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Clinical Practice and Research with Users of Ayahuasca - An Amazonian Hallucinogenic Sacrament


This panel brings together interdisciplinary expertise in treating and researching Ayahuasca users. The panel will discuss some of the ways Ayahuasca is becoming increasingly relevant to healthcare practice. After introducing the cultural and clinical phenomena of non-traditional Ayahuasca use, we will briefly review safety research on Ayahuasca in experimental and naturalistic contexts, focusing on issues relevant to psychotherapy practice with Ayahuasca users. With reference to the emerging medical and behavioral science literature on Ayahuasca's psychological safety, clinical efficacy, and underlying mechanisms, this discussion will lead to a list of suggestions for clinicians supporting one-time or recurring Ayahuasca users and promote competencies for medical and mental health clinicians serving this growing population. Special focus will also be paid to the emerging neuroscience of Ayahuasca, as well as the cultural context of non-traditional use that may impact case conceptualization and treatment planning.

Adam Snider, MA, (panel moderator) is a Clinical Health Psychology PsyD student at CSPP, LA. Adam was founder and chair of the Complimentary and Alternative Practices in Psychology (CAPP) club (Fall 2013 – Spring 2014, faculty advisor Cristina Magalhaes, Ph.D.). CAPP hosted several guest speaker/practitioners to CSPP, LA.  His dissertation research and community involvement relate to the integration of diverse mental health paradigms with psychotherapy practice.

Omid Naim, MD, is an integrative medicine psychiatrist practicing in Los Angeles. His background is in community psychiatry and currently practices in the emerging field of Integrative Medicine. In 2009, he was one of five psychiatrists in the nation to be awarded the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Exemplary Psychiatrist Award. He has studied with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and has given numerous presentations in the community on topics of integrative care.

Vicki Kraft, Licensed MFT is a Los Angeles based therapist who has extensive familiarity with the Santo Daime Church of Oregon and their legally protected use of ayahuasca. The Santo Daime Church has legal protection in Oregon and in California. She has experience providing clinical services to users of ayahuasca and has given several presentations about the Santo Daime community. Her clinical specialties include treatment of anxiety, depression, PTSD, sexual abuse, Imago Relationship Therapy, childhood trauma, and group facilitation. Her theoretical orientation integrates Psychodynamic, Mindfulness-based, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Brief Therapy, and Post-modern approaches.

Brad Adams, PhD is a researcher at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Adams has extensive clinical experience and training as a psychotherapist, teaching experience, presentation experience, and has published several articles in medical fields. Dr. Adams is an expert on medical and psychological research of various psychedelics.  In a study currently taking place in Peru, Dr. Adams is researching a sample of ayahuasca users from the U.S.


Share and Care: Similarities and Difference through a Social Skills and Art Therapy Experience

This presentation will address techniques that Cedars-Sinai’s Psychological Trauma Center’s Share and Care school-based program utilizes with elementary and secondary students to address similarities and differences in others. Singing bowls and talking sticks will be introduced along with art therapy approaches and community building experiences as ways of addressing issue related to diversity in a classroom or in a group setting. These specific approaches will allow youth, teens and adults to explore this difficult issue in a non-threatening way while learning how to focus, listen and speak spontaneously from the heart without judgment.

Suzanne Silverstein, MA, ATR, is the Founding Director of Cedars-Sinai’s Psychological Trauma Center’s Share and Care program, a school-based prevention and early intervention program that provide mental health services to 28 LAUSD schools. The Share and Care Program, was honored by the City of Los Angeles for its contribution to the mental health of Los Angeles area school children. 

Jonathan Vickburg, MS, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Share and Care Counselor with Cedars-Sinai, Psychological Trauma Center.  He works with students at various schools in south Los Angeles.  Additionally, he has a private practice where he works with individuals, families and couples addressing relationship challenges, substance abuse issues, LGBTQ specific matters, and severe trauma.


The Asian American and Pacific Islanders: A Glimpse of our Lives through Cultural Arts Experientials    


This workshop will demonstrate cultural arts in order to provide the participants with a sense of what it is like to participate in specific Asian Pacific culture.  We will start with an introductory speech on the different Asian Pacific cultures. The first presenter will be performing a Japanese Tea Ceremony. The best way to introduce it is through demonstration. Afterwards, there will be several simultaneous exhibit and demonstration tables that reflect our cultures.  Other tables will include: “Origami,” “Traditional Asian Pacific Clothing,” and “Traditional Polynesian Dance.” Lastly, we will end with closing words from the club and questions.

The presenters are all officers of Asian Pacific Student Network club and clinical psychology doctoral students at CSPP-LA. The presenters are Katherine Sheu as the Chair, Stacy Kim as the Co-chair, Heather Mesa as the Treasurer, Sheena Balolong Publico as the Public Relations, Supatra Hanna, as the Historian, and Caitlin LaBrie. APSN is a club that advocates for Asian American and Pacific Islander issues. This club’s mission is to help build awareness on these issues and combat racism against Asian-Americans while spotlighting Pacific Islander issues, and building a community through connecting the students of CSPP-LA to the greater community of San Gabriel Valley. This club continues to spread the awareness that is lacking for these populations from 2002.

Engaging Diverse People at Work: The Importance of Inclusion and Using Strengths


Creating a high-performing organization with highly engaged employees is something that most organizations aspire to. Current statistics estimate that only 30% of the American workforce is fully engaged. Moreover, people’s levels of engagement could differ depending on their roles, unique backgrounds and experiences in the workplace. This workshop will summarize what we know about the key drivers of engagement in the workplace, and identify what fully engaged managers and employees are doing to get things right in their own organizations. Special attention will be placed on the role of facilitating inclusion and using a strengths-based approach to engage people at work. Participants will discuss specific managerial attitudes, behaviors, and strategies to enhance the climate and performance of their own workplace.

Patricia “Denise” Lopez, PhD, ACC, is Associate Professor at Alliant International University. She teaches in the Organizational Psychology MA and PhD, MBA online and Leadership PhD programs of the university. She has over 20 years of experience in management training, organizational consulting and applied research in the US and Asia. She is also an executive coach, credentialed by the International Coaching Federation. Her passion is developing people and learning. She enjoys art, history, culture and travelling.


Working from Within: A Dialogue about Barriers and Strengths in Working with One’s Own Minority Community


The presenters will talk about their personal experiences of working with clients from ethnic minority populations that they themselves belong to and the unique barriers that they have faced in providing therapeutic services to these communities. The topics of discussion will focus on challenges such as self-of-the-therapist issues, linguistic issues, boundary and relationship issues, and issues around therapeutic behaviors. Some common ethical and legal dilemmas encountered under these circumstances will also be discussed. They will discuss lessons learned and talk about resources they used and how these lessons could be transferred to clinicians working under similar circumstances.

Rajeswari Natrajan-Tyagi is a faculty member in the CFT program at CSPP Alliant International University, Irvine. She is an AAMFT Approved supervisor with previous presentation experiences at international, national and regional conferences.  Her research interests are in the areas of immigration, mental health with South Asian population, cross-cultural clinical and training issues and qualitative methodologies. She currently does clinical work with South Asian families.

Jessica Vartanyan, MA, is a second year Psy.D. student in the Couple and Family Therapy Program at CSPP Alliant International University, Irvine. She is an American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Minority Fellow for the 2015-2016 academic year. She currently works with women and children who have experienced domestic violence within the Armenian population. Her research and clinical interests are in the areas of immigration, acculturation and parent-child relationships within immigrant families.

von Stietz

Optimal Performance Training: Bringing Clinical Skills to a Sport Performance Setting


The role of clinicians in sport psychology consulting is growing as athletes continue to seek a competitive edge. As part of a course on community consulting, the authors worked with a community sport performance center. First, a needs assessment was conducted via an in-depth interview of the senior coaching staff and behavioral observations of the athletes in training. Next, three optimal performance workshops were conducted with a focus on optimal mindset, mindfulness, acceptance, and value-based action. The authors evaluated the workshop effectiveness, and they met with coaching staff to review the results and make recommendations. The authors will discuss their experiences and the lessons learned throughout this process.

Jason von Stietz, MA, is a doctoral candidate in the clinical psychology PhD program at Alliant International University. He held a position as a Teaching Assistant (Psychodiagnostic Assessment) and also co-founded a sport psychology consulting group (Olympic Consulting). His previous internship/practicum experiences were at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy and Santa Anita Family Service. He is currently a practicum student at Los Angeles Valley College where he assists in the development of a sport psychology program.

Saman Mohseni, MA, is a third year doctoral student in the Family and Couples Emphasis. In the past, he worked as a teaching assistant for Biology and for Statistics. He will be starting his practicum placement in the Fall (2015) at the Child and Family Center. His previous internship/practicum experiences were at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD). Saman has also provided Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children who have developmental disabilities.


Social Justice, Relational Therapy, and Self of the Therapist


Social justice informed therapists seek to transform the world, not just understand the world (praxis) and that would necessitate the acquisition of an extra layer of consciousness beyond the limits imposed by our socialization and the boundaries set by our professional fields.  This presentation explores multiple ways that social justice, relational and multicultural competency, and self of the therapist can interweave a new awareness impacting our social identities as well as our practice choices.  It will also examine how from this position of heightened awareness we can become more competent in providing couple and family therapy.

Manijeh Daneshpour is a professor of couple and family therapy at Alliant International University. She has been teaching marriage and family therapy graduate courses and providing family therapy to individuals, couples and families in her private practice for the past 19 years. She has trained many students, mental health professionals, academicians and researchers and presented both nationally and internationally in the areas of multicultural family therapy, gender relations, social justice, and postmodernism and third wave feminism.

Iman Dadras is a doctoral student at the Department of Family Social Science at University of Minnesota.  Iman is a licensed marriage and family therapist and is the treatment director for Recover Health Resources providing extensive assistance to Somali elderlies needing rehabilitative, couple, and family therapy services.  His research interests, presentations, and articles are in the areas of multicultural family therapy, brain research and social justice.

Legacies of ethnic

Valentina Ogaryan is a 4th year doctoral candidate at the CSPP, in the FACE emphasis. She immigrated to the U.S. at age 2 with her family from Armenia. She is the chair of the Armenian Graduate Student Association, an organization dedicated to increasing awareness and  a sense of community amongst Armenian graduate students.  Additionally, she is a member of the Western Board of Prelacy of Armenian Schools, as a psychology consultant.   

Legacies of Ethnic Minorities: The Forgotten People


Felicia will briefly trace her grandfather, Ghazaros Kademian’s journey of survival as an Armenian Genocide survivor. She will elaborate his community activism win Baghdad, Iraq and his recent years of advocacy in the USA. Some of his activism included various human rights issues for ethnic minorities, including the Armenian people. Felicia has continued her grandfather’s legacy and name after legally changing her name. Felicia has traveled to various governmental identities, including local, state, and federal entities as she brings the forgotten voices to life.


Lena will discuss the Armenian founder, Dr. Harold Goolishian's life and about his theoretical model that rarely deserves the credit it needs in being in the Marital and Family Therapy Field.  Although Dr. Goolishian has passed away several years ago, Lena was trained by his mentee, Dr. Susan Swim who worked very closely with him. Lena practices MFT from this model in her work with Armenians and all others and hopes to continue to talk about his work and contributions to the field.  


Valentina will talk about more generally the importance of how immigration has shaped our identities and allowed us to prosper in terms of education, success and recognition in different parts of the world- within that sector perhaps talk about how various members of my family have pursued doctorate degrees, law degrees and medical degrees and have committed their careers to serving the community. Without the Armenian culture, we wouldn’t have a legacy in terms of a community; the immigration process in of itself has helped foster a continuous need for recognition and justice.

Felicia Kademian, MA is a 4th year PhD Candidate in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Multicultural Community Clinical Psychology (MCCP). Felicia is a community activist. Felicia will be speaking about her grandfather, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, and his advocacy work. Felicia will elaborate how she continues his legacy; advocating for social justice.

Ms. Lena Magardechian, MA  is a PSYD- 5th year doctoral candidate in the CSPP Alliant Couples and Family Therapy Program working on her dissertation.  Ms. Magardechian identifies herself as a 30 year old, female, Persian-Armenian-American minority immigrant.  Ms. Magardechian is the first in her immediate and extended family to be pursuing a degree in higher education in Psychology.  Ms. Magardechian loves working with the Armenian population to bring awareness to the importance of therapy and women's issues.

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