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Adolescent Treatment Team

Hiruy Gessesse

Medical Director

An expert in child and adolescent psychiatry, Dr. Gessesse leads our team of professionals with enthusiasm and an unparalleled commitment to each and every teen who walks through our doors. As the driving force at Sherman Oaks, Dr. Gessesse, affectionately known as “Doctor G.”, provides top notch psychiatric care to our teens while simultaneously directing our treatment team. As Medical Director, Dr. Gessesse oversees all treatment plans and tirelessly searches for opportunities to maximize the therapeutic value of our services. His commitment to helping troubled adolescents has had an impact on countless teens who have sought refuge with us in their darkest times.

Dr. Gessesse earned his medical degree at UCLA and received his DEA and medical licenses from the University of Southern California. He went on to complete his residency at the University of Southern California (USC). This in-depth training aptly prepared him to specialize in the treatment of depression, addiction and anxiety. Dr. Gessesse’s practice has taken him to the LA County Hospital and the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry department at UCLA. This in-depth medical training makes him a leading expert in the treatment of mood disorders, addiction, anxiety and trauma.

As medical director, Dr. Gessesse guides our team of professionals while rigorously upholding our core values and unwavering commitment to the family. For Dr. Gessesse, psychotherapy and psychopharmacology are intimately linked. He appreciates that medication management is only one small part of a treatment approach that includes mind, body and soul.

Jonathan Bach, M.A., L.M.F.T. – Clinical Services Manager

As Clinical Services Manager, Jonathan leads the treatment team with great empathy and unparalleled commitment to the well-being of the teens in our care. With advanced clinical expertise, he guides our treatment staff in providing quality care to teens and creating individualized treatment plans that illicit dramatic results. On weekends Jonathan facilitates our Multi Family Restoration group with a refreshing energy and leadership style that helps families heal bonds and forge new, healthy relationships.

Jonathan was compelled to pursue Psychology when he took his first psych class at Appalachian State University. He quickly came to appreciate its enormous capacity for helping people solve difficult life problems. This seemingly endless potential for providing practical solutions to troubled individuals and families captivated him and inspired a career.

With a passion for spreading knowledge and helping others, Jonathan earned his Masters in Psychology at the Philips Graduate Institute of Psychology in Chatsworth, California. He then went on to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the interest of working one-on-one with teens and their families to assist them in their journeys of recovery. Today Jonathan lives this dream by helping teens and young adults acquire the confidence and skills they need to navigate a growing and complex world.

As a teen Jonathan recalls having a strong supportive network of adults and peers. Above all else he says that this helped him succeed despite the trials and tribulations of adolescence. “I have always been a firm believer that the earlier you can identify and solve a problem, the better prognosis one will have for a happy and healthy adult life.” Having been given such a tremendous gift, Jonathan aspires to be that supportive influence in the lives of teens at Adolescent Growth by inspiring them to implement lasting changes for the better.

When he is not at work Jonathan can be found in the garage working on cars, a passion he has enjoyed since his teenage years.

Laura Kellingsworth

Director of Operations

Laura is living proof of what is possible in recovery. She is a positive and inspiring role model to our adults and brings an attitude of gratitude, hope, enthusiasm and joy to everything she does. Laura began working as a Client Care Specialist and within months was asked to step into the role of group therapist due to her great rapport with clients and her depth of experience and knowledge with mental health and substance abuse. Laura then joined the therapeutic treatment team as a leader and helped to launch the phenomenal Family Weekend Restoration Program where she facilitates multi-family groups that meet the needs of both the client and the client’s family. Laura then moved to the supervisor role and served as the supervisor to the group therapists and provided instruction in the quality assurance department due in part to her exquisite ability to write notes. Laura has continued to progress within the company and is currently the Director of Operations for all the facilities nationwide, Laura travels to the various facilities and remains in contact with leaders at all times. Laura leads with distinction and dedication and has sacrificially worked on her off days, holidays and worked double shifts in order to make sure the clients are always provided quality care.

Laura considers herself a late bloomer due in part to her longtime struggle with an eating disorder and her addiction to drugs and alcohol. When faced with her own child who struggled with addiction and eating issues, Laura began her journey to find not only peace within herself and her family members but also, she began a quest to change the devastating effects of addictive behaviors and mental health disorders. Laura returned to school and attended Pierce College, Addiction Studies program in Woodland Hills, California.  Once a registered addiction specialist intern, Laura worked at Women’s Odyssey Organization for a period and decided that her mission in life was to give to others what was given so freely to her in her time of need.

Laura is a leader in change and is personally invested in making the world a better place to live by motivating and nurturing our most at-risk population. It is her belief that if you save one person’s life you can save the world. Laura brings not only impressive CBT and DBT skills to our clients’ daily life, she also has assisted our clients in finding a voice through art therapy, poetry writing, and other creative outlets. Laura is committed to Growth Extended and is responsible to both our clients and staff as she serves tirelessly to make sure effective change is taking place. Although Laura admits that every day is a day spent doing exactly what she wants; her days off are spent relaxing and enjoying the company of her family as well as her longtime furry companion, Frankie, a rescue dog, and her three-legged cat, Pandora.  Laura’s dedication, compassion and passion for Growth Extended is the reason that when Laura arrives to work each day, she feels she “has come home”.

Stephanie Unson

Primary Therapist

As an essential member of the clinical treatment team at Growth Extended, Stephanie serves with passion and an eagerness to do well. Stephanie’s unique charm and sense of humor are key elements to her ability to build rapport with both her clients and their parents. It is this rapport which sets the framework for the transformations seen in her clients. Stephanie is proficient in conducting individual and family therapy sessions that are impactful and life changing. Stephanie also serves as a co-facilitator of the Weekend Restoration Groups and she is committed to meticulously preparing parents for their child’s transition back into the home. Stephanie believes in providing parents with the necessary support, education and care, as they are the role models of their family units. 

Stephanie learned at an early age that no one goes through life unscathed.  It was through the life experiences of others that her passion of being present with hurting individuals grew. Stephanie holds two Bachelor’s Degree, her second from the University of Florence in Italy. It was living abroad in a different country that gave her the opportunity to help develop a sense of flexibility and compassion towards other cultural and economic backgrounds. Stephanie later decided to further her knowledge and obtained her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy/Art Therapy from Phillips Graduate University in Chatsworth California. 

Stephanie specializes in helping struggling young people and has spent years working as a mental health clinician. Her knowledge base spans the entire age range spectrum obtained in arenas such as residential treatment, outpatient programs and school bases settings. From this experience, Stephanie has gained an appreciation for the unrelenting struggles and imperfections that make up a person. Above all, Stephanie finds joy in watching people take difficult and tragic experiences of life and turn them into opportunities for growth, empowerment, and hope. Stephanie affirms that she loves working at Growth Extended because, “It is rare to find this type of a strengths-based approach to treating adolescents. I am quite fortunate to work alongside compassionate therapists and dedicated floor staff. The support I’ve received since working here has been wonderful. It’s also quite gratifying when clients start to implement change, and to see them evolve”.

When she is not at work, during her free time, Stephanie enjoys taping into her creative side. She relishes in sewing, cooking, and artmaking (especially sculpture and painting).


Damien Stewart

Primary Group Therapist

As the Primary Group Therapist at Growth Extended, Damien utilizes his strong interpersonal and communication skills to work with and help clients gain a new found sense of confidence and self-worth. Group therapy is one of the major components of treatment at Growth Extended and Damien runs groups that are fun, insightful and curative. He is quite versed in building rapport and helping clients become engaged in treatment. Moreover, Damien is in touch with the dilemmas facing the youth of today. He is capable of providing a safe compassionate environment that allows teens to be vulnerable and delve into their core issues. Damien also facilitates impacting Parenting Support Groups to equip parents with the skills needed to support the strides clients have made while in treatment. Growth Extended is fortunate to have been blessed with Damien to spearhead group interventions in our LA facility.

Scholastically, Damien received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from the California State University of Long Beach and later went on to pursue his Master of Science Degree in Counseling, with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. Damien came into the profession of psychology with an avid commitment to his belief in a life of service. It is a commitment that he is proud of… to be in service of others using whatever God has bestowed upon him. 

Damien’s work experience contributes to his wealth of knowledge in working systemically with youth and their families to effect change. Populations that he has played a key role in aiding include adolescents with depression/bipolar/PTSD, persons with eating disorders, children with family discord, struggling elementary school students, parents, teens and the elderly. Damien is committed to his service at Growth Extended and continues to relish in his journey as he refines his craft. Damien states that he is immensely “pleased to be working at Growth Extended due to the support received by coworkers as well as from the owners”.

During his spare time Damian likes to hike, travel and cook. But his most joyous experiences outside of work are derived from spending time with his cherished wife and beautiful new baby girl.  


Jeanette Vazquez, B.A., – Medical Assistant

As a medical assistant at Growth Extended, Jeanette cares for the health and wellbeing of our clients by monitoring their vitals, tracking and administering medications and educating our residents about their medications and diagnoses. Jeanette’s main goal for clients is helping them learn to care for their own physical wellbeing through exercise, hygiene and good nutrition.
Prior to her work with Growth Extended, Jeanette worked as a tutor for children of migrants who struggled with math, English and reading. She also volunteered her time at the East Los Angeles Women’s center where she aided victims of domestic violence.

Jeanette holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Southern California. She describes her choice to study psychology as an easy one. Jeanette has always been interested in helping others, building meaningful relationships and come to understand themselves more thoroughly.

According to Jeanette, the “good vibes” at Growth Extended are what makes her glad to come to work each day. Jeanette takes great pride in knowing that the work she does with our clients is very important, and she loves to be a positive role model for teens in need. She cherishes her role as a mentor and strives to have an impact on every teen whom she works with.

Outside of her role as a medical assistant, Jeanette enjoys music, particularly playing the drums and singing. She also enjoys reading suspense, thriller and young adult novels as well as classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice. Her favorite book s are “A Certain Slant of Light” by Laura Whitcomb and the Harry Potter series. Jeanette is the proud owner of two cats and a dwarf rabbit. She is a genuine and caring person we are glad to have as a part of our team.

Adult Program

Daniel Avila
M.A., L.M.F.T.

Program Manager

Our program manager and most distinguished clinician Daniel Avila is honored to be working with such a talented and professional team providing first class services for adults who struggle with mental health, eating disorders and substance abuse. Daniel has made it his life’s work to help men and women overcome difficult struggles and find hope in the process of growth and recovery.

Daniel is a California native who began his academic career at Cal Poly where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science. He then went on to earn a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at Pepperdine. After he graduated Daniel worked as a clinician and supervisor with the California Hispanic Commission providing clinical services to at risk youth in the East and South Los Angeles areas. Daniel also has extensive experience from his time at the USDVA where he supported our veterans through their mental health and substance abuse struggles.

Daniel is honored to have been appointed program manager at Growth Extended and we are grateful to have him. He steadfastly supports and supervises the clinical team with an inspiring resolve that motivates and energizes staff and clients alike. At Growth Extended, Daniel is known for his client-centered approach which goes beyond treatment as usual. With the help of his colleagues, Daniel has cultivated an environment where startling results and miraculous transformations take place on a daily basis.

In his day to day work at the facility, Daniel enjoys being in direct contact with the clients and values the time he spends with them in individual sessions, in groups and during down time. Daniel can often be found around the Lake Balboa facility doing everything from helping out in the kitchen to supervising the primary therapists. In his spare time Daniel enjoys working out at the gym and spending time with his dog, an 87 pound weimaraner named Buttercup.

Azadeh Ebrahimi
M.A., M.F.T.I.

Assistant Program Manager

Azadeh initially joined the Growth Extended family as a primary therapist. However, due in part to her clinical expertise, caring attitude and commitment to the clients we served; she was quickly promoted into the Assistant Program manager role. As one of the leaders in the facility, Azadeh has an unwavering commitment to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the individuals we serve. Azadeh has an extensive background working with hurting individuals. Prior to beginning her journey at Growth Extended, Azadeh counseled individual, child, couples and families. She also sacrificially served women and men by facilitating domestic violence/batterers intervention groups utilizing various psychotherapeutic techniques. 

Azadeh was born in Iran but grew up in Iran, London and England.  She moved to the US (Arizona) in 1980, and moved to California in 1981. After living in Long Beach she moved to the San Fernando Valley in 1990 and has remained living at the same house in Granada Hills since 2000. Academically, Azadeh received her Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts at Mount Saint Mary’s college in Brentwood, and later she returned to Jones International University for an MBA. Her thirst for psychology drove her to obtain a second Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy which brought her to her destiny of helping others, which is Growth Extended.  

Azadeh discloses, “The main reason I am in this business is because I love to help people.  This company treats clients with respect, dignity, and compassion, and I feel this company is genuinely interested in the client’s wellbeing.  Another major reason Azadeh loves her job is that, “I have not met one person I did not like in this company.”

When she is not at work, Azadeh loves to learn about new concepts.  She enjoys traveling near and far tangibly, and; vicariously through travel shows on KCET.  Azadeh also enjoys spending time with loved ones; people and cute, cuddly and furry creatures too. Azadeh takes the initiative to provide daily care to the four facility cats who provide pet therapy to the clients. 

Valorie Longo

Academic Coordinator

Valorie is the Academic Coordinator at our Los Angeles branch and has several years of academic experience. She was born in Glendale, California, and grew up primarily in Pasadena. Valorie earned her associate degrees in Humanities and Behavioral/Social Sciences from Pasadena City College and her Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Teaching Credentials from California State Los Angeles. Her passion lies in working with adolescents, and before joining Growth Extended, she gained extensive experience working with elementary, middle, high school, and college students. This has helped Valorie to understand and connect with youth more effectively and empathetically.

Valorie is the Academic Facilitator at Growth Extended. Her job is to help clients achieve academic success while they are in the treatment facility. Valorie loves working at Growth Extended because she combines her academic skills with her dedication to offering caring, adaptable, and supportive service to youth with so much potential. She enjoys working with small groups and connecting with clients meaningfully throughout the day. By learning about their backgrounds, quirks, and strengths, Valorie adapts her approach to every unique client. She says that this is something special about her job. Valorie feels honored to work with so many other incredible individuals at Growth Extended.

Valorie takes great pleasure in being a part of this compassionate team that strives to promote high-quality mental health services for teenagers. When she’s not at work, Valorie enjoys indulging in three activities: writing and drawing, immersing herself in different cultures, and discovering new places by going for a leisurely stroll and observing people or hiking.