Meet The Discovery House Team

The staff at The Discovery House is composed of certified professionals who have chosen to dedicate their lives to the successful, lasting recovery of each client. The team consists of certified counselors and a caring administration team to help you in every step of the way.

Our caring and compassionate staff work tirelessly towards providing the most effective treatment for each resident, with their unique cases and conditions. With their years of experience and through collaboration with others, the entire team helps residents achieve life-long sobriety.

What sets The Discovery House apart is the attitude of our staff and the experiences that each one brings to the program. We use an eclectic approach to treatment, combining different, proven techniques that are facilitated by our caring staff members.

Nicholas Russi

LAADC, CCS – Program Administrator

Nicholas has worked in the substance abuse and mental health field for the last 18 years. He is personally, motivated by the various personal and family issues that he has been exposed to throughout the years. His desire to help people become free from the grips of addictive disorders and crippling mental health problems has become a passion and the driving force in his life. Today Nicholas oversees all departments at The Discovery House, and he is excited to create a community here that inspires growth and promotes healing. He currently holds licensure in the state of California as a licensed Alcohol & Drug counselor and certified clinical supervisor.

Dr. Philip Valdez

Psy.D., LMFT, LADC – Clinical Director

Dr. Valdez specializes in offering mental health and substance use services to families and individuals of all ages. Dr. Valdez has many years of experience working with families and individuals who suffer from mental health and substance use disorders in various settings, from a private practice in Pasadena, CA to psychiatric hospitals. Affectionately known as “Dr. Phil,” he comes to The Discovery House where he is our Global Clinical Director. He favors evidence-based practices in treatment, and is a strength-based, person-centered, humanistic provider. “My mentor, the late Dr. David Murphy gave me the best advice: Never give up on anybody and always remember to have fun”. This is the philosophy I attempt to function with in my everyday life.

Shari Colato

Client Advocate Senior Counselor

Ms. Colato began at The Discovery House in February of 2017 to help those struggling with addiction find a new and better way of life. She began as a support staff but quickly discovered her aptitude for counseling and crisis intervention and began her journey to become a counselor. Ms. Colato has completed her CCAPP Counselor Certification education as the valedictorian of her 2016 class and has over 6,000 clinical hours of on the job training. With over 8 years devoted to her own recovery, Ms. Colato now dedicates her time to helping others achieve the same long – term recovery that has transformed her life. Ms. Colato became our Clinical Director in 2020 and states “every person deserves the opportunity to recover from the depths of addiction and achieve greatness, no one with this disease needs to be defined by it, instead we are here to help them find the path that can lead them to their dreams”.

Tristen Mareci

Lead Counselor

Mr. Mareci is the new Lead Counselor at The Discovery House. He is working towards a degree in Alcoholism and Addiction Studies at Pierce College in Woodland Hills CA. He joined The Discovery House team in 2019 after overcoming his own addiction over three years ago and finding his way into recovery. Mr. Mareci states that, “I have always wanted to help people after overcoming my own addiction. I know how difficult it can be to maintain sobriety, and I wanted the opportunity to give back to those who are still suffering from a seemingly hopeless state of being. Recovery is a gift that anybody can achieve.” He devotes his time to finding a common ground with his clients and using that to help them achieve their goal of long – term sobriety.

Chris Barnes

Counselor

Christopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. The past ten years of his professional career has been spent in the recovery community. Christopher states, “My passion for people, pleasant demeanor, optimistic views on life, and my ability to make everyone I meet feel significant” is a standard in which he holds himself to. Christopher continues to encourage, motivate, and give hope promoting growth and change in the lives of those he serves. Christopher Barnes is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. He was also commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army and spent five years on active duty. In 1996 he earned a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, from Phillips Graduate University, and spent an additional twenty years working in hospitals and clinics as a practicing clinician. In 2017, Christopher returned to his Alma Mater, Phillips Graduate University where he is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Organizational Management and Consultant with an emphasis in Behavioral Health. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.

Jorge Negron

Case Manager

When Mr. Negron joined The Discovery House family, he has been working as a client advocate in the treatment industry for about two years. Mr. Negron’s passion for making a difference in the lives of those struggling with addiction is his driving force. “Not only do I get to help those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction every day, but I also get to see the difference I make. When our clients begin to learn there is more to life than substance, I know I helped them with that. Once they leave our facility, sober and ready to take on the world, I can be proud of knowing I had a part in their journey.” Mr. Negron credits his life experiences as well as his role as a father as his most major life achievements. As a trained crisis interventionist and counselor, Mr. Negron gets to put his personal experience and extensive knowledge to use to help others as The Case Manager at The Discovery House.

Melanie Mehrabi

Medical Room Supervisor

Ms. Mehrabi completed the LVN program at Glendale College and went on to study Addiction Studies in 2011. She joined The Discovery House Team in 2018 because she wanted to give back to the community that has done so much for her. “Being someone who has overcome a crippling addiction, I know exactly how difficult it is to get back to living a normal life. I want to make a difference in those who want to do better and give away what has been freely given to me” Ms. Mehrabi is the center of our care team and is in constant contact with our doctors, nurses, counselors and support staff to ensure our clients get the care they deserve.

Brittania Paris

LVN

Ms. Paris joined the team at The Discovery House in 2020, after working home health for a decade, she has found a home where she can help people that she understands and have empathy for what they have been through and where they are now. Personal experience with friends, family, and her self motivate s Ms. Paris to go the extra mile to help clients find their way through the detox process and see past the addiction. Ms. Paris is excited to be part of the process of helping clients change and grow as they find their true selves.

Aaron Hernandez

Shift Lead Supervisor

Mr. Hernandez served in the United States Navy for eight years as a Corpsman. He specialized in psychiatry where he worked with a wide range of diagnoses such as mood disorders, personality disorders, and substance abuse. Mr. Hernandez spent five of those years at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth working on a 32-bed psych ward as the shift lead. After that, he went to serve with the Marines out in Camp Pendleton. He was one of the leading members who established the Operational Stress Control and Readiness team. There, we helped Identify and treat any issue or concerns Marines would have while out in the field. Mr. Hernandez has a passion for serving and helping others. He understands the difficulties those face when dealing with substance abuse. He began working with TDH in October of 2019 and it was an instant match, now Aaron is our Shift Lead Supervisor overseeing all the support staff. TDH and Mr. Hernandez share the same core values. “We share the same passion for helping anyone and everyone with any challenges they may face.”

Thomas Bowen

PM Shift Lead

Mr. Bowen graduated from Merrimack College with his bachelor’s degree in English. Mr. Bowen has been a proud member of The Discovery House team for over three years, and a shift lead for two of those years. He skillfully applies the work ethic, perseverance, and fortitude he learned in both school and RADT training to provide clients with the highest level of care. Mr. Bowen devotes his time to reaching and making a difference in every client who is ready and willing to accept his help. Today TJ has more than ten years of his own sobriety, therefore he is able to empathetically relate to the clients that come to The Discovery House. He states that he “considers it a privilege to be able to play a part in people’s recovery and help them discover a new future”. As a Shift Lead, Mr. Bowen is able to spend time connecting to the clients in an informal setting, allowing them to open up to him, where he can utilize the gifts of recovery in order to pass it on to another addict in need.

Aliza Vayngurt

Administrative Assistant

Ms. Vayngurt completed her undergraduate degree at The University of San Francisco in 2014, with a major in Political Science and minor in Sociology. She joined The Discovery House team in 2019 because she wanted to help people find the same solace that she had found in her own recovery. Ms. Vayngurt acquired her RADT – 1 in 2019 and is currently worked as our Case Manager for a year, today she works as The Administrative Assistant. She is avidly working towards expanding her knowledge and experience in treatment. She states, “When I was in the grips of this disease I couldn’t see a way out, and that kept me sick and hopeless, but I want to let other people suffering from this disease know that there is a way out and there are people willing to help them find their hope again”.

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