Christian Small, MD is board certified in addiction psychiatry, general psychiatry and family medicine. Doctor Small is a leader in the field of addiction medicine and specializes in providing high quality medical and psychiatric services to treatment programs. He is one of a handful of doctors in the US who have the experience and training to treat full spectrum medical and psychiatric illness. Dr. Small is a graduate of the University of Hawaii John A Burns School of Medicine and completed his residency in Psychiatry and Family Medicine residency at UCSD.
Dr. Hirst graduated from Stanford University and then attended UC San Diego School of Medicine, completing her medical degree and then training in both Family Medicine and Psychiatry. With this combined training, she is uniquely qualified to attend to both the psychiatric and medical needs of Akua’s patients, and enjoys providing care to each patient from a holistic, whole-person perspective.
Dr. Ian Johnson has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Boston University and a medical degree from the State University of New York, Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse, New York. He has served as an active duty flight surgeon in the US Air Force. He has also served in the US Army Reserves where he taught combat life support classes, supervised drug screening of soldiers and was recognized as a Subject Matter Expert in suicide prevention. He is retired from the Army Reserves in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Dr. Johnson is board certified in Family Practice and he has secondary interests in Addiction Medicine and Obesity Medicine. He has served for many years as medical director for various Opioid Treatment Programs (Methadone Clinics). He has also served as medical director for an alcohol and drug detox and residential program as well as medical director for one of the largest consortiums of community clinics in Sacramento, California. His biggest passion has always been to provide medical services to sub-populations that have been marginalized and medically underserved due to their lack of economic resources or due to illnesses that have been unfortunately stigmatized by society at large. Dr. Johnson’s various professional memberships include: the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Coalition on Physician Education (COPE) in Substance Use Disorder, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. He holds community faculty positions from the University of California, Davis and California Northstate University College of Medicine.
Dr. David Sisemore is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Sisemore specializes in treating adults with co-occurring psychiatric disorders and intellectual disabilities, severe psychiatric conditions and substance abuse disorders. Dr. Sisemore completed his residency training in adult psychiatry at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Sisemore utilizes a bio-psycho-social framework in his approach to treating psychiatric and substance abuse conditions.
Brittany Barger is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Supervisor. She holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University. Brittany has been working in the field of mental health treatment for 13 years. She has served as Clinical Director and Clinical Supervisor at various substance abuse and mental health facilities within Orange County, CA, helping to create and promote effective, evidence-based, compassionate and ethical treatment. Most notably she worked as the Holistic Program Manager and Psychotherapist at a top world-renowned luxury treatment facility in Chang Mai, Thailand, working with clients and colleagues from around the world.
Brittany offers compassionate and mindful psychodynamic and solution-focused therapy and supervision with a specialty in helping clients heal from sexual abuse, trauma, anxiety, depression, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder and addictions. Brittany is also passionate about working with young people and adults in recovery and helping to promote healing within family systems in order to secure brighter futures
As a Supervisor, Brittany loves helping train and guiding the therapists of tomorrow and passing on clinical wisdom in order to help them improve their competence, confidence and self-efficacy as clinicians and also help them to find their own therapeutic style and voice when working with clients.
Brittany incorporates a holistic model of healing into all of her work, helping both clients and supervisees to find harmony and balance in their mind, body, and spirit and empowering them to move forward in their lives with confidence.
Sean Bezdek is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 25 years of experience working in mental health and substance abuse settings, including inpatient, Partial Hospitalization Programs and private practice. Sean received his undergraduate degree from Bradford College with a focus on Human Studies. He has both a master’s degree in Marital and Family Therapy from Philips Institute and an MBA from Baker College. Over the years Sean’s clinical practice has specialized in working with Personality Disorders, Couples, Adolescents, and individual suffering from chronic mental illness. Sean has formal training in Solution Focused/Brief Strategic as well as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. As a clinician Sean enjoys working with clients who can be resistant to traditional treatment and believes in the philosophy of “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink…BUT you can feed them saltines to make them thirsty!”
Sean’s management experiences include a variety of programs, such as acute inpatient utilization management, hospice/palliative care, home health, skilled nursing, and most recently was the Assistant Director for a PHP program in the greater Sacramento Area. Sean’s approach to management is to ensure the work that needs to get done gets done. “Our job is patient care! This includes everything from making coffee to running groups. No one person is more important than the other when it comes to providing exceptional care to the clients we serve.”
Emily is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist who is trained in Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Biola University and received her Master of Science degree in Clinical Psychology from Vanguard University. Clinically she operates out of a psychodynamic approach, while addressing attachment styles and trauma-informed defense mechanisms. Emily is passionate about helping clients explore the wounded parts of their inner child that have led to their current ways of functioning and coping with life. Emily is the program director at Akua’s Women's Residential Program in Orange County, where she and her team aim to provide an individualized clinical approach to help her clients establish and maintain the healthy lifestyle they are longing for.
Eaman is the Director of Ohana at Akua and brings years of experience in substance abuse treatment to his position. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, with an emphasis in Philosophy of Psychology and Phenomenology of Addiction. Eaman is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work. Eaman is passionate about helping those who struggle with addiction, giving them lasting tools to transform their lives through successful recovery.
Stacy is an Associate Marriage and Family therapist at the San Diego location of Akua Mind & Body. Stacy received her undergrad in Psychology with a minor in Urban Education from the University of Denver. She has received her Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling from the University of Phoenix.
Stacy specializes in mindful, sustainable recovery from addictions such as alcohol, drugs, disordered eating, obsessive thinking, and body image issues. She is effective in mood disorder treatment, managing and overcoming ingrained and destructive behaviors and treating depression, bipolar disorder, panic and anxiety.
She is a warm, energetic and creative therapist. She is committed to taking you through your therapeutic process. She has a natural strength of staying present with her clients to create an open and safe space.
"I believe in the therapeutic process and the importance of the therapeutic relationships. The number one thing that inspired me to become a therapist was to help someone else as I was helped. I want to help people find a connection to someone so that they can find their voice, see themselves, learn what makes them tick and makes them happy- come alive and engage with living. It is my honor and privilege to provide a secure space which allows others to root, safely grow and blossom."
Daun Bauman has been an LVN for 13 years with extensive experience in psychiatry, both inpatient and outpatient. Daun believes in the community surrounding the individual on their individual paths to recovery. “Team Work makes the Dream Work” is Daun’s moto and having a team to support the individual’s path to recovery is top priority. Daun likes to focus on relapse prevention in her groups and discuss having an action plan in place to help prevent relapse. Daun is always client focused and prides herself on meeting a client where they are at in the stages of change. Daun is a team leader who enjoys educating her team and encouraging individuals to meet their potential for better client outcomes.
Megan Ahrens is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist that received her MS in Counseling and BA in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Fullerton. Megan has worked in the public education system, as well as in-home behavioral therapy with children and adults with special needs and disabilities before pursuing her MFT. She has been at Akua for over three years, starting as a trainee, and is now leading a team of clinicians at our newest PHP/IOP facility in Long Beach, CA. Megan is excited to be creating a stigma-free, LGBTQ+ and veteran-inclusive environment for the diverse population of Long Beach.
Beth was born in Chicago, IL and currently calls San Diego home. She has 2
adult children, a dog and a guinea pig. Beth has her Bachelor of Science degree
from Loyola University of Chicago, Alcohol and Drug Counselor certificate from
UCSD Extension and is credentialed as a CADC I. Beth currently attends Walden
University School of Counseling, with plans to complete her M.S. in Clinical
Mental Health Counseling in the spring of 2023. Her hobbies are tennis, yoga
and music. A favorite quote is by Bob Marley, “You never know how strong you
are, until being strong is your only choice."
A fun fact about Beth is that she is a licensed Registered Dental Hygienist in
both Illinois and California.
Beth works at Akua because ... it's a great place to work! The entire team is
dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of every human being that
comes through our doors.
Sarah is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and received her Master’s of Science degree from California State University, Long Beach. Her style integrates mindfulness, psychodynamic and cognitive concepts for the purpose of empowering men and women to approach their own feelings, thoughts, and relationships with compassion and curiosity. Sarah believes clients give themselves the opportunity to take their own power back through intentional self-love and reflection.
Ellyn Silverman-Linnetz is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian and Physician Assistant. Her expertise covers a wide area of practice, from integrating nutritional healing into addiction and recovery care to nutrition therapy in eating disorders. Her integrative approach to nutrition intervention helps clients improve their relationship with food and find peace in their bodies, so they can show up for what is most important in life. Silverman-Linnetz considers herself to be a “non-diet” Registered Dietitian and is committed to helping clients reach their goals through self-exploration and self-trust. She is an Intuitive Eating practitioner and comes from the philosophy of weight-inclusive wellness. Silverman-Linnetz has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nutrition from Rutgers University and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of South Carolina. She also completed a Fellowship and her Physician’s Assistant degree at the University of Southern California in Metabolic Dysregulation. Silverman-Linnetz is a member of IAEDP and The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and has authored many publications, written chapters on a variety of topics and is a national speaker on nutrition health.
Kindra Kuntz is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. She received a Bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University and a Masters of Science in Counseling from California State University, Fullerton. Kindra has a passion for the individual healing process and treating the root cause of inner turmoil through a holistic approach to treatment. Kindra’s intrigue with therapy focuses on evoking experience in the moment through a combination of Gestalt therapy, expressive arts, and mindfulness based practices that focus on the mind-body connection. Kindra is elated to be a part of AKUA’s mission in helping people honor and strengthen connections to the self and to the community at large.
Leslie is the Case Manager at Akua’s Detox program. She has been working in the field of recovery since 2010 and brings with her years of experience helping struggling addicts and alcoholics take their first steps toward a new way of life. Leslie is a. Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor Counselor and is passionate about supporting and encouraging Akua clients while they work toward a healthy and happy future in recovery.
Coleman is the Program Manager of AKUA Mind & Body’s Men’s Residential Program. He is set to receive his certificate for Alcohol & Drug Counseling from the CCAPP Academy and has been working in the field of Substance Abuse for the last 3 years. Coleman has been involved with the 12 Step Program since 2010 which brings his unique approach to client care and management. Coleman is originally from Memphis, Tennessee, he moved to California 4 years ago and has enjoyed every minute of it. Coleman is dedicated to creating a safe and productive environment for his clients to heal when they are under our care at AKUA Mind & Body and when they are out in the real-world post-treatment.
Elaine received her Master’s degree from Brandman University, and has over 15 years of working with people with co-occuring disorders. Her specialities are brainspotting, trauma, mindfulness in everday life, and integrative self-care. She enjoys reading, film, friends, and photography. Elaine became a therapist to listen to and validate the voices of people who have experienced trauma and other serious life challenges. At Akua, she as the opportunity to do that, and to help the clients begin to listen to and validate themselves, growing self-worth and self-compassion as they let go of the need for substance use. To help them understand the connection between medication that supports effective brain function, versus substances that mask feelings. To make connections between past trauma and current dysfunctional living. Elaine believes that that being able to support clients in connecting their history, their symptoms and their diagnoses into understandable, manageable recovery skills is what makes working at Akua a place that Elaine and our clients will continue to grow.
McBride is a Registered Yoga Teacher and Sound Healer. Amber received a Bachelors of Health Sciences, Healthy Lifestyles Coaching from Arizona State University. She has received training in several areas including: Yoga of 12 Step Recovery, Empowered Wisdom Yoga Nidra, Biomechanics, Restorative Yoga, Reiki 1, and Anusara Yoga/ Tantric Philosophy. Amber has a passion for guiding and holding space for those affected by the dis-ease of addiction. Amber creates a custom blend of ancient wisdom to lead clients through gentle yoga practices, and deeply restorative meditations to empower the practitioner to remember their light within.
Caroline became a Hospital Certified Harp Therapist in 2009 through Bucks County Community College and Bedside Harp, Inc. In 2019 she completed her training as a Reiki Master through Open Ended Circle in Anaheim, CA. In 2019 she also studied under healer and breathworks master David Elliott, receiving a certification in breathworks facilitation. Caroling graduated with a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fullerton in 2021 with a major in psychology. She is currently working towards graduate school with a continued focus on psychology. Caroline is the resident harpist with a group of world-renowned female sound healers, The Sonic Deva’s, who perform in various cathedrals, private events, and music festivals around the country. She works as a recording artist and has released music with artists such as Divasonic, Navid Izadi, and Esqape. She is in constant collaboration with various sound healers and musicians, providing sound healing and musical performances. Caroline is the mother of two daughters. She enjoys surfing with her daughters, bringing them to soccer, and is also their Girl Scout troop leader. In her free time, she enjoys yoga on the beach, long distance marathon running, tai chi, and playing classical piano. Caroline has worked at Akua since the very first day they opened. She is passionate about bringing the ancient, healing qualities of the harp to modern day healthcare.
Kellyn is a licensed acupuncturist with a doctorate in Oriental Medicine. She has been practicing since 2008, treating everything from pain and hormonal symptoms, to issues that relate to stress and mental health - like insomnia, depression and addiction. Through gaining experience in these different areas of practice, she has come to appreciate the many ways that mental and physical health are connected. Dr. Pappas’ groups at Akua involve a combination of auricular (ear) acupuncture along with guided meditation. This specific acupuncture protocol was originally developed to provide support in methadone clinics to help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. It supports heathy nervous system feedback, while assisting the detox organs in the removal of harmful substances from the body. She also has training in various medical Qi Gong (mind-body) practices and integrates them into the guided meditations along with the ear acupuncture. This helps activate and engage the brain in new dynamic ways that give those receiving treatment added support in navigating everyday stressors, as well as increased resilience in dealing with more serious trauma and relapse triggers.
Sarah began her career in healthcare in 2015 and found her calling in 2017 working with substance abuse and mental health clients. Her devoted practice in yoga and meditation began in 2013 which motivated her to converge this practice and bring it to treatment centers. Sarah’s experience with meditation benefited her in stress relief, improved sleep and enhanced focus. Yoga, a moving meditation, strengthened the body, allowed ease of movement and cultivated presence within the mind. This inspired her to share these timeless tools with others to weave into their daily lives, post-treatment. Practicing tangible techniques such as breath work, affirmation, and healthy posture elicits self-awareness, emotional intelligence and creativity. Sarah believes that being intentional with our thoughts and actions promotes a sovereign individual, enriching the internal world while instilling a healthy relationship with the external world.
Madison has worked in the addiction and mental health industry since 2015. She is a certified yoga teacher, Breathwork facilitator, Radical Aliveness practitioner, and Drug and Alcohol Counselor. Madison uses a balance of Somatics, spirituality and neuroscience in her sessions.
Madison believes that it is important that every piece of a person’s identity is allowed to exist in the therapeutic process. She works with youth and adults from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. She believes in a non-expert model that empowers the individual to tap into their own body's wisdom and emotions. Madison's goal is to hold a secure space for you to explore the deepest parts of your world, and find your place in it.
Brandon is a case manager at the Akua Mind and Body’s Men’s Residential Program. He is set to receive his certificate for Alcohol & Drug Counseling from the CCAPP Academy and has been working in the field of Substance Abuse since 2016. Brandon has a working knowledge of the 12 Step program but open to exploring alternative options to recovery and helping clients find an individual all encompassing aftercare plan that utilizes key factors to achieve a healthy life. He has 3 years experience working with primary mental health and co-occurring disorders. Brandon’s style embodies meeting clients where they are at and increasing motivation through positive reinforcement and encouragement.
Ashley attended California Baptist University for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She received a Bachelors in Psychology and a Masters in Counseling Psychology. She is currently working towards licensure as a LMFT. While working at a community counseling center in Riverside, CA for the last four years, Ashley worked with a number of clients dealing with anxiety and depression. When looking into the source of the anxiety and depression she found that a good number of the clients had experienced some kind of trauma at some point in their lives. She became fascinated in treating the trauma specifically. This led her to get trained in EMDR in 2019. In wanting to expand her utilization of EMDR therapy across different populations, Ashley joined Akua in June of 2021 as a therapist for the men’s residential facility.
Jessica Cornea is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. Jessica attended Hope International University for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She has a wide variety of experiences in the field of therapy. Her clinical skills consist of working with individuals, families, couples, children, individuals who struggle with substance abuse, depression, OCD, Trauma, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and acute mental health. She is also trained in EMDR and believes that by offering a different approach to helping heal trauma, she is able to offer clients an alternative treatment. Jessica is currently working towards obtaining her licensure as a LMFT. As Jessica continues to grow and expand her knowledge she is motivated to help anyone find their balance in life.
Hannah is an MFT Trainee, as well as RADT certified. Hannah holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, as well as a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Alliant International University. Hannah has been involved in the mental health field since 2017, but has had a passion for helping people since she was very young. Hannah worked as a personal care assistant for children with autism and associated disorders in the school system for a year before relocating to California from Pennsylvania in 2018. Prior to coming to Akua, Hannah worked as a transcranial magnetic stimulation technician (TMS) helping individuals who are struggling with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. After losing a very close friend in 2016 to a substance abuse addiction, Hannah has had the desire to help those who are struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues, as well as their loved ones. In her free time, Hannah enjoys spending time with her family and friends, exercising, watching Philadelphia sports teams, traveling to new destinations, cooking, reading thriller novels, and enjoying life with her husband by her side.
Travis is a San Diego native. He is currently pursuing a Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor certification through UC San Diego. Before working at Akua he worked at another intensive inpatient treatment facility in San Diego. He strongly believes that people have the ability to heal each other and is passionate about the idea of being a part of that process. When he is not on shift you can find him in the ocean, on the mountains, or in the kitchen. Travis is obsessed with Donuts.
Kaleb holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from California State University San Marcos. He has completed his master’s degree through Western Seminary in Counseling with an addiction specialization. Kaleb has been working as an associate marriage and family therapist registered through the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. He has worked in a few different settings to include work as a school-based therapist, intensive outpatient program for teens struggling with addiction, couple and family work, and most recently with veterans, first responders, and law enforcement. As a veteran, Kaleb has a passion for breaking down the negative stigma toward the field of mental health and wants to help families combat addiction and other mental health issues as a united front. Outside of work, Kaleb is always willing to go hiking with his wife and dog and loves just about any outdoor adventure.
April holds a certification in Drug and Alcohol Counseling alongside an Associate's in Psychology. She provides AKUA with 8 years of experience in the human services field, working with a wide range of populations in both private and public sectors. She has chosen to work with AKUA to support the agency's mission of supporting clients in finding spiritual, mental, and physical healing through individualized techniques. April believes in the client's ability to transform their lives through intensive identity reformulation, increased self-esteem, spiritual awareness, and accountability to Gorski model relapse prevention planning methods. Her passion for human services is apparent in her use of empowerment-based management styles to promote staff acumen and her drive to maintain a positive culture for clients to recover.
Joshua Saucedo received his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology and Sociology while attending The University of California, Merced as the undergraduate inaugural class of 2005. Joshua started cooking at a very young age and apprenticed as a pastry chef/cake decorator in 2012. By 2014, Joshua opened a kitchen in Fullerton, CA and was executive pastry chef at a French Bakery in Garden Grove, CA. In September of 2015, Joshua was hired by Akua and founded Akua’s culinary program. His hobbies include playing recreational softball, going on hikes, traveling the world, but most importantly, cooking for friends and family. He chose to work for Akua because “it is a culinary job like no other.” What brings him the most satisfaction in working for Akua is that he gets to design, order, and create a healthy nutritious meal for someone during a pivotal moment in their life.
Joseph is a case manager at Akua Mind and Body. He has been working in the recovery field since 2014 and has a passion for helping others. He has been a certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor since 2016 and is currently in school at American River College to obtain a degree in psychology. Joseph has given his life to the health care industry and believes he is here to help save lives and plant seeds. Joseph is also in recovery himself and loves the life recovery has given him.
Kristen, is a clinical content writer and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of mental health and addiction medicine. She is a family medicine physician and author, who also teaches and contributes to medicine board education. Her passion lies within educating the public on preventable diseases including mental health disorders and the stigma associated with them. She is also an outdoor activist and dog enthusiast.