Since 1985, our annual “Best of New York” issue has named standout services, unique shops, and special spots in dozens of categories. Now that Curbed is part of New York’s family, we have reimagined “Best of New York” as an ever-expanding resource that could rival Yelp in usefulness but feels more like a secret Google doc that gets passed among friends. To find the places recommended on these lists, we polled hundreds of stylish and savvy New Yorkers and begged them to tell us their go-tos. The result: our own Yellow Pages, containing only excellent places.
Though recommending a therapist should be as common as passing on an excellent upholsterer, there is still a stigma to tending to one’s mental health. Another complication: Sometimes the person you most trust for a recommendation isn’t someone with whom you want to share a therapist. So we decided to ask 31 notable New Yorkers about their therapists and are publishing their referrals in their own words. (A note: Pricing and insurance vary from patient to patient, so it’s best to be in touch directly.)
Chef Keesha O’Galdez: “You know the vision of what therapy is: sitting on the couch and talking to somebody. That’s not what my experience was. I met Shawnee through my yoga instructor around 2016. I was in my early 30s, going through a horrible relationship with my ex. The vision I had for my life wasn’t matching up with what I was actually doing. Shawnee’s program was in person for about three months with an intimate group of women of all different ages. The youngest was 19, and the oldest was 65. We did different exercises, made vision boards, even went through our dating and mating history to see if there were any repeated cycles. Our group is still very close, and we check up on each other. Shawnee’s curated a huge tribe of people, and that’s kind of phenomenal, especially in a pandemic.”
Interior designer Nicole Gibbons: “I’ve been seeing Anita Gulati for about five years, and she has helped me grow in ways I didn’t even know I needed to. I never realized how much weight I carried from childhood experiences and how it has impacted the way I’ve viewed myself and the world throughout my life. Therapy has helped me to process those experiences so I could break away from limiting beliefs and behaviors and grow. As a start-up founder, I deal with an immense amount of day-to-day stress and anxiety, and she helps me work through that so I can be more focused and productive.”
Not accepting new patients
Actress Parker Posey: “My psychoanalyst is from the Lacan school of psychoanalysis. I think the dynamic between us is a lot like director to actor — when it’s proper and in the art of it, there’s no thinking, it’s ‘fun,’ and you don’t realize it’s work. I’m not good when I’m working hard on something, only when I’m playing. A good director helps get you to this place that they know is the source or intended theme, whether you’re conscious of it or not, and they know your capacity — how far to push your limits — to help you be in a wonderful space of contentedness or equilibrium, and close to your desire, and what’s ‘charged,’ or has ‘aliveness,’ and ‘energy.’ One of the things Mark has said lately is ‘information isn’t connection.’ ”
“I think so much is strange about life these days, even before the pandemic. We’ve talked about that a lot because I think it’s a strange time, and not following the norms of everyone else can make you feel alienated and lonely. If you’re going to hold on to your own desire and creativity, then ‘the swarm mentality’ is a big distraction from that. So being able to stand alone is something to come to terms with. When I first started seeing Mark, I had been grieving the loss of my first analyst, Mildred Newman, and hadn’t seen anyone for five years. I had so much anxiety then, and the simple words ‘Loosen the knots’ helped me a lot. Language is a tool. Sometimes we can’t find the words when emotion is involved. And with loss especially, people can’t find the words to say to you. A good analyst-therapist is an important ally. They help you create a larger scope of awareness while strengthening your own reserves. My favorite thing he’s said lately is ‘Isolation breeds inferiority.’ ”
KORĒ co-founder Dianna Mesion-Jackson: “After suffering a major pregnancy loss, I needed help sorting through my grief, anger, and utter sadness. I had been trying to conceive via IVF for over a year, and I thought this baby was the one. I needed someone other than my husband, who was suffering his own grief, to speak to. From the moment I met Liz Greene, I felt as though she had known me for some time. In our first meeting, she let me cry for the full 45-minute session. She laughed at my jokes when I needed a break from the grief. She exhibited a warmth and compassion that’s hard to put into words. When I had setbacks after what felt like positive progress, she grounded me. We came up with mantras that I would use when I had a negative feeling or felt anxiety creeping in. We identified my happy place, and she taught me to visualize and transport myself there when I felt myself sinking. She helped me free myself of the regret I had from not trying to conceive when I was younger, back when I had more time on my biological clock, and she reminded me that those years spent with my husband without kids were invaluable. I could feel a positive shift in my confidence. I wasn’t pregnant, but I did feel equipped to deal with whatever lay ahead.”
Deborah Waxenberg, Ph.D.
Nonprofit director A. Dunn: “I began seeing Deborah Waxenberg after a divorce, while I was in the midst of trying to understand more clearly why I was making choices that felt automatic. I was struggling with my identity as a trans person. In fact, I did not yet identify as one, even though I had known from the minute I learned of top surgery that I in no uncertain terms needed to have it. It took almost a decade and many hours of working through my feelings of doubt, shame, and self-hatred with Debbie before I could even claim the necessary desire for surgery. One of the most transformational moments of my life was the day she brought a list of surgeons to a session. I would never have made it through all the obstacles that face a trans person seeking health care today without her steadfast guidance and encouragement. I can’t stress how isolating it can feel to be a trans person in our society. I encourage anyone who is struggling with their identity or depression or isolation to reach out and find help. It’s out there. And it is a revelation.”
Designer Aurora James: “I have one psychologist who is based in New York; his name is Brian Jacobson, and he’s amazing. But I also went to a place called the Hoffman Institute—you go there for a week, and you are completely cut off from everybody for like ten days, and you just sort of work on yourself as a human. I check in with the people from there regularly. I think that that tandem experience is really important.”
Podcaster Zibby Owens: “The best advice Heather gave me came right after my divorce. I was having a hard time adjusting to my four kids spending every other weekend at their dad’s. The sudden quiet. The empty bedrooms at night. Heather leaned forward one session, looked me in the eye, and said, ‘Read! You love reading. With a good book, you’ll never be lonely.’ ”
Anviksha Kalscheur, L.M.F.T.
Not accepting New York patients
Megababe founder Katie Sturino: “Anviksha Kalscheur is the only therapist I have ever had. She is really gentle and compassionate and has helped me be nicer and easier on myself. Therapy has helped me to address many issues, but coping with my anxiety is the No. 1 thing I’ve made progress with. I now know what to do when I have a panic attack and what tools to use.”
Elizabeth Lacy, L.C.S.W.
Jewelry designer Pamela Love: “Elizabeth Lacy has helped me tremendously with anxiety and coping with the effects of childhood trauma. The progress I have made with her in only one year has been far greater than all the work I have put in over the past decade.”
Interior designer Rayman Boozer: “Shake’ Topalian taught me that it’s not about what’s being said; it’s about how I’m hearing it. We filter everything through our perception. She also made me realize that I was self-sabotaging out of a fear that people wouldn’t like me if I succeeded.”
Curator Rita de Alencar Pinto: “Seven years ago, I lost my father and dealt with a breakup in addition to having just launched Vanity Projects. I went to therapy to help me become a better boss and a better leader. I have been working on tools to help me process the daily pressures and childhood traumas that impact how we process stress. During COVID, these sessions have become a lifeline. Jennifer has been a critical support through what seems like a labyrinth of both good and bad days. It is so cathartic to talk through both the various wins and losses. As a mother, I am working hard to give my daughter the tools for emotional control, and these sessions are invaluable to work on those issues.”
Illustrator Julie Houts: “As a repressive Midwesterner, I avoided therapy for years. But I’ve been seeing my therapist, Delta Hunter, for a little over a year. It has been truly life-changing for me in a way I really didn’t expect. Delta has helped me better understand how I’m relating to myself, my body, those around me, and my environment. She helps me find connections between everything. I feel much more rooted and whole as a person. (After one year of therapy, I can actually say that without cringing!)”
Yael Sank, L.C.S.W.
Designer Susan Alexandra: “It’s so difficult to find a therapist you connect with. It’s like dating! I am really lucky to have found Yael Sank, whom I’ve now been seeing for six years. She has an extremely warm, maternal presence. She has daughters my age so she understands the world of dating (the subject of many a session), she’s Jewish but spiritual, and she just gets it. She also has helped me find spiritual connection along with the right medication for my specific biology and is not opposed to radical therapies like mushrooms.”
Shira Schuster, Ph.D.
Writer Becca Schuh: “I started seeing my therapist four years ago in the aftermath of a breakup, and I’ve had so many aha moments with Shira. My confidence with dating was at subzero levels. I’d never been in a serious relationship or even spent more than 12 hours straight with a guy. I used to come out of short relationships or even bad dates with a really negative self-outlook. One day, she asked, ‘Why do you think these men’s opinions of you are more valid than the high esteem your friends and family hold you in?’ This reframing of the issue permanently shifted how I approach dating. I learned to let random men’s opinions about me roll off my back and accept them for what they were: random impressions, not valid criticisms that I somehow had to fix to be successful in dating.”
Ellen Barz, M.A.
Not accepting new patients
Editor Mickey Boardman: “Ellen Barz gave me the insight to see that I need to dedicate time and effort to solving my personal issues the way I dedicate time and effort to solve work problems or to help friends with their problems. She helps me make my mental health a priority.”
Writer Haley Nahman: “I’ve seen Lina longer than I have any other therapist, and not just because I find her unusually insightful, but also because she’s the first therapist I’ve had who really laughs with me. When I think of our sessions, I think first of her big, joyful laugh. It’s made me realize what an important role humor plays in my mental health and how healing it can be to accept my neuroses so radically that I start to find them funny. She never accuses me of deflecting with humor; instead, she invites it in, laughs along, while never underestimating the importance of what I’m saying.”
Store owner Caroline Weaver: “I’ve been seeing Dr. Saraiya, whom I was referred to by my primary-care physician, for about seven years. His very holistic approach in understanding how every little thing affects my mental health has really helped me through a lot of challenges, especially in running my business. I have a significantly better grip on my anxiety and the tools I need to interpret, respond to, and contextualize everything that happens in my daily life because of him.”
Not accepting New York patients; caron.org/our-team/randal-mullings; 561-982-3043
300 Entertainment CEO Kevin Liles: “My therapist, Randal Mullings, is also the ecosystem that supports and helps me toward being the best me. Being our best requires heightened focus on mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Mental wellness, especially in the African American community, not only has a stigma but in some cases is seen as a sign of weakness. While we work on our bodies at the gym, we rarely nurture one of the most important muscles in our anatomy. Everyone’s search for wellness is different, but the journey begins with the self-realization that nothing in this world comes easy and success is not a path walked alone.”
2BG Consulting co-founder Chrissy Rutherford: “Lawrence Deurloo has been an immense support as I made major life changes in this last year, like leaving my job and starting my own business. After moving back home with my parents last April, there’s no way I could’ve survived for so many months without his guidance. He’s helped me prioritize my emotional needs and encourages me to be gentler with myself.”
Merav Segal, L.C.S.W.
Writer Jen Winston: “While searching for a couples therapist, my partner and I had a lot of specifications: They’re trans nonbinary with OCD, and I’m bisexual with ADHD. It took us forever to find a queer couples therapist who could sit with our gender identities, sexualities, and mental-health concerns while also mediating the more mundane conflicts that come up during the pandemic. I’m so grateful we found Merav — she’s effortless with the pronouns, gender dynamics, and queer identity stuff so we can focus on the real problems (like why I never do the dishes).”
Writer Foster Kamer: “I’ve long held that there are two kinds of New Yorkers: Those in therapy and those who probably should be. I was among the latter when a breakup just disassembled me at age 24. I finally ended up with Marilou, who coded, immediately, as profoundly empathetic without patronizing, unfailingly honest with a deft and balletic touch. While she cooked with a base knowledge of classic techniques, I immediately got the sense she knew where the traditional, colder, more academic teachings of the DSM could fall short, that modern psychotherapy is a science that can only be taken so far without art and grace. It was the first time I’d felt radical intuitiveness and competency from someone in equal measure, simultaneously. In one session, she (a) convinced me I’d be okay and (b), with a markswoman’s precision, identified to me why I felt the way I felt and put a name to the thing. And yes: I felt seen. There was everything before that first session and everything after. Not a bad start.”
Kylie Harper, L.C.S.W.-R.
Editor Natalie Daher: “My therapist has taken me from a chaotic early-20-something to a (more) functioning adult. She’s an incredible sounding board for all of my big decisions and provides a valuable perspective on the best calls for me — lots of which I probably wouldn’t have thought of. Plus therapy takes a load off my group chats.”
Kevin Ferry, L.C.S.W.
Bar owner Sam Thonis: “Kevin Ferry helped me realize how often I write ‘delusional novellas’ (his term) about my interactions with other people. That awkward Larry David moment from a month ago is almost certainly plaguing my mind much more than the other person’s. Kevin helped me to just let it go.”
Cynthia Santiago-Borbón, L.C.S.W.-R., G.G., A.J.A.
Journalist Sydney Gore: “She gave me the tools to protect my energy from the people that were draining it by teaching me how to stand firm within the boundaries that I set. In doing so, I learned how to let go of relationships that were no longer serving me and accept the unraveling of those bonds. She also showed me that my sensitivity is one of my greatest strengths, so I should trust my gut because those feelings are never wrong. I now understand the difference between listening to my intuition and drowning in the noise of anxiety.”
Danielle Smith, L.C.S.W.
Content strategist Ashley Edwards: “My therapist helped me remember I have so much to offer, both personally and professionally. For most of 2020, my self-esteem was at rock bottom, but by December, my confidence had rebounded, and I’m now excited about what 2021 has in store for me.”
Stephanie Schaeffer, Ph.D.
Drag artist Lady Bunny: “Some of the best advice I have gotten is that you don’t need to settle on the first therapist you see if you don’t feel that they are right for you. Even though presumably all therapists know the mind, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to go jibe. I went to the Washington Square Institute — used by many, many rock-and-roll musicians, artists, and performers — for decades and then it closed. I started seeing a new person, and we’re just ten sessions in, but she is lovely. It’s a good idea to look into therapy now, because for many people, our future is a question mark, a job is a question mark, our health is a question mark, and we’re isolated.”
Designer Niyi Okuboyejo: “I’ve had a few therapists in the past. One of them was okay. The most recent one was a disaster. It really wasn’t going anywhere, and I kind of felt like, Ugh, let me try somebody else. Venita’s good at revealing stuff and guiding me to a place where I’m like, Oh, okay, that’s what is going on. She’s helped me guide myself away from that codependency in the sense of wanting to please people or believing that their validation validates your existence. She’s helped me get to the point where I’ve got my confidence back.”
Author Abby Stein: “Coming from a fundamentalist Hasidic community, the “professionals” have a goal of keeping you in the community. My first therapy session at Footsteps [with Michael] was the first time I ever spoke to a professional where I felt listened to, as opposed to feeling like a problem that needed solving. Before coming out as a woman of trans experience in 2015, another Footsteps social worker, Jesse, really helped me by simply making it clear that he was there to make it easier for me mentally. In fact, his reaction to me coming out was: ‘What can I do to make this intense journey not just easier but more exciting for you?’ ”
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