Anniversary Blogs Recovery

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.

Anniversary Blogs Recovery

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.

Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Treatment

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?

Mental Health Recovery Self-Care

What is Grief and What Do We Do About It?

What is grief? Is it death? Is it abandonment? Is it the fading of Summer? Thinking of it in this broad way makes me realize it can be anything that makes us feel the pull of grief and loss: that deep sadness which tends to anchor us to darkness.

Over the years, I have become more in touch with how much grief effects behavior. Grief might really be the underlying riptide we try to manage with drugs and alcohol. It might be the very thing that drives a mental illness into overdrive: our anxiety, depression, impulse control disorders, et al. At the same time, grief doesn’t need to be managed; It needs to be faced, held, and allowed to breathe, despite our natural inclination to attempt to suffocate it.

Grief, in its very nature, can be defeating, but I don’t believe this has to be the case. Recovery and treatment provides us with an opportunity to nurture the emotional safety we need to process and heal from our grief. We begin to build a wider net of loving, compassionate support through the recovery process. We begin to gain confidence in ourselves, becoming better able to lean into our pain instead of persistently recoiling from it. When I was newly sober, and significantly down on myself, I was instructed to write post-its with accolades on them and stick them in common places: bathroom, kitchen, bedside table, car, you name it.  It was one of those simple things that actually made me feel better, despite how silly I thought it was. Now, 19 years later, I found myself doing writing myself notes again. And you know what? It still works. It reminds me that I am enough, I am awesome, I am loved.

If you needed to hear something encouraging, what would it be? Grab a pad of post-its and start writing! Feeling down on yourself? Lift yourself up with words of gratitude and write that accolade or affirmation you need. Make sure you stick it somewhere you visit regularly. The bathroom mirror is always a good one. It’s a step in the direction of loving yourself and practicing self-care, both of which are integral to walking through the grief process.

As someone recently said to me, “We so often recognize all the weeds around us, but we forget there are flowers to look at too.” You are a flower, rising above those weeds!

Anniversary Blogs School Service Treatment

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.”

Mental Health Recovery Spirituality

Attitude of Gratitude


Photo credit: limevelyn

Gratitude: what makes gratitude—this “quality of being thankful” according to the Oxford Dictionary–such an integral part of one’s recovering life? Or rather, what makes it such a necessary part of having a happy life in recovery?  I am struck by how prone the world is to grouchiness, especially on Mondays.  For many, a weekend of merrymaking (even sober) does not leave many of us filled with appreciation come Mondy morning.  If anything, Monday tends to be synonymous with dread. It need not be so.

When we step foot on the path of recovery, we don’t do it because we’re having fun. We typically step foot on this path because we’ve lost our backsides. We are tired; we are lonely; we are uncomfortable in our skins; we are isolated; we are angry. One thing we are not prone to is gratitude. In recovery, be it from substance abuse or mental illness, we have an opportunity to develop this gratitude.  We start simply, because once we complicate things, we are dealing with a twisted cat’s cradle of emotions.

Auguston Burroughs succinctly says in Dry, “Think of your head as an unsafe neighborhood; don’t go there alone.” Our heads really are a dangerous place at times, often acting as an environment full of judgment, fear, reactivity, defensiveness, competitiveness and so on.  We want to eliminate these thoughts so we don’t inadvertently turn our lives into wells of misery.

We do this simply:

  • Begin with a gratitude list: commit to writing down 3 things a day you are grateful for. Keep it simple: You can be grateful for anything, but write something down!
    • Share your list with another human being.
    • Be of service. Nothing works better for getting out of your head (that bad neighborhood!) than helping another human being.
    • Take commitments.
    • Volunteer.
    • Smile. As Mother Theresa says, “ Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person.”

We’re in recovery now and many of us break the odds every time we open our eyes in the morning. If that’s not reason for gratitude, I don’t know what is. To answer my own question, what makes gratitude is our willingness to acknowledge all that we have done and that we do instead of dwelling in all that we’ve lost. Yes, those things are real and valid, but the heart is one of the most resilient muscles in the body, and we will recover.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer

Adolescence Holidays Recovery

Sober Fun for Adolescents in Recovery

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s this? The 4th of July lands on a Wednesday? This might mean less opportunity for teen substance abuse or experimentation, or it might mean a murky Thursday morning. I’m hoping for the former. This got me thinking. At our outpatient treatment facility, one of the groups we hold for our adolescents in recovery includes “sober fun” as a way to get our teens to embrace the idea of having fun in recovery. We all know one of the scariest things about getting sober as an adolescent is the fear of being alienated socially by friends.  Most of the time, the activities that used to be exciting and fun are unsafe in sobriety—drinking and using can’t be used as a social buffer anymore. Recovery is a lifestyle change: both inside and outside of the body.

Why not make the 4th of July chock full of sober fun? It’s a great way to get pre-teens and teens out of their adolescent comfort zone and into a setting of silliness. The options are truly limitless. Sometimes sober fun happens organically, with impromptu dance parties, or  bouts of charades. Not to mention, there are always the organized activities that are far more fun sober than loaded, like bowling, mini golf, or paint ball. The idea is to get comfortable in our skin so we can let loose without chemical aid. Life is fun. It is full of wonderful surprises, why not experience them in a way you can remember later?

Over the years, I’ve had far more fun sober than I ever had using. Being in recovery empowers us to be present. We become engaged with our lives and in our friendships, which ultimately means we can enjoy our experiences tenfold. One of the best gifts of being a young adult in recovery is this: learning to live in the solution before we get stuck undoing decades of bad habits.

Have a wonderful, safe, and colorful Fourth of July. More than anything, have limitless fun and laugh like you mean it.

Anniversary Blogs Service Treatment

Bill Hoban, MFT – Director of Clinical Services

Bill Hoban has served as the Director of Clinical Services for Visions Adolescent Treatment for the last 10 years—essentially since the beginning! He not only brings with him decades of expertise in the fields of addiction and mental health, he carries a sense of calm focus that lends an air of confidence and security to the clients and staff.

Every interaction I’ve ever had with Bill has put a smile on my face. He is authentic, he is kind, and he strikes me as one who truly leads by example. He is also funny in that wonderful dry kind of way that I truly adore.  The staff, as you will see, was not short on words about Bill. He even garnered a Walt Whitman reference from a team member (see Lianne’s quote below!). The accolades and respect for Mr. Hoban run deeply. We are ever so grateful for you, Bill!

“Bill Hoban joined us when we were not sure that we were going to make it through the year.  I believe that under his direction, Visions truly became the best program for adolescents in the country.  He is truly dedicated to helping the toughest of clients and the stubbornness of parents!  His tag line, “More shall be revealed” has been turned into mugs, bracelets and tshirts, but more importantly, a way of life for the families and clients at Visions.  We can’t imagine what the past 10 years would have been like without Bill’s sense of humor, loyalty and experience.” – Amanda and Chris Shumow

“‘Bill shall be revealed.’ Bill has a no-nonsense approach to therapy that makes sense to the kids he works with. They know exactly where they stand and he is somehow able to make parents and clients see their role in the conflict without taking sides. Bill may be intimidating at first to most people, but I have always found him to be approachable and supportive. He has taught me to be a caring professional with healthy boundaries. As a loving husband, father, and a Vietnam veteran, he earns my respect. I am fortunate to have him as a boss because he lets me know exactly where I stand.” – Daniel Dewey

“Initial impression of Bill:  a formidable man who is never afraid to make a tough decision.  However, he is also a man with a big heart, dedicated to helping teenagers become clean and sober while learning to avoid life’s pitfalls. The kids love him because of his ability to be straightforward and honest. I have known Bill for ten years and discovered early that it is very easy to tease him…I never miss an opportunity. Oh, and he never does art!” — Susan the Art Lady

“‘Oh Captain! My Captain!’ Bill Hoban is a force to reckon with. But don’t be afraid. This is a man who will melt over a newborn baby or a little puppy. Once you look past his gruff exterior, you find a man with purpose. Bill can see past a resident’s issues and get to the core of who they are. It has been great working with him these last 6 years. And even now, more is being revealed.” – Lianne Domingo

“Bill is awesome! Let me elaborate for those who need convincing.  A huge part of what I take for granted in my own skill set is derived from conversations and trainings with Bill over the last 10 years we have worked together. His contribution to Visions program development cannot be overstated. His ability to disseminate clinical objectives to a wide audience has always impressed me and our company value placed upon communication is greatly influenced by his experience and leadership.”  — Roger L’Heurault

“Bill is an amazing example of perseverance, kindness and loyalty.” – Mie Kaneda

In case you were wondering, yes, we most certainly sent Bill a list of silly questions to ponder. I love his short, concise answers, proving that he really does shoot from the hip!

1. What’s your favorite movie?

Thunder Road.

2. Regular or decaf?


3. Would rather travel by plane, train, or automobile?


4. Mac or PC?


5. Do you relish in turning the pages of a book or “turning pages” in a tablet?


6. Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, or Carl Rogers?

Carl Jung.

7. Toast or cereal?


8. What music gets you moving?


9. Subtitles or dubs?


10. Why do you choose to work for Visions?

Like kids, like families and need the money.

Anniversary Blogs Service Treatment

Celebrating Fiona A. Ray, MA, LMFT – Clinical Director

Fiona Ray has never ceased to be authentic, straightforward, and honest. She carries herself with confidence and exudes an aura of calm wisdom. She heads several sober living houses and oversees our treatment programs as Visions Clinical Director and she does all of this while appearing cool as a cat. Always moving and tracking information, Fiona has her finger on the pulse at all times. She knows when to be firm, and she knows when to soften. She is able to tend to the needs of the staff and the families in such a way that you know she is there for you.  Fiona is one of a kind.


Honestly, I think this is just who Fiona is: a sincerely dedicated, determined woman, desirous of creating an environment that is both healing and empowering for her clients and co-workers. She shoots straight from the hip, she doesn’t candy-coat things, and she essentially tells it how it is. These are qualities deeply respected by our population, and revered by those who work beside her. It’s refreshing to encounter someone like Fi, whose truth drives her authenticity. As a result, she has a client base that respects her deeply and a staff that is willing to stand with her on the front lines of this transformative process of recovery. We are grateful to have someone like Fiona as our Clinical Director.


The staff has some pretty amazing things to say as well. Check it out:


“Fiona, is one of the most determined, committed professionals I have had the honor to work with. There are very few individuals who are as intensely driven to do the best for each and everyone of their clients.” – John Lieberman


“I remain in total awe of Fi’s capacity to multitask – she flows so quickly from managing one area of our operations to the next, always treating everyone with the equal expectation to keep Visions humming at the highest level.  The only way she could command so much respect from so many is that we all know she has the biggest heart, and is working harder than anyone.” Jesse Engdahl


“Fiona is amazing.  I am grateful for being given the opportunity to work with her here at IOP.   She has a fun and, at times, bubbly personality and I feel safe and comfortable approaching her with any issues that I have (personal and professional). Bottom line: The longer I work with Fiona, the more I love and admire her.  She is one of the strongest women I know.” Natalie Holman


“If Fiona is around, you know the job will get done. So smart and great at what she does. I owe a lot to her: a friend, colleague and great person. I feel truly blessed to know her and work with her. A pillow doesn’t stand a chance around her!!”  Nono AKA Noelle Rodriguez


And without further adieu, let’s hear what Fiona had to say when we sent her very own silly set of questions:

1.  Cats or Dogs?


2.  Favorite shop in Los Angeles?


3.  Describe your dream car

1962 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport. 409 V8/4 Speed/4:11. Black on Black.

4.  What’s your Starbucks order?

Grande Quad Sugarfree Vanilla Soy Latte.

5.  Cupcakes or Smuffins?

Both, at the same time. Now.

6.  If you could have dinner with anyone who would it be with?

Steve Jobs.

7.  Favorite poem?

Desiderata – Max Ehrmann.

8.  Favorite song to belt out in traffic?

In the Evening – Led Zeppelin.

9.  How do you keep your locks so shiny?

Shu Uemura – Moisture Velvet – Shampoo & Conditioner with a dash of Moroccan Oil.

10.  Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I care. They care. We care. It works.