Pamela Alba, MA, LMFT
Executive Director – Newport Academy, Orange County
Pamela Alba has an MA in Clinical Psychology and is a licensed MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist), with a depth of experience treating addiction, mental health, and trauma. As an expert executive leader, Pamela brings to Newport Academy 20 years of experience overseeing clinical services. She has worked in several of the finest residential programs in the world, focusing on addiction and mental health disorders. As senior director of clinical services of Bayside Marin and later Azure Acres for six years, and then CEO of Acadia Healthcare, the Camp Recovery Center, she was instrumental in facilitating the growth and development of these programs. Pamela brings a specialization in trauma resolution to her role at Newport Academy, leading our successful treatment facilities for teens and young adults in Orange County, California.
My Five Fundamental Beliefs
1. Change occurs in the tension between the urge to grow and the urge to stay the same.
Even when teens and young adults are resistant to treatment and saying that they don’t need help, they didn’t want to come, their parents made them come, etc., the fact that they’ve walked in the door shows that there’s a fundamental desire to change. It doesn’t have to be for all the right reasons—sometimes part of it is that it’s just too painful and they don’t want to do it anymore. The idea of treatment can be super scary. Leaving your friends, maybe changing schools, not living at home—all of those things are terrifying. When people seek treatment, they’re often struggling between wanting to change and wanting to stay the same. Ultimately, they have to decide to get better, and to let go of the way things have always been. At Newport Academy, we give young people the tools to navigate this time of tremendous change.
2. People who are addicted are often looking for meaningful connection in their lives.
Studies show that addiction, at its core, is an attachment disorder. Mental health issues also prevent people from accessing that sense of connection, even if it’s right in front of them. I’ve found that many of those who enter treatment are bright, talented, creative people who feel fundamentally alone. They’ve often had tragedy and trauma in their lives and are just looking for a place where they feel safe—and drugs unfortunately mimic that.
3. It’s often primarily the family that needs to change.
Many times, a teen is very open and engaged in treatment, soaks everything up like a sponge, and connects with people in the program—but their parents just want to stay the same and keep doing everything as they always have. Within any system, such as a business or an organization, each person fulfills their role and everything stays the same—until somebody shakes that up and decides that they’re not going to stay in their box. Families are exactly the same. Within the family structure, young people usually don’t have the power to initiate this shake-up, so they go right back into the system and keep playing the same role. Often, if a parent has their own problems or addiction, they can hinder their child’s recovery, whether consciously or unconsciously. This makes our family therapy programs some of the most important aspects of treatment for a young person. To achieve success, everyone needs to be on board.
4. Accurate, thoughtful psychiatric diagnoses and medication regimens prescribed by industry experts can change lives.
We see this all the time: Among a thousand young people who have been diagnosed with depression, 990 of them will have been given medication by their primary care physician, and then they don’t understand why it doesn’t work. We’re learning more and more now about the limitations of prescription drugs: For example, SSRIs treat only a small percentage of people successfully, and other combinations of drugs can be much more effective. It takes somebody who’s on the leading edge of the field to narrow down the options and figure out what a client needs. At Newport Academy, we aim to discover what’s really going on and treat the root causes through holistic care. In those cases where medication is necessary, we’ll prescribe an effective regimen—while also ensuring that each client receives treatment that goes far beyond pharmaceuticals.
5. Residential treatment provides the time, expertise, and observation necessary in order to make an accurate assessment.
One of the barriers to treatment is that people get diagnosed at different stages. So if they’re using substances or are in withdrawal when they’re diagnosed, they may not be able to fully communicate their history or state of mind. In order to accurately assess, we need time to observe a young person’s behavior and learn more about their situation. In addition, psychiatric treatment is very powerful, and often it’s necessary to test different combinations to find what works for an individual, particularly when there are co-occurring conditions. To do that, we need a stable environment.
Newport Academy…in her own words
“Newport Academy provides a safe and supportive environment as a foundation for individualized, leading-edge, evidence-based care, offered by professional caregivers with a wide variety of expertise. Kids have the opportunity to be kids, to find new passions, to laugh again, and to connect meaningfully with peers.” –Pamela Alba
- Appeared as an expert on the show Addicted with Kristina Wandzilak
- Licensed in Marriage and Family Therapy
- Clinical Supervisor for MFT associates and interns, in addition to her executive leadership role
- Trained in Somatic Experiencing
- Yoga Alliance–certified yoga teacher
- Created an official school leading toward CAADAC certification as an employee benefit. Pamela is committed to providing training and education resources for employees in order to retain top talent and provide the highest level of care possible.