Your Partners in Treatment
At Alter Behavioral Health, you or your loved one will be able to lean on a compassionate team of 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 entering treatment, at Alter Behavioral Health, you can count on our dedicated team to support you through every step of this journey.
Sanjai Thankachen, MD
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.
Dr. Loren Martin, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Dr. Martin is the lead data scientist in Alter Health Group’s new initiative in mental health research and treatment analysis. While research into treatment for individual mental and behavioral health disorders is constantly advancing, there exists a gap in providers application of this research. There remains a particular need for further analysis of best practices for treating chronic and co-occurring conditions through long-term care. Alter’s position as both a mental health care provider and research institution position it to study this relationship between neuroscience and on-the-ground implementation. Dr. Martin’s research will support a new artificial intelligence model designed to continuously improve patient care and outcomes by leveraging the intelligence shared between cutting-edge psychological research and customized treatment protocols.
Niloufar Nekou, LMFT
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.
Dr. Ryan Roemer, PhD
Clinical Director Virtual & Continuing Care
Dr. Ryan Roemer is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Healthcare Administrator with over 7 years of leadership experience in Mental Health and Substance Abuse treatment services and clinical programs development. He has worked across the spectrum of clinical settings from traditional outpatient clinics, tertiary medical centers and emergency rooms, and acute psychiatric hospitals and post-acute clinics. Informed by his training in University Medical Centers and research experience, he has created and administered clinical databases to track program outcomes and monitor KPIs for clinical and business targets and championed the use of reports and visualization tools to leverage clinical data to guide treatment planning and promote patient engagement.
John Biroc, PHD, LMFT
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 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 treatment practices.
Ariel Wiggins, ACSW
Case Manager – Alter Behavioral Health
Ariel Wiggins is an Associate Clinical Social Work who received a Masters in Social Work from California State University of Dominguez Hills. Ariel also studied Critical Race Theory which is a legal framework that examines inequalities and injustices of many marginalized populations as well as dominate groups that hold power and privilege. From an early age, Ariel was deeply compassionate towards others and had an inclination to help people. She also had her own mental health challenges as well as experiencing poverty and trauma. Given her background, Ariel has been able to acknowledge a need for mental health resources for those who experience hardships. One of her goals is to continue to accumulate hours to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Suzan Alhakeem, AMFT
Primary Therapist – Alter Behavioral Health
I have my BA in Psychology from UCI and an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Chicago School of Psychology. I have worked with clients suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries for 6 years at the Center for Cognition and Communication in Manhattan, NY. In 2020 I moved back to California. I received a certificate in Domestic Violence and worked for a year in teletherapy specializing in solutions to family violence, child abuse, parenting, and anger management. In July 2021 when I received my associate, I started working with substance abuse and mental health clients. I enjoy spending quality time with my family. I love hiking, swimming, biking, and walking on the beach.
Case Manager – Alter Mental Health
Heather, outside of being a full time mom to four rambunctious kids, started working in treatment a little over three years ago as a behavioral health technician. Through her journey working as a tech, she found passion in helping people see what they don’t choose to see in themselves. Heather is currently in school with the goal of obtaining her CADC-1. Outside of work, Heather enjoys going to concerts, camping and fishing and also spending time with her children, but ironically enough also enjoys pure silence and peace when those said children are sleeping.
Associate Marriage and Family Therapist – Alter Mental Health
David has been working as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist since May 2021, but has been working in the field of mental health since 2016. David’s goal is to earn his full MFT license and open a practice of his own, or join a practice that services his community. Outside of his career, David finds passion through film, creative writing, and facilitating table top role-play games with his friends and family. David draws strength in his therapeutic skills through his passions as a Narrative Therapist, helping his clients to overcome their challenges through careful self-reflection of their life narrative.
Primary Therapist – Alter Mental Health
Ben is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist with several years experience working with the purpose and goal of assisting client’s to have the support, knowledge, tools and environment necessary to grow and develop into their potential. Ben has experience working with specific mental health, substance use, identity formation, anxiety, depression, occupational struggles, trauma, self-esteem, and interpersonal relationships.
Ben is passionate about a relational approach, individualizing every therapeutic experience to collaborate with and empower every individual to access their own tools to facilitate change in their life. Ben uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Intergenerational Family therapy, Internal Family Systems, Solutions-Focused Therapy, and is trained in EMDR and Gottman’s Couples Therapy.
Ben loves to spend his free time adventurously, he goes hiking, running, snorkeling, rock climbing, weight lifting, and is also known to frequent ramen shops and new food spots with his wife and friends.
Case Manager – Alter Wellness Care
The best part of Amber is her amazing son who has a spirit she will never change. Amber enjoys running and loves her family.