Hiruy Gessesse, M.D.
Medical Director, Sherman Oaks
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.
In his spare time Dr. Gessesse enjoys traveling, golf and basketball.
Kara Vesely, M.A., L.M.F.T.
Esteemed clinician Kara brings to the Sherman Oaks team a passionate commitment to the health and wellbeing of today’s youth and an unparalleled ability to connect with our clients and their families. Using her extensive experience working with teens, Kara steadfastly supports the clinical team in their mission to bring hope and healing into the lives of struggling young people.
After graduation, Kara completed a practicum as an MFT student in the eating disorders program at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. As a clinician in their comprehensive care program, Kara led groups for teens in art therapy, journaling, parent support and consultation as well as meal support, milieu therapy and process groups.
Kara believes that authenticity and integrity are the two most important values to adhere to when counseling teens. For Kara, being able to hear and see clients for who they really are and to understand them at a most fundamental personal level is essential to providing meaningful and effective treatment. Kara’s experience is extensive as she has helped countless teens heal from their struggles with eating disorders, self esteem, body image, anger management, self harm and more.
When she is not at Adolescent Growth, Kara enjoys spending time with her beloved boyfriend, going to the gym and staying active. She also loves to cook and her favorite cuisine is Mexican. In her spare time she is also an avid painter who creates surrealistic portraits. She brings her love of life with her to the facility every day and we are grateful to have her with us.
Karen Cohen, M.A., M.F.T.I.
With strong interpersonal skills and an uncanny ability to connect with young people, Karen helps teens at Adolescent Growth gain a new found sense of confidence and self worth. Karen is adept at helping teens build the skills they need to maintain the changes they’ve made in therapy. Her personalized treatment plans always reflect the complex nature of the adolescent experience as well as the individual needs of each teen. As they change throughout their treatment, Karen adapts each teen’s treatment plan in accordance with the strides they have made and the strengths that they have identified together.
Karen has an extensive background working with young people. Prior to her work at Adolescent Growth she counseled adults, couples and children and facilitated group therapy with youth under eighteen. Many of the psychotherapeutic techniques she used in her earlier work are also applied at Adolescent Growth, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialecitical Behavior Therapy, the Twelve-Step Model and more. Karen is known for the energy and enthusiasm she brings to our facility as well as the warmth and compassion that permeates all of her interactions with our teens. Karen says she chose to specialize in working with adolescents because of their incredible adaptability; provided the right care, teens are capable of remarkable transformations in very short periods of time.
Karen was born and raised in Los Angeles, California where she received her Bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She entered UCLA with a thirst for psychology and an excitement for learning about individual and social behaviors as well as the science involved. In an effort to expand her knowledge base and to satisfy her intellectual curiosity, Karen conducted research alongside UCLA professors in a language and cognitive development lab. Karen continued her education by obtaining her Master’s Degree in Science with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy at California State University, Northridge. She graduated Summa Cum Laude and completed a graduate thesis on the impact of terrorism on children.
When she is not working, Karen enjoys going to the beach, hiking, exercising and spending time with family and friends.
Lauren Dunlap, M.A., M.F.T.I.
Lauren has always known that her heart lies with helping others. As a primary therapist at our Sherman Oaks location, she spends her days working one on one with teens to improve their self worth and support their efforts to improve their relationship with themselves, their peers and their families. Lauren’s client-based treatment philosophy aids teens who struggle with mental health, substance abuse and eating disorders by helping them build confidence and obtain happiness and deeper meaning. With a vivid understanding of what makes teens tick, Lauren’s methods go beyond “treatment as usual”, fostering a therapeutic relationship that provides powerful insight and instigates lasting and meaningful change.
Born and raised in sunny California, Lauren knew early on that her career path would take her to the therapy room. Living in a household with an addict mother, Lauren was forced to grow up too quickly. She was a stand-in parent for her younger sister and never had time to be a teen. With the help of a counselor, Lauren came to terms with her loss and was inspired to help others in the same way she had been helped. She now aids teens in our program in coming to terms with their own struggles and take charge of their lives and futures.
Lauren earned her Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica in Carpenteria, CA and promptly began her career as a therapist working closely with children, teens and families. Lauren says that helping teens and their families find hope and brings her a sense of mastery and accomplishment she has never found anywhere else. She strongly believes that care, compassion and understanding are the keys to compelling teens to make better decisions and ultimately learn to love themselves and embrace life.
In her spare time, Lauren is a dancer and a self professed foodie. Her favorite food is sushi. She is also a fan of board games and going to the movies. Her favorite movie is Coming to America. Most of all Lauren enjoys spending time with her beloved family and friends.