Elias Lefferman, Ph.D., President/Chief Executive Officer of Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, has served at the agency since 1976. He was the Unit Director for Senior Boys in the agency’s residential treatment program until 1985. After earning his doctorate in Clinical Psychology, he became the Director of Adoptions and Foster Care at Vista Del Mar from 1985 to 1998. During that time, he had been administratively responsible for the placement of over 1,300 infants and children into permanent homes. In 1995 his responsibilities expanded to include Outpatient Services, overseeing the agency’s clinical programs, including the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center and the Julia Ann Singer Center. In 2000, he assumed the position of Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer at Vista Del Mar, overseeing the agency clinical and administrative services. In 2002, Dr. Lefferman was named as President and Chief Executive Officer of the agency. The agency serves about 5,000 children and families each year and offers a wide range of mental health services to at-risk children and their families.
Dr. Lefferman is both a licensed Clinical Psychologist and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He helped to establish Collaborative Adoption Practice in California and has served on state and local task groups focusing on permanency issues affecting children in our community. He is currently involved in efforts to keep children at home and in their communities through community-based programs that offer alternatives to out-of-home-care.
Amy Jaffe, LCSW, is Senior Vice President of Intensive Intervention Programs at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services. As, Senior Vice President of Intensive Intervention Programs, Ms. Jaffe oversees the operation of Vista Del Mar’s 48-bed residential treatment facility, which serves children, ages 12-18, who have experienced emotional, behavioral, and familial difficulties. She also oversees the operation of Vista Del Mar’s Adoption and Intensive Treatment Foster Care programs as well as the Wraparound program.
Ms. Jaffe has worked at Vista Del Mar for the past 24 years, in the capacity of clinician in the adolescent boys unit, director of the adolescent boys unit, Director of Residential Treatment, Vice President of Residential Programs, and Senior Vice President of Operations. Her emphasis focuses on assisting children and their families through relationship based interventions, and with involving children’s families and other supportive relations as much as possible in treatment as well. Ms. Jaffe earned her Masters degree in Social Work from New York University in 1986 and has been licensed since 1988.
Robert Pfeifer, MSW – Founder & Managing Member & Mindi Levins-Pfeifer, LCSW- Executive Director
Robert and Mindi have a combined 40 years experience working with adolescents and young adults, as well as developing, overseeing and managing programs in the health services and education fields. They have both performed in executive, management and direct service roles. Their professional careers began while working in Hollywood, California for non-profit agencies that focused on adolescents and young adults. For Mindi and Robert, Sober College is a labor of love, second only to their marriage of eleven years and two children.
Oriana Van Scoy-Mosher, MA, MSW, CADCA – Lead Clinician
Oriana is a native Angeleno who has a passion for working with individuals who suffer from addiction. Alongside with completing her Masters of Arts in Psychology with a specialization in Addiction and obtaining her CADCA, Oriana received her Masters of Social Work from the University of Southern California. Oriana has been working with addiction and other mental health services for 8 years and has experience working with all aspects within the field, including inpatient and outpatient settings. Although her primary passion and talent is working as a clinical therapist, she also has experience in program development and marketing. Oriana spent the last two years working in the public mental health system working with individuals with severe and persistent mental illness. Through this experience, Oriana developed a passion for working with individuals with co-occurring disorders which has led her back to working in addiction treatment.
Bruce Stark, MD – Physician
Bruce Stark, M.D. brings a great combination of professional expertise, enthusiastic energy and a down-to-earth manner that makes him ideal for the Sober College environment. Special interests include medical treatment and evaluation of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and all aspects of preventative health care.
An avid surfer, skateboarder and guitar player, Dr. Stark is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and also a Diplomate with the American Board of Internal Medicine. He is a Graduate of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine in 1990. He has 12 years experience in private practice and did his Residency Training in Internal Medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
Dr. Stark is a specialist in non-invasive cardiac testing, headache management and substance abuse while he spends most of his time treating a wide variety of illnesses. These include treatment of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, weight loss, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, preventative health care and cancer screening. Dr. Stark is committed to treating all aspects of a patients health, physiological and psychological.
Dr. Stark is married and enjoys spending his spare time surfing, playing guitar and coaching his daugters T-Ball team. Dr. Stark also speaks Spanish.
Susan Schmidt-Lackner, MD – Psychiatrist
Susan Schmidt-Lackner, M.D. is Board Certified in Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry. She is currently Medical Director of Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services. She completed her General Psychiatry Residency, as well as her Child Psychiatry Fellowship at UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. She was Medical Director of the UCLA Adolescent Inpatient Unit for many years and has been passionately working with dually diagnosed teens for over 30 years. Dr. Schmidt-Lackner has been published several times in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Schmidt-Lackner is excited to be working with the clients at Vista Academy and her expertise in dual-diagnosis treatment and Addiction Psychiatry makes her a vital part of the Vista Academy Clinical Team.
Therese Mansour Moriarty, MA, PsyD – Neuropsychologist
After Graduating USC, Boston College and Pepperdine University, Dr. Therese Mansour Moriarty has done extensive work in psychiatry across the country, publishing papers and continuing research in neuropsychology. For over two years prior to coming to Sober College, Dr. Moriarty was involved exclusively in neuropsychological assessment, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and consultation.
Dr. Moriarty completed her internship at the Federal prison where she conducted neuropsychological evaluations on the inmate population, evaluating levels of impairment, functioning, and creating treatment plans and/or recommendations to help them function at the most optimal level while incarcerated. Following the completion of her doctorate, Dr. Moriarty was working in the private sector conducting neuropsychological evaluations on athletes, personal injury cases, workers comp, stroke, and dementia cases.
Dr. Moriarty has completed this training while working for the Los Angeles Neuropsychology Group, as well as my employment at the Sports Concussion Institute. In addition to evaluating patients, she engages in cognitive rehabilitation with individuals following traumatic brain injury, strokes, and injured athletes.
Aimee Noel, LCSW – Clinical Director
Aimee is a native Angeleno joining the Sober College team after working in the non-profit family service field since 1996. She earned her Bachelors degree in Developmental Psychology at California State University, Chico in 1995 and went on to study at Smith College School For Social Work in Northampton, MA where she earned her Masters degree in 2002.
Aimee has experience working in residential treatment, working with adults with co-occurring disorders, conducting therapy with children and families and has strong ties in the recovery community. She has pursued specialized training in suicide risk assessment, family systems, trauma and mindfulness. Aimee brings the perspective of looking at individuals along a developmental continuum within a biopsychosocial context. Aimee explains, “One of the things I love most about Sober College is that we are not just treating each resident’s drug abuse issues, we are looking at all aspects of the individuals life and offering support to the whole person.”
Aimee brings a strong clinical background, an entrenched understanding of the complexities of adolescent and young adults and most importantly is tied into the professional network that exists in the Southern California community. Aimee’s leadership and organizational skills will be paramount in leading an internal Sober College team that includes Psychiatry, Neuropsychology, Internal Medicine, Individual and Group Psychotherapy, Somatic Mindfulness Experiencing, urban Experiential Activities and much more. Additionally, she will coordinate the delivery of specialized therapies and treatments when necessary.
Melisa Tablada, CDS, CATC II – Director of Administration & Business Affairs
Melisa has worked at Sober College since 2007. As a CATC II and a CDS she has worked in the field of addiction since 2003. Melisa, like most of the staff, has personally had her life affected by substance abuse and has a passion for helping young adults and their families to recover from alcoholism. Prior to working at Sober College Melisa owned and ran her own business for ten years. She, also, was on the sexual assault team for a year and a half. Melisa explains, “I get to see young adults come to Sober College in so much pain, and watch them grow into happy functioning adults. It is an amazing thing to witness”
Rick Macrory, CCDC – Program Director
Rick Macrory is a Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor with the California Certification Board of Chemical Dependency Counselors. He has experience as a Case Manager and facilitator in other treatment facilities, and has a thorough knowledge of the 12-step program and how it works for recovery as well as life. A native of Southern California, Rick attended Point Loma College in San Diego, CA. where he studied Business Administration and excelled in basketball and baseball for the school teams.
In addition to his studies, Rick has worked on many professional levels, from construction to top sales positions, as well as real estate and mortgage experience. More than that, Rick brings to Vista Academy his own real life experiences and street knowledge from his 20-year battle with drug addiction, which led to broken family relationships, attending treatment facilities, and eventually spending 4 years incarceration because of drug addiction. Rick has been clean for 11 years.
Rick’s strengths are his genuine love, care, and concern for young adults and teens who struggle with addiction, as well as helping his clients find meaning and purpose in their lives. He has a unique ability to build trusting relationships that allow him to mentor and counsel, not only through words, but also by sharing and experiencing fun activities in sobriety with clients at Vista Academy and Sober College.
Rick’s hobbies include working out, playing all types of sports, and in addition he is a devoted Los Angeles Lakers fan. Rick is very spiritual and thanks God daily for all the ways he has been blessed. He accepts as a blessing that he has the opportunity to work and help make a difference in the lives of young adults and teenagers.
Rachel Sanders, MA -В Academic Director, Drugs and Alcohol in Popular Culture Teacher (SOC 1700)
M.A. Sociology, San Diego State University; B.A. Sociology, minors in Applied Psychology and Education, University of California, Santa Barbara.
I developed the Drugs and Alcohol in Popular Culture course specifically for the Sober College student. It is my goal to help students develop a sociological perspective on drug and alcohol use and addiction through the study of American popular culture. In this course the student is the expert; they are hugely familiar with both the culture they live in as well as with their personal experiences surrounding drug and alcohol use. We use this expertise to critique and analyze the beliefs surrounding drugs and drug use in our society. Students will discover how beliefs are transmitted to the general population and how in turn those beliefs continually influence our understanding of drugs, alcohol and those that use.
I enjoy introducing new material in innovative ways and showing students how sociology is a part of their everyday lives. The aspect that I love most about teaching is the interaction with the students. Developing a rapport with students is very important to me. Receiving positive feedback from students about my ability to maintain a safe and fun classroom environment is very rewarding and one of the reasons why I love what I do. As a teacher within a therapeutic community, it is perhaps most rewarding to see the positive effects in their own lives as a result of the study of sociology. It is amazing to watch student’s process the academic information presented in class and, in turn, transmute it to tangible and identifiable action and positive change in their search for recovery.
Ken Niemann, MA, DC – Fitness Director, Principles of Healthy Living Teacher (BHVR 1700)
A native of Pennsylvania, Ken received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Pepperdine University where he served as the captain of an intercollegiate Lacrosse team. After working nearly a decade as a nuclear and biochemist at places such as UCLA and Amgen, he returned to school to receive his Doctor of Chiropractic degree, an M.A. in Bioethics, and is currently a candidate for a Masters in Public Health degree through the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is certified by The National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health and Fitness Specialist. Ken is also a Medical Assistant and adjunct professor of Health and Wellness at Woodbury University. He remains active by playing and coaching Lacrosse, doing triathlons, and working as a private trainer and spin instructor.
Robert Reiher, Ph.D – Psychology of Personal Transformation Teacher (PSYC 170)
Dr. Reiher received his B.A. in education and psychology and completed his Masters Degree in experimental psychology. His doctorate, completed at the University of Southern California, is in educational psychology with a specialization in human development, social psychology, and personality theory. Dr. Reiher has conducted research in attribution theory and cognitive psychology and is published in several journals including the Journal of Psychology. Robert has authored and co-authored several books and numerous papers on marketing and human development.
Jenna Patronete, MA – Academic Coach, Public Speaking Teacher (COM 120)
Communication Studies, M. A., Communication Studies, B. A., Minor Political Science
An Alumni of the San Diego State University Aztecs Jenna received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with a minor in Political Science, and continued on to earn a Master of Arts in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Gender Studies and Persuasion. Teaching experience includes Public Speaking, Intercultural Communication and Communication and Politics. It is my hope that my students experience the power of their education as I did through shared experiences and mutual understanding.
Chantell Barnhill, MA- Academic Coach, Creative Writing Teacher (COMM 110)
M.A. English; B.S. Public Relations
Chantell earned a Bachelor of Science in public relations from Ball State University and went on to earn a Master of Arts in English from Indiana University South Bend. While teaching English composition at IUSB, Chantell strengthened her skills not only as an instructor but as an academic coach. Her goal is to help students realize their full potential and to encourage them to take an active role in their education.