About Us

Why put you or your child's life in a stranger's hands? Call us for a free consultation to see why or treatment center is the best multi-specialty practice in Maryland.

The Family Center of Central Maryland provides a complete array of services under one roof. We have been successfully treating individuals and families for more than 35 years. Our staff is composed of highly experienced doctors who are able to provide individualized and and successful treatment that allow families to function smoothly and each individual to grow, prosper, and excel.

We provide state-of-the-art treatment modalities including cognitive training, neurofeedback, biofeedback, and the most comprehensive personality and academic assessments in Maryland.

We are not bound by the treatment constraints of managed care - we have no artificial, insurance-driven limits on time devoted to patient care nor a one-size-fits-all treatment protocol. We are free to collaborate with parents, other family members, and schools to find effective and timely solutions.

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Gail K Walter, Ph.D.

Dr. Walter, a state-licensed psychologist, opened The Family Center 35 years ago to provide effective, compassionate, and personalized care for the complex psychological challenges facing families in our Central Maryland Community. Dr. Walter lives in Howard County and has a good understanding of the unique challenges in this community during these demanding times. Dr. Walter was awarded a graduate fellowship at the Institute of Child Study, UMCP, to concentrate on human development and family systems theory. After receiving her Ph.D., she completed a post-doctoral internship in clinical psychology. She currently supervises the clinical staff who specialize in the treatment of behavioral, emotional, developmental, and transitional problems of children, teens, adults, and families.


Nicky Lankerani, D.O.

Nicky Lankerani is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry. She completed her residency in general psychiatry at the University of Maryland/Sheppard Pratt Health System and at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she served as chief resident. Her specialties include mood and anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, pervasive development disorders, and diagnosis and early interventions for pre-schoolers.


Christopher Williams, LCSW-C

Chris Williams is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW‐C) with over 20 years of clinical experience. Chris received his Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from Howard University. Chris has worked with a myriad of client populations in various public health settings. Chris’ practice focuses on working with clients dealing with grief/loss, chronic health issues, mood and anxiety disorders. Chris also has a wealth of experience working with adolescents and families. Chris has years of experience working with and providing therapy and counseling services to the African‐American community. As a former high level athlete and coach, Chris also has a specialty providing sports psychology/counseling to youth and adult athletes and working with teams to address how mental and emotional health issues impact performance and sport enjoyment. Chris has been in clinical practice at the Family Center since 2001, and has been a resident of Howard County since 1977.


Anne Arena, M.A., CAS

Anne Arena is a Psychology Associate that has worked at The Family Center since 2003. She specializes in treating mood, attention and stress related disorders through a highly integrated approach that incorporates individual and family therapy with neurofeedback and biofeedback to provide increased insight and control to improve overall functioning. Ms. Arena originally worked as a school psychologist, having obtained a master’s degree in psychology and Certificate of Advanced Study in School Psychology from Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Ms. Arena also completed a two-year post-graduate degree in clinical neuropsychology and worked at the County Diagnostic Center in Howard County where she completed comprehensive neurocognitive assessments as a part of multidisciplinary evaluations. She continues to specialize in completing diagnostic assessments of learning disabilities, attention disorders, and emotional impairments in children and adults. Ms. Arena is also an Adjunct Non- Credit Faculty staff member at Carroll Community College and teaches continuing education courses on anxiety and trauma. She regularly provides community outreach on a variety of topics, including stress management and developmentally appropriate teaching and parenting practices, through speaking engagements at public and private schools and organizations.  


J. Shep Jeffreys, Ed.D., F.T.

Dr. Shep Jeffreys is a licensed psychologist and Fellow in Thanatology specializing in grief, loss, and end-of-life concerns. He is a grief psychologist with clinical focus on the life journey of individuals, couples, and families who are experiencing grief as a result of bereavement, life-threatening illness, or life-limiting disability. In addition to providing clinical services to The Family Center clients and short-term groups for grieving people, Dr. Jeffreys is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University Maryland. He is on staff in the Department of Psychiatry, Howard County General Hospital, and is a consultant to hospices, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, and corporations. He has also served as a trainer and workshop leader with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and as a consulting psychologist for the Johns Hopkins AIDS Service.


Krystin Wessner, Psy.D.

Dr. Krystin Wessner is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of children (ages 3+), adolescents, and families/couples. She received her doctoral degree from Loyola University Maryland. Dr. Wessner performs individual, family, and group therapy. Throughout treatment she emphasizes the importance of collaboration, working with each client, and the family, to develop a unique treatment plan and appropriate, obtainable, goals. In addition, Dr. Wessner conducts psychological evaluations that assess for learning disabilities, ADHD, and other social-emotional disorders.

Dr. Wessner consults closely with teachers, school personnel, pediatricians, and other health care providers to offer the most comprehensive treatment and advocates for the client’s educational, social, and mental health needs. Her areas of interest and specialty include behavioral and emotional disorders (e.g., ADHD, anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorders), trauma, adjustment disorders, high functioning autistic spectrum disorders, and childhood grief and loss. In addition, she has worked with military families who are in the midst of transition and struggling with unique challenges and adjustments.


Andi O'Connell
M.A., C.A.S.

Andi is a Registered Psychology Associate and Nationally Certified School Psychologist. She attended Towson University, where she earned Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Psychology and a Certificate of Advanced Study in School Psychology. While completing her graduate program, Andi worked as a Crisis Counselor, supporting adults and children experiencing mental health crises within Howard County.


For the last 5 years, Andi has practiced as a School Psychologist in various local public-school systems where she conducted psychological evaluations to assist in the special education eligibility process and counseled children with a range of social, emotional, and behavioral needs including but not limited to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders, Anxiety, Depression, and Autism. 

Andi’s therapeutic approach is holistic, as she understands how physical, relational, spiritual, and mental health are all intertwined. Through psychoeducation, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mind-Body Medicine and play-based therapy, Andi helps clients of all ages identify and cope with triggers of dysregulation and stress. Andi is also able to provide parent training to support behavior management at home.  

Becoming a new mother while working in the school system during a pandemic led Andi to additional areas of passion: supporting educators and mothers. To support educators through the pandemic, Andi provided wellness groups to school staff. Given the rewarding nature of this role, Andi hopes to continue to support hardworking and over-stressed educators. Additionally, Andi earned a Pre/Postnatal Performance (Strength) Training Specialist Certificate and is pursuing additional education to offer mental health support to new and expecting mothers.


Andi brings passion, personally and professionally relevant experience in her work with educators and mothers alike! Additionally, Andi is a decorated powerlifter and has competed at the highest level in the nation. She understands how exercise can support a growth mindset and mental health, and for those competing at a high level, how competition can impact stress levels. For those interested, Andi is able to use principals from Sport Psychology to support clients in their pursuit towards athletic goals.


Brittney D. Stafford
M.A., C.A.S., NCSP

Brittney is a Registered Psychology Associate and Nationally Certified School Psychologist, who obtained her Master’s Degree in Psychology and Certificate of Advanced Study in School Psychology from Towson University. Brittney has been a practicing school psychologist in Maryland for the past 10 years. She also holds certification in early childhood education, and is a former kindergarten teacher. Brittney specializes in work with early childhood, elementary-age youth, and early adolescence. 


As a school psychologist, Brittney has practiced in multiple Maryland school systems. She conducts comprehensive psychoeducational evaluations, with particular interest in the neuropsychological foundations of learning disabilities, and behavioral and emotional disorders. Through evaluation, Brittney seeks to identify unique learning and behavioral needs, and engage families and practitioners in the development of comprehensive intervention plans and support systems. 


Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, psychoeducation, and play-based approaches, Brittney assists clients and families in identifying and addressing self-regulation needs. Brittney has extensive experience providing both individual and group counseling services to address needs related to anxiety, anger and stress management, social thinking skills, executive functioning, and the development of healthy coping strategies. Brittney engages her clients and families in targeted goal setting to facilitate integration of skills outside of the counseling setting, as well as age-appropriate self-evaluation of skill development to foster a growth mindset. 


Brittney is a strong believer in collaboration. In order for children to achieve optimal emotional, intellectual, physical, and social development, it is imperative that professionals and family members who support them work in collaborative efforts, with specific and common goals and intentions. Communication and highly-individualized approaches and treatment plans are key. Brittney is able to provide behavioral analysis and training to families to assist with in-home behavior management, and also seeks to support families in the understanding and navigation of Special Education processes and their child’s unique learning needs.


Amanda Ismail

Amanda Ismail is a board-certified registered nurse practitioner specializing in psychiatry and mental health. She has a Bachelors in Nursing degree from Frostburg State University and earned her Masters degree in Nursing from Eastern Kentucky University’s Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program.


She has spent most of her career working with children as a Pediatric ICU nurse and working with children and adolescents in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She is the daughter of a Korean immigrant mother and understands the importance of culture and the role it plays in relationships and mental healthcare.