Meet Our Therapists
Meg Benefield, MSW, LICSW
Benefield is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Minnesota. She is the parent of a child with autism and gained experience working with adolescents and adults who have ASD through providing psychotherapy at the University of Minnesota mental health clinic. She previously worked in medical, non-profit, and research settings and has additional expertise in grief/loss, trauma, giftedness, and LGBTQIA identities.
Benefield uses a strengths-based approach and counsels clients through identifying and building on the unique gifts they possess. She uses a variety of other therapeutic frameworks, including narrative, family systems, solution-focused, trauma-informed, and dialectical behavioral approaches. Her greatest joy as a therapist is watching people become their authentic selves and build lives that meet their needs. She is open to feedback and strives to provide a safe and empowering environment to help people achieve their therapeutic goals.
Amy Carrison, PsyD, LADC
Dr. Carrison is completing a postdoctoral fellowship with AuSM. She completed her doctorate of psychology at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in 2016. Dr. Carrison uses cognitive behavioral strategies in therapy to help clients change problematic behavior patterns. She has experience in psychological assessment and testing with the goal of providing individuals with targeted interventions to overcome areas of need. Dr. Carrison has worked with individuals on the autism spectrum in day training program and group home settings. In addition to her work at AuSM, Dr. Carrison teaches courses at Saint Mary’s University – Rochester Campus. Dr. Carrison has been licensed in Minnesota as a drug and alcohol counselor since 2002 and has worked in a variety of substance abuse treatment settings with both adults and adolescents.
Sara Lahti, MA
Sara Lahti is a therapist currently working on becoming an Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). Lahti graduated with her Master of Arts degree in 2018 and previously earned a BA in psychology through the University of St. Thomas. Lahti has worked with children with ASD as well as with people with ASD and other disabilities in a day program facility.
Lahti has a passion for working with adults on the autism spectrum. She uses Adlerian and person-centered therapeutic techniques to help clients better understand themselves and their strengths. Lahti’s Master’s thesis focused on using Early Recollections with people on the spectrum, which she believes is central to understanding clients’ core beliefs. She works with clients on thought patterns and how they affect daily living and also helps clients develop social interest within themselves and their communities.
Dr. Barbara Luskin, PhD, LP
Dr. Luskin is a licensed psychologist who has worked closely with children and adults with ASD for more than 30 years in professional and home settings. She specializes in providing both assessments and counseling to individuals with ASD and those who support them.
Dr. Luskin’s services include diagnostic and functional assessments, individual therapy for adults and adolescents, and training and consultation for caregivers. She helps them understand ASD, teaches them creative and effective interventions, helps them evaluate progress, and provides guidance when adjustments are needed.
Dr. Luskin serves the local autism community in multiple capacities including professional consultation, autism trainings, certification instruction, and individual work with clients. As such, her schedule usually is at capacity. Please speak with the AuSM Counseling and Consulting Services appointment scheduler to identify the AuSM therapist who can best meet your needs.
Sara Pahl, MS, BCBA, LPCC, NCC
Pahl is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota and a Master's degree in mental health counseling from Walden University. Pahl has worked with people with ASD for nearly 20 years. Her professional experience includes working with people with ASD in multiple capacities, such as mental health counselor, behavior support professional, education specialist, lead therapist, program manager, primary grade teacher, consultant, and director of a teen program. She specializes in working with systems, such as families and schools struggling with behavioral issues, as well as working with adolescents and young adults with ASD. Pahl strives to help empower, children, adolescents, and young adults with ASD through self-advocacy and self-determination, no matter what ability, using a non-judgemental, integrated, empathetic, evidenced-based approach.
Beth Pitchford, MA, LPCC
Beth Pitchford earned a master’s degree in Psychology from the Adler Graduate School (AGS), where she focused on learning about autism and how various aspects of Adlerian psychology could compliment the standard use of cognitive behavioral therapy with people on the autism spectrum. Pitchford became passionate about working with people on the “invisible” part of the spectrum (formerly known as Asperger’s syndrome) after she realized that many people close to her are on the spectrum and have spent most of their lives wondering why they felt so different.
Pitchford values working with adults who want to decode the neurotypical world in order to decrease barriers to community acceptance and to increase feelings of success. She works with adolescents as they navigate the super-social world of the teenage years. Using cognitive behavioral approaches and her Adlerian training, Pitchford’s goal is to help people better understand not only themselves but also the people in their lives.
Jennifer S. Reinke, PhD, LAMFT, CFLE
Dr. Jennifer Reinke is an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Stout. She is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, a Certified Family Life Educator, and co-editor of Family Life Education: The Practice of Family Science. Prior to UW-Stout, Dr. Reinke was a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellow at both the University of Minnesota and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, where she furthered her knowledge, skill, and abilities related to intellectual and developmental disabilities and interdisciplinary care.
Dr. Reinke has worked with individuals and families affected by autism for more than 10 years in community living, agency, school, and home settings throughout the Twin Cities, Houston, Denver, and, most recently, South Africa. Though a diagnosis of an intellectual or developmental disability, such as autism, tends to be given to an individual, Dr. Reinke strongly believes that such diagnoses affect the entire family – including the parent-child relationship, couple relationship, sibling relationship, as well as relationships with grandparents and other extended family. She strives to work with families to acknowledge the unique joys, rewards, and challenges that autism brings to their lives, and identify possible solutions that will serve to strengthen their family unit.
Bjorn Walter, MA
Bjorn Walter presently is working to obtain his license in marriage and family therapy (LMFT). He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2013, and his master’s degree in Adlerian psychotherapy and counseling with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy from Adler Graduate School (AGS) in 2017. During his master’s program, Walter interned at the Autism Society of Minnesota where he discovered his passion for working with individuals and families living with autism. Since graduating from AGS, Walter spent time working at a group home dedicated to adults with autism and schizophrenia near his hometown in Sweden.
Walter uses Adlerian and cognitive behavioral techniques to help individuals and their families understand the true nature of autism. He recognizes the importance of familial relationships and friendships and strives to help his clients realize how they affect us and our lives. Walter promotes encouragement, openness, and honesty.