Our therapists

Experience you can trust. Care you'll appreciate.

Our therapists

Experience you can trust. Care you'll appreciate.

Kayla Bryant

Founder & Director

“I welcome you to a safe space of authentic acceptance for people of all abilities. ”

About Kayla

My name is Kayla Bryant and I am an occupational therapist and full-time mom living in Asheville, NC. I have a passion for helping my clients connect and take control of their bodies through a holistic, client centered approach.

You may be wondering how I ended up on this journey as an occupational therapist working with pediatrics and women experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction and what does an occupational therapist actually do?

Occupational therapists are educated in the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a person, which means we can address the vast majority of the factors that impact an individual’s pelvic health and daily life. We use a truly holistic approach.

Now that you know what this amazing profession can do, why did I choose to become an OT?

As a child I experienced sensory sensitivities that manifested into physical and emotional problems. I did not like the way my clothes felt, the bright lights in preschool, the loud noises on TV, and I ate the same breakfast food everyday for almost 2 years. As I got older I experienced urinary urgency, UTIs, and IBS. My parents were constantly searching for answers and I was made to believe it could be all in my head.

When I was 15, my grandfather had a stroke and received occupational therapy services. The treatment interventions were creative and unique incorporating what was most meaningful to him—gardening, cooking, and playing with his dog. They considered how his disability impacted his quality of life and used a functional treatment approach to reach the main goal—living life to his fullest potential.

I was introduced to pediatric occupational therapy while completing the Masters degree program at West Virginia University. My last fieldwork (internship) was completed in a sensory clinic focusing on sensory integration and feeding difficulties. The children I worked with reminded me of myself as a child and it clicked. Since then, my passion for children exploded and my determination to provide a multimodality approach to treatment began to unfold.

After having my daughter in December 2018, I experienced my own pelvic floor dysfunction, which led me to study and treat the condition on my own. Through extensive continuing education I am able to treat pediatrics and adults with pelvic floor conditions. With the combined knowledge, professional, and personal experience, I strive to help my clients find the balance and confidence they need to take control of their lives and loving themselves from the inside out!

If you’re seeking quality whole-person care regarding your child, yourself, or your family, I am glad we have found each other and I look forward to meeting you!

Education & Experience

  • Advanced Professional in Sensory Processing- Certified Level 1 STAR Institute
  • Safe and Sound Protocol- iLS
  • Hands-On Biofeedback for Complex Pelvic Floor Cases
  • Biofeedback Evaluation and Treatment for Elimination Disorders and Pelvic Floor Disorders
  • Herman and Wallace Trauma-Informed Pelvic Care
  • Herman and Wallace PF1 & 2B
  • Herman and Wallace Pediatric GI
  • Pediatric Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation by Dawn Sandalcidi
  • Dynamic Core Applied: the Challenge of Incontinence
  • OT Pioneers: Introduction to Pelvic Floor Therapy for Occupational Therapists
  • STAR Institute Level 1 Mentorship Program
  • The SOS Approach to Feeding: Picky Eaters vs. Problem Feeders
  • Handwriting Without Tears K-5
  • Building Blocks for Sensory Integration, presented by: Vital Links
  • Making Sensory Integration Measurable: Clinical Observations and Clinical Reasoning in Sensory Integration, presented by: Dr. Gustavo Reinoso
  • Dynamic Feeding Assessment and Intervention in Sensory Integration and Autism, presented by: Juliana Gutiérrez MA, OTR/L, SWC
  • Bilateral Integration: A Comprehensive Approach to Bilateral Integration, presented by: Vital Links

Deb Hagerty

Therapist

“To be neurodivergent in a neurotypical world is to go through life in a constant state of disruption; not by following a formula, but by listening to my clients, I learn how to help them navigate the maze of a neurotypical world.”

About Deb

In 2007, I earned a small, seemingly insignificant scar on my left shoulder that was placed there by a 4 year old; not in anger, but in an expression of excitement to see me.

In 2008, I lost a 5 year old I dearly loved. She always knew my voice despite her lack of sight. My 2011 was filled with kitchen dance parties, dinosaurs, trains, melt downs, tears and an autism diagnosis for a child I nannied for. I supported them, but I wanted to better know how to help. Right after I graduated from college, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition that explained so many of my life long struggles and I was met by a wave of support and knowledge from clinical providers that changed my entire world.

My pursuance of a career in Occupational therapy is directly inspired by the three aforementioned children and a host of others whom I have loved along with my own experiences.

I returned to school at Georgia State University as a non-traditional student in 2017 to pursue my Masters in Occupational Therapy. During one of my fieldwork experiences, I was lucky enough to get Kayla Bryant as my CI and I began to learn how pediatric occupational therapists can approach therapy with a holistic perspective: understanding the whole child and working with them by entering their world. I learned how to see actions not as intentional behaviors, but as the struggles of neurodiverse humans living in a neurotypical world.

As I have grown as a therapist, I have found my passion lies also in working with teenagers. The teenage world is one on the brink of adulthood, where independence, self-expression, and trust are foundational to growth. Where life is not only most difficult, but also most passionate, most deeply experienced. My therapeutic approach is always trauma informed and child led. I partner with teens to not only learn how to navigate a world that was not made for them, but also how to communicate those needs to parents, peers, and others so that they can feel safer and more supported.

Julianne Vesely

Therapy Assistant

“With the child and family as the focus, we will work together to facilitate learning through play and experiences.”

About Julianne

My name is Julianne Vesely and I am a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant here at The Family OT.

Originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, I moved to the beautiful mountains of Western NC one year after graduating with my bachelor’s in Exercise Science from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. I was first introduced to the therapy field when I broke my ankle the summer before my freshman year of high school. Since then, I knew a career as a therapist was the fit for me, being able to combine my love for physical activity, science, and passion for helping others reach their goals!

After moving to western NC, I attended AB-Tech and earned an associate’s degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant. I love occupational therapy because I can work with children and adults with varying abilities and diagnoses, in a variety of settings. I enjoy working with children on feeding using a family-centered and child-led approach to create a feeding experience that is non-threatening and encourages the child to learn and increase their food repertoire through exploration and play. I also enjoy working with children with sensory integration difficulties to increase independence with self-regulation and tolerance to new sensory experiences.

As a holistic practitioner, it is important to me to provide support and education on incorporating self-care routines for parents and caregivers into our therapy sessions to promote a state of well-being for the whole family. When I’m not playing and building forts at the pediatric clinic, I also work at a local inpatient rehabilitation hospital working with people recovering from stroke, brain injury, cardiac debility, and orthopedic injuries. In my free time I enjoy hanging out with my husband, Michael, and our Catahoula leopard dog, Jake. I also enjoy working out and running, reading, and rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers!

Elizabeth Helmich

Therapist

"Children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded."- Jess Lair

About Elizabeth

Hello! My name is Elizabeth and I’m a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant at The Family OT. During my previous work with adults in home health and adult day program settings, I developed a passion for connecting with individuals one-on-one to discover what matters most in order to motivate and improve their quality of life.

After the birth of my youngest daughter, I obtained my associate’s degree as an Occupational Therapy Assistant. During fieldwork, I was captivated while working with children, and this enthusiasm led to a strong desire to continue working with this population as a therapist.

Taking the time to get to know and understand the cultural beliefs of the families I work with and what their unique needs are is the first step in building a strong therapeutic relationship. Fostering this relationship by providing continued education and support is how we develop a partnership in supporting extraordinary humans.

I have a special interest in ASD, SPD, and feeding challenges, and am receiving continuing education in these areas to benefit my diverse clientele. Using sensory strategies combined creatively with arts, crafts, and music, I empower children by providing tools to learn emotional awareness and expand their skills to allow them to flourish.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, I moved to Asheville, NC in 2001. Currently, I live with my beautiful family and pets in Swannanoa, NC, and enjoy hiking, cooking, and writing in my leisure time.

Uma Thompson

Therapist

“Through safety and connection, I assist in building skills for embodied self-regulation.”

About Uma

My name is Uma, and I am a mother, an occupational therapist, ayurvedic practitioner, massage therapist, yoga instructor, herbalist, educator, and postpartum doula. I am deeply committed to integrative health with two decades of experience as a holistic health practitioner specializing in women’s and pediatric health.

From a young age, I loved plants, nature, healing, and the mysteries of birth. I majored in women’s health and ecology at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. My thesis entitled, Color the Moon Red, is a study of the connection between the menstrual cycle and the lunar cycle. During my third year of college, I did a transfer year at the New Mexico Academy of Healing Arts, in Santa Fe, NC and I became a massage therapist and yoga instructor. Following college, I studied at the Rocky Mountain Institute of Yoga and Ayurveda, in Boulder, CO where I became an Ayurvedic postpartum doula. I spent a year abroad in India, studying Ayurveda at the source. Upon return, I graduated from The Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, NM, with one of the grandfathers of Ayurvedic Medicine in the West, Dr. Vasant Lad.

My husband, Marek Sawicki, and I have a private practice in Ayurvedic medicine, massage therapy, and yoga therapy called Living Alchemy Ayurveda. In my Ayurvedic practice, I help women to balance their hormones and honor their body rhythms for a smother menstrual cycle. I also support women to have a healthy childbearing year as well as restore health during the postpartum window. I work with babies to promote healthy bonding and healthy digestion, as well as balance their systems through craniosacral therapy. I also work with children to support digestive health and nervous system regulation.

I wanted to broaden my understanding of integrative medicine and was drawn to the holistic approach of occupational therapy, as well as the focus on pediatrics and mental health. During my pediatric fieldwork at Brenau University in Norcross, GA, I gained a deep respect for the transformative power of occupational therapy to help children in the areas of sensory integration, emotional regulation, and somatic connection.

In my work with children, I focus on a whole brain approach that promotes bonding, connection, and emotional intelligence. I was a part of a cooperative parent-run playgroup with my son, which ran for four years, and was based on conscious discipline and the work of Becky Bailey. I am also influenced by Dan Sigel and Peter Levine’s work with trauma resiliency and somatic connection.

I plan to do additional training in the areas of perinatal mental health, sensory integration, somatic experiencing, and nature therapy for trauma resolution. I look forward to supporting children and families to connect more deeply with themselves and create healthy relationships for a vital life. I am a mother of a magical girl and a wild-spirited boy and enjoy hiking in nature, tending my garden, and time for deep relaxation and integration.

Kathleen Paduano

Therapist

“If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, learn to trust, share their feelings, and grow.” - Alfie Kohn

About Kathleen

Kathleen was born on an Air Force Base in Morocco, but was raised in Kansas where her mother grew up. She graduated from Kansas University with her Bachelor of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy, back when they were still riding around in covered wagons. Well, not quite that long ago, but almost. After leaving Kansas for the big city of Boston, she attended Boston University to complete her Masters in Human Movement (a combination of advanced OT courses, biofeedback, and movement for performance).

She then spent over 25 years living in Colorado, where she worked as an OT and studied alternative therapies. She studied Therapeutic Touch (which is a research-based energy therapy) and became certified as a massage therapist. She has continued to study and learn the latest therapeutic techniques to bring a holistic approach to her treatments, (ie, listening programs, aromatherapy, cranio-sacral therapy, reflexology, and lymphatic massage).

In her youth, she fell in love with the Rocky Mountains and spent her free time camping, hiking, cross-country skiing, and climbing an occasional “14er”. Her connection to Nature broadened, and soon she found herself trekking in Asia and northern Nepal. There, she fell in love again, with exploring and connecting to the diverse cultures. This ultimately led her to use all her professional experience to work internationally. She shared her knowledge and “know how” in the Republic of Armenia (in 1990, post-earthquake), Peru, Ecuador, and Vancouver Island, Canada.

In 2019, she moved to Asheville, NC to explore these beautiful mountains, and continue this holistic journey. She feels blessed to have lived a life filled with so many extraordinary experiences and wonderful people.