Who We Are
At 3rdchair, we pride ourselves on finding beautifully flawed people to help keep the dream going.
Life isn’t always easy. The answers to our problems are elusive and blurry at best and only with the calming and encouraging voices of our wisest friends can we move forward. Life is messy, difficult and confusing and we too have known struggle, pain, depression and shame. The only reason we can support others is because, we ourselves, are being supported. Without our friends, relatives, teachers, professors, mentors and donors cheering us on, we couldn’t do this. Therefore, with this support in place, we’ve devoted our lives to helping those who might not have the support. So let this model of being blessed and blessing others ring true for you as well. We’ve been served, so in turn, let us serve you as well. This is our charge and mission and we embrace it. We wouldn’t have it any other way. The youth of West Michigan deserve it.
Meet Our Staff
Scott McKnight, Founding Director LMSW Clinical Practice, MBA
Scott founded 3rdchair to meet the needs of young adults of Grand Rapids.
He has made it a full-time endeavor to counsel, mentor, and speak to schools, colleges, churches, seminaries and other groups regarding the challenges and mental health concerns facing today’s youth.
Scott works in groups or one on one and is gifted in dealing with sexual abuse, addictions, self-injury (cutting), eating disorders, anxiety, depression, grief and relationship struggles. He makes it easy for young people to communicate how they really feel and gives them the tools to articulate their thoughts. He works with people so they can build constructive relationships with others by being aware of the needs around them.
Scott received his Masters of Social Work in Clinical Practice from Western Michigan University as well as further training through Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He also received a Masters in Business Administration in International Finance from Old Dominion University.
Outside of 3rdchair, Scott has coached soccer for the past 8 years; worked summer camps for Harbor Hospice and Ele's Place, walking along side youth who experienced death of a family member; facilitated groups for high school students who are experiencing anticipatory grief; volunteered for Junior Achievement – Project Business teaching students about building a business; and has volunteered with with Binder Park Zoo and the Humane Society.
Dante Jones, LPC, Counselor
Dante is a graduate of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, where he received a Master of Arts Degree in Counseling. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Grand Valley State University.
Through his experience at adolescent residential treatment programs and the Muskegon County Juvenile Transition Center, Dante has worked with young people who have experienced abuse and trauma, as well as those who have struggled with behavioral problems, ADHD and family relationships. In addition to counseling at the 3rdchair, Dante currently works at D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s as a therapist for youth placed on probation and as a volunteer for the Be The Dream Initiative with Kentwood Public Schools.
In his spare time, Dante enjoys watching and playing sports (especially Basketball), as well as other activities that help him stay healthy. He enjoys listening to music, reading and traveling.
Kristen Rogers, LPC, Counselor
Kristen Rogers is a graduate of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary where she earned a Master of Arts in Counseling. While pursuing interdisciplinary studies, she was able to focus her coursework on women’s issues as well as child and adolescent development. Kristen’s studies increased her desire to walk with women through issues such as abuse, anxiety, depression, and self-worth and to assist them towards goals of healing and healthy living.
While studying at Cornerstone University, Kristen was a resident assistant and had the privilege of helping young women through the personal, social, and transitional challenges of college life. After graduating, she received the Faculty Counseling Award for excellence in counseling. Her invaluable service at 3rdchair also includes working with young adults and couples. In her spare time, she enjoys the company of her husband and energetic son as well as reading, traveling, music, art projects, and serving at her church.
Sarah Benton, LLMSW, Counselor
Sarah Benton is a graduate of Grand Valley State University where she received her Master of Social Work degree. Sarah also earned her Bachelor’s Degree in psychology from Grand Valley State University. In addition to working at the 3rd chair, Sarah also works at Family Outreach Center where she provides counseling to children, teens, and families from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Sarah also spent time working in the adolescent residential unit at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. Through these experiences, she has seen first-hand how traumatic experiences and difficult times affect a person’s life. Sarah has enjoying helping young people overcome their pain, grief, sadness, and worries.
Sarah understands that transitioning into adulthood can be an extremely challenging time filled with worry, pain, and confusion. Her hope is to walk with you on the journey to let you know that you are not alone. Sarah has experience working with those who are struggling with anxiety, depression, self-esteem, relationship issues, and grief. Her passion is to help teens and young adults find joy and peace in their life.
In her free time, Sarah can be found going for bike rides and walks with her husband and dog, a basset hound named Beatrice. Sarah particularly delights in sunny days spent at the beach and nights spend by a bonfire during the summer time. Sarah also enjoys cooking (and eating!) and crafting.
Stephanie Bergman, LLPC, Counselor
Stephanie is a graduate from Spring Arbor University with a Master of Arts degree in Counseling. Prior, she graduated from Kuyper College with a Bachelor of Science degree with majors in Youth Ministry and Bible/Theology, and minors in Worship Studies and Communication Arts.
Stephanie’s unique background and experiences, combined with her education, have prepared her well to work with young adults and college-aged students. She has spent the past seven years working on college campuses in Career & Counseling, Student Life and Admissions departments. Outside of the college campus environment, Stephanie has also been a middle and high school student youth leader in her church for over 10 years. These combined experiences have afforded her the opportunity to walk with young adults as they experience all of the joys and sorrows that are involved in growing up and discovering the person they are meant to be. She has experience working with those who are struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, life transitions, relationship issues, and self-worth. Her passion for walking with young adults comes out of her own personal experiences and her belief that with time and effort, joy and healing are possible.
In her free time, Stephanie enjoys reading, being outdoors, exploring Grand Rapids, drinking coffee, crafting, digging through thrift stores, and spending time with her awesome husband, super cute kid, and crazy dog.
Hillary Marker, Intern Counselor, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
Hillary is currently pursuing a Masters in Counseling with an interdisciplinary focus at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. She has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Family Studies at Cornerstone University.
Hillary’s passion for counseling resulted from hard experiences in her own life. During those difficult moments, she began to understand the value of intentional community and mentorship in the healing process. Hillary is passionate about walking alongside teens and college-aged students in the counseling process, acting as an aide and a guide in the self-discovery and healing process.
Through her experience in child and adolescent residential treatment programs, Hillary has worked with children and teens that have experienced abuse and trauma, as well as those who have struggled with behavioral problems, suicidal ideation and self-injury, and substance abuse.
In her spare time, Hillary enjoys travelling to different countries and learning about new cultures, hanging out with friends, and watching Star Wars and Marvel movies.
Thomas Kantola, Intern Counselor, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
Thomas is currently a graduate student at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary where he is pursuing a Master’s degree with specializations in Marriage and Family and Addictions. He completed an undergraduate degree at Cornerstone University with a bachelor’s in Biblical Studies with a minor in Art of Ministry.
Thomas’ passion for counseling came from working in ministry where he discovered he enjoyed helping students work through and grow in the difficult situations that life often brings. This passion carries into counseling as he strives to help others identify and pursue their goals as they grow through life’s challenges. Thomas also believes that each person is a unique expert on their own life story and that listening to and understanding a person’s story is an important aspect of counseling.
When not in school or counseling Thomas enjoys reading novels and history, fly fishing, and camping or backpacking with his wife.
Cameron Sabon, Intern Counselor, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
Cameron is currently a student at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, where she is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Counseling. Prior to her graduate program, she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and Nonprofit Leadership from Clemson University in South Carolina (where she is from). Cameron has a passion for teens and twenty-something women to know that they are seen, valued, and cherished. She chose an interdisciplinary focus in her graduate studies so she could explore a variety of counseling areas.
Cameron's greatest desire is that when you come to counseling you can put the stress of the day aside and be able to safely focus on you and what is going on in your life. She understandings that it is difficult sharing hard things with people and she strives to create a warm safe space that you feel comfortable sharing. She sees counseling as a collaborative process of healing and finding skills to work through the obstacles of life.
In addition to counseling, Cameron enjoys her work in the college and twenty-somethings ministry at her local church. If she isn’t at the 3rd Chair, school, or church, she can be found hanging out with her husband, enjoying coffee with friends, playing with her nieces and nephews, spending time with her small group, or exploring the outdoors.
Melissa Phebus, LPC, Counselor
Melissa is a graduate of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Counseling. Her focus was interdisciplinary studies, which allowed her to take classes focusing on the struggles and triumphs of women as well as a general overview of the philosophy of addiction counseling. Upon graduating Melissa received the Faculty Counseling Award for excellence in counseling.
Prior to getting her MA, Melissa attended Cedarville University where she majored in Philosophy and had two minors, one in History and one in Bible. She also played for Cedarville’s Volleyball team where she learned much about discipline, teamwork, and setting and achieving goals. Though she enjoyed her study in Philosophy, it is not an area that opens up a lot of one-on-one contact with others. Desiring to spend meaningful time with people, Melissa shifted her focus to counseling where she could help others enjoy who they were and take charge in shaping who they wanted to become.
In addition to working at 3rdchair, Melissa also volunteers as a youth leader in her local church where she walks alongside high school women as they journey through school and learn about life. Melissa also enjoys reading, painting, camping and hiking and is always up for a good conversations in a local coffee shop.
Karla Kantola, LPC, Counselor
Karla is a graduate of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary where she received a Master of Arts in Counseling. There she chose to pursue an interdisciplinary study in counseling to best equip herself to help people in many different circumstances. Karla particularly has a passion for helping teens and young adults, which was sparked by her time volunteering in youth group, working in residence life, and from her own journey through adolescence and college.
As a counselor, Karla understands that life sometimes feels overwhelming and out of control. She also understands that it can be intimidating talking to others about these feelings. It’s for this reason that Karla strives to create a warm and welcoming environment when you come to counseling. She works to help you feel comfortable sharing and she right beside you as you begin your process of healing
In addition to counseling, Karla enjoys the arts and she can often be found practicing graphic design, taking photographs, and even occasionally painting. She also enjoys biking and spending time with her energetic black lab in the great outdoors.
Benjamin Santee, LLPC, Counselor
Benjamin is a graduate of Spring Arbor University with a Master of Arts degree in Counseling. He also holds two bachelor’s degrees, one in Psychology and another in Sociology.
While working on his graduate degree Ben focused on serving the families and children of the State of Michigan as a Foster Care Case Manager and worked in that field for three years. Ben has over seven years of experience serving families in a professional capacity in residential treatment, Foster Care, and as a Therapist.
Prior to pursuing a career in the helping field Ben was the lead singer and front-man for a Christian band for ten years which traveled the Midwest talking to young adults and kids about life issues. He continues to enjoy playing guitar and singing and volunteers on his church's praise band. He enjoys spending his free time with his wife and 2 sons.
Audrey Filson, LLPC, Counselor
Audrey is a graduate of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, where she earned a Master of Arts in Counseling. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Musical Theatre from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Originally from Grand Rapids, Audrey’s previous career as an actress gave her the opportunity to travel all around the country and experience a variety of unique cultures. Audrey is passionate about storytelling, and she loves getting to know people through listening to them share their experiences and learning what they think and feel about the things that are important to them. Audrey believes that counseling can be a place where sharing stories leads to greater connection, clarity, and healing.
Audrey loves the arts and is active in the local theatre community. She also loves being outdoors, and a perfect day for her would include singing and playing the ukulele at a Lake Michigan beach with friends and ice cream (or hot chocolate, depending on the season).
Ashley Rijfkogel, LLPC Counselor
Ashley is graduate Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, where she earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling with a focus in trauma. Prior to her graduate program, she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Leadership from Northpoint Bible College.
Ashley has enjoyed various positions in administration, excelling as a horse instructor as well as devoting her time as a receptionist at an animal emergency hospital. She has also enjoyed several years of being a young adult leader at Grand Rapids First as well as helping children and youth walk through life after the loss of a loved one by being a group facilitator at Ele’s Place.
She has a passion for seeking out and connecting with new people as well as being a mentor to the youth. Her focus is directed towards helping those who think they are unimportant or do not belong, feel seen and loved.
In her spare time, Ashley enjoys reading, scrolling Pinterest, coffee with friends, and longboarding with her husband Nate.
Stephanie Bennett, LLPC, Counselor
Stephanie is a graduate from Spring Arbor University, with a Master of Arts in Counseling Degree. She has earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Calvin College.
Stephanie has chosen to focus her time and energy working with teens and young adults because she understands that these years are filled with difficult transitions and knows that everyone needs a little help figuring out who they are and where they want to go.
Stephanie has prior experience in working and providing home-based family intervention, life skills education, and supportive services. Working with home based family systems has provided Stephanie with a specific insight on how mental health issues affect more than just the individual.
In her free time, Stephanie can be found spending time with family and friends. She likes to maintain a healthy lifestyle and has found social dancing—particularly swing and salsa dancing—to be a great way to stay active.
Mindy Worley, LLPC, Counselor
Mindy is a graduate of Central Michigan University, where she earned a Master of Arts in Counseling. While earning her counseling degree, Mindy also pursued an emphasis in school counseling, giving her a special insight into the social, emotional, developmental and academic challenges of middle and high school students. Additionally, Mindy holds a bachelor's degree from Cornerstone University where she majored in Psychology with a minor in Family Studies.
Mindy has extensive experience working with teens in both camp ministry and youth ministry with her local church. It was there that she developed a love and a passion for working with adolescents. Mindy has also spent time investing in college age students as both an adjunct professor and academic counselor, and has also done one on one mentoring within this population. Mindy has a strong desire to walk with adolescents and young adults through the valleys of life, helping them to navigate their way to a successful and fulfilling future.
Along with counseling, Mindy is passionate about natural health and whole food nutrition. She values sourcing food locally and preparing healthy meals for her family. Mindy also treasures her roles as wife to an incredible husband and mom to three beautiful children. She loves spending time with her family and watching her children learn and grow. She especially likes being outside with her family, doing things like playing, swimming, biking, walking, and camping! Mindy also enjoys sharing meals with old and new friends, reading, and hobby photography.
Tennyson DeWitt, Intern Counselor, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
Tennyson is a student at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, where she is working toward a Master of Arts in Counseling. She has chosen trauma as her focus of study, and is passionate about walking with others through life’s most challenging situations. Tennyson earned her bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University in Health Communication, and after a couple years working in the field left the country to pursue international missions in Eastern Europe, Asia and Southern Africa.
International mission work opened Tennyson’s eyes to the depth of her own brokenness and her passion to facilitate growth and healing in those around her. Tennyson is passionate about relationship, redemption and listening to the unique heart and story of others within a safe and caring environment. She believes every life is a journey worth sharing, and every person is meant to live known, seen, and loved. Tennyson has extensive experience working with middle school, high school and young adults, and has served as a Youth Leader at her church for over 10 years. She has experience working with anxiety, depression, grief, self-worth, relationship struggles and life transitions.
When not working or studying, Tennyson can be found hanging out with friends, attending local coffee shops and breweries, reading, writing, or hiking and exploring wherever her schedule allows. She loves to travel and will jump at any opportunity to experience new people and places.
Travis Gordon, Intern Counselor, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
Travis is currently studying at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary to attain a Masters in Counseling with an interdisciplinary focus. He has earned a bachelor’s degree in Ministry at Cornerstone University.
Travis’ passion for counseling stems from a desire to help teens and young adults reach their full potential. This comes from an understanding that everyone faces a unique set of both internal and external challenges in their story, and that these challenges can be used to grow and develop who we are. Travis loves walking through these hard places with people and celebrating alongside them when their hopes and dreams are realized. Travis believes that counseling can connect, heal, and shape individuals in a special way.
When he is not counseling, Travis loves watching and playing sports (particularly baseball), being outside, hanging out with friends, watching movies, lifting, eating, or sitting around a fire.
Amanda Stowitts, Intern Counselor, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
Amanda is currently pursuing a Master’s in Counseling with an interdisciplinary focus at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Worship with a vocal emphasis at Cornerstone University and leads worship at her church.
After watching family members and friends wrestle through grief and anxiety, Amanda chose to become a counselor to companion and care for those who are hurting. Before coming to 3rdchair, she volunteered at Ele’s Place, working with children who are struggling with the bereavement of a special person. Amanda feels that every person should have the opportunity to feel heard and appreciated as the unique individual they are. She believes the first step to healing and becoming the best version of yourself is realizing you are worth the time and effort it takes to push forward.
Outside of counseling and schoolwork, Amanda loves spending time with her family, going for walks in nature with friends, singing, reading, horseback riding, snuggling with her dogs, and discussing movies and tv, especially anything to do with Star Wars, superheroes, and musicals.