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Christian Addiction Treatment Staff


At Celebrate Hope we consider our staff to be the backbone our Christian addiction treatment. That’s why we’ve put together a well-trained and experienced team to guide you through your Christian recovery. One of our main goals was to create a group of individuals who would make our clients feel comfortable, safe and open throughout the treatment process. When you join our Christian Addiction treatment community you’ll be cared for and counseled by a professional staff that is committed to every aspect of your recovery.

Our team has over 75 years of combined experience in addiction treatment. We have experts who specialize in addiction medicine, behavioral health, treatment of co-occurring disorders, family and marriage, trauma, sexual abuse, behavioral disorders and dual diagnosis among others. You’ll find that our staff is knowledgeable and caring and custom tailor treatment plans to meet the multifaceted needs of recovering addicts.

At Celebrate Hope we base our Christian treatment program on the standard 12-Step Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous program in tandem with Christian recovery modalities. Many of our staff members are also in recovery themselves which allows them to draw from their own personal experiences and foster a deeper understanding and connection with our clients. All of our clients spend time with our counselors and therapists on a one-on-one basis and in group settings covering the psychological and physiological root causes of addiction in tandem with Christian recovery principals.


Robert (Bobby) Nicholl, Christian Addiction Treatment InterventionistRobert (Bobby) Nicholl
Admissions and Interventions


Bobby has spent over 15 years in the development and operations of several residential treatment centers in California. He is a Certified National Drug & Alcohol Interventionist, as well as a Registered Addiction Specialist. Mr. Nicholl is personally involved in Celebrate Recovery at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California. He says, “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him.” As Bobby says: “I’ve recently learned what really matters the most in life: God, my relationships, and my integrity. There is nothing more important!”


“If you have a hole in your life and your very inner being (your soul) feels empty and hungry? Then welcome, to Celebrate Hope, you’re at the right place for healing and restoration of mind, body, and spirit; we will provide you with a dignified setting and surround you with loving people. You’re going to get everything you need and even some of your wants while Celebrating Hope. Everywhere you look you’re surrounded by people who believe in you and believe you have what it takes to recover, heal, and be WHOLE. We believe in and love you because He (God) first believed in and loved us.” From day one, Bobby has focused treatment services on “What is in the best interest of the client?” With that in mind, the treatment team develops individualized treatment plans with each client’s specific needs in mind.



Penny Carlson, Drug Rehab California AdministratorPenny Carlsen, R.N.

Penny Carlsen is a graduate of Loma Linda University School of Nursing. After graduation she spent the next few years working at Loma Linda University Medical Center on the Neurosurgery, Neurology and Rehabilitation Units. She later served as the business manager for Medical Imaging Specialists, Inc. She has an extensive background in both clinical and administration. She is a warm and loving person and is considered by the clients to be the "resident mom". 


Ernest Carlsen, Drug and Alcohol Rehab Founder Ernest Carlsen, M.D., Ph.D.

Ernest Carlsen is the co-founder of Hope By The Sea. In 1972 Ernest Carlsen, Ph.D., M.D. developed the technique and equipment for what is known as "Grey Scale Imaging." This pioneering technological breakthrough has revolutionized diagnostic ultrasound. He has a dual Ph.D. one in bio-physics and one in nuclear medicine. Dr. Carlsen was a Graduate from the Loma Linda University school of medicine in 1969.




Chad Carlsen, Drug and Alcohol Rehab Executive DirectorChad Carlsen
Executive Director 

Chad Carlsen is the co-founder of Hope By The Sea. He has worked in the field of chemical dependency since 2000. As a recovering addict and alcoholic he brings his personal experience of triumph though adversity and is a true role-model to the clients. He has vast experience in the field of health and fitness, with certifications in nutrition and fitness. Not only does Chad serve as the Executive Director, he personally works with clients on their education of health and fitness as related to their recovery.


Kelly Carlsen, Drug Rehab California DirectorKelly Carlsen
Director of Human Resources 

Kelly Carlsen has been with Hope By the Sea since its inception. She spent several years working as an intervention aide for troubled elementary students. She currently works as our Director of Human Resources as well as working directly with the clients in job development skills and personal growth. 




Sharon Stafford, Drug and Alcohol Rehab Clinical DirectorSharon Stafford PhD
Clinical Director


Dr. Stafford is a licensed ClinicalPpsychologist with years of experience working in in-patient and out-patient treatment settings. Her professional experience includes being a research coordinator, conducting research in the area of chronic pain, being the Program Director of in-patient psychiatric treatment for children, working in crisis management in an emergency room setting, serving as school consultant, and is currently employed as Clinical Director. and has her own  private practice.


Robin K. Lovell, CATC, California Drug Rehab Program DirectorRobin K. Lovell, CATC
Certification #:123198
Program Director

Robin is a dedicated and highly motivated individual certified by the California Association of Alcohol and Drug Educators. Robin has been working in the chemical dependency field since 2006 both in in-patient and out-patient settings; she has a passion for working with individuals and families suffering from the disease of addiction. Robin is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor who completed the Alcohol and Drug Studies Certificate Program through Saddleback College. Prior to working at Hope by The Sea Robin worked alongside the Orange County Heath Care Agency in the DUI field. While working in the out-patient court related system Robin found that her true passion lies in residential settings. Working at Hope by The Sea has allowed her to guide others in overcoming drug and alcohol addiction and ultimately leading productive, substance-free lifestyles.


Ryan Kelly, Rehab for College Students DirectorRyan Kelly
College Program Director


Ryan began working in the field of education advisement in January 2009. As an enrollment advisor, Ryan effectively enrolled more than 250 students with a 91% continuation rate (meaning only 9% dropped out). He earned his Bachelor's of Arts in Management while working full time, and successfully finished his final class after completing a 90 day treatment program at Hope By The Sea. Having previously attended Saddleback Community College from 1998 - 2001, Ryan is extremely knowlegeable with all aspects of the school that is the main focal point of our college program.


Candy Carlsen, Drug and Alcohol Rehab Medical LiaisonCandy Carlsen, RN
Medical Liaison


Candy Carlsen has worked in the field of nursing for several years.  She worked at UCLA Medical Center in the neuro/surgical trauma ICU and also at Hoag Memorial in the cardiac ICU.  She has extensive training in psychoparmacology and works very closely with Hope By the Sea’s physicians.  She educates clients and families on the importance of proper medication management and compliance, when necessary.



Cyndie Dunkerson, Drug Rehab California CounselorCyndie J. Dunkerson, B.A.S, CATC III, CA-CCS
Certification #: 122981-III
Counselor/Clinical Supervisor Criminal Court Liaision


Cyndie Dunkerson is a certified chemical dependency counselor and clinical supervisor who has been working in the field of addiction since 2002.  With Hope By The Sea since the beginning, she brings with her a compassion for recovery, as she had to overcome her own personal struggle with the disease of addiction. As a medical assistant with experience in the emergency room she brings calm to any situation. She works closely with clients who have legal issues by offering personal assistance in the criminal court process with the goal of alternative sentencing in treatment rather than jail time.


K. Mitchell Naficy, Drug and Alcohol Rehab MD

Valeh Karimkhani, D.O.
Medical Director and Psychiatrist

Dr. Valeh Karimkhani, D.O. is an adolescent and adult psychiatrist. She is board certified in Psychiatry as well as Addiction Medicine. She is the founder of Orange County Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine.

Dr. Karimkhani is dedicated to serving the psychiatric needs of her community. She has extensive experience in substance abuse, dual diagnosis, PTSD, mood and anxiety disorders, and emergency psychiatry. She is also one of a select few psychiatrists offering TMS treatment.

In addition to clinical duties, Dr. Karimkhani is an adjunct professor, teaching medical students during clinical rotations from Midwestern University.

Dr. Karimkhani is also a Major in the Army Reserves, completing three tours of duty in the Middle East. She is dedicated to helping and healing our armed forces and their families.



K. Mitchell Naficy, Drug and Alcohol Rehab MD

K. Mitchell Naficy, M.D., FAAFP

Dr. Naficy is a Board Certified specialist of Family Medicine whose style of patient care involves caring for the person as a whole, rather than just treating a particular symptom or illness.  His credentials include a Bachelors degree in Microbiology from Rutgers University followed by obtaining his medical Doctorate in Puerto Rico.  Dr. Naficy completed an internship in 1990 at USC Medical Center in Los Angeles and then 3 years of residency at UCI Medical Center in Irvine, CA.  




Frank Buffa, Drug and Alcohol Rehab, Bio-Psycho-Geneologist

Frank Buffa


Working in the field since 2005, Frank came to Hope By The Sea bringing with him his knowledge of the Co-Occurring Disorder population.  He specializes in working with clients who suffer from sexual trauma and anger control issues.  In addition, he enjoys helping clients identify and change old behavior patterns to implement healthy change and create a solid base to continue successfully into their future.



Amanda Elsasser, Drug Rehab California ACSWAmanda Elsasser, ACSW
BBS Reg No: ASW 30872

Amanda is an Associate Clinical Social Worker with a bachelors in Psychology from James Madison University and a Masters in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. She specializes in working with clients who have co-occurring disorders. Her focus is on helping clients to accept their emotions while learning to love themselves. Amanda facilitates individual, couples therapy, as well as family therapy.



Julie Ritkes, Drug and Alcohol Rehab ChefJulie Ritkes


Julie graduated from Laguna Culinary Arts Professional Chef Program in 2006. She is also a Chef Instructor, Private Chef and Caterer. Part of her talent is to construct creative menus that give the clients the very best nutrition. "I believe the role of good nutrition in a residential treatment center is an important part of the healing process".





Bryan Krause, Drug Rehab California Director of OperationsBryan Krause
Director of Operations


Bryan took on the roll of Director of Operations in 2011. Along with his own personal recovery experience, he brings over 5 years of operations and management experience in the recovery field. Bryan has worked in multiple treatment settings, from hospitals, to both inpatient and outpatient programs, and finds the work that he does extremely fulfilling. Bryan has exceptional skills and abilities in dealing with the issues that present themselves for people going through treatment. He is attentive, supportive and informative to our clients and staff making him an invaluable resource at Hope By The Sea.


Stephanie Deutsch, California Drug Rehab Accounts ReceivableStephanie Deutsch
Accounts Receivable


Stephanie’s experience has been spread over multiple roles in the field of recovery. She holds positions such as accounts receivable, women’s sober living manager, drug test supervisor and intake specialist. She primarily works closely with the clients and their families on the financial portion of the clients care. With her own recovery story beginning at Hope By The Sea in early 2012, she strives to help others achieve freedom from addiction.



Dale Tatum, Christian Rehab CaliforniaDale Tatum
Ordained Pastor
Spiritual Guidance and Christian Counseling


Dale has a tremendous love for people and a desire to facilitate their spiritual growth. He brings the love of God through His Son Jesus Christ to every client on a personal and individual basis. Dale believes that to lead clients to successful recovery, God’s grace, forgiveness and love must be conveyed at the deepest spiritual level. When asked why he loves this calling he responds simply, “I want to do for others what God has so lovingly done for me!”



Valorie Granger, California Drug rehab AdministratorValorie Granger

Valorie is the "helpful voice" on the line for incoming callers and brings more than 10 years of customer and client service experience. Her calm demeanor and personal knowledge of our programs and services is a constant source of reassurance for family members and prospective clients calling in crisis. As a Hope By The Sea alumna, her passion for her own recovery and strong faith in God has given her a natural ability to connect with people which makes her an amazing addition to our team.


Sandy Busby, Drug and Alcohol Rehab Office ManagerSandy Busby
Office Manager

Sandy brings her exceptional organizational and communication skills to the complex world of recovery to the facility. She has a driven attitude in work ethics and her experience shows it well. She joined the team soon after her own personal recovery journey began with Hope By The Sea in 2008. She took on office management with ease and her area of expertise includes administration, accounting, finance, and insurance. Her professional manner, personal experience, and love for the field of recovery make her an invaluable asset to both our clients and staff.


Aaron Estrada, Drug Rehab California Case ManagerAaron Estrada, CADC-1
Certification # C10361213
Chemical Dependency Counselor/Case Manager


It has been Aaron’s passion to work in the field of addiction since he became sober himself in January 2011 after completing treatment at Hope By The Sea. Aaron began working in the field of recovery as a House Manager, followed by a year-long internship while earning his credentials. His area of expertise includes providing comprehensive case management services to clients including treatment planning, progress reporting, and continuing care planning. By using his personal experience and clinical training, his goal is to help each client begin the process of reaching their full potential through spiritual progress and learning to live life sober one day at a time.


Shannon Helmle, BBS, Drug and Alcohol RehabShannon Helmle, MFTI
BBS Registered Intern # 65837

Shannon is a Marriage Family Therapist Intern with a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Shannon has worked in the field of addiction with co-occurring disorders for 3 years. Shannon focuses on helping client’s examine underlying causes and conditions for their addiction and to create new coping strategies for dealing with their co-occurring disorders. She specializes in helping clients address anxiety and leads weekly groups in mindfulness meditation.


Brian DoyleBrian Doyle
Family Program Director, Alumni Coordinator,
Intake Specialist


Brian has been our Family Program Director since October 2013. In addition to that, Brian is an Intake Specialist, Alumni Coordinator, and a Sober Living House Manager. With his own recovery journey starting with us at Hope By The Sea in 2011, Brian has been able to work closely with the families of the clients, orchestrating our family weekend, and alumni meetings. Brian studied Communications at Syracuse University, and is well versed in helping clients and families alike adjust to the multi-faceted dynamics of treatment.


Crystal MunroeCrystal Munroe
Licensed MFT


Crystal obtained her Masters of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Alliant International University; California School of Psychology in Irvine, CA. Crystal has several years of experience in working with addiction and co-occurring disorders (anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, etc.). Crystal is an advocate of couples and family therapy. She has worked with clients of all ages and uses various tools and interventions to meet the individual needs of each client. Crystal excels at quickly and concisely understanding a client’s underlying issue with addiction to help optimize their stay in treatment. She approaches therapy from an eclectic standpoint and utilizes various modalities such as Cognitive-Behavioral therapy, Solution-Focused therapy, Family systems, and Object Relations therapy.

Pete HernandezPete Hernandez, CSAC 1
Certification# CORPHQ-042


Pete is a bilingual certified Christian substance abuse counselor with more than 5 years experience in the recovery field. His passion for helping others combined with his extensive personal experience make him an indispensable asset to Hope By The Sea. Pete's professional skills coupled with his knowledge of both recovery and Christianity drive his relentless ambition of inspiring others to achieve their goals.



Let our team at Hope by the Sea serve as your guide to experiencing a faith based recovery from drug or alcohol abuse. Call us or fill out our contact form for more information on how we can help today.


Call Us Today: (800) 631-7753

We are ready to help your loved one start the healing process at our Christian drug rehabilitation center.  


Christian drug rehabilitation center  


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