Substance abuse is a chemical dependency, characterized by the uncontrollable use of addictive drugs or alcohol. A dependency on addictive substances impacts the mind and body and can have serious, long-term consequences, and these risks are compounded by a dual diagnosis (e.g., depression, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, adult ADHD, etc.).

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicates that alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances among underage and adult individuals. This is attributed to its legal status and wide availability.

Symptoms of Substance Abuse

While only a physician or licensed mental health professional can diagnose addiction, there are warning signs and symptoms.

Changes to daily habits and routines, an individual’s appearance, behavior, and fluctuating moods may all be signs of substance abuse. Obvious physical symptoms may include things like insomnia, lethargy, tremors, shaking, skin discoloration, visible marks on the body (“track marks”), dramatic weight gain or weight loss, itching, and a decline in personal care, hygiene and physical health.

Dual Diagnosis

According to research, “anxiety and substance use disorders are among the most frequent psychiatric problems in the United States, with lifetime rates of 28.8% and 14.6%, respectively.” In a dual diagnosis, recovering addicts may have additional challenges in recovery because of their mental health issue, which must be worked on in conjunction with maintaining sobriety.

Substance abuse and mental illness are interconnected. Both are brain diseases, which are often treated at the same time. Brain diseases, like substance abuse or depression, share the same biology. “Addiction and mental illness involve the same pathways, molecules, and chemicals in the brain, and they share many similarities.”

Depression can cause substance addiction and vice versa. Depression is dangerous for a substance abuser to have, because it can trigger the need for drugs or alcohol. Many people who develop addiction problems often have depression (or another mental health illness) prior and they turn to substances to suppress pain or to escape reality completely.

Substance Abuse and Anxiety

When substance abuse co-exists alongside a mental health illness like anxiety, symptoms may become muddled and more difficult to understand. Anxiety symptoms like shaking, sweating, difficulty breathing, and increased heart rate may not be noticeable if a person is abusing alcohol. Their alcohol addiction may dull the appearance of those symptoms, making it challenging to uncover.

For generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or agoraphobia, people may turn to mood altering substances to help alleviate the pain. For sufferers with any severe anxiety disorder, substances like alcohol may dull the paralyzing elements of anxiety and allow them to function. For this reason, it is hard to tell the difference between the two.

While everyone will experience some aspects of anxiety during their lifetimes, serious anxiety disorders can interrupt people’s lives and stop them from living. For generalized anxiety disorder or agoraphobia, chest pain and rapid breathing may prevent them from leaving the house. For social phobia, people may be unable to attend school, be part of a group, or hold certain jobs.

Anxiety is a serious mental health illness and should not be minimized. Sadly, many people do not seek help when confronted with anxiety symptoms. They turn to quick fixes like alcohol, which provide temporary relief and do not address the bigger issues, leaving room for addiction to develop further.

Healing a Dual Diagnosis

When seeking treatment for addiction recovery, it is important to work with a therapist who has experience with treating a dual diagnosis.

Based on the severity of the addiction and mental health illness, physicians may choose to use medication as a method of healing at their discretion. Many studies have shown positive results. According to the US National Library of Medicine, the example of “the serotonin reuptake inhibitor paroxetine (Paxil) has been evaluated as a treatment for both social anxiety disorder (SAD) and an alcohol use disorder when they occur concurrently.”

For alcohol abusers who also suffer from anxiety, twelve-step programs may not be suitable due to the social nature of the program. Research has shown that twelve-step programs can be especially problematic for people suffering from social anxiety disorder (social phobia). They often have worse outcomes. However, psychotherapy is one of the best treatments for a person with a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and anxiety.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most frequently used treatment approaches used in psychotherapy. It has a high effectiveness rate in dealing with a variety of mental health issues and symptoms. But for anxiety disorders specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy provides lasting results.

The cognitive element of CBT guides people towards addressing negative thoughts, which may be self-sabotaging or dangerous. For example, an individual with social anxiety might address why they don’t want to speak in front of a small group. The person might think, everyone will laugh at me. The cognitive element will help them break down those irrational thought patterns, where it originates from, and why it is incorrect. For recovering substance addicts, thought patterns will probably be more detailed and severe, possibly involving past trauma or shame. Thought patterns from those sources will be harder to break, in addition to maintaining sobriety.

The behavioral factor of CBT hopes to change a person’s reactions to anxiety. This is crucial for recovering addicts because prior to treatment, they might have turned to drugs or alcohol, but cognitive behavioral therapy helps them identify triggers, remain calm, and turn to new coping mechanisms.

Since substance addiction is a chemical dependency, the consequences of not confronting it are dangerous. But integrated dual diagnosis treatment is a collaborative process, which can help recovering substance abusers heal. Therapists will often work with treating the addiction and mental health illness at the same time in the best interest of the patient. Working on healing from addiction and a mental health illness is challenging, but it is never impossible.

Dr. Venice Sanchez


Clinical Outreach Specialist, Europe Division

Dr. Sanchez works closely with Truvida Recovery patients regarding substance abuse and related mental illnesses and creates a supportive, cooperative and informed therapeutic environment. Her areas of expertise include Substance Dependence, Dual Diagnosis, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Generalized anxiety disorder, Panic Disorder, Bereavement, Acute stress disorder, and more. Ms Sanchez has extensive training with experts in the field of Substance Abuse, and mood and thought disorders underlying the substance use. She received a Bachelor’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles and Medical Degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. She continues training at the UC Irvine Psychiatry Residency Program and has been recognized with the Outstanding Resident of the Year Award.

Jaime Askew


Clinical Director

Ms. Askew is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who has been working in the field treating substance abuse and mental health issues for over twenty years.  She obtained a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, with an emphasis in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling from Pepperdine University and was among the first to obtain the LPCC license in the state of California.  She has been providing clinical supervision and training to interns, conducting workshops, and is a certified Trauma therapy trainer.  Her areas of expertise include working with legal issues, court ordered treatment, family preservation, trauma therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, family systems, social skills training, play therapy, and career/ vocational counseling.  Her passion is in advocating for at risk populations, holistic healing, and treating the underlying, core issues to help individuals achieve their maximum potential and happiness.  Jaime’s extensive experience and passionate leadership is of extreme importance to the overall TruVida clinical program, and her hands-on guidance of our clinical team insures that each patient is receiving optimal therapeutic treatment and care.

John Biroc

Consulting Psychologist

Dr. Biroc has a broad base of mental health and addiction recovery training and experience. He has supervised and taught therapists in various methodologies of effectively working with groups and individuals during therapy. He created and set up new group structures and trained staff in understanding the challenges of addiction recovery. He also helped develop curricula in Sociodrama and Psychodrama. Dr. Biroc is devoted to breaking paradigms that prevent progress in the path to lasting recovery. He is a member of the Nat’l Association of Marriage and Family therapists, and has a Ph.D. degree in Psychology, and a M.S. degree in Counseling from USC.

Dr. Nader Siahdohoni

Consulting Psychologist


Dr. Nader is one our esteemed consulting Psychologists who provides our Clients with various breakthrough therapy’s that focus the functional systems including neurons, neurotransmitters, and certain brain waves that enable the way we think, behave, move, feel, and maintain homeostasis. Such therapy’s include NeuroMax neurofeedback, the state of art integrated technology in Neurofeedback, combinations of wireless Electroencephalogram (EEG), real time brain mapping and a unique and exceptional neuropathway therapy called “Visual Concentration Attention Therapy (VCAT)”. Dr Nader graduated from Walden University.

Tiffany Agra


LMFT #103693

Ms. Agra is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, who has been working with individuals, couples, families, and groups for the past seven years. Her other therapeutic approaches include Narrative Therapy, Family Systems Theory, Psychodynamic dream interpretation, and Gestalt Psychology. She has also been a Guest Speaker at other organizations. This unique background has made her effective at helping clients overcome the grip of substance addiction. Tiffany obtained two Bachelor’s degrees from the University of California, Davis, and her Master’s degree from the California State University, Long Beach. She has worked for both the county of Orange and Riverside, helping those who struggle with addiction and mental illness. In addition to providing evidenced-based approaches to the clinical program at Truvida Recovery, she brings her compassion as a fellow addict in recovery; living proof that we do get better!

Deborah Wieland


MS, LMFT #96864

Ms. Wieland is an Eclectic EMDR Therapist, using R-TEP and G-TEP, and specializes in several modalities in treating Substance Use issues, Dual Diagnosis, Complex Trauma, and Severe Mental illness. Deborah also provides several types of therapy such as Psychodynamic, Rogerian, CBT, DBT, IFS, PICT, MI, Grief Recovery, Sand Tray, and Attachment Theory to help her patients achieve mental wellness and a sober lifestyle.

She has worked with Psychiatric Hospitals providing crisis interventions and psychotherapy to those struggling with substance abuse issues, mental health issues, and domestic violence. She completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at Vanguard University of Southern California. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Summa Cum Laude and a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology. She is currently completing her Doctoral studies in Clinical Psychology at Cal Southern University. Deborah is an active member of EMDRIA, California Association Marriage Family Therapist (CAMFT), American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), and Psi Chi International Honors Society of Psychology.

Ashley McLaughlin



Ms. McLaughlin is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in EMDR therapy. She brings over ten years of experience working in the field of addiction to the Truvida Team. She obtained a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University and has two Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Economics from University of California, San Diego. Ms. McLaughlin was trained in EMDR in 2013 and since has been helping individuals process through past traumatic experiences that have contributed to current struggles with substance abuse and mental health symptoms. Her extensive experience and passion for this field has helped guide individuals through the process of recovery in order to experience freedom from their past and a hope for their future.

Travis Taylor



Mr. Taylor is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in  Drug Abuse & Addiction,  PTSD, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality, Codependency, Coping Skills, Depression, Dual Diagnosis. Taylor uses an integrative approach geared towards understanding self, specifically what drives one’s thoughts and behaviors. He excels in helping patients identify automatic thoughts that lead to specific feelings and undesired actions. Another useful approach stems from understanding how thoughts and behaviors are fueled by former messages that have been consistently reinforced. Travis has over 6 years of therapeutic practice and obtained a Master’s degree at Vanguard University.

Kat Johnson

AOD Counselor, Group Facilitator

With almost 10 years experience working at treatment centers, Kat Johnson shares her wisdom and passion for balanced living, creative writing, and meditation and how each plays a role in early recovery and beyond. Certified as a CADC II, and supported by a bachelors in psychology, Kat’s infectious energy brings her groups to life. She is grateful for every opportunity to spread health and wellness.

Paige A. Chastain

AOD Counselor, Case Manager

Ms. Chastain has dedicated her life to helping the suffering addict/alcoholic, bringing personal experience to both individual substance abuse and group counseling settings. She has worked in the field of addiction for several years, currently working as an addiction counselor and case manager.  Paige too, is a collaborative member of the multi-disciplinary team providing excellence in addiction services, working with clients from detox to intensive outpatient levels of care. She holds a strong skill-set in Psychoeducation, Motivational Interviewing and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.  She also has extensive experience with 12-step recovery programs. Paige is passionate about treating the client with empathy, compassion and respect throughout the client’s journey.  Paige holds an AA from Saddleback College, a BA from the University of California of Irvine and is a certified CADC-I holding memberships with CCAPP and NAADAC.

Lesley Richards

AOD Counselor, Interventionist

Ms. Richards began in this field of healthcare as a volunteer for substance abuse treatment centers and worked her way up from there. Lesley has dedicated her life to helping the suffering addict. it is here strong belief that everyone deserves to have the opportunity to have a safe and sober life.  She is very compassionate about her work as an addiction counselor, and has a strong commitment in helping patients struggling with addiction in developing healthy coping mechanisms, and developing new positive behavioral habits.  Her Group counseling sessions are highly sought after within the TruVida program.  Lesley is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), National Certified Intervention Professional (NCIP), Nationally Certified Recovery Coach (NCRC), and is a member of the California Consortium of Addiction programs (CCAP), as well as the International Association of Addiction Professionals.

Christine Green

Treatment Facilitator

Christine Green is a certified personal trainer, and yoga instructor. Ms. Green is dedicated to helping patients struggling with substance abuse transform their lives through a consciousness-based approach to body-in-motion fitness.

Christine passionately shares her 18 years experience with our clients by sharing her specialized Yoga & Energy Healing Program, which she has developed over the past 8 years of working directly with addicts and alcoholics. Her Yoga program facilitates integration of all the layers of life – environmental, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual with the primary initial goal of overcoming withdrawal symptoms and cravings from drug and alcohol dependency. TruVida is fortunate to have her as part of the team.

Allison Goode

Art in Recovery Counselor

Allison Goode is a lifelong resident of Laguna Beach and professional artist for over 15 years, and has developed a very successful and trans-formative Art in Recovery program in treatment facilities through out California. Her passion for the fine arts and helping others recover from substance abuse addiction is contagious. Allison has a unique ability to connect with clients through the creative process helping clients set positive goals for their recovery. Ms. Goode has studied Fine Art and Graphic Design at Laguna College of Art and Design, is a certified RADT1 technician, and is currently completing her CCAPP certification program.

Thomas Mladinich

Admissions Manager

Mr. Mladinich hard work ethic and dedication make him a key part of the TruVida team. Tom’s ability to connect and relate with others have allowed him to excel as admissions manager. His personal experience has allowed him to proudly serve those in need of recovery from addiction. Tom is eager to work with our clients and provide the experience, strength and hope that they need to find success in recovery.

Willie Sanchez

Operations Manager

Mr. Sanchez is a self-motivated professional with a positive attitude. He is actively involved in a 12 step fellowship. He effectively contributes to each Patient with their struggles with addiction. Willie is RADT1 certified counselor and has been educated at Long Beach City College.

Jose Flores

Program Manager

Mr. Flores is a highly motivated and hardworking team member with TruVida. He has several years of experience working in treatment helping individuals get back on track, achieving a lot of great results. He brings problem solving skills and experience to use everyday, and is proud and passionate about his profession as a RADT-I program manager.

Dr. Andrew Morrow

MD, Psychiatrist


Dr Morrow is a member of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology Psychiatry, who specializes in the treatment of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, thought disorders, other mental health issues, and substance abuse addictions. Having undergone extensive training in medical school, psychiatric residency and over 15 years of psychiatric practice, he is well trained in both psychotherapy and medication management of mental problems. Dr Morrow integrates psychological, and social characteristics with biological therapy to treat the whole person; mind, body, and soul, and it is with great humility that he pursues the goal of freedom from substance abuse addictions.

Dr DeSanto conducted his undergraduate education at St. Louis University with a B.S. in Chemistry graduating summa cum laude. He then attended medical school at St. Louis University School of Medicine, and completed his residency training and served as chief resident at University of California, Irvine Medical Center.