The George Washington University and her Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Psychology from Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA. Dr. Cross has a wealth of clinical experience in both outpatient and inpatient settings. She completed her Pre-Doctoral Internship at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington and her Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Sheppard Pratt Health System in the Trauma Disorders Program. Prior to training as a psychologist, Dr. Cross spent many years working in the non-profit world, where she focused her efforts on serving homeless and disconnected young adults in Washington, DC. As a therapist, she has years of experience working with trauma, anxiety, life transitions, self-esteem issues, depression, familial distress, career challenges, grief and loss, and much more. She works from an integrative approach with a psychodynamic focus in order to facilitate symptom relief and deeper understanding of oneself. Her clinical and research interests include trauma, cultural issues, and feminist psychology. Her sense of humor and deep empathy for the challenges of the human experience are woven throughout her work.

Dr. Francesca Alesi

Dr. Francesca Alesi

Prior to obtaining her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Dr. Alesi had a career in policy and international relations. She has worked with university students in different settings, including as manager of international scholarship programs for students from the Middle East and North Africa, as an adjunct faculty at undergraduate and graduate institutions in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area, and as a remote coach supporting candidates studying for the psychology licensing exam. Dr. Alesi has also received training in outpatient medical settings, private practice, an inpatient hospital, and a community mental health clinic.

Dr. Alesi sees therapy as a process to foster self-awareness, facilitate personal growth, and help individuals identify and achieve their goals. This results in her striving to create a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere for individuals to promote healing. Dr. Alesi commits to supporting safe spaces for Black folks and people of color to heal, be seen, and valued. Dr. Alesi seeks to promote Black wellness in the various roles she occupies and resist intrapersonal, interpersonal, and institutional racism. Dr. Alesi adopts a social justice approach to psychology, as she believes that the theories and practice of psychology are not isolated from the larger sociocultural influence of our society. Part of her advocacy work is carried out through the Government Relations Committee at the DC Psychological Association.

Dr. Alesi’s clinical orientation consists of an integrative model, in which empirically supported interventions are assimilated to take into account the person’s strengths and challenges. In addition, her treatment approach is collaborative, integrating resources to provide appropriate and culturally sensitive treatment to diverse populations. Her experience includes working with individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, self-esteem, relationship problems, trauma, stress management, and general difficulty coping with change. She is honored to join a team of other professionals committed to serving the UDC campus community.

Ms. Shawnda Sanford – Administrative Assistant

Ms. Shawnda SanfordMs. Sanford is the Staff Assistant of the Counseling and Career Development Center. She has worked with TRIO and College Preparatory Programs for the past ten years here at UDC. Ms. Sanford is working on her Bachelor’s degree at the University. “I am excited about working in the Counseling and Wellness Center.


This year’s part-time therapists are from the DC Department of Behavioral Health (St. Elizabeths Residency Program) and The George Washington University Doctor of Psychology program. The therapists are:

Dr. Madeline Lodeiro

Dr. Hina Makkar

Dr. Bradley Steinwachs

Nguyen Mai Phuong Bach

Ariel Beckerman

Kiara Lemon

John Stitt

Harsh Taneja