CLINICAL STAFF

Ken Starr M.D., FACEP

Diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine

Dr. Ken Starr is board certified in emergency medicine and addiction medicine. He founded the clinic in 2012 after the overdose death of his brother. Dr. Starr utilizes medications, supplements, traditional and non-traditional therapies to help patients achieve optimal wellness outcomes.

Julia Jackson, MS, NCACI

Julia Jackson is an experienced Executive Administrator with over 15 years in the health and wellness field. With dual master degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy and Community Counseling, Julia maintains her License in Professional Counseling and National Certification in Addictions Counseling. She brings a wealth of knowledge in behavioral health administration, clinical management of treatment facilities, and executive business development strategy. She enjoys securing the highest standard of quality for our clinic, and seeks to fulfill our vision as the industry leader for comprehensive wellness and recovery care. This Arroyo Grande High alumni loves being back on the central coast!

Melissa Wheelock

Clinician

Our Master Level Clinicians guide you through a truly integrative healing process for an improved quality of life and wellbeing.

Melissa Wheelock is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has over twenty years of experience in various clinical settings. Melissa currently has a private practice in San Luis Obispo but she is a transplant from the Central Valley, where her career blossomed with several nonprofit mental health agencies. Over the years, Melissa has served as a Therapist, Supervisor, Trainer, and Consultant. Early in her career, Melissa received training in Theraplay and other attachment based child and family therapies, from which she still draws inspiration today. As a supervisor and program manager, she developed community based prevention and suicide intervention programs as well as training programs for new therapists. In the past decade, Melissa also managed programs serving individuals experiencing life threatening mental health crises. It was in this position that she received intensive training in the evidenced based model, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Melissa is a firm believer that DBT skills can be a positive, life changing learning experience for individuals struggling with Substance Abuse, Eating Disorders or experiencing emotional turmoil in any aspect of their lives.

As a licensed therapist, I feel so fortunate to have chosen this field and so privileged to be able to help people learn new skills to cope with life’s challenges. I believe that therapy, in its’ truest form, is really about providing compassionate support and guidance so that people can get in touch with their true thoughts and emotions and have a safe place to express themselves. Through the years, my training and experience has allowed me to offer more to my clients, but it is from this strength based philosophy that my journey as a therapist began.

My clinical orientation and training is in Cognitive and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which helps people to understand their own thought process and to link their thoughts to triggering events and emotional reactions in their life. In turn, they can then understand their behavior more fully; once clients feel less confused and fearful about various aspects of their lives, they are often freer to explore and accept the need for growth or change. DBT helps people learn to accept all aspects of their thoughts and feelings through a process of balancing seemingly opposite experiences, such as accepting themselves for exactly who they are today AND recognizing the need for positive change to happen in their lives.

Through my work with individuals struggling with severe depression, anxiety, substance abuse and eating disorders over the past years, I have also become aware that much of our emotional pain and suffering is either caused or exacerbated by a lack of compassion for self. We are often taught the measure of our worth is in our accomplishments. Personal success can be measured in the form of material possessions, school or career achievements or even having the perfect physical appearance. Kristen Neff, PhD, researches the benefits of self-compassion and reports that while high self-esteem is valued in our culture, the drive for it can cause us to compare ourselves to others or expect perfection rather than to accept our challenges and our true strengths. I believe that when individuals learn to practice self-compassion and recognize their own judgmental thoughts, they can truly engage in the change process. Luckily, our human brains have great plasticity, so an old brain can learn new tricks and self-compassion is one more important tool that can be learned through the therapeutic process.

Additional Resources:

Elaine Power

Clinician

Our Master Level Clinicians guide you through a truly integrative healing process for an improved quality of life and wellbeing.

Elaine Power is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and National Certified Counselor who recently moved here from the Central Valley. She received her Master of Science in Counseling from CSU Fresno and practiced there for several years, primarily in the school system. She worked in the Emotionally Disturbed (ED) classroom in an elementary school, bringing her deep compassion and playfulness to the work and delighting in watching the children grow.

She is switching gears now at Ken Starr Wellness and is so excited to be entering the world of addiction and recovery. She is continually amazed by the strength, insight, and perseverance of the people she meets on their journey to wellness and recovery– – and still kind of surprised by how well adults can sit still and talk quietly during groups.

In her free time, she enjoys playing with her daughter at the beach, occasional sushi dates with her husband, and lighthearted silly video games.

I come from a Humanistic clinical orientation, which believes that people are fundamentally motivated to seek happiness, fulfillment, and deep connection with others. Problems arise when they are somehow “blocked” from seeking these goals, whether through addiction, cognitive distortions, anxiety, depression, trauma, etc. My most basic clinical belief is that my clients are capable of creating solutions to their problems using their in-born strengths, creativity, and social supports; our job together in therapy is to examine the obstacles facing them to understand what has blocked them from using their strengths in the first place, and then find ways around it. From an addiction and recovery perspective, this means I have complete confidence in the ability of each person to build the happy, fulfilled, sober life they seek — so let’s get to work building it together!

Julian Varela, MS-CSCS, MA-MFTI

Clinician

Our Master Level Clinicians guide you through a truly integrative healing process for an improved quality of life and wellbeing.

Julian J. Varela, MS-CSCS, MA-MFTI has worked in the health and wellness field for two-decades with the focus of his work directed towards childhood obesity prevention, community health and organizational wellness. As a health and wellness expert and Marriage and Family therapist specializing in health behavior, Julian regularly presents and publishes on the importance of connecting the dots between mental and physical health.

Julian is the founder and CEO of MVME Wellness, a nationwide wellness company, providing integrated services from wellness design, programming, access to wellness coaches and a nationwide network of Physical Therapists. Julian is enthusiastic about assisting organizations improve the health of their employees by emphasizing prevention and the development of a strong company culture. To help facilitate this effort, Julian also serves as a Master Trainer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Work-At-Health” corporate wellness division. Outside of the world of wellness, Julian enjoys playing music, traveling, cooking and spending time with his family.

Maureen McGuire

Clinician & Community Outreach Manager

Our Masters Level Clinician and Outreach Manager cultivates valuable provider relationships and opportunity for community impact and engagement.

Maureen McGuire has over 30 years experience working as a clinician and behavioral health practitioner on the Central Coast of California. Maureen first worked with juveniles engaged in criminal behavior through Santa Barbara County Probation Department. She successfully managed a large cross section of clients and families as a field officer, and wrote very involved criminal investigation reports for the court. After finishing graduate school, Maureen interned as a marriage and family therapist in private practice and non-profit organizations specializing in client victims of child abuse struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It was through work with victims
that she first directly observed the link between trauma and addiction. After moving to San Luis Obispo, Maureen supervised the first Deferred Entry of Judgment Program in the county and wrote the guidelines for the new program.

Maureen went on to make clinical assessments and resource referrals for high needs inmates paroling to counties on the Central Coast through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. There she worked primarily with clients suffering from severe mental illness, gay and transgender clients suffering from HIV/AIDS, and veterans struggling with Substance Use Disorders and PTSD. After state budget cuts forced the closure of the parole office, Maureen began teaching preventative health education classes through local hospitals while developing her own unique curricula for wellness getaways. Maureen then developed the CARF approved Partial Hospitalization Program and Intensive Outpatient Program curricula for Substance Use being utilized at the clinic. Maureen promotes an integrative approach to treatment with an emphasis on motivational interviewing methods and solution focused treatment as well as the use of research supported alternative therapies and techniques for long term healing.

Maureen believes the biopsychosocial approach (mind-body interventions) to treating addiction at Ken Starr MD Wellness Group is key to long term recovery, and the wellness services available offer the tools necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Debbie Kaminski, BSRN

Registered Nurse

Our Registered Nurses provide the highest quality of nursing and infusion services to ensure you experience a safe, comfortable, and restorative visit.

Debbie Kaminski graduated from University of San Francisco. Her 35 plus years as a Registered Nurse include ICU, ER, Triage, Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab, Industrial Nurse, Hospice, Case Management, Functional Medicine, Research, Addiction, and Oncology. Debbie took her first IV nutrition class with Doctor Virginia Osborne, Doctor Dan Carter, and Paul Anderson in 2007 and was asked to join the team in 2010. As a member of INS- Nurses Infusion Society and ONS-Oncology Nursing Society, Debbie stays abreast of the Standards of Infusion Care. Currently Debbie works in San Luis Obispo with Ken Starr MD and Todd Thoring ND. Debbie is an IV consultant with IIVNTP for support in setting up IV Clinics.

Tiffany Kutchai, BSN, RN

Registered Nurse

Our Registered Nurses provide the highest quality of nursing and infusion services to ensure you experience a safe, comfortable, and restorative visit.

Tiffany has been a nurse for going on twenty years. She has spent most of her career in the Emergency Room, ICU and Surgery departments and the last seven years as a Trauma Consultant helping hospitals all around the country prepare for their Trauma Designation visits.

Tiffany is currently an Infusionist for Ken Starr MD Wellness and a Major Pharmaceutical Company. She is a member of the Infusion Nurses Society and feels it’s extremely important to keep up to speed on the cutting edge of Infusion Care and Eastern and Western Medicine in general.

Katie Lobatos, M.A.

Medical Assistant

Our Medical Assistants are ready to answer your questions and meet your needs to ensure the clinic is a comfortable and friendly place for your wellness and recovery care.

Katie Lobatos is a certified and experienced Medical Assistant and has worked in a variety of settings within the medical field. Born and raised on the central coast, Katie enjoys cuddling with her hound dog, working her horse, and spending as much time outdoors as possible in her spare time. She brings a cheerful and welcoming attitude when working with new or familiar patients, and she especially enjoys making everyone feel welcomed and secure on their road to recovery.

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