We employ approximately 20 staff members and have more than 30 all-volunteer masters and doctoral-level mental health counselors working in our counseling center. We feature the profiles of our administrative staff below.
Crystal Ramirez, PhD, MFT
Clinical Director (On Leave)
Kristine J. Schwarz, MA, MFT, LPCC
Kristine Schwarz is a seasoned executive and psychotherapist who brings extensive experience building organizations and managing multi-faceted projects in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors, and considerable experience as an educator and clinician.
Kristine is also a former entertainment industry executive with 13 years of experience developing film and television projects internationally. She received her MA from Antioch University Santa Barbara and has worked locally as a therapist at Domestic Violence Solutions, the COPE program at Cottage Hospital, Full Spectrum Recovery, Goleta Valley Union School District, and Working Alternatives. She maintains her psychotherapy private practice, Santa Barbara Psychotherapy.
Prior to joining New Beginnings, Kristine was Associate Director of Institutional Advancement at Antioch University Santa Barbara. She also served as Core Faculty and Clinical Director of Antioch’s Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology Program where she founded the MFT Consortium of the Central Coast Region, and served as the Central Coast Chair of the MFT Leadership Collaborative and Chair of Antioch’s Alumni Association Steering Committee.
Kristine began her career as a media buyer in Washington, D.C., working with clients such as the Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts, before moving to Los Angeles in 1987, when she joined the Walt Disney Studios. She received her undergraduate degree in Marketing and Advertising from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
Crystal Ramirez, PhD, MFT
Clinical Director (On Leave)
Crystal Ramirez has a wide variety of clinical, supervisory, and management experience in the community, most recently from the Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness, where she worked as Regional Manager, Team Supervisor of CARES South, and Practitioner on the Homeless Outreach and Justice Alliance teams.
Dr. Ramirez has also served as a Clinical Supervisor at the Salvation Army, worked as the Assistant Manager of Mountain House at Crescend (formerly Phoenix), and been a lead counselor and Children’s Program Clinical Coordinator at Domestic Violence Solutions.
Dr. Ramirez holds a Marriage and Family Therapy license and has a B.A. in Sociology and Psychology from UC Santa Barbara; a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica; and a Doctorate in Depth Psychology with Emphasis in Psychotherapy from Pacifica. Her dissertation research focused on the subjective experiences of people with psychotic disorders and has been presented at professional conferences internationally and domestically.
(805) 963-7777 ext. 112
Michael Berton manages all of our fundraising and communication efforts in collaboration with the Executive Director. He has been in his role since November 2018. Michael also coordinates our annual fundraisers, works closely with our Board of Directors, and developed all of the content for our newly redesigned website. Prior to joining New Beginnings, Michael worked in the private sector as a Proposal Writer at Yardi for three years. He also worked as a part-time Grant Writer for the Channel Islands YMCA, raising funds for the Lompoc branch. Originally from Oak Park, CA, Michael moved to Santa Barbara to attend UC Santa Barbara, earning his degree in History, Economics, and Professional Writing in 2015. Michael is an alumni of the Leadership Santa Barbara County Program and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration from the USC Price School of Public Policy.
Grants Administration Director
(805) 963-7777 x120
Victoria Garfield is a San Diego native that graduated in 2016 from UC Santa Barbara with degrees in History and Comparative Literature, and has been with New Beginnings since 2017. Victoria served as our Operations Manager for over three years before transitioning to a remote position in Phoenix, AZ as our Grants and Compliance Manager. Currently, Victoria works as our Grants Administration Director and oversees our government and foundation grants while also overseeing administrative operations and compliance in conjunction with our Executive Director. Prior to working at New Beginnings, Victoria worked as an Office Manager at a local accounting firm. She has also worked previously as an independent bookkeeper, copy editor, and publishing assistant, and has experience teaching Chess in Santa Barbara Elementary Schools.
(805) 963-7777 ext. 111
Shabina Dalidd is our Operations Manager and has ten years of experience in operations and logistics, having previously worked as the Director of Operations at a scrapbooking company in Orange County. Shabina moved to Santa Barbara three years ago and also traveled the world with her husband for a year. Shabina graduated from the University of California, Irvine with degrees in Psychology and Social Behavior. She has also worked as a Preschool Teacher and as a Personal Assistant. In her free time, Shabina enjoys traveling, bread making, reading, completing puzzles, and cooking.
SSVF Program Manager
(805) 963-7777 ext. 115
Victor Virgen was raised in the Santa Ynez Valley and after graduating high school went on to serve eight years on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. While in the Marine Corps, Victor served three tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom — as a Motor Transportation Diesel Mechanic in 2004, with Combat Logistics Regiment-15 in the Al Anbar Province, and with Third Battalion Fifth Marine Regiment in 2006 in Fallujah. During his last tour, Victor served as Combat Advisor on a Point of Entry Transition Team at the Jordan and Iraq point of entry where he helped train the Iraqi Police, Security Forces, and Customs Police.
As a veteran, Victor attended California State University, Channel Islands to receive his bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Shortly after, Victor was hired by New Beginnings Counseling Center as the North County Case Manager for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program, helping homeless veterans move into permanent and stable housing. He also worked with veterans who were at risk of becoming homeless to prevent them from being on the streets or entering a shelter. Victor is now the Program Manager for SSVF, providing support for the SSVF Case Managers and our veteran clients. Victor currently serves as a board member for the new up-and-coming Santa Barbara County Veterans Collaborative, as well as Santa Ynez Valley’s American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) Region 180. Victor and his wife Julie have plans on one day create nonprofit of their own that serves veterans in Santa Barbara County.
Safe Parking Program Manager
Cassie Roach is the Program Manager and Lead Case Manager for our Safe Parking Program. She has worked at New Beginnings for more than five years and manages a team of Case Managers and Housing Navigators. Cassie is very passionate about working with the homeless population and volunteers her time with Doctors Without Walls – Santa Barbara Street Medicine. Cassie graduated UC Santa Barbara in 2015, double majoring in Biopsychology and Religious Studies.
(805) 963-7777 ext. 206
Anna Henry is our Intake Coordinator who helps manage intakes, our Electronic Health Record System, and our Telemental Health Platform for our Counseling Center. She also served as our Administrative Assistant for a year. Anna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara in 2019. While in college, she served as the Chair of the Isla Vista Tenants Union where she was involved in community organizing and advocacy. Anna also interned in local elected officials’ offices where she honed her administrative and support skills. Outside of work, Anna enjoys hiking, traveling, and spending time at the beach.
Interim Operations Manager
(805) 963-7777 ext. 111
Michelle Wang graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology in 2020. Most recently, Michelle worked at Acacia Counseling and Wellness as an Accounting Assistant and assisted the Chief Business Officer and accountant. Before that, she worked as an office administrator at a private Naturopathic office in downtown Santa Barbara. Michelle is excited to be the newest member of the New Beginnings’ administration team and handle all administrative duties. Currently, she is our Interim Operations Manager. Michelle enjoys thrifting, going on walks, drawing, and spending time with loved ones.
Paula Strauss, PsyD
Interim Clinical Director
(805) 963-7777 ext. 125
Dr. Paula Strauss is the Interim Clinical Director overseeing the clinic, while Clinical Director, Dr. Crystal Ramirez is on leave. Paula is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and has been providing clinical services since 2006. After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UCLA, she went on to obtain her doctorate degree from the California School for Professional Psychology (CSPP), an APA-accredited program in Los Angeles. During her pre-doctoral training at CSPP, her clinical experiences included working with children, adolescents, young adults, parents, families and couples in a variety of settings including Hospitals, Community Mental Health Centers, Schools and Federal programs.
Paula graduated in 2012 with a PsyD in Clinical Psychology; it was during her post-doctoral training that she obtained specialized experience working with children and families. Paula is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), an evidence-based family intervention for children with behavioral difficulties. She has experience providing individual therapy to people with Anxiety and Mood Disorders utilizing Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) skills, and facilitating social skills groups for children ages 3-12. Prior to private practice she served as the Director of Clinical Training for the Clinical PsyD and PhD programs at California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University.
Over the course of the years, Paula has had the honor of training at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles Job Corps, Southern California Counseling Center, The Village Family Services, and Rich & Associates. In 2019, her family moved from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara to realize their dream of living in this gorgeous town. Paula is thrilled to be here and looks forward to her time with New Beginnings.
Sara Grasso, MFT
Homeless Services Director
Sara Grasso, MFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in working with people experiencing homelessness, difficult to reach or engage populations, and adults/older adults who present with severe and persistent mental health and/or behavioral health conditions. She received her MA from Antioch University in Santa Barbara and has varied experience working as a therapist in local secondary schools, as a Clinical Supervisor for the Salvation Army, and Program Manager for Phoenix of Santa Barbara – Mountain House facility and the Daniel Bryant Youth and Family Treatment Center.
Most recently, Sara served as the Homeless Services and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Manager for the Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness. Here she oversaw multiple specialty programs tailored towards the outreach and engagement of people experiencing homelessness, with serious mental health conditions and/or substance use disorders, and the long-term treatment of adults diagnosed with severe serious mental health conditions. Within the County of Santa Barbara, she has also held the positions of Homeless Services Team Supervisor and Homeless Outreach Practitioner. Since transitioning out of her role at the County, Sara briefly worked with Denver’s Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), before joining New Beginnings as their Homeless Services Director.