Adolescent Treatment Team
Hiruy Gessesse, M.D. – Medical Director
An expert in child and adolescent psychiatry, Dr. Gessesse leads our team of professionals with enthusiasm and an unparalleled commitment to each and every teen who walks through our doors. As the driving force at Sherman Oaks, Dr. Gessesse, affectionately known as “Doctor G.”, provides top notch psychiatric care to our teens while simultaneously directing our treatment team. As Medical Director, Dr. Gessesse oversees all treatment plans and tirelessly searches for opportunities to maximize the therapeutic value of our services. His commitment to helping troubled adolescents has had an impact on countless teens who have sought refuge with us in their darkest times.
Dr. Gessesse earned his medical degree at UCLA and received his DEA and medical licenses from the University of Southern California. He went on to complete his residency at the University of Southern California (USC). This in-depth training aptly prepared him to specialize in the treatment of depression, addiction and anxiety. Dr. Gessesse’s practice has taken him to the LA County Hospital and the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry department at UCLA. This in-depth medical training makes him a leading expert in the treatment of mood disorders, addiction, anxiety and trauma.
As medical director, Dr. Gessesse guides our team of professionals while rigorously upholding our core values and unwavering commitment to the family. For Dr. Gessesse, psychotherapy and psychopharmacology are intimately linked. He appreciates that medication management is only one small part of a treatment approach that includes mind, body and soul.
Jonathan Bach, M.A., L.M.F.T. – Clinical Services Manager
As Clinical Services Manager, Jonathan leads the treatment team with great empathy and unparalleled commitment to the well-being of the teens in our care. With advanced clinical expertise, he guides our treatment staff in providing quality care to teens and creating individualized treatment plans that illicit dramatic results. On weekends Jonathan facilitates our Multi Family Restoration group with a refreshing energy and leadership style that helps families heal bonds and forge new, healthy relationships.
Jonathan was compelled to pursue Psychology when he took his first psych class at Appalachian State University. He quickly came to appreciate its enormous capacity for helping people solve difficult life problems. This seemingly endless potential for providing practical solutions to troubled individuals and families captivated him and inspired a career.
With a passion for spreading knowledge and helping others, Jonathan earned his Masters in Psychology at the Philips Graduate Institute of Psychology in Chatsworth, California. He then went on to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the interest of working one-on-one with teens and their families to assist them in their journeys of recovery. Today Jonathan lives this dream by helping teens and young adults acquire the confidence and skills they need to navigate a growing and complex world.
As a teen Jonathan recalls having a strong supportive network of adults and peers. Above all else he says that this helped him succeed despite the trials and tribulations of adolescence. “I have always been a firm believer that the earlier you can identify and solve a problem, the better prognosis one will have for a happy and healthy adult life.” Having been given such a tremendous gift, Jonathan aspires to be that supportive influence in the lives of teens at Adolescent Growth by inspiring them to implement lasting changes for the better.
When he is not at work Jonathan can be found in the garage working on cars, a passion he has enjoyed since his teenage years.
Suji Lee, M.A., M.F.T.I. – Primary Therapist
With years of experience in the mental health field, Suji brings to Growth Extended a level of warmth and authenticity that makes her a favorite among our clients. Her tremendous commitment to the well-being of our teens makes her an indispensable part of our team.
Suji was born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Surabaya, Indonesia until the age of fourteen. She graduated from high school in South Pasadena and began her academic career as a student at San Francisco State University where she earned a bachelor of arts in Psychology. After taking a gap year, she enrolled at Antioch University where she obtained her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy.
Suji chose the field of psychology because she has always had a strong desire to help others in a constructive and empathetic manner. She is passionate about re-structuring and molding families together in the hopes that clients can shift dynamics and bring a brand new perspective in their relationships with their parents, guardians or caregivers. According to Suji, “Growth Extended provides a hands-on approach for healing families through family therapy and the Multi Family Group by providing the opportunity to radically shift and repair family dynamics. “
Her experiences of moving to a new country as well as her parents’ divorce influenced Suji’s desire to work with teens. She moved to a new country when she was a young adolescent and thus she understands the challenges that come with change and how they manifest themselves in other areas of life. According to Suji, the teenagers that come through Growth Extended inspire her because of their strength. She knows that seeking help can be difficult but and she enjoys seeing teens in her care become honest, authentic, and raw to their emotions because they find the desire to get healthier at Growth Extended.
When she is not working with teens, Suji can be found at the dog park with her pet Corgi named Arthur. She also enjoys hiking and going to the beach with her significant other. Suji is fluent in Korean, Indonesian and English. She has an admitted obsession with pastries, especially croissants. She is passionate about interior design and enjoys keeping up with the latest designs through magazines, the internet and literature. Lastly, Suji says that her Korean heritage cultivates her obsession with skin care products.
Sandra Fetherolf, M.A., M.F.T.I.
Group therapy is one of the major components of treatment at Growth Extended and Sandra runs groups that are fun, insightful and curative. She is adept at helping teens in group gain insight into their past behaviors as well as learn new tools for making better decisions moving forward. Sandra’s main goal in groups is to help clients realize their full potential and develop a clear understanding of who they are and what they want to become.
Sandra was born and raised in Culver City California and attended college at Cal State Long Beach where she earned her Bachelor of Arts. According to Sandra, she chose the field of psychology very early in her school career. Psychology was the first subject that interested her and she has always been motivated to learn more. Fascinated with the Social Sciences and determined to make a career out of helping others, Sandra enrolled at Cal State Northridge and earned a Master of Arts in Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy.
Sandra feels grateful for the opportunity to work with adolescents because as much as they seem rebellious, she knows that what they are truly looking for is guidance, support and structure. She is proud to be the face of a treatment program that is committed to growth. Whether it is academics, exercise, mindfulness or meditation, she is inspired by her team’s commitment to helping their clients grow.
When she is not working, Sandra is a passionate and talented dancer. She teaches jazz dance and ballet to a number of different age groups, including teens and has taught aerobic dance in health clubs and the YMCA for over five years. Fitness and the arts are two hobbies that are close to her heart.
Jeanette Vazquez, B.A., – Medical Assistant
As a medical assistant at Growth Extended, Jeanette cares for the health and wellbeing of our clients by monitoring their vitals, tracking and administering medications and educating our residents about their medications and diagnoses. Jeanette’s main goal for clients is helping them learn to care for their own physical wellbeing through exercise, hygiene and good nutrition.
Prior to her work with Growth Extended, Jeanette worked as a tutor for children of migrants who struggled with math, English and reading. She also volunteered her time at the East Los Angeles Women’s center where she aided victims of domestic violence.
Jeanette holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Southern California. She describes her choice to study psychology as an easy one. Jeanette has always been interested in helping others, building meaningful relationships and come to understand themselves more thoroughly.
According to Jeanette, the “good vibes” at Growth Extended are what makes her glad to come to work each day. Jeanette takes great pride in knowing that the work she does with our clients is very important, and she loves to be a positive role model for teens in need. She cherishes her role as a mentor and strives to have an impact on every teen whom she works with.
Outside of her role as a medical assistant, Jeanette enjoys music, particularly playing the drums and singing. She also enjoys reading suspense, thriller and young adult novels as well as classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice. Her favorite book s are “A Certain Slant of Light” by Laura Whitcomb and the Harry Potter series. Jeanette is the proud owner of two cats and a dwarf rabbit. She is a genuine and caring person we are glad to have as a part of our team.
Richard Garcia, CMA – Medical Assistant
Richard’s warmth and fervor for providing top notch care makes him a true leader at our adolescent facility. Since the day he walked through our doors Richard has demonstrated a profound level of commitment to all of the clients under his care. As Medical Assistant, Richard tends to the day to day physical health and well-being of our clients with a refreshing sense of conviction and care. He is always there for our adolescents with an unlimited amount of patience and dedication to his work.
According to Richard, he has always aimed to be a good role model for young people. For this reason his decision to study to become a certified medical assistant was a natural choice. There he ignited his passion for helping others and gained a valuable new skill set that makes him an asset to the Growth Extended treatment team.
Richard has said that helping teens discover hope and come to believe that others care for them is the greatest part of working at Adolescent Growth. He enjoys working with clients on a day to day basis and seeing the great strides they make in recovery.
When is not working, Richard likes to spend time with his family, go to the beach, read mystery and suspense novels, play pool and travel. His most recent excursions have been to Mexico and even Hawaii. Richard always has a kind word for clients and coworkers alike and we are blessed to have him on our team.
Lauren Schmitt, M.S., R.D., C.P.T. – Lead Dietician
Lauren is a results-driven Registered Dietitian and a certified personal trainer who specializes in individual wellness, eating disorders and weight management. Lauren has a genuine gift for inspiring young people to think twice about the food they eat and its effect on their health and well-being. Many of the teens in our care attribute their marked improvement in part to Lauren’s healthy meal plans. Once they begin to enjoy a noticeable increase in energy, focus and engagement, teens at Adolescent Growth swiftly inherit Lauren’s enthusiasm for proper diet and physical fitness.
As one of our team dietitians, Lauren creates meal plans, works one-on-one with teens who have eating disorders and leads educational groups on the vital importance of diet and good nutrition. Lauren has been the catalyst for countless success stories among our clients and continues to be a driving force behind the holistic treatment approach at Adolescent Growth.
Intrigued with diet and fitness and their effects on mental and physical well-being, Lauren earned her Masters Degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from California State University at Northridge with a concentration in Nutrition. She then went on to become a registered dietitian and an NASM certified personal trainer. With a refreshing attitude and a savvy way with teens, Lauren generates genuine excitement among adolescents in the interest of paying mind to eating habits and physical exercise.
Lauren specializes in working with teenagers who struggle with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binging/compulsive overeating. She treats each client individually and formulates unique plans based on the client’s needs and goals. She is known for her vibrant demeanor and her ability to convey even the most complex concepts in simple terms for teens to grasp and understand.
Brooke Horn DeKofsy, BA., MA. – Dietician
Brooke takes care of the nutritional needs of our clients by planning healthy, balanced meals that provide complete nutrition and taste good too. She also works one-on-one with eating disorder clients to help them plan their path to a healthy relationship with food, cope with food-related stressors and learn appropriate ways to keep weight on or off. Brooke is sincerely dedicated to keeping our teens well and teaching them about the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual benefits of eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Brooke graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. While she was earning her Bachelor’s Degree, Brooke became a Peer Health Counselor. It was during her stint as a health counselor that Brooke discovered her passion for Public Health. To further her education in this field, she went on to earn her Masters of Public Health from UCLA in combination with a Deitetic Internship at the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in West Los Angeles.
After completing her internship, Brooke worked for a Federally Qualified Health Clinic as part of their Comprehensive Perinatal Services Program (CPSP) in collaboration with the Los Angeles Best Babies Network. During this time, Brooke learned a great deal about perinatal nutrition and how it sets the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. As a Registered Dietitian, Brooke understands the critical importance of good nutrition on mental health and human development. In her work at Adolescent Growth, Brooke shares her knowledge with teens and inspires them to take care of their bodies and reap the wonderful rewards of a balanced diet.
Brooke also has specialties in weight loss and chronic disease management. She assists teens who are most in need of nutritional guidance, such as diabetics and the overweight, underweight and obese. She instructs our teens in groups on good nutrition, weight management, diet and wellness and much more.
Laura Kellingsworth, RASI – Director of Operations, Adults
Laura is living proof of what is possible in recovery. She is a positive and inspiring role model to our adults and brings an attitude of gratitude, hope, enthusiasm and joy to everything she does. Laura began working as a Client Care Specialist and within months was asked to step into the role of group therapist due to her great rapport with clients and her depth of experience and knowledge with mental health and substance abuse. Laura then joined the therapeutic treatment team as a leader and helped to launch the phenomenal Family Weekend Restoration Program where she facilitates multi-family groups that meet the needs of both the client and the client’s family. Laura then moved to the supervisor role and served as the supervisor to the group therapists and provided instruction in the quality assurance department due in part due to her exquisite ability to keep excellent clinical notes. Laura has continued to progress within the company and is currently the Director of Operations for the Growth Extended Adult Program. Laura leads with distinction and dedication and has sacrificially worked on her off days, holidays and worked double shifts in order to make sure the adults are provided quality care at all times.
Laura considers herself a late bloomer due in part to her longtime addiction to drugs and alcohol. When faced with the pain of seeing her own child struggle with addiction and addictive behaviors, Laura began her journey to find not only peace within herself and her family members but also she began a quest to change the devastating effects of addictive behaviors and mental health disorders. Laura returned to school and attended Pierce College, Addiction Studies program in Woodland Hills, California. Once a registered addiction specialist intern, Laura worked at Women’s Odyssey Organization for a period of time and decided that her mission in life was to give to others what was given so freely to her in her time of need.
Laura is a leader in change and is personally invested in making the world a better place to live by motivating and nurturing our most at-risk population. It is her belief that if you save one person’s life you can save the world. Laura brings not only impressive CBT and DBT to our clients’ daily life, she also has assisted our clients in finding a voice through art therapy, poetry writing, and other creative outlets. Laura is committed to Growth Extended and is responsible to both our clients and staff as she serves tirelessly to make sure effective change is taking place. Although Laura admits that every day is a day spent doing exactly what she wants; her days off are spent relaxing and enjoying the company of her family as well as her longtime furry companion, Frankie, a rescue dog, and her three legged cat, Pandora. Laura’s dedication, compassion and passion for Growth Extended is the reason that when Laura arrives to work each day she feels she has come home.
Daniel Avila, M.A., L.M.F.T. – Program Manager
Our program manager and most distinguished clinician Daniel Avila is honored to be working with such a talented and professional team providing first class services for adults who struggle with mental health, eating disorders and substance abuse. Daniel has made it his life’s work to help men and women overcome difficult struggles and find hope in the process of growth and recovery.
Daniel is a California native who began his academic career at Cal Poly where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science. He then went on to earn a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at Pepperdine. After he graduated Daniel worked as a clinician and supervisor with the California Hispanic Commission providing clinical services to at risk youth in the East and South Los Angeles areas. Daniel also has extensive experience from his time at the USDVA where he supported our veterans through their mental health and substance abuse struggles.
Daniel is honored to have been appointed program manager at Growth Extended and we are grateful to have him. He steadfastly supports and supervises the clinical team with an inspiring resolve that motivates and energizes staff and clients alike. At Growth Extended, Daniel is known for his client-centered approach which goes beyond treatment as usual. With the help of his colleagues, Daniel has cultivated an environment where startling results and miraculous transformations take place on a daily basis.
In his day to day work at the facility, Daniel enjoys being in direct contact with the clients and values the time he spends with them in individual sessions, in groups and during down time. Daniel can often be found around the Lake Balboa facility doing everything from helping out in the kitchen to supervising the primary therapists. In his spare time Daniel enjoys working out at the gym and spending time with his dog, an 87 pound weimaraner named Buttercup.