Our clinical team is led by Chris Abildgaard, a clinician who has been in private practice for over 10 years.  Come meet him and learn about our talented clinical team.


Chris Abildgaard, LPC, NCC, NCSP

Chris Abildgaard, LPC, NCC, NCSP is the owner and director of the Social Learning Center, LLC. located in Cheshire, CT.  Chris is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, a Board Certified national Counselor & a Licensed Professional Counselor with a specialization in Autism Spectrum Disorders. In addition to a Masters and 6th Year degree in School Psychology, and has earned a Graduate Certificate from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Behavioral Interventions in Autism.

In addition to his private practice, Chris is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Joseph in their Special Education Department, and holds an appointment at the Benhaven Academy located in Wallingford, CT as their School Psychologist. Since 2008, Chris has presented nationally at conventions such as the Autism Society of America and American Counseling Association national conferences and through the state of Connecticut on topics related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and counseling techniques used when working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum.  

For the past five years, Chris has trained clinical mental health practicum and intern graduate students from SCSU, University of Hartford and Walden University and has been a lecturer for Master level courses in the area of clinical mental health counseling. As a mental health counselor, Chris’ theoretical orientation is grounded within Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  Chris continues to explore methods for integrating CBT with tools to improve one's executive functioning skill sets with the aim at improving one’s overall quality of life.

Chris earned his "Clinical Trainee" title in Social Thinking by enhancing his knowledge of methodologies and treatment procedures associated with Social Thinking by completing their Clinical Training: Level 1-Assessment & Level 2-Advanced back in 2011 (www.socialthinking.com). Back in 2010, Chris had the privilege of publishing one of his first articles with Michelle Winner around integrating behavioral interventions with Social Thinking. Click here to read that article.

Chris published several articles for “Counseling Today” and the “Autism Asperger’s Digest”. Chris is currently working on a publication for Routledge Publishing on counseling individuals on the Autism Spectrum due out in January 2019.

When he is not in the office, Chris enjoys spending time with his three children, traveling and grilling!!

Ashley Zagorski, M.S., NCSP

Ashley graduated in 2011 from UCONN with a Bachelor’s of Art degree in Psychology.  In 2014, Ashley received her master’s in School Psychology, as well as her 6th Year Certificate in May 2015 from the University of Hartford. Currently, Ashley is a School Psychologist for the Middletown Public School district.  She began her career at The Social Learning Center as an Intern in 2014 and was officially added to the team in September 2014 as a clinical associate.  She began working as a group facilitator in 2015. Ashley has a passion for counseling and always finds creative and fun ways to implement social learning within group and individual settings.

Erica Ciarciello, M.S, NCC - Mental Health Counselor

Erica is a Board Certified National Counselor who has developed a specialty in the areas of counseling girls on the Autism Spectrum, clients with an ADHD diagnosis, and upper elementary/middle school aged clients struggling with anxiety or depression. Erica graduated in 2011 from Keene State College with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in both elementary education and psychology.  She started work as an instructional assistant at Benhaven Academy in 2011, and started working as a Clinical Associate for the Social Learning Center in 2012.

In 2016, Erica began working at the Social Learning Center full time and fulfilled her clinical internship hours. She completed her Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Southern Connecticut State University in December 2017.   

Since her time working with the SLC, Erica has co-authored several articles with Chris Abildgaard for the former website Special-Ism. 

Erica assists with all of the scheduling for Chris Abildgaard. She also handles all referrals and helps to get new clients set up with an intake appointment with one of the clinicians at the SLC. If you are a current client and would like to schedule an appointment with Chris, please email Erica at e.ciarcielloslc@gmail.com   If you are a prospective new client please complete our new on line form and she will get back to you as soon as possible. 

Christopher Gackenheimer, LCSW

Chris has more than 15 years of experience working with children and adolescents. He graduated in 2009 from Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Masters of Social Work and earned his clinical license in 2014. Before moving to Connecticut in 2013, he worked as a school social worker in Chicago Public Schools

He is a school social worker at Hope Academy in Orange, where he works with adolescents in both group and individual counseling sessions. Chris has extensive experience collaborating with adolescents to find ways to live rich and meaningful lives while navigating the challenges of autism spectrum disorder, clinical depression, general anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and others.

Chris is also a musician and often uses music as part of his social work practice. He is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. When he isn’t practicing social work, Chris is probably on an adventure with his family, playing ultimate frisbee, or playing guitar at too high a volume.

Jocelyn Theriault

Jocelyn is a 2017 Cheshire High School Graduate. She attends UCONN and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a pre-med concentration.  

Jocelyn began volunteering at the Social Learning Center in 2016. She was a teen mentor for Erica’s high school girls Social Cognitive Group. She continued working with this group until May 2017. Jocelyn rejoined the SLC team in February 2018 as a mentor for 2 groups run by Ashley. 

As she takes on her new role as a Research Assistant, Jocelyn will be working closley with Chris on his publication for Rutledge Publishing, all national presentations done by Chris and other projects and research being conducted here at the SLC. 

Jocelyn has a great passion for the workings of the human brain. Those acquainted with her can clearly see her sense of empathy, work ethic, and desire to help and care for others. 

Office Staff

Lisa Dempsey, Billing & Office Manager


Phone: 203-250-0305

Lisa has been with the SLC since our move here to Cheshire and is in charge of all accounts receivable and payable.   If you have any questions about your bill, insurance or any general questions about our services, please feel free to contact Lisa directly.