Meet Our Team

Your Allies in Recovery

The road to recovery is not one that anybody can walk alone. At Dana Point Rehab Campus, you or your loved one will be able to lean on a compassionate team of addiction therapists and clinicians throughout the recovery process. Our interdisciplinary team closely works with each and every client to establish goals and develop a truly personalized treatment plan.

Every member of our staff is committed to our mission of providing the highest level of personalized care. Whatever fears you may have about tackling struggles with drug or alcohol abuse, at Dana Point Rehab Campus, you can count on our dedicated team to support you through every step of this journey.

Team Members

Sanjai Thankachen, MD | Medical Director

Dr Sanjai Thankachen completed his residency in psychiatry in 2008 from Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in New York, where fifty percent of his rotations were at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. After his residency he worked at Ventura County, Medical Centers in an adult out-patient setting and now lives in Orange County, California.

Dr. Thankachen’s mission at Dana Point Rehab Campus is to provide world-class treatment that sets a high standard with science-based practices to treat mental and behavioral health issues.  In addition to substance and alcohol abuse treatment, Dr. Thankachen is highly qualified to provide an array of care for secondary disorders, including depression, bipolar illness, schizophrenia, anxiety, and dementia related problems.

Niloufar Nekou | LMFT and Clinical Director

Niloufar Nekou is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California with several years of experience providing psychotherapy to adults. Niloufar believes every individual is unique and it takes a very hands-on approach to work with each individual. Her specialties include working with depression, anxiety, all types of trauma, substance and alcohol abuse, cultural diversity, and handling life’s transitions. She has completed training in EMDR and uses this technique to supplement the talk therapy, as needed.

Modalities that guide her treatment are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and solution-focused therapy. Niloufar received her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Charleston. Niloufar’s therapeutic approach is to create a compassionate and non-judgmental space to address the difficulties that bring clients to therapy.

Tami Tucker, PhD | Executive Therapist and Clinical Strategy

Tami L Tucker, Ph.D. is an Industrial Psychologist. Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Management Consultant. She has been a licensed psychologist for over 25 years and began her research in the area of Industrial psychology prior to that. She consults to large Fortune 100 companies and small organizations as an Executive Coach and Management Consultant specializing in the pre-hiring assessment. She brings her dedication to performance optimization and assessment to the field of recovery in an effort to expand the approach and tools used to treat addiction. Dr. Tucker has developed a program that is specialized for each client through psychological assessment not only to determine underlying co-occurring disorders but to also assess cognitive and personality variables as we seek to optimize knowledge and skills within our clients as they fight addiction.

John Biroc, PhD | LMFT and Therapist

Dr. Biroc has been a college professor, Clinical Director, and Clinical Supervisor for recovery centers in Southern California. He has also been a consultant for the film industry and a motivational speaker for major corporations. When he initially started to run groups in addiction treatment centers, he noted that some key, engaging components were missing from the group requirements and he began to add some of his training and studies to enhance the empowerment and experience of the clients with a focus on improved outcomes.

He holds two master’s degrees (theatre and psychology) and a doctorate from USC in Psychology. Dr. Biroc blends the concepts of intellect and creativity in his approach to recovery and has taught at UCLA, California State University, Northridge, and Antioch University. In addition, he has worked as a contract therapist for mental hospitals in California. With a background and passion for theatre, he also worked with rock bands, has been acknowledged in articles in the Los Angeles Times, Boulder Times, the London Sunday Express, Toronto Star, Baltimore Sun, and the Orlando Sentinel, and appearances on MTV and radio shows around the country. He is pleased to be with Dana Point Rehab Campus and is helping to innovate and advance addiction treatment practices.

Brian Harpst | AMFT and Clinical Manager

Brian Harpst is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT #108298). He grew up in Tehachapi, CA where he gained a deep appreciation for the outdoors. Brian graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2005 with a Masters in Musicology. He later went on to Pepperdine University graduating in 2018 with a Masters in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. Brian’s completed his clinical training experience at the Pepperdine Community Counseling Center in Irvine California. Brian developed a passion to serve in the substance abuse and mental health populations in grad school and has been involved with helping those populations since that time. Brian uses a variety of psychotherapy modalities in sessions including person centered therapy, motivational interviewing, narrative therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and positive psychology. Brian blends creativity with deliberate narrative practices in a collaborative effort to help clients gain hope and strength. Brian finds purpose in helping clients reclaim their lives and achieve their goals.

Heather Deranja | Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Heather is a registered dietitian nutritionist, author, cognitive behavioral specialist, personal trainer and founder of Nutrition Vixen. As part of our interdisciplinary treatment team, she utilizes a functional approach, helping our clients personalize their nutrition for optimal health by combining the science of nutrition with the psychology of eating to create lasting results. Through individualized nutrition assessments ,nutrition coaching and lab testing, individualized custom plans are created for each client. She shares her message with our clients in a way that is easy to consume and inspires sustainable action. She has a focus and specialization in gastrointestinal health, autoimmune diseases, and sports performance utilizing plant-based diet therapy, educating on benefits of gluten-free and dairy-free diet approaches. She uses her expertise in helping clients achieve the very best outcomes in their mental health and addiction treatment.

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