Born and raised in Southern California, Steve earned his BA from USC and his MBA from Columbia University. Steve had launched, grown and sold several highly successful businesses over the years and began to realize what he thought was the American dream – independence and abundance amidst an early retirement. Once that dream materialized Steve became increasingly aware of a profound emptiness and felt something essential in his life was missing. He craved a life of more substance, where he could give back and make a difference, and so began his journey inward in search of meaning and connection.
During his self-reflection, Steve began to gain insight into the profound impact his family of origin experiences had had on his development and, in turn, his ability to have meaningful connections with others. The lives of his father, grandfather and uncles were fraught with alcoholism and addiction and his mother had suffered an eating disorder which contributed to her early death. With his primary caregivers living in the grips of addiction and an eating disorder, Steve was left to fend for himself in a household full of fear and dysfunction. As an adult, despite his best efforts to change the intergenerational patterns of dysfunction that he experienced, Steve saw his own familial relationships continue to suffer. In 2007 Steve had a spiritual awakening when he realized he had been living only as a survivor. This realization in conjunction with inspiration from his personal experiences manifested a desire to create a place to help, a peaceful place for people to heal. La Ventana Treatment Programs became that place: a home for professionals deeply invested in the recovery process, and a place for those suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues to find help and long-term recovery. La Ventana is held up by a stellar staff that carries the same passion for recovery and service that Steve does. With the birth of La Ventana Treatment Programs, Steve has found a way to give back to the world, fulfilling his passion to help others live long and prosperous lives.
As the primary point of contact for all referrals, Alex brings a wealth of experience and passion to her position. A proud alumni of California State University, Channel Islands, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, Alex has dedicated 15 years to the mental health field. Following her completion of school, in 2008, she began working as an interventionist in the community and in local schools until entering into the field of treatment for eating disorder, with La Ventana, in 2014. With a background ranging from program management and oversight to admissions, and business development, her diverse roles, reflect her comprehensive understanding of client care.
My philosophy is that people, whether they are struggling with mental health or addiction issues, need to know their reality.
Sharon brings a broad range of experience to her role as the Chief Clinical Officer of La Ventana Treatment Program. She has over twenty years experience working with at-risk youth, couples, families, and adults in the field of mental health and addiction. She has worked at various rehabilitation centers with youth and adults struggling with issues of addiction and their underlying psychological causes. Sharon has worked as a trainer and operator on a crisis suicide hotline. Sharon has worked directly with the homeless population in assisting them in stabilizing severe and persistent mental health and substance dependence as well as gaining housing and employment. Sharon maintains a private practice in Westlake and is a Clinical Supervisor to registered interns working towards their licensure. Sharon’s approach is multi-modal: she addresses the biological, psychosocial, spiritual, and nutritional aspects of addiction and treatment.
Sharon earned her MS in Counseling with Distinction from California State University. She is a member of CAMFT, and a Co-Leader of her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop in efforts to help young girls develop empowerment and leadership.
A board certified psychiatrist with over a decade of experience, Dr. Carol Kiriakos is best known to her clients as, “Dr. K.” A warm, passionate, and approachable expert in the field of recovery in various aspects, Dr. Kiriakos comes from a long line of “shrinks.” Her family legacy runs deep in Los Angeles. Her Father is a psychoanalyst, addiction specialist, geriatric specialist and also works with the eating disorder population. Her brother is a cognitive behavioral specialist and works primarily in helping people work through their phobias and anxieties. With this lineage, it is not surprising that Dr. K believes that client-centered work within a multidisciplinary team helps people and benefits the community.
Dr. Kiriakos’ passion lies in working with individuals who struggle with disordered eating, eating disorders, and addiction. She is regarded as a psychiatric expert in addiction, eating disorders, and dual diagnosis in the Los Angeles area and has held roles as Medical Director and Psychiatrist roles within the field. Dr. Kiriakos completed her B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and went on to earn her M.D. at the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine.
Prior to entering the field of psychiatry, Dr. Kiriakos worked as a Physician Utilization Reviewer for 30 insurance companies throughout the U.S. for 5 years. In her work, she made determinations regarding medical necessity on behalf of insurance companies using approved clinical criteria. Her clinical opinion was sought regarding levels of care, frequency of services, types of care and other modalities of treatment.
In addition to her work in day treatment centers for eating disorders and substance abuse, she has held a private practice psychiatrist in Beverly Hills for over 10 years doing both medication management and therapy covering a wide ranges of diagnoses: addiction, depression, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, generalized anxiety, Panic Disorder, ADHD, women’s health issues and eating disorders.
“If I can make a difference in one person’s life, restore hope to an addict’s heart, my job is done. One person can make a profound difference.”
Gwendolyn Casella got clean and sober in 1997. She worked at Cri-Help, Inc. for over a decade in a variety of direct care and administrative roles while attending Drug and Alcohol Studies at Pierce and Mission Colleges. Since 2002, Gwen has been tied to the recovery community through her considerable experience as a sober coach and by conducting “extreme interventions” (defined as “recovery by any means necessary”). She has her own business, Recovery Services Unlimited LLC and, notably, was featured on A&E’s “Relapse, the Sober Coach Chronicles.” Identifying integrity as the underpinning of her approach, Gwen considers herself very lucky to be trained by some amazing mentors for whom she has always had a tremendous respect. Having worked at several treatment facilities, Gwen now passionately devotes all of her professional efforts to her role as Director of Detox and CD Services at La Ventana. She believes she was meant to do this work and loves doing it. When Gwen is not working, she spends time with family and sings in her band.