Larry Word - Program Director
Larry Word has ten years’ experience building and managing successful addictions treatment programs. After becoming a certified substance abuse counselor in 2010, Larry successfully created, designed, and implemented a 15 week pilot program aimed at reducing recidivism in the ex-offender population. The program—named ACTION (Addictions Counseling and Treatment in Institutions for Overcoming Narcotics)—was later adopted by the California Department of Corrections and continues in use today. Larry Word authored the winning grant for expanding Recovery Coaching through the California Access to Recovery Effort (CARE). The CARE grant allowed Larry to integrate Recovery Coaching, Peer Support, and Spiritual Counseling into an already dynamic outpatient program for teens. Larry has also served as a Program Compliance consultant a variety of organizations, specializing in Title 9 & 22 compliance, DHCS certification standards, and application of patients’ rights under the Affordable Care Act. He joined the CARUS team as Program Director in January of 2018.
Larry Word earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Governors State University. He holds degrees in Business Management, Liberal Arts, and General Education from Palo Verde College, graduating Summa Cum Laude and twice earning the valedictorian honor. Larry also holds a Paralegal degree from the Blackstone School of Law and graduated Armstrong Bible College. Larry has been a featured trainer on SAMHSA webinars and earned Outstanding Leadership Award from the Chancellor & Board of Trustees of California Community Colleges for his contributions in expanding rehabilitation opportunities to the incarcerated. He lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife and two children. Larry has been in recovery since 2001.
Tina Marie Gonzales - Program Coordinator
Tina has been working in the substance abuse treatment profession since 2008. She has several years of experience, ranging from admissions and operations to administration, counseling, and case management. Tina currently serves as program coordinator at the CARUS residential treatment facility.
Tina’s ongoing motivation is to give others the opportunity to experience a life beyond drugs and alcohol and recognize the beauty that exists around them and within them. Tina’s personal recovery journey began in 2007, after being addicted to substances since the age of 15. “My addiction took me to some very dark places, places I never want to return to again,” she says.
Through her personal journey, Tina discovered a passion for working with others who are searching for what she has found. Tina’s motivation led her to further her education as a Substance Abuse Counselor in order to pass her knowledge along to others who are looking for a better life. “With a little guidance and a lot of unconditional positive regard,” she says, “I believe anything is possible.”
Tina’s long background as a substance abuse counselor has given her the tools to help others discover the beauty within and around them.
Ben Campbell - Growth as a Human Instructor
Ben Campbell received a B.F.A from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. He has been teaching in recovery centers since 2015, and is honored to be a part of the amazing staff at CARUS. Ben is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles.
Alexandra Flores IMFT #81005 - Art Therapy Instructor
Alexandra Flores holds a master’s degree in psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family/Art Therapy from Phillips Graduate University. She completed her undergraduate work at Mount St. Mary’s College (now Mount St. Mary’s University) and received a bachelor’s in psychology. Prior to graduate studies, Alexandra worked at a group home for four years with adolescent males on probation. This was an unforgettable experience that ignited her passion for working with at-risk youth in greater Los Angeles. While completing graduate school, Alexandra continued to work with at-risk youth by facilitating art-focused anger management groups and therapy groups. She then provided individual therapy to elementary-aged children and their families through a program at Phillips Graduate University Counseling Center. This provided her with a unique opportunity to showcase her talents as an art therapist, creating individualized, client-focused art therapy interventions. Ms. Flores was awarded for her hard work as the recipient of the 2013-14 California Educational MFT Stipend for the Greater Los Angeles Consortium.
Alexandra gained her clinical experience in a DMH-contracted agency, where she provided individual and family psychotherapy to children aged 3-16 and their families in their homes, school, and clinical settings, both in English and Spanish. She later returned to her passion of working with at-risk youth in residential treatment as a residential therapist.
Alexandra is trained in Seeking Safety and RRSR (Recognizing and Responding to Suicide Risk). She is a current a member of CAMFT (California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists) and AATA (American Art Therapy Association). Alexandra is a Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern (IMFT #81005/Art therapist) working towards her art therapy registration under the supervision of Pamela Georgette, LMFT, ATR, Marriage and Family Therapist MFC #49929/ Registered Art Therapist.
Michael Bucher – Rock & Roll Recovery Instructor
Michael F. Bucher is a Los Angeles singer-songwriter-producer, Rock and Roll Recovery group facilitator, and Yoga for Recovery instructor.
Michael's musical accolades include live performances at Coachella & Isle of Wight festivals (2009 - 2010), a top 5 song on the U.K.'s Radio One (2008) and U.S. radio play on Los Angeles based KROQ FM & "Alt Nation" satellite radio (2007- present). Michael continues to create, produce and perform music with his band and other artists.
With over 3 years experience working in addiction recovery, mental health and dual diagnosis as a certified yoga and meditation instructor, Michael’s 12-step based recovery groups provide a safe space for clients to process, heal, and enjoy life through creativity, play, and mindfulness practices. As a depression survivor, Michael contributes his own personal experience, testimony and the tools that continue to be instrumental in his healing journey.
In addition to Michael's 15 years of music experience, he holds a B.A in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, a 200-hour yoga teaching certification from the Yoga Alliance, a trauma-informed teaching certification from Uprising Yoga, a life coach & personal development certification from Rose Yoga Australia, and a Reiki healing certification from Usui Shiki Reiki.
Michael is the creator and founder of Rock & Roll Recovery and True Nature Yoga for Recovery. He currently facilitates a weekly Rock & Roll Recovery group at CARUS Recovery in Tarzana, CA and guides True Nature Yoga for Recovery groups at recovery centers in Malibu and the San Fernando Valley.
Trudy Niess - Yoga Instructor
Trudy has been passionate about yoga for over 10 years. She was introduced to yoga while studying dance in college, and used it as a means to enhance her personal exploration of movement and to cultivate a deeper understanding of her own body. She has danced professionally and worked with many demographics as a personal trainer. But Trudy knew she could share more than physical health with her clients, and wanted to explore how emotional and spiritual awareness could increase success in her clients’ health.
After growing up in a family that struggled with substance abuse, Trudy learned the importance of cultivating love and compassion for ourselves in order to extend them to others in our lives.
She decided to take part in a yoga teacher training program which drastically and positively impacted her life well as improve her connection with her clients. Trudy has found a deep love of teaching, and continues to share her passion for life through yoga.
Now, Trudy teaches a variety of yoga classes at CARUS, providing a physical and mental connection that will challenge residents when appropriate, help them center and stay quiet, and regulate their bodies through the challenges of early recovery. Trudy uses the tools and approaches that have helped her in her own life, and that experience has given her the ability to recognize what her class needs in the moment.
Trudy teaches her students about body awareness and breath, and helps them safely challenge themselves in order to connect their minds and bodies. provides. According to Trudy, "Yoga teaches repetition, commitment, and a sense of community. It helps us learn how to connect with ourselves and others. Yoga helps provide the tools for those in recovery to be mindful of their emotions, actions and feelings, strengthening their foundation of sobriety." Trudy enjoys sharing herself through her teachings and is grateful to have the ability to connect with others on an intimate level.
Johnny Higginson - Director, Head Trainer & Head Riding Instructor
Johnny Higginson is not your average horseman. After 40 years of successful experience in the performing arts as well as winning the National title with the American Quarter Horse Association, competing and showing horses to world title championships he is a giant in the Equestrian world. He continues to use his ranch as a training facility for hunter/jumpers, dressage and western disciplines and it was once the home of acclaimed AQHA Champion Silver Inspiration.
Johnny’s an intuitive riding instructor with unsurpassed expertise and those who train with him, are rewarded with consistent wins.
PATH Cert. Advanced Instructor and mentor for therapeutic instructors.
Professional trainer/instructor able-bodied, multi-disciplines;
accomplishments include AQHA National Title, AQHA World Title, USC
Equestrian Team trainer, Pacific Coast Champion, VQHA Champion, and the PCQHA Champion. Professional actor and dancer. Education and affiliations include: American Academy of Dramatic Arts, PATH, EAGALA, USEF, DASC, SAG/AFTRA
Aneta Lotakov Prince, MD
Board Certified Psychiatrist
General Adult Psychiatry
Dr. Prince graduated with honors from the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and completed medical school at the Sackler School of Medicine, NY American Program at Tel Aviv University. She went on to complete her residency training in General Adult Psychiatry at the Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC, where she also acted as Chief Resident for the adult inpatient and dual diagnosis units. Dr. Prince moved back to California shortly after completing her training, and has spent a significant part of her career working with underserved and dually-diagnosed populations. She originally found work in the Department of Corrections, which she followed with 8 years as lead psychiatrist in a special program under the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.
After a short time on family leave, Dr. Prince returned to work helping those who are recovering from addiction. Dr. Prince has expertise in areas of mood, psychosis, anxiety, addiction, and substance use disorders. She focuses on the whole person, weighing lifestyle variables into treatment planning and utilizing lifestyle modification approaches alongside medication. To unwind from the challenging work of mental wellness, you may find her traveling, or trying hard to resist an opportunity to karaoke. Dr. Prince feels that “Falling down is still forward motion” and strongly believes in the resiliency of the human mind, body, and spirit. She joined the CARUS team to offer her personable care to others via their integrated treatment approach.
Dr. Brendan Nierenberg
Psy.D. & MFTA
Dr. Brendan Nierenberg earned his doctorate in psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. He is currently a Marriage and family therapist associate working towards his license. He utilizes evidence-based practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing to assist clients with meeting their treatment goals and objectives. He has been working with the substance use population for over 3 years. Dr. Nierenberg has also worked with the eating disorder population and in private practice where he saw clients that have experienced traumas, depression, anxiety, couples counseling, and family relationship challenges.
Director of Admissions and Outreach
Tina Marie Gonzales
Alejandra Flores, IMFT
Heather Meyer, LMFT