In recent months, we’ve seen our school-aged clients and their families be exposed to scarier and more complex situations than ever before. Disconnection. Depression. Perfectionism. Anxiety. Suicide. Bullying. And Numbing. The list goes on. As parents, we not only see these issues on the news and read about them online but know that our children are face-to-face with them, on a daily basis. So we asked ourselves: What do these kids need? How can we be proactive rather than reactive? How can we teach them to bounce back when life knocks them down? How can we help give parents peace, that they have truly done enough? The theme, and the necessary skill, that kept resurfacing was resilience … and, with that, New Strong was born.
What is Resilience ... and Why is it the Key?
Resilience is about developing the ability to bounce back, to recognize our emotions and to trust that we have the strength to move through them. We prepare for the when rather than focus on the if. We can’t outsmart pain, shame or stress. They will always be there. We can, however, be armed with the skills to bounce back from the painful, shameful or stressful experiences life throws our way. New Strong is a movement, a new definition of what it means to be a strong parent, child, and family.
Our Core Values
We value love. We value connection. We value giving back. We believe that a child who has been given skills to face life's inevitable challenges will thrive more than ones who haven't.
CultivateLoveWe Cultivate love by fostering courage and empowering families to challenge the fear of "what others think of us." We are all perfectly imperfect – and should be embraced through the eyes of self-compassion and kindness.
CreateAuthentic ConnectionsWe create the opportunity to develop authentic connections through group experiences. Understanding we are all wired with both strength and struggle allows us to connect.
FindDeeper PurposeWe create opportunities to find deeper purpose by partnering with local organizations to give back to our community. Tapping into our own unique gifts means we can give back in fulfilling ways!
Meet the Creators
We are two sisters with over 30 years combined therapeutic experience. Born to two compassionate therapists, our path to counseling was well-paved. We're on a mission to help children and their families thrive in today's world. We know in order to be proactive, rather than reactive, we must approach this work differently, and be willing to get creative!
Laura Probasco-Johnson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Registered Play-Therapist-Supervisor, founder of Probasco and Associates, co-founder of The Art of Play, and a Certified Daring Way Facilitator. The Daring way™ is a highly experiential methodology, based on the incredible research of Dr. Brene Brown. Laura has employed this method with individuals, couples, families, work teams, and organizational leaders. What drew her to this approach was its focus on developing shame resilience skills and daily practices to transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead.
Laura has over 16 years of post-Master’s experience working to better the world around her. Prior to beginning her career in private practice, she worked as a social worker at Academie Lafayette, French charter school in Kansas City, Missouri. There, she developed and implemented the school’s first counseling program while providing education to parents and faculty. She has also offered her expertise to community organizations from France to West Africa!
In private practice Laura uses an eclectic approach to serve each client and their unique challenges. Laura’s creative and dynamic nature helps establish a safe, secure environment that allows her clients to grow emotionally and spiritually.
In Laura’s free time, she enjoys exploring Kansas City with her playful step-son, son, and her husband, Roy. On the weekends you can find her whipping up veggie lasagna, taking a hot bath, or hosting a perfectly imperfect dinner party for family and friends!
Leah Probasco-Burns is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor, K-8 Certified School Counselor, co-founder of the Art of Play, and co-creator of New Strong. Leah has over 11 years post-Master’s experience working with children, adolescents, and their families in both private practice and school settings. While working within the urban core of Kansas City, she created, implemented, and led a school based therapeutic program providing individual and group therapy, ongoing trainings for parents and staff, and crisis intervention. She also created emotional intelligence lessons, promoting mental strength among her clients.
Leah specializes in working with children and families suffering from traumatic experiences. Her passion and experience working in schools enables her to connect deeply with her clients and support them as they overcome challenges. She believes empowering clients to have the courage to be themselves is the key to strengthening our youth and family systems.
When Leah found yoga (over 10 years ago), she immediately fell in love with the feeling and healing it provided. She has seen the practice of yoga transform her own world, and that of many around her. She learned that yoga can create a precious space in which one can tune in to who you truly are. Leah is excited to introduce clients to the power of mind-body connection.
Leah loves going to brunch with her husband, Drew, and her their two giggly and energetic boys, Braxton and Grayson. She believes life is well spent with family and you can usually find her dreaming up their next trip, giving back to the KC community, or listening to Van Morrison!
Meet the Team
A team approach is our favorite approach! Each clinician offers a unique perspective that fosters out-of-the-box thinking and helps us redefine therapy. The right fit between client and team member is essential for personal growth, so we've curated the A-Team to provide amazing options.
Justine Volkman is a kindergarten teacher, yoga teacher, and teacher trainer. She received her undergraduate degree from Chapman University in Orange County, California and then was accepted to Teach for America in Kansas City.
She taught Pre-K at Operation Breakthrough for three years and completed her Master’s in Early Childhood Education during that time. In her second year of teaching she received a grant to incorporate yoga into her classroom and became a certified children’s yoga teacher from Imagination Yoga in Portland, Oregon. She also has her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from Power Life as well as a certification in trauma-informed yoga.
This last year led Justine to pursue her passion for Early Childhood Education and yoga outside of the classroom. She lived in Tanzania where she partnered with a school and developed a new academic curriculum that includes yoga and mindfulness and trained teachers on how to implement it. When she was back in Kansas City she taught yoga at Academy for Integrated Arts with Super Hero Yoga.
While yoga started as a way for Justine to work on healing the stress and trauma her students were facing, it has become a therapy for her as well. It has been the outlet for spiritual growth and clarity that has given her the courage to show up authentically in her life. She is so thrilled to be able to align yoga with Brene Brown’s principles to foster healing and growth in even more children.
If Justine is not on her yoga mat or in her classroom, you’ll most likely find her reading on the porch, diving into a creative project, or exploring all of the great food KC has to offer.
Sara Vivoda (formerly a Probasco) is a licensed Occupational Therapist with over 7 years experience, specializing in treating the whole child through sensory, motor, play, and emotional techniques.
Sara graduated from Rockhurst University with her Master’s in Occupational Therapy and has since been working in the Chicago area. Sara has a unique set of clinical experiences in a variety of settings including a therapeutic preschool, pediatric outpatient clinic, rehabilitation hospitals, and a mental health community based program. In her 7 years of clinical work, Sara has had the pleasure of working with pediatrics, adolescents, and adults. Sara developed and implemented a new occupational therapy program in a school setting providing group and individual therapy to drive student’s successful participation in play, social interactions, and emotional development.
Sara has extensive training in sensory modulation and regulation interventions. She is passionate about treating the whole child by addressing the foundational skills required to support healthy development through play, engagement, and mind-body connections. She works to achieve measurable change for her clients and their family by connecting physical movement and sensory integration to influence a child’s emotional well-being.
In her free time, she enjoys traveling, cooking with her husband, and socializing with friends and family. She discovered yoga over 10 years ago with her sister and has never looked back. She understands the importance and power of connecting our breath with our movement to cultivate change within ourselves. This practice can be observed not only in her personal life but in her interactions with children and their family. By creating body and sensory awareness, we provide the chance for children to take on emotional obstacles with more clarity and confidence. Sara is excited to provide insight into the physical and sensory influence of child development through consulting and collaborating with the staff and families of New Strong.
Whitney Wilson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over five years’ experience helping adolescents, adults, and families begin their healing journey through art, play, and communication. She has a passion for helping clients find healing after experiencing trauma or toxic stress, and to begin to blossom when they see themselves as complete, whole, and safe. She believes that connecting with clients is the most powerful tool we can use to facilitate healing, and that all people have the capacity to thrive when given the right tools.
Whitney has extensive experience working in schools with adolescents, as well as providing attachment-focused parent education for parents of infants and young toddlers. She has training in play therapy and other expressive therapies, as well as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. She also has experience working with clients with a wide range of problems, from trauma-driven reactions to severe and persistent mental illness. She believes that all clients, regardless of their age or past, possess the innate ability to bloom where they are planted.
Amy Kariotis is a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor under the supervision of Leah Probasco-Burns (co-founder of New Strong KC). Amy received her undergraduate degree at Drake University and her master’s degree in Counseling (with a mental health emphasis) at MidAmerica Nazarene University. Amy is a National Board-Certified Counselor and a Chi Sigma Iota member. Amy’s internship hours were filled assisting young adults with life transitions and navigating their self-discovery. Amy also worked with trauma, anxiety, personality disorders, interpersonal women’s group and changing family systems. Amy uses an eclectic approach to best serve clients and meet at their current functioning. She provides a safe and supportive environment giving each client the opportunity and space to build a healthy and unobstructed perspective.
Amy also specializes in helping families navigate the world of developmental disabilities with almost 15 years’ experience of direct, case management and state services.
In Amy’s free time, you can find her jogging the streets of Kansas City with her daughter. Amy also loves traveling the world with her husband, modeling for local organizations and thrifting.
Kimberly is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Registered Play Therapist, and founder of Playful Solutions. With almost 20 years of post-Master’s experience, Kimberly has worked with children and adults in both private practice and agency settings. While Kimberly works with all ages, she specializes in helping children and parents build skills to face life’s challenges with confidence.
As a mother herself, Kimberly knows that parents want the best for their children, but sometimes “life happens”, and we are faced with concerns or struggles that are often overwhelming. Through therapy, Kimberly is able to connect with each client to help him/her feel a sense of safety and acceptance allowing one to work through life’s challenges. Kimberly is known for hand crafted therapy sessions as well as creating workshops for parents and organizations reminding all of us that we are truly powerful!
You can catch Kimberly spending most of her free time mothering her spunky, sweet-hearted tween daughter and her musical and creative teen son. She may be found a bit teary eyed at how fast time flies! When she isn’t cheering one of them on at a sporting event or band concert, she is likely exploring new coffee shops in town with friends, running, or volunteering in the community.
Kira Harkins is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a mother, and a practitioner of acupressure. She received her undergraduate and graduate degree from the University of Kansas and has worked with a variety of agencies, including domestic violence, foster care, and 7 years in Community Mental Health with adults. In 2010, she was trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and co-facilitated DBT skills groups, DBT training, and trauma-informed care training to county employees. After becoming a mother, she was trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and was amazed by the personal and professional changes EMDR brought. In 2020, she completed EMDR Certification with specific consultation and advanced training in EMDR for perinatal mental health. Kira has started training in NueroAffective Relational Model (NARM). NARM offers a framework for healing wounds related to developmental, attachment, and relational trauma. She is certified in perinatal mental health and receives ongoing consultation for comprehensive DBT, Perinatal, and NARM.
Kira believes that all people have the capacity to grow, heal, and cultivate connection. She works specifically with transitions, PTSD, grief, depression, anxiety, and Perinatal Mood Disorders, perinatal trauma, burnout, and vicarious trauma. She believes wholeheartedly in supporting our community with creating sustainable and resilient lives.
When Kira is not learning, you will find her traveling, reading, visiting art museums, and going on walks with her family.
Rachel Bichara is a Provisionally Licensed Counselor in both Missouri and Kansas. She graduated from MidAmerica Nazarene University and has been doing private practice ever since. Rachel also has experience in higher levels of care specializing in eating disorder treatment and anxiety.
Rachel approaches therapy with a refreshing and modern touch, curated to fit each client’s needs and desires. Curated Life Therapy is her practice name, and she is passionate about helping people get “unstuck” from patterns in life that no longer serve them. Rachel uses CBT and DBT often, but describes herself as eclectic and client focused.
Aside from work, Rachel enjoys pampering her rescue pitbull, diving into home renovations with her husband, or having friends over for dinner.
Jill KatzKris Probasco
Kris Probasco is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Kansas City Infertility Resource Counselor. With over 40 years of experience in private adoption, donor conceptions, embryo adoption, and surrogacy. Supporting more than 3,000 families, Kris is a valuable independent resource to help families answer questions and provide guidance throughout the process. Many of Kris’s former clients have acknowledged the benefit of making these difficult decisions with an experienced therapist to make a confident decision when building their families. Kris’s work has been recognized internationally and across the states as well in infertility literature.
When Kris is not spending time with her clients or keynote speaking, you can find her cheering on her SIX grandson’s and catching up on the latest Law and Order. Kris resides in Hyde Park with her husband and enjoys the midtown life!