Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Treatment

Nick Riefner: Recovery Mentor

Nick Riefner is one of our beloved Recovery Mentors. He has been with Visions since 2011. Nick spends his time at our Residential and Outpatient facilities, carrying with him a sincere, honest dedication to working with teens. Coupled with his passion for being of service, his genuine kindness and a commitment to quality care, Nick  is someone to celebrate.  He’s playful when he needs to be; he’s serious when he needs to be, and he has a keen ability to relate to the clients in a way that they can genuinely relate to. Working with teens is an adventure; Nick is skillful at navigating the terrain with a sense of humor and relatability. Nick not only cares for the teens he works with, he shows the same level of compassion for those he works with every day. For Nick Riefner, helping others is more than a job; it’s lifestyle.


Check out what some of the staff had to say when I asked them about Nick:


“It is an absolute honor working with Nick. I met him when I walked into Latigo for my first night shift and he immediately made me feel comfortable. There’s just something about him- everyone loves him. I’ve learned a lot from Nick and so have the clients. He’s a prime example of what recovery looks like.” Ashley Harris 

Nick is an amazing recovery mentor because of his passion for his work and ability to relate to clients. He openly acknowledges that recovery is a day by day process, which helps clients see the silver lining of their storm cloud. – Corinn McWhinnie


The moment I met Nick I knew he was special. He is a calming, kind, and supportive soul. One of Nick’s best qualities is his ability to level a room with his passion and sincerity. Nick truly has what it takes to work with teens. Every day when I get to work, Nick is right there checking in to see if I need any help. I feel honored to work with such a great guy whom I trust and depend on.  – Noelle Rodriguez, Psy.D

“Dude… that’s gnarly bro”!!  When talking to the kids about an issue that they are having a rough time with in their lives. And that language the kids get, they 100% relate to what Nick is saying and he is being genuine and real. – Koreema J. Walden, MA., MFTI


And last, but certainly not least are Nick’s answers to Visions 10 questions:


1: Sand, Sea, or Surf?


2: What made you decide to work with adolescents?

I decided to work with adolescents because my journey and experience began when I was an adolescent.

3: Would you rather be Gonzo or the Cookie Monster?

Cookie Monster all the way.

4: What is your favorite way to give back?

My favorite way to give back is listening to someone who needs to be heard or who wants to be heard.

5: Who inspires you and how are you like them?

Who I am inspired by would definitely be my co-workers.  I strive to carry out the same love and compassion given to both myself and the residents in my personal life on a daily basis.

6: Would you rather have Morgan Freeman narrate your life or have Chuck Norris narrate your life?

Morgan Freeman.

7: A nice cuppa tea or a locally sourced pour-over?

Locally sourced coffee for sure.

8: What superhero power do you have?

My secret super power is I can instantly make roller skates appear on whomever I want.

9: What piece of advice would you offer someone scared and newly sober?

I would suggest they embrace the possibility that change might be a good thing and to learn how to start embracing love.  Especially for themselves.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I choose to work at Visions because I feel the care given to clients and the dedication to seeing they are set up for a successful life are amazing. Most of all, the care for given to each other not only as coworkers but as family can’t be found anywhere else.



Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Treatment

Bradley Allenstein, MA, MFT-I

Bradley Allenstein joined the Visions family in 2012 as an MFT Intern. He recently completed his MFT hours under the supervision of the wonderful Heather Colligan. Brad brings incredible passion and enthusiasm to his work with families, adeptly applying a family systems approach to treatment, facilitating the processes of reconnection and healing. He is kind, approachable and earnest in his desire to help others. Brad is able to relate to the clients on a visceral level, sharing his love and excitement about sobriety and recovery, inviting others to embrace the full life that sobriety provides. He fits in perfectly with the Visions family, seamlessly balancing the need for brevity and jocularity. I forgot to mention his remarkable sweet tooth and penchant for hats. Thanks for everything you do, Brad, we are grateful to have you in our midst.


More love from the staff:


“Brad is an amazingly passionate and inspirational person. He loves helping others and using his personal growth experiences as a springboard. He also happens to be most entertaining as well and is able to laugh at himself, which is an important attribute in our line of work. And don’t even get him started on the topic of cupcakes…!” – Heather Colligan


“From day one Bradley jumped in with both feet.  He’s a true Vision’s team player, with a good mixture of humor, passion, and therapeutic skills.  He’s a great role-model for recovery, and a good listener (yes, you read that right, he can listen too!).” – Katie Mason


“Brad is an abundance of energy and great at verbally wearing kids down when needed.” Bill Hoban


“I really think Visions should pay for genetic testing…Brad has to have lineage to the Keebler Elves…I’m not sure anyone loves sweets more than him.  Brad’s passion for the work he does at Visions oozes out of him without any effort.  His enthusiasm for recovery is linked to every thought he shares.  He is a perfect fit in the Visions family.” – Christina Howard-Micklish


“Bradley joined us last year and seamlessly worked his way into our hearts…and stomachs! (His sweet tooth matches my own)  His compassion, dedication to our families and good humor makes him an integral part of our Visions family.  Brad can reach clients and share not only his experience, strength and hope, but his professional point of view as well.  Our families, and our program are better with Brad on the team!” – Amanda and Chris Shumow


And what would a staff blog be without 10 questions? Read on:


1: Three words to describe yourself, go:

Talkative, verbose, and chatty.


2: If you had to lose one of your 5 senses, which would you give up?

Hearing. See #1


3: If you could spend the day with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

Katie Mason, because she is constantly reminding me of what I need to work on as a therapist /human being/man.


4: What inspired you to work with teens?

When I was 17 years old, a substance abuse counselor helped me turn my life around. He became my hero and inspiration ever since.


5: Sand or Snow? 



6: What is your favorite hat style?



7: Favorite restaurant in Los Angeles? 

My mother’s house. Her cooking can’t be beat.


8: One thing you can’t live without?

The sound of my own voice.


9: What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you come close?

A mime, but I couldn’t stay quiet long enough so I decided to become a therapist.


10: Why do you choose to work at Visions?

To carry the message and help kids realize that sobriety is not a death sentence. Being sober is not the end of the party. It’s just the beginning.

Recovery Service Treatment

Chloe Huerta: Assistant NeXt Manager

Chloe Huerta is one of our amazing alumni who came back and joined the Visions’ team. In 2010, Chloe brought her engaging personality and compassion to our residential facility as a Program Aide; Chloe has since become the Assistant Manager for NeXT, our Gender-Specific Extended Care program and is working toward her CAADAC.  Chloe always makes me smile whenever I see her. She’s funny, incredibly positive, willing to learn, always filled with gratitude and is a remarkable young woman. She has made it her mission to give back to the community that helped her find her way during her youth. We are tremendously grateful to have someone like Chloe as part of our team.  Her relatability, understanding, and kindness are an integral part of who she is and what she brings to the Visions family. Thank you so much for all you do, Chloe! Read on for the amazing staff comments about you and your awesomesauce:

“She is a miracle. A completely different human being than the girl I first met here in treatment. Incredibly proud of her and amazed at the level of joy, compassion and optimism this young woman displays and shares with our residents.” – Roger L’Hereault


“Chloe Huerta is an amazing example of fun in recovery and not taking life too seriously! Chloe always has a positive attitude and keeps the clients excited about their new life. Chloe is one of the most caring people I know – her genuine personality is recognized by clients and staff alike. Chloe is able to hold boundaries, express needs, and hold others accountable yet is also able to have respect from clients. She’s amazing.” – Ashley Bolen

“Chloe is a rock star! I had the pleasure of working with Chloe when we first opened up the Extended Care house and together we managed to make it work! I think the best part about her, other than her upbeat bubbly attitude, is her ability to roll with the punches and take things as the come. (There was a lot of that the first year!) She has strong passion for helping people and I feel she truly cares about the young teens we work with. It’s a pleasure to work with her and she brings a lot of fun to the table too!” – Jennifer Garrett


Chloe!  You have come such a very long way, and we are so proud of your journey!  Chloe is a Visions’ alumni who came to work for us as an overnight PA.  She moved to days and was eventually promoted to Assistant Manager of the Extended Care program.  She has helped so many girls with their early stages of recovery because she truly relates to their struggles and issues.  Chloe is in school for her counseling certificate and is one of our brightest stars.  We are grateful for her work ethic and her ability to show up “no matter what.”  We love us some Chloe!!!  — Amanda and Chris Shumow


No staff blog would be the same without our 10 questions. As I thought, Chloe doesn’t disappoint:

1: What is your Starbucks order?

 Iced  Dirty Chai or Iced Green Tea (no water)

2: Sand or Sea? Why?

I’m afraid of sea creatures but I love being in the ocean

3: Favorite literary character?

 Pippi Longstocking

4: Are you following your dreams?

I have a lot of dreams but I’m on the path to following my current dreams.

5:  What is your greatest joy?

Spending time with my younger brother

6: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?

Floranopolis, Brazil. It’s supposed to be beautiful, I am obsessed with the culture and a few of my friends live there.

7: If you could have dinner with anyone (alive or dead), who would it be and why?

Hellen Keller!

8: Cake or pie?

Cake–pie is for Thanksgiving.

9: Dogs or Cats?

I’m all about the pups! 

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I’ve always wanted to give back to the people who saved my life. I looked up to the tech, counselors, and therapists when I was a resident and I hoped to help someone at such an important time in their life.

Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Treatment

Scott Davenport — Residential Counselor

Scott Davenport started working as a Program Aide in 2010. His dedication and willingness to learn has led him to become a Residential Counselor, the position he holds now. As such, Scott is working more directly with the clients, and bringing his cool sense of calm energy into everything he does. Scott has this wonderful ability to connect with the clients on a very real level, especially since he was once a client himself. His innate gentleness and kindness make him easy to talk to and extremely relatable. Scott is an extremely consistent and dedicated member of the Visions team—he’ll show up for anything he’s asked to do, and is always intent on doing what’s right for the clients.



One of the things I really appreciate and respect about Scott is how thoughtful he is in regard to what he says and how he mindfully interacts with those around him. He doesn’t say anything unless it necessary or true, making him someone worth listening to. Because of that quality, Scott is a really skilled listener. In the time I’ve known Scott, I can tell you that he is one of those people who means what he says and says what he means. He is kind and gentle but understands the need to hold firm boundaries with the clients. The kids in our programs are lucky to have him in their lives and so are we.


Read on for some particularly kind words from some of the Visions team:


“Ah Scotttt! I love Scott! It’s like all of the good things in life got together and said, ‘HERE YA GO! ENJOY!’ He’s a great person to be around and on those days at Visions when everything is chaos, he is just serenity incarnate…to me and Aleks at least.” – Janette Duran


“Scott is one of my favorite heroes.  He is a gentle soul, well-liked and respected by the kids and his peers. Also, if you don’t already know this, he is an artist extraordinaire.  I have an original Davenport hanging in my studio.  Thanks Scott, you are the best.” – Susan “Art Lady” O’Connor


“Scott is definitely the calm in the storm.  His kindness combined with his dead-on assessment with what’s going on with the clients makes him great support for both the kids and his co-workers!!” —  Katie Mason


“Scott does a great job with the kids, very calm and patient.” – Bill Hoban

“Love the guy; effortless person to work with.  I think this is in part due to Scott being a mindful practitioner of the team approach. It’s really an equal two-way street with him or a live-and-let-live-through-mutual cooperation kind of vibe.
A grounded, consistent and calming force he is. Yes, that last sentence sounded like Yoda. He’d dig that, I think.” – Roger L’Heauralt


“Who would have ever thought that the young man seeming not to pay attention when he was a client at IOP would turn into one of Visions’ brightest stars!  Scott is such an amazing mentor for our clients.  His steady, patient and quiet way adds a feeling of calm to the days that seem so hectic.  He has truly grown into an amazing employee, friend and man in the time that we have known him.  Scott has stepped up into the large shoes Brian left when he moved to Latigo and has not missed a step.  He is always thinking of the clients’ best interests and will show up for any crisis or for a skate!” – Amanda and Chris Shumow

Our staff blogs wouldn’t be the same without some insight from those we’re honoring. Of course we asked Scott to answer our 10 questions, and of course, he answered them with the same thoughtful, mindful qualities we can expect. Read on:

1: Favorite movie of all time?


2: Who is your hero?

My Dad

3: Last book you read?

Neuromancer by William Gibson

4: If you could have been any person from history, who would it be and why?

MLK – He stood for so many important, great things.  He made a profound difference for our country and for humanity without using violence or hate.

5: Best late-night LA haunt?

I don’t have a lot of late nights.  Favorite morning place – sitting outside in the sun with a cup of coffee.

6: Do you sing in the shower?

Yes, I always have weird songs stuck in my head first thing when I wake up in the morning.

7: What is your most memorable skateboarding story?

I think I hit my head once but I don’t remember?

8: Describe yourself in 3 words.

Generous, optimistic, honest.

9: What inspires you?

Beautiful places, animals, morning, good people, hard working people, funny things, being outside.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I love the people I get to work with.  Visions seems to have a unique way of helping teenagers without being cutesy or treating them like children, something I really needed and appreciated when I was a client.  I was always treated with respect and compassion and was usually guided by positive examples rather than told what to do.  It is something that has stuck with me that I would like to give back.

Anniversary Blogs Service Treatment

Stan Weinstock, CPA – Controller

Honestly, what can I say about Stan Weinstock, the man that literally keeps me on my mathematical toes, makes the best bad jokes, is my lunar calendar comrade, and who is one of the most genuinely kind human beings I’ve ever met? There simply isn’t enough space. Before I met Stan, I was told that he was THE Laker fan. I shrugged it off, until I saw his car and I was sure, absolutely dead positive, it belonged to a Laker staff member. I was wrong; it was Stan’s remarkable yellow and purple, 4-wheeled homage to our beloved Los Angeles Lakers. He was serious. He is also serious about Excel formulae, of which I lack any real comprehension. I wonder, who will check my math now and make sure I get paid? I’ll miss Stan, who is affectionately referred to as “Stan the Man” here in V-Town. He’s been a part of the Visions fabric since our inception. We are losing a huge part of our family, but the world is gaining an incredible man. No more deadlines, Stan! Awesome!


Stan the man, the LAKERS fan — funniest dude at the Vis, and that’s a tough title to earn!  The first person I met here after Chris, Amanda and Fi, Stan put a (super-)-human face and perspective on all the paperwork around here.  LOVE him! –Jesse Engdahl


Stan the Man!  Things won’t be the same without him.  He is a fixture at Visions, and in the midst of our chaos he has never been too busy to help out.  Most of all I will miss his mastery of the well-placed pun.  – Patrick Schettler


Stan has consistently bent over backwards to help the employees of Visions, he is the quiet Bodhisattva of our company.  His patience in explaining 401k plans, and health insurance has saved me from many panic attacks.  Everyone at Visions will sorely miss him and his quirky attachment to Windows products.  I wish him all the best in his retirement, he deserves it! Go Lakers! – Joseph Rogers


Stan really is the man! He is so patient and helpful, whether it is a paycheck question or a technological dilemma. He will be missed as will his purple and yellow Lakers Lexus! – Heather Colligan


What can I say…. Don’t go!  You are funny, smart and so very considerate.  I know you go the extra mile to pay me right away.  Thanks.  You will be missed.  Stay in touch.  and of course, “Go Lakers” – Susan O’Connor


Stan is special in so many ways, and I mean that in a good way!!  Make sure you listen to everything he says, there is often a disguised, inappropriate joke in there somewhere!  Oh, and I think he likes the Lakers a little, but I could be mistaken. – Katie Mason


Stan’s the man. He has significantly helped foster an era of banter, puns, bad jokes, good jokes, irony, simile and off the wall observations.
That’s not all–he works here too! We will miss our cheerful and wise employee advocate. It simply won’t be the same place without him. – Roger L’Hereault


What can be said about Stan that hasn’t already been said? Stan is the man! Visions won’t be the same without him. His steady kindness and impeccable work ethic are second to none. He is a man of strength and integrity. Most people don’t see it, but Stan has a fiery side, which he uses to fight against the injustices of evil insurance companies. Stan has amazing patience and he can multi-task like a seven-armed madman. I don’t know how he does it, but he makes time for everyone’s demands and gets the job done with unparalleled tenacity and thoroughness. That’s all I have to say about Stan, and even though I’m fairly sure it’s already been said, it bears repeating! Thanks for all of the paychecks and Go Lakers! – Daniel Dewey


Stan has been around since almost day one. Stan is always willing to be a team
player and help out with most anything needed.He implemented our simple IRA and made it relatively simple for everyone. Stan has become a bit of an institution
around here and will be dearly missed. — Bill Hoban

I have had the privilege of working with Stan for the past 8 years or so. Stan is an important part of the Visions family, and his unique sense of humor and view of the world is always refreshing. Stan is constantly helping Visions staff to stay on track and on time so we can get paid. Stan has a heart of gold and is always concerned about others. Thank you Stan for your hard work and commitment to Visions. — John Lieberman


Stan, we will miss you!  After “about” 10 years as our Controller, Stan, “The Man” Weinstock is retiring.  From the beginning, Stan has helped us stay on budget, get our paychecks, get us paid and bought the best Holiday Party gifts anyone could ask for!  He has helped so many of our staff look at their finances, explained insurance stuff (mind boggling :), all the while fitting right in with the rest of us quirky folk.  Stan has been our go-to computer guy, and we already miss the funny emails that he sends!  Stan’s Laker Mobile will be missed in our driveway.  We are grateful that we had so much time with you, but guess it’s Lori and the dogs’ turn.  Thank you so much!  — Amanda and Chris Shumow 


Time for those quirky questions. What, you thought Stan would escape those? No way! Read on:

1: Were you always good at math?

I guess.  If I remember, there were 48 bars on my crib.

2: Phil Jackson or Mike D’Antoni? Why?

That’s easy, has to be Phil Jackson.  At this point, the Lakers record since D’Antoni is 4-8.  But they haven’t lost a game under Phil Jackson so far this season.   But seriously, because this IS serious, how do you not go with the guy who won all the titles?

3: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

In & Out.  Oh, you probably mean travel?  Maybe Patsy’s Pizzeria in NY.

4: Did the Lakers sponsor the custom paint job on your truck?

Is a “Cease and Desist” order like a sponsorship?

5: What superhero best represents you?

The Silver Surfer, one of the noblest (but tormented) cosmic entities in the Marvel universe.  He often sacrificed his liberty for the greater good.  Although he is from the planet Zenn-La, and I’m not, we are both trapped here on earth.

6: Top 5 favorite Visions’ moments over the last 10 years?

  1. Handing out the prizes at the company holiday parties.
  2. The time it snowed – I wasn’t there but I heard it was amazing!
  3. When the neighbor’s herd of goats came to visit at Mulholland.
  4. That time I managed to reconcile the bank account.
  5. Changing gears here – every time I’ve read a letter from a parent thankful for the work Visions has done to help and heal their child and their family.

7: What will you miss the most about Visions?

All the truly nice people I’ve worked with over the years.  And the meals.

8: What will you miss the least?

The 3:00 pm deadline for submitting payroll.  It’s taken years off my life, or at least hairs off my head.

9: Do you have any big adventures planned for your retirement?

Just the usual, nothing major – end hunger, bring peace to the world, stop global warming, read a book, take a nap.

10: Why did you choose to work for Visions?

Goes back to question 5 – sacrificing liberty for the greater good.  And question 7.

Anniversary Blogs Service Treatment

Brian Wildason, MA, CADC II -Residential Counselor

Brian Wildason is a Visions superstar. He has been with us since 2005, working with our teens and their families with wholehearted dedication. Brian has a wry sense of humor, which seasons his professionalism and interactions with the staff and clients in a wonderful way. He’s always the first one to help if and when help is needed. One of the things I always notice about Brian is his ability to remain calm amidst the hubbub of treatment. Brian is extremely reliable and is always, and I mean, ALWAYS, the one willing to do the most unusual of jobs. Got an alligator in your tub? B-dubs is the man to call.  The staff couldn’t agree with me more. Read on:


Brian, a.k.a. B-dubs, is an amazing coworker and moreover a close friend. I don’t want to inflate his ego, but it should be said that he is one of the most integral people working at Visions. He works magic with the kids that are fortunate enough to receive his counseling. He’s always striving to be better at his job and keeps everyone on their toes with his wit and wisdom. If he was as good at golf as he is at his job, he’d be on the PGA tour leaderboard every weekend. – Daniel Dewey

Brian is unbelievably good at what he does. I hear from parents and alumni all the time who are eternally grateful for his compassion and dedication to the process.  He is a true professional and a great friend. He is also the Undisputed Ping Pong Champion of Visions, having turned away countless challengers. –   Patrick Schettler

Brian is the American all-star of Visions. He can handle anything and is always there to smooth out a problem. – Heather Colligan

My first recollection of Brian was as a Program Aid. Brian was always the first to raise his hand to volunteer for interesting jobs and extra shifts. Brian is the first to help and the last to leave. – John Lieberman

Brian Wildason, lead counselor, and mentor to staff is a life changer.  In addition to being Amanda’s work husband (Chris has John, so it works out), he is truly one of the driving forces behind our program.  He has an incredible ability to intuitively know what the clients and the staff need within moments of speaking to them.  He has been a leader in creating new programming, the first to adjust to the electronic charting system and overall has helped Visions maintain the highest level of integrity when it comes to providing what we say we provide: the best treatment for adolescents and their families.  Brian has helped change the lives of so many clients.  By putting their needs above all else, he provides the steady, positive influence that so many of our clients need when they’re in treatment.  Brian also remembers to make sure the kids are having fun, which is so critical to adolescent treatment.  Thank you, Brian, for all you do.  We appreciate it more than you know. – Amanda and Chris Shumow


Read on for Brian’s answers to the usual series of silly questions behind these anniversary blogs

1: What inspires you to do what you do?

Remembering when I was a lost teenager and not knowing where to turn.  I try and offer support and encouragement for struggling teens and families.

2: You are always of service, what do you do to ensure self-care?

Sit on the porch with my dog and enjoy the silence.  Golf and cigars is always good also.

3: If you could say one thing calm a frightened parent, what would it be?

I wish there was something to say to make it better, I think offering a kind smile goes along way.  Also I think its important to remind parents to Breathe…repeat….repeat…  You are not alone, there is hope

4: Mountains, Desert, or Beach?

Got a go with beach…unless its Vegas then desert

5: “Cake or death?” Just kidding. Cake or Pie?

Pie (Warm Pecan with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or hot apple pie with a slice of American cheese.

6: Do you play any musical instruments?


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

Professional bull rider or a clown

8: If you were stranded on an island, what 3 books would HAVE to have with you?

Ummmmm…”Fishing for Dummies,” “How to Build a Sailboat in 30 days or Less,” and Sun Tzu’s – “Art of War.”

9: If you were a Sesame Street character, who would you be?

Oscar the Grouch.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

The commitment and passion of the staff towards helping families heal. We are pretty much a family helping other families.

Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Treatment

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.


Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Treatment

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.

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.

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