Meet The Team
Morris Gelbart, Ph.D.
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
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 has more than twenty-five years of experience as a therapist in chemical dependency in-patient, out-patient 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 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 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 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.
LizAnn Alexander has had more than seventeen years of experience in the field of addiction. She is a graduate of California State University receiving her certification in Alcohol and Drug Counseling, and is a Registered Addiction Specialist. LizAnn is also a licensed spiritual counselor who teaches meditation at the center, as well as, teaching mindfulness and meditation in her private counseling practice. LizAnn applies a holistic approach in addition to traditional methods of counseling. She is also a Certified Reiki Master.
Gary Cesena, BS, LAADC, CADC II, NCAC II, ICADC
Gary Cesena presently serves as a counselor for the Thelma McMillan Center. He has over 30 years of experience and expertisein clinical, educational, and multi-systems management in the addiction field. Because of his strong desire to assure 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
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.
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.
Chris Regan, MFTI, Psy.D c
Chris Regan currently facilitates psychoeducational, family, and gender specific process groups. He has over 22 years of 12 step experience, a Master's Degree and is working on a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology. Chris' doctoral dissertation involves extensive research on mental health issues such as mood disorders and trauma. Chris brings a depth of insight from a broad range of experience that supports a dual diagnosis approach to alcohol and drug treatment. Chris also works in private practice and recently at an inpatient treatment facility in Brentwood, CA for homeless veterans with chemical dependency and chronic mental illness. Chris has been a Chairman of the South Bay Family Roundup, a lay Christian minister for over 12 years, and a member of the American Psychological Assn., Los Angeles County Psychological Assn., and the California Assn. of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has also received special training through the Betty Ford Center, The Milton H. Erickson Foundation, and the Colin A. Ross Institute for Psychological Trauma
Teen Program Staff
Colleen Ecker, A.A., B.S., C.A.D.C., B.R.I.
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 councils 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.
Elise R. James, M.S. RAS
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, a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and has been in Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor since 2003. She has been a part of the Thelma McMillen Center for over 7 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 out-patient 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.
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 educatior and administrator, James feels right at home in th eSouth Bay working with teens and their families in our recovery based therapeutic steeing.
Robert Probst, C.A.S.
Certified Addiction Specialist
Group Therapy Counselor
Robert Probst has over 10 years of experience as a therapist in life recovery and chemical dependency based counseling. Robert specializes in facilitating therapeutic based groups including teen therapy, multi family therapy, 12 step recovery, gender specific issues, and substance abuse therapy. He has worked extensively in rescue mission settings developing residential rehabilitation and case management programs for men, women and children. Robert has also overseen curriculum development for programs addressing housing, physical health, education, financial planning, social acceptance and community support systems. Robert is an ordained Chaplain and the Associate Director at Long Beach Rescue Mission.