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thelma mcmillen team

Treatment Team

Morris Gelbart, Ph.D.

Dr. Moe Gelbart

Executive Director

Executive Director Morris Gelbart, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist, a graduate of the University of Southern California, and has been practicing since 1976. He has expertise in alcohol and substance abuse, is certified by the American Psychological Association in the Treatment of Substance Abuse, and was one of the founders of the Alcohol and Drug Treatment, now known as the Thelma McMillen Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment. He is presently the director of Gelbart & Associates, a multi-disciplinary mental health group in the South Bay. Dr. Gelbart is a consultant to the California Medical Board Diversion Program and the California State Lawyers Assistance Program. He has wide experience in workplace violence and stress, managed care issues, chronic pain, and works with adolescents and adults, in individual, couple and group therapy. In addition, he treats anxiety, depressive disorders and relationships.

Donnie W. Watson, Ph.D., CCFE, CATC V

Donnie W. Watson, Ph.D., CCFE, CATC V

Program Director

Dr. Donnie W. Watson has over 25 years of management experience in directing programs that educate and treat both adolescent and adult substance abusers, and their families. He has expertise in evidence-based prevention and treatment interventions, respectively. He has over fifty (50) publications, articles and book chapters related to a variety of substance abuse issues. He has worked in academic, clinical, research and community settings over the course of his career while providing supervision and training to an array of healthcare providers who specialize in substance abuse treatment. Prior to coming to The Thelma McMillen Center, he served as a Senior Principal Investigator at UCLA's Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP). In this capacity, he directed an adult outpatient substance abuse treatment center, and managed several community-based grant-funded substance interventions for youth and their families. He previously directed the CORK Institute on Alcohol and Drug Abuse at Morehouse School of Medicine, where he was also an Associate Professor of Psychiatry. He completed an APA approved clinical psychology internship (with specialty in child and adolescent psychiatry) at Grady Memorial Hospital/Emory University School of Medicine. Upon completion of his internship, he served as Director of Child and Adolescent Research, Psychology Division at Emory University School of Medicine. He earned his B.A. from Saint Olaf College in Northfield Minnesota, and his doctorate from Vanderbilt University in Clinical Psychology with minor emphases in Alcohol Studies and Experimental Design. He is a Certified Compassion Fatigue Educator with an emphasis on helping the caregiver maximize their potential in the workplace as well as being certified in the implementation of "Seeking Safety Treatment Modality for PTSD and Substance Abuse". Dr. Watson is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATC) V, a member of the California Association for Alcohol and Drug Educators (CAADE) and a member of The Addiction Counselor Certification Board of California (ACCBC).

Jean Carfagno, M.A.

Jean Carfagno

Utilization Review

Jean Carfagno has more than twenty-five years of experience as a therapist in chemical dependency inpatient, outpatient and private treatment settings. She has helped individuals, couples and families in dependent or addictive families. Carfagno serves as a primary therapist, alumni coordinator and utilization reviewer, and is one of the original founders of the outpatient chemical dependency treatment program at Torrance Memorial. In addition to her work at Torrance Memorial, Carfagno is an adjunct professor at Antioch University Graduate School where she teaches Addiction Courses. Active in community service, Carfagno is an elder in her church, a conciliator for the Los Angeles Center for Conflict Resolution and is a national director of alumni for the Mortar Board Honor Society. Carfagno holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Ohio State University; a master's degree in counseling psychology from Lindenwood University; and a certification in alcohol and drug counseling from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her honors include Phi Beta Kappa and Who's Who in America.

Herb Kaighan

Herb Kaighen

Outreach Coordinator

Herb is the Outreach Coordinator for the Intensive Outpatient Program of Torrance Memorial Medical Center - the Thelma McMillen Center. His personal journey includes seven years in seminary, a graduate education in psychology, and a 40 year career in human resources consulting (from which he retired in November,2006).

He has authored:

  • "Twelve-Step Guide to Using the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book."(2004)
  • "Twelve Steps To Spiritual Awakening; Enlightenment for Everyone "(2010)

He is an adjunct professor at Loyola-Marymount University (Los Angeles) conducting workshops on a variety of topics in their Center for Spirituality. He is also an adjunct professor at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, California teaching (biannually) a two-unit full semester course on Twelve-Step Spirituality to their theologians.

He completed the three-year training program for Spiritual Directors at Mt. St. Mary's College (Los Angeles) and has an active practice. Herb is married (47 years to the same woman!), has three adult children, seven grandchildren, and lives in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Katie Saemann, R.N.

Katie Saemon

Clinic Nurse

Katie Saemann has held the position of Clinic Nurse at the Thelma McMillen Center for the last 5 years and has been a Torrance Memorial Medical Center employee for 28 years. She has an Associate of Arts Degree and R.N. Degree from El Camino College and a Bachelors degree in Health Science from California State University of Dominguez Hills. Katie is a member of the Nurses Christian Fellowship and volunteers with the Kitchen Table Trust sending care packages to members of the U.S. Military overseas.

Adult Program Stafff

Becky Ackerman

Rebecca Ackerman

Counselor

Becky Ackerman has worked in the field of recovery services for more than 17 years. Becky attended California State University Dominguez Hills and is a certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor as well as a Registered Addiction Specialist. Becky's experience includes service to a variety of populations including adults, adolescents, pregnant and parenting women and dual diagnosed. Becky is a passionate and committed professional, dedicated to fostering hope in those that seek help to change.

Gary Cesena, BS, LAADC, CADC II, NCAC II, ICADC

Gary Cesena

Primary Counselor

Gary Cesena presently serves as a counselor for the Thelma McMillan Center. He has over 30 years of experience and expertise in clinical, educational, and multi-systems management in the addiction field. Because of his strong desire to ensure patients receive the best of care, he has served in many capacities on professional boards dedicated to counselor competencies in California. He holds a LAADC*, Licensed Advance Alcohol and Drug Counselor, a CADC II, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor Level II, a NCAC II, National Certified Addiction Counselor Level II, and an ICADC, International Certification as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor. He has been honored to have received two distinguished recognitions from the California Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors: The Jim Fulton Memorial Award in 2002, For Positive Impact on Clients and the Counseling Profession, and in 2004 The Joseph A Giannantonio II Award, in recognition of Commitment to the Recovery Movement as an Outstanding Educator in the Field of Addition Medicine. Mr. Cesena currently has a private practice in Bixby Knolls, CA and works closely with institutions of higher learning helping to support Alcohol and Drug Free Campuses.

*Currently a Non-Governmental License in California

Terese Lang, CADC-II, CATC III, RAS

Teresa Lang

Intake Specialist

Terese Lang is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II (CADC-II), a Certified Addictions Treeatment Counselor III (CATC III), a Registered Addiction Specialist (RAS) , has an Internatinal Certification as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) and a member of NAADAC, the National Association for Addiction Professionals. She has a Bachelor's Degree from California State University Long Beach and a Drug and Alcohol Certificate from California State University Dominguez Hills. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Drug and Alcohol Certification Program at CSUDH. Terese has extensive studies in Dual Diagnosis.

Jodie Marholz, MRAS, ASW

Jodie has been working in the field of addictions since 1998. She earned her certified Alcohol and Drug Counseling Certificate at California State University Dominguez Hills and is currently a Master Registered Addiction Specialist with the Breining Institute. Jodie earned her Master of Social Work Degree from CSUDH in 2011. Her focus is in the field of alcoholism and chemical dependency, and the many facets associated with providing treatment for individuals, and families who have been impacted by this disease. She has dedicated the last sixteen years to working with many different individuals, and populations, in a variety of modalities, who have experienced their love ones, suffer as a result of alcoholism and substance abuse. Jodie continues this effort at the Thelma McMillen Center in Torrance.

Barbara Mignosi, M.Ed., M.A., MFT

Barbara has been working in the field of substance abuse treatment for over 15 years. She is licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in treating the entire family system. She also presents workshops for health care professionals, and has a private practice in Torrance. In addition to her work in the substance abuse field, she has master's degree in educational administration. She has taught in the school system for almost 30 years. She has expertise in cross-cultural aspects of family dynamics. She is a passionate professional who excels in delivering psycho-educational presentations to clients and their families. She is very active in the community as illustrated by her positions as a Past President of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, and a Past Vice-President of the Long Beach/South Bay California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.

Teen Program Staff

Colleen Ecker, AA, BS, CADC-I, CCDP, BRI

Family Counselor

Colleen Ecker has more than a decade of experience as an addiction specialist. She is a certified alcohol and drug counselor at the Thelma McMillen Center. She counsels adults/teens and facilitates process groups. She also presents a variety of educational lectures. Colleen's background includes Life Skills Counseling, Educational Consulting, Parent Advocacy, and Substance Abuse Interventions. In addition to her work at TMC Colleen speaks at local schools, and churches on substance awareness. She has spent the last several years at a college as the Wellness Counselor and Instructor. Colleen volunteers in several philanthropic organizations in her community and is an active participant in 12-step recovery groups.

Nina Hamouni, B.A, RRW

Primary Counselor

Nina Hamouni has worked in the recovery field for several years, specializing in young adults and families. Nina attended California State University Long Beach and received a Bachelor's degree in psychology. Following her undergraduate degree, Nina attended California State University Dominquez Hills and is a certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor and is a registered recovery worker through CAADAC. She also is Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATC III). Prior to her experience at the Thelma McMillen Center, Nina has worked in a variety of addiction settings including residential and outpatient treatment. Nina has worked with a wide range of individuals including; adolescent treatment, young adults, families and couples. Nina is a compassionate counselor who is inspired by helping clients, who are addicted, to recover.

Elise R. James, M.S. RAS

Elise James

Primary Counselor

Elise James has been dedicated to the field of recovery for over 14 years. She is currently a primary therapist and supervisor, working mostly with our adolescent clients and their families. Elise has a wide range of experience in the substance abuse field, from working in Treatment Centers (In-Patient and Out-Patient) to being a Director of Felicity House, a sober living home for women on the Westside. She holds a bachelor degree in history, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has been a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor (Registered Addiction Specialist) since 2003. She has been a part of the Thelma McMillen Center for over 8 years.

Ami Kunimura, MT-BC

Music Therapist, Yoga Instructor

Ami Kunimura is a board certified music therapist and yoga instructor in the Teen Outpatient Program at the Thelma McMillen Center for Chemical Dependency. Her clinical experience includes working in treatment and recovery for mental health, addiction, trauma, stroke, cancer, and developmental disabilities, with individuals and groups in private, inpatient, and outpatient settings. Ami received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Loyola Marymount University, a national board certification in Music Therapy from Chapman University, and a certificate in Yoga Education from Yoga Vidya Gurukul in Nasik, India. Ami is also the owner of Inspired Arts and Wellness, a local music therapy and therapeutic arts practice providing services and education to the community.

James Ludka, M.A., R.R.W.

Primary Couselor

James Ludka is a primary counselor in Thelma McMillen's teen program. He holds a Master's Degree in Counseling and is a Registered Recovery Worker with CAADAC. A former educator and administrator, James feels right at home in the South Bay working with teens and their families in our recovery based therapeutic setting.

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