our team

IS FOCUSED ON THE NEEDS OF CHILDREN

Birch Forest’s expert clinicians are committed to providing child and family counseling services based on best practices. Integrating social work and occupational therapy services as needed, Birch Forest offers collaborative co-treatment opportunities to promote holistic, positive outcomes. We work closely with children, their parents and caregivers to give each child the opportunity to become healthier, happier and more successful throughout their lives.

annie kell, lcsw

PSYCHOTHERAPIST

Annie works with children and families experiencing a wide variety of difficulties such as emotional regulation, social and emotional issues, low self esteem, ADHD, anxiety, depression, trauma, and attachment issues. Rooted in psychological research of child brain development, Annie uses clinical play therapy to strengthen the connection between brain and body, helping children learn to regulate their bodies and emotions while engaging their interest and enjoyment.

Annie received her Masters in Social Work from Dominican University after graduating from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Cultural Studies. Most recently, she earned a graduate certificate in Animal and Human Health from Denver University, allowing her to practice animal assisted therapy. Annie’s work is also informed by her years of experience working with survivors of domestic violence and families in the child welfare system.

When not practicing therapy, she loves to spend time with her son, husband, and their pets. Annie enjoys training her dog, Zelda, to become a certified therapy dog. She also likes to make natural dyes and hand drums. Annie is a trained dancer and enjoys spending time hiking in the local forest preserves.

gretchen manske

ADMINISTRATIVE DIRECTOR

Gretchen Manske has 18 years of experience working in a multidisciplinary pediatric therapy center, serving in a number of administrative roles. Her most important role (and greatest passion) continues to be in supporting families throughout their therapeutic experience; ensuring that they have both a partner and a friend walking alongside them at all times as they navigate new experiences and learnings, insurance and scheduling challenges, and the ups and downs of parenting. Gretchen will continue to guide the unique focus of Birch Forest as a therapy center that integrates trauma-informed mental health strategies and a cutting-edge neuroscientific lens with natural child development and family focused, relationship-based care.  

Gretchen holds a degree in Biology with a minor in psychology from Concordia University Chicago. She has attended trainings workshops through the ATTACh Conference, Trauma and Attachment Symposium, and Meeting the Needs of the Whole Child Symposium as well as completing several courses on topics of the DIR/Floortime Model, parent coaching, and a variety of approaches in trauma informed care with the pediatric population. Currently she is pursuing an Advanced Certificate in Traumatic Stress Studies from the renowned Trauma Research Foundation.

Outside of work, Gretchen enjoys spending time with her husband and three sons (and one amazing pup).

sara settimi, ms otr/l

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST

Sara received her MS in occupational therapy from Eastern Kentucky University, where she concentrated on pediatric studies. Immediately following graduation she worked for Horn and Associates in Rehabilitation in Lexington, Kentucky, working with both children and adults with acquired brain injury. During that time she worked under the mentorship of a core specialist in primitive reflexes and studied the Musgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration Method as well as Handwriting without Tears, Yoga for kids, and Rock Tape, receiving a certification in modalities. Sara then moved to the Chicago area and worked for Milestones for Kids Success where she was introduced to Trauma Informed Care, The Play Project and DIR Floortime. She practiced play based therapy and truly mastered building relationships with children of all ages and diagnosis. Sara has also worked in a school setting and is versed in IEPs and the school system.  

Sara received her first degree in fine art and spent 30 years painting murals and participating in art shows. She still paints and dabbles in other mediums. She received her 200 YTR in yoga and has been teaching and practicing yoga for 16 years.