Meet Our Staff
- Executive Directors/Founders
- Office Staff
Carey Ballinger, LPC
Carey has more than 15 years experience working with young people and their families. She is passionate about helping people meet the crisis at hand, but she is even more passionate about helping them to develop new communication skills and tactics to avoid future relationship pitfalls.
As a former teacher and school counselor, Carey is exceptionally familiar with the school setting and can offer insights to parents and students alike. She uses her experience and expertise to help parents ensure that their children get the best their school system has to offer, from special education or disability testing to class scheduling and goal-setting for college. She has a caring, coach-like counseling style and works with people in a variety of settings.
Carey enjoys athletics, traveling, the outdoors and most importantly, spending time with her husband and their two children.
Carey Ballinger, LPCExecutive Directors/Founders
Leif H. Smith, Psy.D.
Dr. Leif H. Smith has been at the forefront of providing mental health services in the Central Ohio community for over ten years. A Clinical Psychologist by training, he completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at The Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center. In 2002, he formed Personal Best Consulting, and includes The Ohio State University Department of Athletics among his biggest clients. Working with the Buckeyes, he provides and oversees therapy and performance counseling services to over 1,100 Buckeye student-athletes. Dr. Smith also has a busy private practice located in Dublin, Ohio, where he sees clients from all walks of life. In 2010, he teamed up with Carey Ballinger, PC to form The People Institute, which opens its doors to the public in August of 2011, and is the premier provider of group therapy and educational seminars in the central Ohio area.
Dr. Smith currently holds the position of Adjunct Graduate Faculty at The University of Dayton. He is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), and his work has been cited in publications such as The New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, Pure Power Magazine, HER Sports Magazine, Best Practices in HR, Legal Management, The Columbus Dispatch, and Small Business Digest. He has co-authored the book, Sports Psychology for Dummies, published in Fall, 2010, by John Wiley and Sons, Toronto.
In his free time, Dr. Smith enjoys spending time with his two children, reading, and training in Muay Thai kickboxing.
Leif H. Smith, Psy.D.Executive Directors/Founders
Marissa Aquilino, LPC
We all have strengths. We all have weaknesses. Those characteristics, whatever they may be, make us who we are as individuals. I assist my clients in discovering ways of utilizing their unique strengths to overcome obstacles and move forward in their lives – one day at a time.
My passion is working with children and their families. I strive to work as a team with families to promote personal growth, address family dynamics, strengthen relationships, decrease levels of stress and anxiety in the household, develop coping skills to prepare for daily struggles, strengthen nurturing parenting skills, adjust to transitions, and assist children in developing appropriate social and communication skills. I also specialize in grief and loss, working with bereaved children, adolescents, and adults.
My goal is to create a safe, supportive environment where my clients feel comfortable and accepted, knowing they will receive empathetic and compassionate responses from someone who is invested in their well-being. I want to see my clients reach their goals and empower them to believe in their ability to arrive at a place of peace, healing, and confidence. I understand it can be scary and unnerving to seek help, but I encourage you to take the first step for you or for your child. You don’t have to do this alone.
Marissa Aquilino, LPCCounselors
Lauren Hickson, LISW
Lauren Hickson is a Licensed Independent Social Worker in the State of Ohio, and also has her clinical license in the State of Michigan as a Licensed Master of Social Work. During her seven years as a school social worker in Michigan, she worked at the elementary and secondary school levels providing individual and group services to students with academic, emotional, and behavioral problems. Since relocating to central Ohio, she has worked as a private therapist for two years providing services to children, adolescents, and adults.
Lauren’s primary areas of expertise are children and adolescents. She she recognizes the importance of the many facets of a child’s life and uses them to provide a caring and therapeutic experience for them. Family counseling is frequently integrated into treatment. Professionally, Lauren utilizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, as well as the Love and Logic parenting model. She also is able to conduct full, comprehensive ADHD evaluations for children and adolescents aged six to eighteen years. Adult ADHD evaluations can be provided as well.
When Lauren is not working, she enjoys exploring the numerous family-friendly events in Central Ohio with her daughter and husband.
Lauren Hickson, LISWCounselors
Courtney Pierce, LPC
Courtney is passionate about helping her clients gain tools and discover their own strengths to address and overcome their mental health concerns. She received her Master of Science in Education and Allied Professions from the University of Dayton in 2009. She is a licensed professional counselor and she is also licensed as a school counselor.
Her experience in both private practice and the school system have helped her develop her counseling style, which is to support her clients while challenging them to grow. She enjoys working with adolescents and adults who face issues such as anxiety, depression, relational issues, sexual abuse, sports performance issues, and learning disabilities. Courtney is excited to be a part of the TPI family and to potentially work with you!
In her free time, Courtney enjoys traveling and spending time with friends and family. She is an avid runner and is usually in the process of training for a race. Thus far, she has completed four half marathons and hopes to one day run a full marathon.
Courtney Pierce, LPCCounselors
Anna Toet, LISW
Originally from the Netherlands, Anna Toet has over fifteen years’ experience as a Licensed Independent Social Worker. She has experience working with a broad variety of populations, from children as young as three to elderly adults. In addition to private practice, Anna has provided her professional services in psychiatric hospitals, residential homes, and community mental health centers.
Anna’s specialties include trauma, dissociation disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), LGBT issues, and eating disorders. Additionally, she is fully trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, more commonly known as EMDR. EMDR is a type of therapy used with clients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as those who have experience any type of traumatic or distressing event. Anna is able to provide EMDR for children, adolescents, and adults of all backgrounds.
In her spare time, Anna enjoys playing with and walking her dog Louie. She also has a sphinx cat named Yoda, who loves swimming in the tub. A very creative person, Anna loves incorporating this creativity into her professional work– so don’t be surprised to encounter a keyboard or guitar in her office!