Why Compass

Why Compass

A program with a purpose

Our purpose lives and breathes in the symbolism behind our name. Compass: An elegant tool that puts the power to find your true north in your hands. Without forcing you to take a single step or promising to take your steps for you. Without judgment and with an unshakeable sense of direction. Relying on a compass makes you stronger and more confident, not weaker and more dependent. A compass is your guide, not your master. And as every skilled guide knows, no journey should be undertaken without the right tools.

The path ahead will be tough. And beautiful. Frustrating, and exhilarating. You will stumble. And you will soar. It may not be easy. But with the tools and insights you’ll gain here, you will forge ahead.

We’re not your ordinary program. If you’re ready to find your way, define your why, and map out your how, we can’t wait to meet you.

A program on a mission

Defining our principles is simple. Living up to them daily is anything but.

1. Every young person deserves access to evidence-based treatment, such as DBT.
We believe that effective Evidence-based therapy should be accessible and believe that the ability to pay should not stand in the way of the ability to thrive. That’s why we go the distance to work with your insurance provider, reach whatever agreements we can, and ensure that you can utilize your benefits to cover the cost of treatment. We assign every family a dedicated financial account manager, to help you make your coverage work as hard as you do.

2. It takes a community to support stronger treatment outcomes.
We practice what we teach, living in community through weekly staff mindfulness practice, to communal meals and group exercise. At the same time, we strive to build community among our families through programs like Family Connections, Multi-Family Skills Training Groups, Compass Talent Shows, and sponsorship of community events such as the Walk Out Of Darkness for suicide prevention.

3. Let the evidence lead the way—redefine the standard for clinical excellence.
Our understanding of the human mind and human behavior never stops advancing. And neither do we. Our partnership with Duke University and the continuing education we provide through the Compass Training Institute mean that your family receives the highest caliber of evidence-based treatments at all times.

4. Open our doors—and our training—to the community.
We believe that when it comes to advancing the cause of mental health treatment, we’re all in this together. That’s why we commit ourselves to providing education to the larger Southern California community on childhood mental health issues, advocacy, and the evidence-based treatments that bring healing.

5. Multi-disciplinary and culturally-competent.
The mind is not a one-size-fits-all puzzle, so we house a multi-disciplinary, culturally-competent team committed to providing expert care to the families we serve.

Committed to excellence. And to you.

Most Compass’ Clinicians are DBT-Linehan Board of Certification, Certified Clinicians™ and calibrated DBT Adherence Coders through the University of Washington. In Compass’s commitment to excellence and quality assurance, a percentage of all Compass sessions are randomly selected and coded for adherence to the research protocol.

Compass was the first DBT-Linehan Board of Certification, Certified Program™, in California. Achieving this certification was a rigorous process that ensured our families received the “gold standard” in DBT treatment and care.

As a designated Performance Site through Duke University, we track our treatment outcomes in the pursuit of advancing the development of evidence-based treatments. Every 6 months, we measure our treatment outcomes through a standardized battery of tests. A summary of these test results is available to our families quarterly. Also, Compass is conducting a longitudinal study of its program treatment gains post-discharge as the ultimate source of accountability to our families.

Our program is a required didactic block in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for UCI Medical School psychiatrists in training. This lecture series will help psychiatrists incorporate DBT skills into their practice so that all forms of treatment can work together.  Compass is also a selected Practicum Training Site for Columbia University’s Graduate School of Social Work, training the next generation of mental health care professionals.

Compass Treatment Outcomes:

What the Evidence Tells Us

The evidence is clear: Compass works! From our patients’ first day at Compass to the 6-month mark in their treatment journey, the results show marked reduction across the board in depressive symptoms, suicide severity/risk, emotion dysregulation, identity dysregulation, and borderline symptoms.

Our patients continue to make progress in every single one of these areas 6-12 months into treatment. In many areas, average scores approach or fall below the non-clinical range, where we would consider a patient’s symptoms as being “normal” and not in need of treatment.

Empirical Evidence of Effective Treatment at Compass

Data collected 2016-2019







Summary & Conclusions: All measures graphed above are standardized, validated, commonly used assessments that are administered to our patients at intake and every 6 months after throughout the course of treatment. This is one of our main ways of assessing severity of symptoms across a variety of areas and of tracking treatment outcomes to ensure that treatment is working. The graphs show treatment outcomes at intake, 6, and 12 months into treatment for all people who have consented to be part of our research study (approved by the Duke University Institutional Review Board).

The results show marked reduction across the board in depressive symptoms, suicide severity/risk, emotion dysregulation, identity dysregulation, and borderline symptoms from intake to 6 months into treatment. The results also show that our patients continue to make progress in all of these areas from 6 to 12 months into treatment. Moreover, these are not just numbers; as treatment progresses scores are approaching (and in several areas dipping below) clinical “norms,” meaning that symptoms are nearing a non-clinical range. This evidence directly from our clinic provides evidence that DBT at Compass does work!

Primary Treatment Target Data

Collected from diary cards





Summary & Conclusions: Our new medical record system allows us to track precise data from session to session. Results show that our kids have significant reduction of life-threatening behaviors over the course of the first 7-8 months of treatment. The biggest treatment gains were made within the first 6 months, and these gains were maintained over the next few months while other targets became the focus of treatment.

Other Noteworthy Conclusions from our Clinic:

  • Drastic reduction in suicide behaviors (e.g., planning, accessing means, writing suicide notes, suicide attempts) across patients:
  • 0-10 range reported at time of intake
  • <10% of patients reported suicide behaviors during first 12 months of treatment
  • Kids achieve better treatment outcomes if their family participates in Multifamily Group:
    • Significantly lower borderline symptoms
    • Significantly lower identity dysregulation
    • Family therapy enhances treatment outcomes
    • Lower identity dysregulation & depression
    • Skills coaching makes a difference!
    • Lower identity dysregulation, lower borderline symptoms, & depression

Note: Data analyzed from patients who consented to be part of our study. At this time, our sample size is too small to make broad generalizations and to test for significant differences in some cases. We plan to continue tracking data over time to determine if these trends prevail.

Clinical Team

Cherie Mills


Licensed Marriage, Family Therapist
(LMFT #40443)
DBT-Linehan Board of Certification,
Certified DBT Clinician™

Dr. Clive Robins, Ph.D.


Licensed Clinical Psychologist
(License No. 1421)
DBT-Linehan Board of Certification,
Certified DBT Clinician™

Dr. Nicole Motakef, D.O.


Medical License in California
(License No. 20A16793)

Dr. Hugh D. Leonard, Ph.D.

Residential Clinical Director

Licensed California State Psychologist (License No. 32794)
Licensed Alaska State Psychologist (License No. 153650)

Matt Reino

Outpatient Clinic Director

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT #97638)
DBT-Linehan Board of Certification, Certified DBT Clinician™

Dr. Patricia Huerta, Ph.D.

Research Director

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
(LMFT#1834 NC)

Dr. Lizbeth Gaona, Ph.D.

Compass Field Instructor for Columbia School of Social Work

Licensed Clinical Social Worker
(LCSW #28336)

Marissa Colangelo


Licensed Clinical Social Worker
(LCSW #78805)
DBT-Linehan Board of Certification,
Certified DBT Clinician™

Megan Plakos Szabo

Clinical Supervisor & Program Clinician

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT #98658)
DBT-Linehan Board of Certification, Certified DBT Clinician™

Dr. Nicole Zaha, Psy.D.

Clinical Supervisor & Program Clinician

Licensed Clinical Psychologist
(Lic. PSY29916)
DBT-Linehan Board of Certification, Certified Clinician™

Angel Amaro

Program Clinician

Licensed Clinical Social Worker
(LCSW #107743)

Dr. Erin Bray, Ph.D.

Program Clinician

Licensed Psychologist
(PSY #27381)

Natalie Day

Program Clinician

Associate Clinical Social Worker
(ACSW #96792)

Naoki Hemmi

Program Clinician

Licensed Clinical Social Worker
(LCSW #107590)

Dr. Paige Sparks, Psy.D.


Registered Psychological Associate
(Associate No. #94026375)

Residential Treatment Team

Allie Rocha

Licensed Vocational Nurse

Alyssa Rivera

Program Guide

Ashley Arroliga

Yoga Instructor

Cameron Wolf

Program Guide

Candace Benson

Program Guide

Corey Steig

Program Guide

Crystal Saguin Flores

Licensed Vocational Nurse

Elowyn Udarbe-Gustafson

Program Guide

Erica Hickel

Program Guide

Georgia Sinclair

Program Guide

Majd Jarjour

Program Guide

Marianne Zhetot Kwe Almero

Program Development Specialist

Michael Rodolfo Corda

Program Guide

Milagro Arevalo-Perez

Licensed Vocational Nurse

Mitchell Lowy

Program Guide

Ravon Hardy

Fitness Trainer

Savannah Neves

Program Guide

Administrative Team

Ashley Ikai


Elizabeth Gonzalez

Certified Medical Biller

Jana Ripley

Program Administrative Assistant

Jasmine Urzua

Claims Analyst

Kellie Severin

Operations Manager

Melody Sadowski

Project Specialist