Meet Our Team

The clinicians at Rice Psychology Group are independent contractors who work as a team to provide a broad scope of consultation, therapy, counseling and assessment services. Each of these experienced professionals work with Rice Psychology Group as independent professionals rather than employees. In doing so, they each provide critical services that help us deliver necessary psychological services to the individuals and families in the Tampa Bay area.

Wendy B. Rice, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist & Founder of Rice Psychology Group

Dr. Wendy RiceSince opening her private practice in Tampa in 2001, Dr. Wendy Rice has become widely known in the region as a highly qualified and compassionate psychologist. She has significant experience working with children, adolescents and adults, offering Diagnostic Interviews, Testing and Assessments, and General Psychotherapy to her clients.

She has helped clients with ADHD and has specific experience in treating anxiety and OCD. She was the first to pioneer the use of Brain Train software for Cognitive Training in Tampa, and her insights on a variety of psychological, social and learning issues have been featured in local media.

In 2006, Dr. Rice relocated her practice headquarters to its current Carrollwood location, and in 2010, she added several therapists and expanded her services to create Rice Psychology Group. Rice Psychology Group opened their South Tampa office in Palma Ceia in the Winter of 2012. Under Dr. Rice’s direction, the practice’s psychologists and therapists work to offer personalized care in an atmosphere that is both professional and relaxed.

Dr. Wendy Rice with Milo the therapy dogsDr. Rice began her career in Manhattan at a practice that specialized in working with children with difficult temperaments. She received her Master’s degree and Doctorate in Psychology from Yeshiva University in New York City. From there, she completed her American Psychological Association (APA)-approved internship in clinical psychology at the Astor Home for Children in the Bronx.

Dr. Rice also completed two years of additional training in adult psychodynamic psychotherapy through the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society. She completed a formal postdoctoral certificate program in clinical neuropsychology under the direction of renowned neuropsychologist Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg to better understand and treat the connection between behavior, learning and memory, and brain functioning.

Credentials and Certificates

Fun Facts about Dr. Rice:

  • Favorite sport and hobby:  Horseback Riding – horse shows, trail rides and   basically anything horsey!
  • Favorite vacation spot:  Botswana, Africa on Safari
  • Current favorite bakeries in Tampa: Smallcakes (Carrollwood), Wrights Deli   (South Tampa) and Publix (everywhere!)

Recent Blogs by Dr. Wendy Rice

Melissa DeGeso-Jones, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist

Dr. Melissa DeGeso-JonesDr. Melissa DeGeso-Jones completed her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Argosy University-Tampa and her internship training in child and adolescent psychology at Clifford Beers clinic in New Haven, CT (the first child guidance center in the country).

She has extensive training and experience in PTSD (human trafficking, homicide survivors, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect) and trauma-related disorders due to her seven-year tenure at the Post Traumatic Stress Center in New Haven. She has served as a psychological consultant to the Connecticut State Attorney General’s Office and has presented at local, state and national levels for her work with traumatized Victims of Crime.

Dr. DeGeso-Jones’ treatment approach emphasizes “what happened” to the individual rather than “what is wrong with” the individual. Therapeutic services include but are not limited to: trauma-centered therapy, solution-focused crisis intervention, non-directive play therapy and cognitive behavioral intervention for individuals, couples, families and groups. Psychological testing and assessments include: IQ and Learning Disability Testing (Psychiatric DSM-IV & V Diagnostic Criteria) and Personality testing and specialized assessments in PTSD for clinical and civil litigation purposes.

In addition to her clinical experience, Dr. DeGeso-Jones has served as the Dean of Academic Affairs at Everglades University, Program Chair for the School of Undergraduate Studies, Adjunct Faculty member of graduate clinical psychology at Argosy University and Guest Lecturer of PTSD and Trauma at Yale University.

Dr. DeGeso-Jones’ favorite activities:

  • In her free time, Dr. DeGeso-Jones enjoys cooking, spending time with family, going to concerts and doing crossword puzzles

Recent Blogs by Melissa DeGeso-Jones

  • A Close Look Into High-Conflict Divorce, Psychological Warfare and PTSD in Children
    When a marriage ends, sometimes a high-conflict divorce begins. It’s a situation that we often see when a person and their spouse decide to divorce while wanting for it to be amicable and fairly …
  • Remembering Our Fallen Soldiers
    Memorial Day is more than a day of remembrance to honor our fallen soldiers. It is also a day when our entire nation formally becomes a community to serve as witnesses to those who have personally lost their son/daughter, brother/sister, husband/wife, father/mother, and beloved friend.
  • Become Trauma-Informed
    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trauma-related symptoms are often misunderstood. You may have experienced a traumatic event without having any symptoms or you may be symptomatic but no one has ever asked you about the traumatic event. Trauma-informed therapy does ask, "What happened to you?" not "What is wrong with you?"

Elaine Spencer Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist

Dr. Elaine SpencerDr. Spencer is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of children, adolescents, young adults and families. Her clinical experience includes treating depression and anxiety, trauma, behavioral problems, relationship difficulties as well as family and school-related issues. She has had the opportunity to work in a variety of contexts, including outpatient care, residential treatment and school settings. Dr. Spencer also has experience conducting child and adolescent psychological evaluations.

Dr. Spencer received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. She received her Masters degree and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Denver Professional School of Psychology. She then completed her American Psychological Association (APA)-approved internship at the Kaiser Permanente Department of Psychiatry in San Diego, California. After completing her post-doctoral training, she then became a staff psychologist at the Trauma Counseling Department in the Rady Children’s Hospital Chadwick Center in San Diego, California.

Dr. Spencer is passionate about working with children, adolescents, young adults and families and she strives to create a safe environment in which to explore therapeutic issues. She utilizes evidenced based practices, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, in addition to non-directive play therapy and psychodynamic/family approaches. Creativity plays a central role in Dr. Spencer’s approach to therapy and she often incorporates art and games into the therapeutic process. Dr. Spencer feels it is important to focus on strengths, to develop healthy coping skills and to incorporate a solid support system in order to help them achieve their optimal emotional and physical well-being.

Three fun facts about Dr. Spencer:

  • Enjoys running and just completed her second marathon
  • Huge Disney fan and Dory is her favorite Disney character
  • Used to be a preschool teacher

Recent Blogs by Elaine Spencer

  • The Introverted Child: Understanding This Behavior and Teaching Your Kids That it’s Perfectly Fine
    By Elaine Spencer, Psy.D. Licensed Psychologist “She’s finally starting to come out of her shell.” “It just takes him a little longer to warm up to others.” “She’s more of a listener than a talker.” …
  • The Power of the Group
    When parents realize that their children or teens are struggling and need support, they often consider individual therapy. It's true that one-on-one therapy is an effective way for many children to work on their individual challenges through a close relationship with their therapist, but sometimes individual therapy is not enough or just isn't the right fit.
  • parents playing with their kidsEmotionally Connecting With Your Children
    As a mother of two young children, I often feel that there are not enough hours in the day to take care of them and accomplish all of the seemingly endless tasks that need to be done. I end up asking myself...where has the time gone? What exactly have I accomplished today? And most importantly, how did I really spend the day with my children?

Heather Hernandez Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Heather HernandezDr. Hernandez is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of children and adolescents, with an emphasis on externalizing (oppositional, defiant, aggressive) behavioral problems. She has particular training and expertise in a parent-training program known as Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), which was developed for young children exhibiting behavioral problems.

Dr. Hernandez received her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Central Michigan University with a child/adolescent specialization. She completed her pre-doctoral internship at the University of Miami, Mailman Center for Child Development where she also completed rotations in various pediatric medical clinics, the child protection team and general outpatient clinic. She utilizes evidence-based treatments with a concentration in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

She also has experience in treating depression, anxiety, school-related problems, family and relationship issues, and ADHD in children and adolescents. Prior to joining Rice Psychology, Dr. Hernandez was an associate in a child/adolescent practice in Miami for eight years where she worked with children, adolescents, families and young adults.

Dr. Hernandez thoroughly enjoys working with children and adolescents and strives to provide a supportive and comfortable therapeutic environment.

Recent Blogs by Heather Hernandez

  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)
    Sarah is the mother of a 5 year old boy, Dylan. She feels frustrated and lost as to how to handle her son’s behaviors. He throws tantrums when he does not get his way, screams, hits, and throws things. Sarah finds herself constantly telling Dylan to clean up his toys and he refuses to comply. She gets so frustrated that she yells and loses her temper. She eventually cleans up the toys herself.

Amanda Schwait Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist

Amanda Schwait, Ph.D.

Dr. Amanda Schwait is a licensed psychologist who primarily specializes in treating adolescents and adults. She completed her Doctorate in Counseling Psychology at the University of Florida. She attended internship at the Catholic University of America’s Counseling Center in Washington, DC and completed her post-doctoral residency at the University of South Florida, with a focus in college counseling and health psychology. Dr. Schwait has extensive training in treating anxiety disorders, including eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and phobias. She also has clinical experience treating individuals experiencing depression, relationship difficulties, adjustment to illness, as well as individuals who have general desire for greater psychological well-being.

Dr. Schwait emphasizes the mind-body connection in much of her work and often uses cognitive behavioral and mindfulness based therapies. She has a great respect for interpersonal relationships and encourages collaboration and honesty within her sessions. In part due to her training in using behavioral health methods to encourage better physical health outcomes, Dr. Schwait emphasizes the importance of self-care and physical health to obtain ideal results for her clients.

Fun Facts about Dr. Schwait:

  • She has been an avid yoga practitioner for over 10 years and practices whenever she can.
  • She enjoys cooking, baking, and singing in the kitchen.
  • Before she was a psychologist, she was an English teacher in Costa Rica and Mexico.

Recent Blogs by Amanda Schwait

  • Pregnancy: Getting Through One of the Most Difficult Periods of Your Life
    Written by Amanda Schwait Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist There are few phrases in life that change your world quite like the words, “You’re pregnant.” No matter the circumstances surrounding your […]
  • A Link Between Mind and Body: How Stress Can Effect Your Health
    For so long, the medical and psychological communities have been thought of as separate fields. Have you got a migraine? Go to the doctor for medication! Are you suffering chronic...
  • minduflThe Importance of Being Mindful
    You’ve probably seen the word “mindfulness” around a lot in the last five years. And while the word is thrown around in popular culture, I find that, oftentimes, people don’t always know exactly what it means. Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the leading researchers and proponents of mindfulness in the United States, defines the term as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”

Brandy Benson, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist, Founder of Bang Psychology & Associates

Brandy BensonDr. Benson is a licensed, clinical psychologist and native resident of the Tampa Bay area. She is returning after a 7 year hiatus in South Florida where she founded Bang Psychology & Associates, a successful private practice specializing in psychological testing and therapy. Dr. Benson earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She completed 4 years of outpatient pediatric therapy and testing as well as formal trainings with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Family Violence Program, and the Miami VA Healthcare System.

Dr. Benson has extensive experience in psychotherapy, along with educational, neurodevelopmental (Autism/sensory disorders), neurological (ADHD/memory), and forensic evaluations. Her patients range from 4 to 90 years in age, with an array of identified concerns. In treatment, Dr. Benson utilizes a variety of techniques to cater to the unique needs and histories of each individual, family, and couple. Therapy commonly integrates solution-focused and process-oriented interventions, positive psychology, and humor with the intention of creating a more balanced and meaningful sense of life and health.

Unique to her practice, Dr. Benson has a specialized background in Forensic and Police Psychology, including Critical Incident Stress Management and Debriefings, Critical Response training, and hostage negotiation trainings. She continues to be invited by various police departments to provide psychoeductional lectures and trainings for interfacing with mental health issues or managing stress and well-being, critical incident debriefings, and fitness for duty/preemployment evaluations.

Fun Facts:

  • She has engaged in substantial research and publications with the Crimes Against Children Unit of the FBI, Miami Division.
  • She LOVES teaching! In fact, Dr. Benson supervises and teaches doctoral candidates in clinical psychology programs for several different universities.
  • When not working, her favorite hobbies are yoga, hiking, and playing with her dog (Molly!)

Matthew Rigberg LMHC, CRC, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Matthew RigbergMatt’s formal psychotherapy training began at the University of South Florida, as a member of the Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling department, and continues to the present. Matt has had the opportunity to hone and refine his therapeutic skills at regarded institutions such as Tampa General Hospital and the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.

Matt specializes in treating adults and older adolescents using a combination of therapeutic modalities including: person-centered (Rogerian), cognitive-behavioral (CBT), dialectical behavioral (DBT), and mindfulness based approaches. His clinical experience includes treating anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, relationship difficulties, self-esteem, men’s issues, LGBTQ, and gender dysphoria.

Matt believes effective counseling is a collaborative effort in which client and counselor work together to increase self-awareness, develop perspectives, and formulate strategies to live skillfully. Matt believes that healing and growth is assisted through developing an understanding of the mind and body connection. Deepening this understanding leads to increased self-awareness, enhanced development of coping skills, and a greater sense of control.

Fun Facts:

  • Matt is an avid cook. His favorite dish to cook is boeuf bourguignon.
  • Matt’s favorite sports are soccer, tennis, and hockey.
  • Matt enjoys craft beer and occasionally brews his own.

Recent Blogs by Matthew Rigberg

  • A Smartphone Holiday: What You Should Keep in Mind Before Making a Purchase for Your Child
    Susan is the mother of a 12-year old boy and 14-year old girl. She finds herself in a difficult spot. Both of her children have given her a list of gifts that they’d like, and a smartphone is at the top of each. Susan understands the utility of a smartphone; it allows her and her children to remain in contact throughout the day, it’s great for emergencies and will allow her kids to communicate and interact with their friends. She and her husband have worked hard to raise responsible, conscientious people, though she wonders if they are ready to own such a device.
  • Mindful Eating: Maintaining Your Goals When a Fad Diet Isn’t Working for You
    Mike’s younger brother’s wedding is in February and he’s decided that now is the best time to start shedding a few pounds to look great at the ceremony. The problem is that Mike has tried multiple diets in the past and none have worked. He thinks it mostly stems from the fact that it’s hard for him to maintain them. Mike finds it easy at first but consistently notices that he slips back to his old eating habits. Mike believes that the problem lies in his ideas about weight loss in general. He wonders, “Am I missing something or are there a few steps I can take to get through it?”
  • Dad Hacks: What Fathers Everywhere Can do to Make Life a Little Easier with the Kids
    Have you noticed that there seems to be a day to recognize everything? I believe that the more recently invented “holidays” serve to devalue actual days of significance, such as […]

Jeffrey Smith, Ed.S., Licensed School Psychologist

Jeffrey D. SmithJeffrey D. Smith has been working for Hillsborough County Schools as a School Psychologist since 1999 and joined the Rice Psychology Group in 2005.

He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Philosophy, a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, and a second Master’s degree and Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology from the University of South Florida. He is state-certified, nationally-certified and is licensed as a School Psychologist.

Jemeise Stephens, Office Manager

Jemeise StephensJemeise Stephens has worked in a variety of positions within the healthcare field for the past 18 years. She joined Rice Psychology as Office Manager in 2015. Jemeise accumulated her extensive knowledge of healthcare management while working at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. She obtained her Associates of Arts Degree in Healthcare Administration with a specialization in Medical Records from the University of Phoenix in 2010 and is currently working on her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of West Florida in Healthcare Administration.

Elizabeth Fanslow, Social Media Manager

Elizabeth Fanslow

Milo, Canine Assistant

Milo-at-School-Aug-2011Milo, an F1 Standard English Goldendoodle, who received his formal animal assisted therapy dog training at “Kids and Canines”, an assistance dog-training program. Milo attended school in Hillsborough County at The Dorothy Thomas Exceptional Center where “at-risk” school students and a devoted staff of teachers and dog trainers prepared him for the work he does now. Some of his fellow dogs are now full-fledged service dogs who have been paired with adults or young people with physical disabilities, PTSD or autism.

Milo, Canine AssistantMilo can be found at the office (usually Carrollwood) working with the staff to help clients feel more comfortable, provide emotional support and participate in play therapy sessions with children. Substantial research has clearly demonstrated the importance of the human-animal bond as well as the value of properly trained animals for treating children with a wide range of difficulties.

miloIncluding Milo is just one part of overall treatment, but his presence can facilitate progress in many dimensions. Safety and close supervision are a top priorities. Milo is groomed regularly and he is considered a low-allergy type of dog (thanks to his poodle father).


Kids and Canines

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