Dr. Aster-McKenna is a licensed clinical psychologist in both New Jersey and New York, with more than eight years of experience. She specializes in treating older adolescents and adults suffering from trauma, addiction, grief and loss, anxiety, depression, and stress management. Dr. Aster-McKenna works from an evidence-based framework, with an emphasis on mindfulness practice, acceptance of difficult internal states, and valued-based living to increase quality of life. This approach to treatment is otherwise known as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which is a newer, more contemporary, or “third wave” type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Dr. Aster-McKenna graduated magna cum laude from Seton Hall University in 2010, where she received her B.A. in Psychology. During her undergraduate training, she focused her education on abnormal psychology, psychological development across the lifespan, psychological research and practice, and the role of attachment in the development of severe emotional distress. She co-authored and co-conducted a qualitative research study titled “Adult children of gay and lesbian parents: Religion and the parent-child relationship” which was published in The Counseling Psychologist in May of 2013. In 2010, Dr. Aster-McKenna was awarded the Seton Hall University Department Service Award, the Seton Hall Experiential Education Award, and was awarded Phi Beta Kappa membership for her academic achievement.
Dr. Aster-McKenna received her doctoral degree at Kean University, an APA-accredited educational institution, in Union, NJ, where graduated summa cum laude with an M.A. in Educational Psychology and Psy.D in School and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Aster-McKenna's doctoral training concentrated on the research and implementation of mindfulness skills and the reduction of intense emotional distress among individuals who have experienced chronic complex trauma. Her doctoral dissertation was entitled “Mindfulness as a mediator of post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive symptom change in trauma-exposed adult females”. It was during her graduate training that Dr. Aster-McKenna began to research, study, disseminate with clients, and practice on her own, a daily mindfulness regimen.
Dr. Aster-McKenna completed her predoctoral internship, as well as her post-doctoral fellowship, at the Brattleboro Retreat, in Brattleboro, VT. Here, Dr. Aster-McKenna provided psychotherapy to patients on a full continuum of care, from traditional outpatient psychotherapy to the partial hospitalization level of care. A majority of her clinical work took place in a specialized Trauma and Addiction treatment center for active and retired Law Enforcement, Fire, Military, Veterans, EMTs, and Corrections Personnel. Dr. Aster-McKenna's work in this program consisted largely of running ACT-based psychotherapy groups, leading Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Nidra, and leading Mindfulness Groups. Most notably, she provided intensive trauma and recovery-focused therapy from a unique blend of evidenced-based treatment interventions including ACT, cognitive processing therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy. Given her passion for implementing such treatments, Dr. Aster-McKenna co-developed a 3-day mindfulness and compassion workshop for the Connecticut State Police in April of 2017.
Dr. Aster-McKenna is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the New Jersey Psychological Association (NJPA), the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), and the Association for Contextual Behavior Science (ACBS). She is an active member in the NJ and NY Chapters of ACBS as well, and currently serves as the Manager of the NYC Association for Contextual Behavior Science Board of Directors. Dr. Aster-McKenna is also an adjunct professor at Kean University in the Combined School and Clinical Psy.D Program. Furthermore, Dr. Aster-McKenna serves as a Board Member for the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris.
Dr. Aster-McKenna has attended numerous training seminars to continue her education from experts in the field of trauma, acceptance and commitment therapy, written exposure therapy, compassion focused therapy, and acceptance-based behavior therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. She is available to give presentations to professional and non-professionals on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, and Trauma, with a focus clinical, non-clinical, and Uniformed Services populations.
Dr. Aster-McKenna enjoys the challenge of helping her clients understand their emotional worlds, as they develop insight into how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors make sense given their histories. It is her hope that her clients may view the inevitable instances of human pain in life as essential building blocks in their unique journeys.
“I am deeply committed to helping my clients maximize their emotional and psychological strength. I truly believe that therapy can help foster individuals to be more than just “okay”. Using integrative therapeutic strategies, we work together to navigate challenges that impact your access to a more complete and meaningful life. Watching the process of growth and change in my clients is my passion, and my life’s work.”