Feelings Recovery

Facing Our Shame

Science Fiction League (March 1958) … The Real You (July 6, 2011 / 4 Tammuz 5771) … (Photo credit: marsmet541)


A painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety” 

2“A condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute.”

Shame is that biting, gnawing feeling in your gut after a lie or petty theft, or sexual indiscretion, drunken blackout, or drugged psychoses. It is the “what the hell did I just do?” feeling we face when we walk or crawl our way into recovery. It is often the impetus for doing the same thing over and over again once we get here. Recovery doesn’t magically make it go away.  Oh, in case you were hoping for exemption, shame is impervious to age, economic status, race, gender.  If anything, it is addiction and mental health’s close cousin.

According to John Bradshaw there are two types of shame: “innate shame” and “toxic/life-destroying shame.” Innate shame is what will allow you to have discretion BEFORE you do something. The toxic/life-destroying shame usually happens later, after the act, when you can’t take it back. This emotion is the greasy residue of your reckless behaviors. Toxic/life-destroying shame is what separates you from others and from yourself. I believe this is where addiction sinks its teeth and feeds into this vicious, emotive cycle.

When we are new in recovery, the shame is overwhelming. There is regret and then more regret. There is anger about the regret and then shame for feeling the anger. Feeling dizzy yet? Being new is a dizzying experience. When we are using, we respond to our shame by using more, drinking more, starving more, eating more, cutting more. Shame begets shame. In recovery, we have the propensity to do the same thing. This time, instead of drugs and alcohol, we turn to other vices. Perhaps it’s gambling, or sexual indiscretions, or the internet. The list goes on. The shame of our actions can therefore make it more difficult to get or stay sober. Again, we have to face the shame head on. But we can’t do it alone.

If you are in treatment, you are in a remarkable place to address this. Treatment provides a safe container for the focused, internal work necessary to learning about processing shame. It allows one to begin to break the patterns of behavior that feed toxic/life-destroying shame. You learn to create boundaries for yourself–sometimes that might mean limiting contact with individuals whose knee-jerk response is to automatically shame you.  When you’re in treatment, you can face shame without falling into the chasm of addiction or a weakened state of mental health. As I mentioned, we cannot overcome this debilitating faction of toxic shame alone: we need a community of others to support us. Being in treatment provides that initial, healing community of support.

To really dissect shame and look at its underbelly layer-by-layer would take thousands of words. It’s complicated, this shame business, because it is a natural emotion living in all of us. What we must begin to do is eradicate the harmful type of shame that drives us into the vicious cycle of addiction and negative behaviors. We will come to see the shaming behavior of others and be able to protect ourselves using healthy boundaries and a firm sense of self-love.  John Bradshaw addresses this issue eloquently in Healing the Shame that Binds You. He deconstructs shame and its many faces beautifully. Once we can stare it in the face, we can stop living in the hell of addiction and begin to love ourselves for who we really are.

“Hell, in my opinion, is never finding your true self and never living your own life or knowing who you are.”

John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame That Binds You

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Jesse Engdahl, MA, RRW – Education Coordinator/ LAUNCH Program

Jesse Engdahl came to us a little over a year ago when we began our Launch program. With him came quite the bag of tricks: Jesse holds several degrees, he is an incredible writer and extraordinarily skilled at managing college applications, something many folks lack. Because Jesse has persistently continued his education, it has allowed him to hold a bevy of information and build broad skill set, including the ability t0 facilitate peer mediation, run groups, and act as a writing coach. More than anything, though, Jesse Engdahl is a great example of someone in recovery who is always of service.  If you need something, I’m sure that Jesse will be there in a heartbeat. He’s kind, funny, and walks with an open heart.


The staff rained some beautiful accolades on Mr. Engdahl. Check it out:


“Jesse is the best work husband ever! Kind thoughtful hard working, makes my life so much easier… Also a dear friend.” – Noelle Rodriguez

“If I need something done for a client that is outside the box, Jesse is the man I send them to see.  He seems to have an inexhaustible source of unique ideas for difficult problems, and quite frankly, he knows everyone.  He is willing to stick with our clients through the most difficult of problems and doesn’t ever give up on trying to find a way to help them.  Jesse is the guy I would go to if I ever needed something to do on a Friday night; he’s the concierge of sobriety.” – Joseph Rogers

“Jesse joined us about a year ago with the Launch of Launch. 🙂  His good-natured and creative approach to engaging the client has truly helped us to become a more well-rounded program.  Jesse has a special way of finding what “clicks” with a client when it comes to the tricky work-school-life balance needed as our kids get busy with their new lives.  He is an advocate for the child when it comes to figuring out what they need to satisfy their goals.” – Amanda and Chris Shumow


And now for Jesse’s answers to the 10 questions we cooked up for him:


1: You have several academic degrees, which do you find fits you the best and is the most applicable to your life?

Undoubtedly, I’ve mastered the fine art of critical theories.

2:  What did you want to be when you grew up?

Peter Fonda in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry

3: Are you a coffee or a tea guy?  

I don’t abide tea-drinkers.

4: Yoga or Pilates?

Aren’t you a yoga teacher?  (*No, Jesse, at least not yet!*)

5: If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

Lighten up, boy …and learn French.

6: What is your favorite weather?

Santa Ana winds blowin’ hot from the north….

7: If you were a Muppet, which one would you be?

Hate to admit I’m probably Bert … but I want to be Ernie.

8: Why did you choose to work an adolescent/young adult population?

My surplus of teen angst.

9: Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Shopping with Noelle …but that’s just the tip of a glacier.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

It’s next to Belwood Bakery!  … and I wanted to learn from the best staff on earth.


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Nich Willard – Recovery Mentor

Nich Willard has been with Visions since 2007 and is an incredibly valuable part of the Visions team. Nich brings his wry sense of humor, laid back nature, and sober experience to the clients, making him remarkably relatable and effective in his job. Perhaps it’s because Nich got sober in his teens or the simple fact that he’s a cool cat: either way, the kids adore him. In case some of you don’t know, there was also the moustache period, where Nich had the craziest, coolest moustache; he even went so far as to create an alter ego for it on Facebook. Come to think of it, I think we were FB friends—the moustache and I. That right there is a fine example of wacy, sober fun. Like many of us at Visions, Nich also has a creative talent. He has a film background and is quite the talented filmmaker.  You never know, we may have the next Wes Anderson in our midst!


Check out what Nich’s coworkers have to say. He is truly a well-loved member of our team!


“Nich is awesome! Nich is one of my favorite coworkers and hilarious. His seemingly laissez faire approach and sense of humor is so disarming that he is able to make an impact in the most difficult of scenarios.” Roger L’Hereault

“I miss Nich’s moustache. It was the best!” – Susan “the Art Lady” O’Conner

“Which Nich? The one without the mustache has an amazing way of being real with the kids, and holding them accountable while showing them how to have fun. The Nich with the mustache is his evil twin…no?” – Katie Mason

“Nich!  Thank you for always holding up the couches!  Your ability to make us laugh has truly saved our minds over the years!  From Tech to iPod guy to meeting timer to recovery mentor to van guy, you always do your job with Visions’ best interest at heart.  You are an amazing mentor to the males at Visions, both staff and clients alike.  I will miss you when you finally get into your dream job full time!  The film world will be lucky to have your energy and commitment that we have been blessed to have over the past years!” – Chris and Amanda Shumow


Last but not least are Nich’s answers to our bevy of questions.


1: What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an Astronaut or an actor when I grew up.

2: What is the one thing that never fails to make you laugh?

When dogs scare themselves by sneezing or barking to loud I LOSE it.

3: Favorite meal, the one you can’t live without?

My favorite meal that I cant live without is burgers haha like quimby.

4: What is the best advice you’ve ever received in recovery?

Somebody told me that I never had to be serious about anything except for my recover, and that I could do anything with my life as long as i did the work and could accept the consequences.

5: Your greatest accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishment was realizing that instead of burdening those around me I actually benefited the world around me, that was huge for me.

6: Do you REALLY hate ice cream?

Ice cream is stupid! It’s all a bunch of hype. Ice cream is literally like having a bunch of freezing cold milk ice and salt in your mouth except all mealy. uhg gross…I don’t like cake either most of the time.

7: What do you value most in your friends?

In friends, I value honesty and the ability to laugh at themselves.

8: What do you wish you could do better?

I wish I could remember more. I have a bad short-term memory; this is probably a result of drug use during the developmental stages. Also, I wish I waz a better speller.

9: Morning person or night owl?

I am most definitely a night owl Mornings are RUFF for this guy.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I work for Visions because helping adolescents find recovery is something that I believe in. I found recovery in an adolescent rehab and it started me on a path that not only gave me something to live for but also led to a great life. The “vision” of Visions is so close to my own that I am proud to be a part of it.

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Visions’ Los Angeles Outpatient

Los Angeles outpatient facilities are typically where one goes in order to transition from the intensive setting of being in an inpatient treatment facility to the wide-open world.  The outpatient setting is the perfect environment for clients to reintegrate themselves into their new mode of living a life in recovery. On occasion, outpatient can also be the first place one goes to get help when an inpatient facility seems like too much and trying to recover on his or her own has been futile..

At Visions’ Los Angeles outpatient facility, we focus on the entire family, ardently continuing the work that was begun at inpatient. We not only work with the clients but with their families in order to provide a continuum of support. We do this via schooling, team-building activities, therapeutic support, 12-step meetings, and various process groups. We address building and refining communication skills as well as nurturing the spiritual well being of our clients, all of which helps them understand how to be in recovery. We teach our families problem-solving skills, and help them develop new, healthy friendships. We host a variety of alumni and unity events, all of which foster a better relationship to being in recovery. The beauty of these events is, they naturally build community among the clients, showing them that they have sober support and a recovery community. Additionally, we encourage relationships with 12-step sponsors and participation in 12-step meetings, which inspires clients to be active participants in the continuum of their recovery.

In addition to our Intensive Outpatient program, we also have Launch, which is a wonderful Los Angeles outpatient program geared toward young adults transitioning out of adolescence and into adulthood. Launch is a life-skills program focusing on vocational, educational, and social skills.

Outpatient provides an amazing opportunity for our families: it’s the stepping stone between being in the controlled environment of a facility and interacting with the world at large but with the helping hand of a skilled support team. Entering recovery is frightening. It’s new, different, and at times overwhelming, but nothing is impossible when you have a support team guiding you along.

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Susan “The Art Lady” O’Connor, B.A. – Art Therapist

Susan O’Conner, aka The Art Lady, has been with Visions since the very beginning. She is literally part of the foundational framework of our residential and outpatient facilities. Susan is also the creator of Art as a Language—a means of using art to “tap the unconscious, release blocked emotions, face vulnerabilities, and acknowledge addictions.” Using art in this way allows our teens to viscerally and tangibly access the underbelly of their emotions in a way that is healing and liberating. Susan is all heart:  she is creative and kind, of service, and full of healing energy. Susan is  lovingly known as the Art Lady in many recovery environments, having worked in recovery for a decade. Her signature paint-splattered overalls are an indelible symbol of love and heart. We are beyond blessed to have Susan in our midst.The staff completely agrees:

“What an original and special gift Susan brings to Visions.  You can see this whenever she arrives at our facilities, as the kids all yell out excitedly, “ART LADY!”  She has such an amazing ability to bring out the unconscious creative faculties of the clients, allowing them expression of difficult and otherwise unreachable emotions.  She clearly cares about our clients and helping them on their journey of healing.  To see Susan in action is to see love itself at work.  We are lucky to have her in our Visions family.” – Joseph Rogers

“Art lady: Charisma, charm and creativity sum her up!” – Heather Colligan

“You could never run out of things to say about Susan the “Art Lady.”  Susan brings creativity to Wednesday nights and truly adds so much to our program.  The clients love working with her and she spreads positivity whenever she is here.  In addition to taking care of the kids’ creative voices, she is in tune with the staff’s need to also express ourselves; she often hosts workshops just for us!  These past 10 years working with Susan have truly been a gift.  Thanks, Susan!” – Chris and Amanda Shumow

There’s more! Read on for Susan’s answers to our questions. She never ceases to amaze, really:

1: What is your favorite artistic medium?

It changes quite regularly.  Some favorites are collage – paper and
fabric,  painting with acrylics,  painting with gouache, clay people,
and printmaking, to name a few.  Right now it is small clay people in
all sorts of different positions (mostly making social or political
statements) that I quietly put out on the streets, wall, stop signs…

2: Were you always encouraged to follow your artistic path?

Some, but it never mattered.  Even as a small child, I drew all my
feelings.  I am good at science too – and I like it, so those that
wanted me to get a “real job” thought I should go in that direction.
Needless to say…

3: Where do you go for peace and quiet?

My garden… I sit by my herbs in my garden with any kind of art supply.
So easy to be calm and creative with lavender, rosemary, lemon balm
and basil filling the air.  The birds like it when I am out there too.

4: You work with adolescents as well as adults, how are they different in terms of their application of artistic expression?

Adolescents are much more available and still have a bit of hope. My goal is to let them experience the language of color and shape and possibility. Besides, I really like teens.  They may be angry but have not yet turned to adult bitterness. Adults require more sensitivity in getting out of their perceived safe heads that are cemented in denial.  Most have been addicts for a long time.

They are both fragile groups of people and require a tender solution-oriented touch. Art never lies, so it cracks open even the toughest egg and that can be frightening. My hope is that this new way of expression will help them access the deep profound words that have eluded them for so long.

5: If you were stranded on an island, who or what would you want as company?

My stone-carver husband, our children and grandchildren, lots of art
supplies, a few musical instruments oh, and I guess a way to grow

6: What would you do if you ever stopped painting and drawing?

I would die.

7: Where do you feel most at home?

My studio in the little retro trailer we call home – and always with
recovering addicts.

8: What makes you laugh out loud?

My funny husband and very funny grandkids… they are my life’s blood.

9: Spring, Summer, Autumn, or Winter?

I actually love all the colors, smells and feelings of all the different seasons.  If I have to pick one, it is Fall.  My babies were born in October and I travel back to those times every year.  I also got clean and sober in October.  A very special month.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I remain honored to have worked for Visions since the beginning. Their philosophy of treating the adolescents with dignity, in turn teaches the kids self respect and respect for others. They are Twelve Step Program oriented.  I truly enjoy all these young people, and
their funny humor and crazy music.  I am amazed at the openness and willingness they have to understand that Art is truly a Language. Additionally, I think the staff is a committed, supportive, kind group of people that work very hard at understanding the teen mind.

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Katie Mason, MA, LMFT – Residential Therapist

Katie Mason has been providing therapeutic care for our families since 2007, and she continues to be one of Visions’ Primary Therapists. When Katie joined our team five years ago, she did so with over 10 years of experience working with dual-diagnosis adults and adolescents, substance abuse cases, eating disorders, and suicide prevention. Her contribution to the Visions family and her approach to treatment has created an invaluable foundation for our families to rely upon—Katie is as part of the Visions framework and we are extremely fortunate and grateful to have her in our midst. We really do have a remarkable team.

Check out what some of our V-team has to say!

“Katie is a very intuitive therapist, and a great co-worker.” – Heather Colligan

“Katie Mason joined us several years ago and has been wowing us ever since.  Her therapeutic skills have helped touch the lives of so many of our clients.  Katie’s passion to become an even better clinician has led her to a Ph.D program, where she spends one weekend a month with her “student” hat on.  This type of desire to learn and continue to grow is just one of the ways Katie models the behaviors we want to see in our clients.  So many girls look to Katie as an example of a woman in recovery who gives everything her all.  Katie is also a sounding board for so many of us, providing insight and support during the more difficult days.  We love Katie!!” – Amanda and Chris Shumow

Katie was, of course, subjected to our usual 10-question fun. Her responses are particularly fantastic. I’m noticing a definite musical pattern emerging amongst our Visions team. Read on!

1: What inspires you to work with adolescents?

I’m guessing you’re looking for an answer other than, “because I still feel like one.”  I feel honored to be a part of my client’s journey of developing their sense of self, increasing their self-worth at a time when typically there is so little, and helping them to see how really cool and talented they are.

2: What time of year do you like best?

SUMMER!!!!  I guess that confirms that I’m still just a teenager at heart.

3: Do you play any instruments? If so, which and for how long?

I sing, so if you count my voice as an instrument, all my life.  I come from a long line of performing family members, and music is one of my favorite therapies!!  You can also add to that, the guitar for about a minute when I was a teenager, and, something that I would never admit to, except that there is photo evidence of me in my brownie uniform playing…………..the accordion (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone)

4:  What did you want to be when you grew up?

A Star.  I wanted to act, dance and sing.  I had some opportunities, but I’m a chicken, horrible stage fright.  It all worked out great though, if it’s possible, I think I love what I actually do even more.  Besides, this way I get to embarrass my daughter and my animals with my singing and dancing around the house.

5:  If you could travel in time, where would you go?

The Renaissance era.  I’m a true romantic at heart and love the chivalry and fashion of that time.  For music though, any era from the 50’s forward.

6: What would you consider your greatest accomplishment thus far?

My daughter.  I often minimize my impact on the amazing young woman she is becoming because she has always just been this incredible person.  But the more I see myself in her, I have to acknowledge that I might’ve had something to do with it.

7: What is the best advice you’ve ever received about providing therapy to adolescents and families?

Diversify and maintain self-care.  Someone once told me, that in order to remain passionate about working with adolescents, you need to make sure that half your practice is with a different population.  Self-care is important with all populations, and something I’m still working on.

8: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Night owl for sure.  I don’t have a personality, or much of a brain for that matter, before 9 am.

9: What steps to you take for self-care?

Like I said, I’m still working on that.  I have great support; family, friends, therapy, but making time for all those is another story.  Regular exercise and spa days are fabulous in theory, I’m working on making them more of a reality.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

Wow, this answer could take pages.  If I had to give you a short answer, I would say, because I don’t feel like I’m working FOR Visions.  I feel like I am a part of Visions, a part of something that values individuality, integrity, creativity, passion, and most importantly laughter………..a true love of life.



Noelle Rodriguez, Psy.D. – Outpatient Therapist

Noelle Rodriguez. Psy.D, is one of our primary therapists at our Outpatient program. She is truly an incredible woman who carries the essence of recovery and compassion in her bones. I have often said that if I were a troubled teen, Noelle would be my mentor. She truly cares about those she works with and does it with a divine mix of tough love and compassion—maintaining those boundaries a struggling teen so desperately needs. Noelle is a wonderful example of someone who has dedicated her life to service. She persistently gives back that which has been given to her—tenfold—always leading by example with either service work or the need for self-care.  Guided by her heart and operating with a high level of intellect, Dr. Rodriguez has quickly become and integral piece in the Visions family.  We are beyond grateful to have her in our midst—both the kids and the staff benefit greatly from her influence.

Of course, the staff has some amazing things to say. Read on:

“My work wife is the bestest!   Big smile, bigger heart, we are so lucky to work with her!” – Jesse Engdahl

“Noelle is one of the most relaxed and confident people I have met, the perfect combination for a therapist. I have found myself in her office numerous times, just to take in some of her “mom” energy. She is a source of great comfort for our students, who clearly gravitate toward her centered nature.” Joseph Rogers

“Noelle has quickly become an integral part of the Visions family. Noelle is always ready to help and support our clients and families at the drop of a hat. It is a pleasure to work side by side with Noelle.” – John Lieberman

“Dr. Rodriguez seamlessly joined our team and has added so much in a short period of time!  We have known Noelle for years through shared recovery experiences, and have been amazed at her ability to take her knowledge from personal recovery and integrate it into treating our dual-diagnosis clients.  Her education and past experiences have more than prepared her for our most interesting cases.  Noelle’s compassion and love for what she does shines through on a daily basis.  She connects with the clients and provides a guide for the family in its entirety.  We are so happy to have her onboard!” – Chris and Amanda Shumow

Let’s not forget those quirky queries we love to ask! Read on for Noelle’s interesting answers:

1: What inspired you to become a clinical psychologist?

My mom, she was a therapist, she believed in me. My therapist was a huge influence as well.

2: Are you a morning or night person?

Love to get up early before anyone else and walk on the beach. Problem is I love to stay up late and watch old movies…eeek!

3: Do you prefer the heat of the summer, the chill of winter, the breeze of spring, or the scent of fall?

Winter, spring is my favorite time. Love to bundle up and take walks, love to see the earth waking up in spring.

 4. What’s your favorite book?

I’ve been reading psych books for so long I don’t remember any more! I’ll get back to you on that one.

5: What literary character do you identify with the most?

Huckleberry Finn…troubled, wise, kind, funny, loving, misunderstood.

6: If you could time travel, where would you go and why?

To go see my kids, one is at Loyola in Chicago, the other one is at Humboldt State, they’re my heart and soul.

7: What’s your guilty pleasure?

Eating in bed late at night with my sweetie.

8: How do you incorporate self-care into your busy schedule?

I really do like to exercise, just don’t always have the time…even if its in my care I take time to breathe.

9: Favorite place to eat in Los Angeles?

 My sister’s, amazing cook…lots of laughter always.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

Love the family atmosphere, my co-workers are amazing people, supportive kind, funny, loving I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I appreciate the Shumows’ work in the community and how it sets an intentional culture within the workplace.

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Patrick Schettler – Operations Coordinator

Patrick Schettler is one of the most profoundly helpful people I know.  He has his finger on the pulse of Visions and is able to jump in and be of service whenever and wherever necessary.  Patrick’s adventures at Visions started out with him working as a program aide in 2006. He later moved on to hold various positions of leadership over the years: He’s been our Lead Program Aide, held the position of Educator, and he currently holds the position of Operations Coordinator. In truth, Patrick epitomizes service in the most genuine way. He doesn’t do it because he has to; he does it because he wants to. To boot, Patrick is so much more than an administrative genius. As it turns out, he apparently plays a mean guitar. Hm. Maybe there’s a Visions band in our future!? Now that could be interesting!

Of course, the staff has some truly amazing things to say, so read on:

“P-trick, as I affectionately refer to him, is an all-around ninja. He has been tech, teacher, tech supervisor, para-clinical, administrative fire-putter-outer, late-hour working, and foundation at Visions. He keeps his cool, while others might flip out in stressful situations. Aside from all of this professional praise, I can also vouch for the fact that he is a bad-ass guitar player.” – Daniel Dewey

“He’s the best ‘mini-me’ John Lieberman could ever hope for!” – Katie Mason

“Patrick is the calm in the storm. He is committed to our Visions Team. Patrick helps make the unmanageable manageable. We work back to back I can’t think of another person who could put up with me…with no way out.” – John Lieberman

“Schettler knows there’s no ‘I’ in team.  He’s always willing to step outside of his job description to create a first-class environment at Visions.  I depend on him for a lot due to not working on campus.  Patrick’s drive for success and his compassion to help makes everyone’s job at Visions easier on a daily basis.  He also has the ability to pull off purple sunglasses…not a judgment…just noticing.” — Christina Howard

“‘Apartrick’!  Thank you for picking up every random call and question from every tech, doctor, insurance agency, parent….and us.  You have stepped up time and time again and have proven yourself to truly be a managing member of this team.  We can trust you to take care of every crisis–big and small–and know you will handle it with grace–minus the dreaded insurance guy who denies coverage, and whom you yell at with our blessing. 🙂  You have been an amazing sounding board for all of us.  Part of our office joy radiates from your end of the building and during the stressful times, we can always count on you to laugh or make some kind of joke to make us smile.  Thank you for showing up at all hours of the day or night, you have eased some of John’s stress (ours too!) and for that we thank you!!! — Chris and Amanda Shumow

Without further adieu, let’s hear what Patrick had to say when we asked him our usual wild and wacky questions:

1: What is your guilty pleasure:

I’m a sucker for reality TV shows on the food channel.  I will drop everything to watch the newest episode of Chopped.

2: Do you prefer acoustic or electric guitars?

 Both. Gotta have an acoustic for the late-night sessions.

3: You’re stranded on an island: name three things you couldn’t live without.

My dog Trane, a hammock, and some good hot sauce.

4: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Call me crazy but I actually like it here!  I could not live without Mexican food, period. Plus we have the Lakers, Dodgers, great weather, my family…you get the idea.

5: Favorite genre of music to listen to and/or to play?

I love all of it. I enjoy playing loud rock n’ roll with the band, but I also really like to play classical guitar. Hearing John Williams for the first time was a spiritual experience for me (nerd alert).

6: What’s your most relatable pop culture reference?

 I’m just excited that Shark Week is finally upon us.

 7: Mountains or beach?

 Beach, which happens to be surrounded by mountains in most of California. Bam.

8: Are you an introvert or extrovert?


9: How do you maintain your cool, calm demeanor

Good genes probably. That’s where I get my modesty too.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

It’s the people.  Speaking of which, I love your work, Sarit. Where’s your shout-out blog, huh?

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Adriana Camarillo: Educational Director at Visions Day School

Adriana Camarillo joined the Visions team in 2006 as one of our educators. She worked at our residential facilities and eventually became part of the Outpatient/Day School team, working closely with Joseph Rogers and Fiona Ray. In 2011, she left to pursue other things, but she is back in full force and we are beyond grateful!

Adriana has recently earned her masters degree in Educational Counseling coupled with a Pupil Services credential, a testament to Adriana’s bold and thorough educational background. Dri, ever-dedicated to her students,  remains true to the age-old art of teaching. For example, she will deftly find the very thing that sullied a student’s relationship to math, and reignite their desire to learn one of their toughest subjects. It’s a great testament to her character that Adriana teaches to the student and not to the test. She is truly a remarkable teacher.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this, though: Adriana is funny! Hilarious, really. She’s able to bring a mix of firm boundaries and humor to a room full of adolescents—they love her and respect her for this! We are honored she came back to us after a year away—Visions is truly blessed to have such an incredible teaching team!

The staff can’t agree more! Check out what they had to say:

“Adriana is a stable presence at the Day School. She remains calm in the midst of the daily press of business, always ready to help our students regardless of what else is happening. She is an amazing resource for students preparing for college, helping with SAT prep, application essays, and the bureaucratic maze of forms and requirements. “Dri” is absolutely reliable and someone the students can count on for help and support. Dri is a real team player, and the one you always want around to make you laugh when things get difficult.” – Joseph Rogers

“Adriana is an amazing person to work with. She is very passionate and understanding. She has a great personality that is infectious (and sometimes too happy for me!). I’m proud to work alongside her and most importantly, proud to call her my friend.” — Ryan Cox

“Adriana is a selfless, loyal and inspiring person. You can always count on her to brighten your day with a wide smile and a positive attitude. She approaches teaching and mentoring students with fortitude and conviction. Adriana understands her students, picking up on their subtle nuances and adapting her academic plans based on the individual. She listens with an open mind and an open heart while instilling hope for their future. Her students are lucky to have her and I am lucky to know her. She makes us all better people.” Fiona Ray

“Guess who’s back…back again?  Dri is back…tell a friend.  We could not be more excited to have Adriana back in our world! She has always been an example for our students, teaching with poise and balance, and never letting the toughest challenges scare her, in fact, she finds the best way to reach her kids and turns those challenges into triumphs.  Adriana brings just the right amount of humor and boundaries so the kids know that she is always looking out for their best interests.  We are excited to welcome her back with open arms!” – Amanda and Chris Shumow

Now let’s get to Adriana’s answers to those silly questions we always ask:

1: Who was your first influential teacher and why?

Throughout my life I have had a number of influential teachers. Some were amazing because they remembered my name year after year. Others were amazing because they were interesting and worked at keeping us entertained while they taught. I think the first teacher to influence me was Ms. MacDonald. She was a great teacher. She listened, she challenged me, and she believed in me. I still see her around sometimes and she remembers me. Things like that have always mattered to me.

2: What is the most challenging yet satisfying subject you teach? 

I think that the most challenging subject for me would be math. I have always loved math but that is rarely the case for other people. It’s most challenging because most students have a poor representation of math and therefore, they do not like it. I like getting students to understand the concepts and overcome their dislike for the subject.

3: If money were no object, where would you live? 

If money were no object, I would live in San Francisco but I would definitely have a few vacation homes in Hawaii, Chicago, L.A., and New York. And of course, I would love to travel the world to see all the beautiful places this world has to offer.

4: What’s your favorite season?

California doesn’t really have all four season but I love Fall. I love the way the weather feels. I love wearing hoodies and jeans. I love the color of the trees and the smell.

5: If you were a Muppet, who would you be?  

A Muppet? Ummm, I think I’d be Fozzie Bear mostly because I like to make people laugh. Usually my jokes aren’t followed by tomatoes but I enjoy smiling and I like the people around me to smile too.

6: What TV show has serious consequences if interrupted? 

I’m not a big tv person. But there are three shows that cannot be interrupted. Those are Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, and Smash. They are my favorite shows and I usually watch each episode twice. Once for viewing pleasure and the second time to make sure i got everything the first time.

7: What’s your Starbucks order?

I’m not a fan of complicated coffee orders. I like iced non-fat caramel machiatto.

8: What did you want to be when you grew up? 


I always wanted to be a nurse growing up and i actually began college in a nursing program but after taking a few courses, I realized that nursing wasn’t for me and I decided to pursue teaching instead. I still love the idea of being a nurse but I can’t handle the “gross” aspect involved in caring for other health and I hate blood.

9: Do you sing in the car when you’re driving along? And better yet, do you stop singing at a stoplight?

I sing every where! Car, shower, classroom, store… you name it and I have probably sang a song or two. I don’t have a particularly great voice but I just love singing. It makes me happy and people usually respond well to the stranger who is serenading them in the line at the grocery store. Needless to say, I don’t stop when I get to a stoplight, in fact, I usually use that time to sing louder and add in a few dance moves.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I began working for Visions with very little information of what I was getting myself into. I was with them for almost 5 years. I left briefly this last year to teach middle school and now I am back. I came back mainly because it is my home. My coworkers are like family and I have never felt so welcomed and appreciated in one place. Working here has combined my love of helping youth with an enjoyable environment that allows me to truly say “I love what I do.”

Addiction Adolescence Substance Abuse

Adolescent Substance Abuse Rises the Summer, According to Study

Adolescent substance abuse tends to rise in the summer months of June and July. Notably, this period correlates with a time where adolescents have more idle hours, less parental supervision, and looser schedules with less responsibility. Summertime, has always been that time of teen freedom. Unfortunately, it also is prime time for experimentation and adolescent substance abuse.

According to a report recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “approximately 11,000 adolescents use alcohol for the first time, 5,000 try their first cigarette, and 4,500 begin using marijuana” during the months of June and July. Yes, this is surely problematic, but it’s also a call for ardent preventative measures. Adolescent substance abuse isn’t a rite of passage; it’s an emblematic symbol of the frightening difficulties facing our teens. The substance abuse conversation needs to happen year round, not as a one-time discussion, but as an ongoing dialogue between parents and their burgeoning teens.

The media has a multitude of public service announcements (PSAs), which target adolescent substance abuse. In particular, this study suggests increasing the frequency of these PSAs during the summer months in hopes of increasing awareness. In areas where there is limited access to preventative measures, however, the study suggests communities create “attractive alternatives” to alcohol and substance abuse, inspiring curious adolescents to move in a safer direction. Some of these alternatives could include community events or youth activities that encourage sober fun. It’s definitely possible to combat adolescent substance abuse in a non-preachy and informative way. The biggest challenge might be grabbing the interest of teens, who tend to steer away from any adult-led suggestions of fun, engaging entertainment.

We have the facts: adolescent substance abuse is up in the summer.  What are we, as parents, educators, and mental-health professionals going to do about it? For starters, we’re going to do our darndest to create safe, open spaces for our kids to talk to us. We are going to leave our hearts and minds open to having a consistent, transparent dialogue with our adolescents. It’s not easy; frankly, it’s one of the toughest things to do, but this is prime time to be present for our kids. They need us more than ever during this period of their lives, even though they may tell you otherwise.

If you are a parent, friend, or relative of a teen struggling with adolescent substance abuse, there is help. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to–you are not alone.

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