Meet Our Team
Shari Finney, LMFT
Shari is thrilled to bring her more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit management and clinical experience to the clinic, with a long history of deep ties to the local community.
Shari has spent many years in nonprofit service in San Diego. For eight years she served on the Board of Directors of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, as well as the Social Action Collaborative. Additionally, she served on the Council to End Homelessness during its inception. She also received commendations from the Mayor of San Diego from 2009 to 2014 for excellence in treatment programs; recognition for innovation from the United Way of San Diego for creating the Recuperative Care Unit for medically fragile homeless and in 2007 she received the San Diego Business Journal’s Woman of the Year award.
A licensed marriage and family therapist, Shari received her Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of San Diego. Prior to her appointment to the Cohen Clinic, she was the Executive Director of Peninsula Shepherd Center and prior to that was the Vice President of Clinical Programs for San Diego Rescue Mission. She enjoys utilizing her skillset and experience to manage effective treatment programs that assist veterans in attaining recovery, self-sufficiency, and healing.
Having grown up with a father who served in the Air Force and in a military city, Shari knows it is an incredible honor to provide care to those who served our country. She also understands the endless stress and sacrifice military families experience and looks forward to providing care for all military family members, including children and spouses.
Shari currently resides in San Diego with her family. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, swimming and playing with her dogs.
Jolene Balancio, LCSW
Jolene has 10 years of experience in community mental health across San Diego and Los Angeles Counties. A military spouse to an active-duty U.S. Army service member, Jolene says she is grateful to be able to bring the Cohen Clinic to Los Angeles and establish a presence in the community. She also looks forward to being a resource for mental health treatment and wellness and to give back to those who have served our country and their families.
Jolene is passionate about trauma treatment and trauma-informed care. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of California, Riverside and a Master of Social Work degree from California State University, San Bernardino, where she was a CalSWEC recipient.
She has worked in outpatient mental health settings, providing service to children, adolescents, and transitional aged youth. She also served as a program manager, where she developed and implemented a school-based suicide prevention program in North County San Diego in support of Assembly Bill 2246, growing the program across eight school districts. Additionally, she has held a position as a clinical supervisor for the Transitional Age Youth program for L.A. County’s Department of Mental Health contracted program. She has supervised multi-disciplinary teams and held roles as Intern Supervisor and Preceptor for MSW students. Jolene enjoys supporting the professional development of clinical staff and is trained in CBT, TF-CBT, and Signs of Suicide.
“The Cohen Clinic at VVSD understands that mental health does not discriminate and, in a population where mental health stigma is so prevalent, Cohen Clinics help decrease the stigma by reducing barriers to care and promoting access to high quality services among our veterans, active-duty service members and their families,” Jolene said.
In her leisure, Jolene enjoys spending time with her family and friends, grabbing coffee or boba, going to concerts, traveling, and exploring local cities with her husband and dog.
Mark Shideler, M.D.
Mark Shideler M.D. serves as a Prescribing Psychiatrist at the Cohen Clinic at Veterans Village of San Diego. He joined the Cohen Clinic after 28 years in the Air Force and served as an operational physician in Aerospace Medicine (aka “Flight Doc”) and Group Surgeon for the 548th ISR Group. He also served as a psychiatrist teaching and mentoring at the 60th MDG at Travis AFB, CA.
Dr. Shideler earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology at the U.S. Air Force Academy, went to medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), served as an operational, medical physician and later went on to complete psychiatry training at Wright State University.
He enjoys treating and helping people with psychological trauma and posttraumatic stress and, most importantly, helping them get their lives back. Dr. Shideler is trained and clinically experienced in Prolonged Exposure (PE), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) for nightmares.
In his spare time, he enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time with his daughter and wife. He was raised by a family that moved a lot and has called the following places home: Alaska, Ohio, New Mexico, Virginia, Colorado, Northern California, Alabama, Maryland and South Korea.
Leticia Acosta, LMFT
As Lead Clinician, Leticia provides treatment to veterans, service members and military families, and supervises clinical staff, while also assisting the Clinic Director.
Leticia received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at California State University of Long Beach, and a Master of Arts degree in Counseling at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has 18 years of experience working in a community mental health setting, working with victims of domestic violence in an emergency domestic violence shelter where she responded to crisis hotline calls, lead art groups for woman and children and provided community training on the effects of domestic violence on children.
In addition, she has worked with foster care children and transitional age youth, providing comprehensive and community-based treatment. She is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT), Seeking Safety (SS), Managing and Adaptive Practice (MAP) and Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) and utilizes a variety of these treatment modalities to ensure that she is providing the best treatment possible.
Prior to her role at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Leticia served as the Clinical Team Supervisor for LADMH Full-Service Partnership Child and Full-Service Partnership Transitional Age Youth Program providing the highest level of care for high-risk clients. As a Clinical Team Supervisor, she has supervised multi-disciplinary teams and supported her team in their professional growth. She has also assisted her team by screening, assessing, and responding to client’s crisis and completed LPS holds, as appropriate.
Additionally, Leticia served as Secretary and Board Member of Intercommunity Counseling Center for four years. She also served as a committee member for her previous agencies’ Suicide Prevention Training and assisted in presenting this training.
Leticia says, “The Cohen’s Clinic mission resonates with my personal values of providing accessible and quality mental health services to our most deserving veterans. It has been a population that is close to my heart and that I have always wanted to work with. I am excited to have the honor of being able to give back to this population of well deserving heroes.”
In her spare time, Leticia enjoys gardening, bike rides, watching movies and spending time with family and friends.
Rakiya “Rocky” Ruiz, LCSW
As a Clinician at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, Rocky’s appreciation for the military comes from being a daughter of an Air Force Veteran, and her time in the U.S. Air Force ROTC at Clemson University. She believes in access to mental health care for veterans and military families and is honored to be a part of the Cohen Clinic at VVSD team.
Prior to her clinical work, Rocky began her professional career in law enforcement, working as a police officer and victims’ advocate for 11 years. Now, as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she is certified in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma-Focused CBT, and CBT for Insomnia. Other background work includes law enforcement crisis counseling, LGBTQIA, diversity & inclusion and parenting skills.
Rocky holds an Associate of Applied Science degree in Information Technology/Web Development from ECPI University, a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology degree with a Minor in Spanish from Clemson University, and a Master of Social Work degree with an emphasis on Hispanic Families and Children from Our Lady of the Lake University.
In her spare time, she likes to play guitar, read, and spend time with her family.
Jenny Rodriguez, LMFT
Jenny is a mental health therapist at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, where she provides the veteran and military population a comfortable and supportive atmosphere along with a highly personalized and client-centered approach to assist them with attaining the personal growth and healing they are striving for themselves and their respective families.
She earned a Master of Science degree in Psychology, with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy, from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She started her career in a non-profit organization where she worked primarily with populations of low socioeconomic status, providing psychotherapy to individual, family, children, adolescents, and adults. Also, she assisted with co-facilitating a Dialectical Behavior Therapy group for young adults dealing with high-risk behaviors, interpersonal challenges, and difficulties with regulating emotions.
Jenny also has experience facilitating parent education classes with the purpose of helping court-mandated parents acquire effective parenting skills for implementing with their respective children. Moreover, she has trained and assisted therapists with assessing and managing suicidal ideation and related behaviors with the children and teenage population. Additionally, she has worked with middle-aged and older adults suffering from pain indexes and psychological conditions by providing Biofeedback therapy sessions.
She has experience working with veterans and their families and has close friends who are veterans or who have served in the military. “What resonates with me the most about the Cohen Clinics at VVSD is the client-centered approach and high quality of genuine care towards the veterans and their families strongly supported by evidence-based practices, which has allowed many veterans and their respective families live more fulfilling and meaningful lives,” she said.
In her spare time, Jenny enjoys reading Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf books, along with any psychology articles or books she comes across. Also, she loves hiking, going on walks, and meditating, which helps her remain grounded and balanced. Additionally, she likes to travel to different states or countries around the world, which has increased her knowledge, earnest interest, and connection with other cultures and traditions.
Sadie Tollberg, RN BSN
As the Outreach Director for the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, Sadie says she gets to live out her passion daily by meeting new people, creating community through events and spreading awareness far and wide!
Sadie is a U.S. Army veteran and a spouse to an active-duty U.S. Army soldier. She served nine years with two deployments to Iraq in active and reserve as a Chemical Operation Specialist. After serving, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. Throughout her career, she has worked in a Level 1 trauma emergency department, a clinic setting and in-home care. Currently, she keeps her nursing license active with part-time concierge IV Nursing. And, now she enjoys pursuing her passion for preventative healthcare to include mental health education and awareness.
She said, “Cohen Veterans Network caught my eye not only for the mission it serves, but also the population that is so near and dear to my heart. With my own health journey, and the obstacles I have faced, I am now able to help clear a way for the next person reaching out for help.”
When she is not working on something health related, Sadie loves to travel with her family and see different cultures and nature throughout the world. She loves being outdoors and under water! “I am grateful for every day I am on this earth,” she said.
As Business Office Manager at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, Wendy is responsible for office administration at the clinic, overseeing the office coordinator and supporting the entire clinic staff. She has worked in community mental health since 2015.
Prior to her role at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Wendy has worked at other mental health facilities, where she started as a Front Office Clerk and was then promoted to Program Administrative Coordinator, where she worked closely with the Program Director and the Office Manager. In these roles, she would greet clients, help with questions and concerns, answer incoming calls, as well as schedule intakes and medical appointments. She also ran various billing reports, scheduled trainings for clinicians, and helped coordinate clinic events.
She said she prides herself on great customer service. “I have friends who are Veterans. Hearing their stories and what they have gone through made me want to help those who have served our country,” she said.
In her leisure, Wendy likes to spend time with her family, which includes her husband, 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter. They stay busy with sports, including baseball and softball.
As Case Manager for the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, Adriana finds areas of need for the military community and creates bridges to connect veterans, service members and their families to resources.
Adriana has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from California State University, Los Angeles. Prior to her role at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, she spent five years in the Case Management field, working with different demographics, including high schoolers, families and the homeless.
“Being part of the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles is so exciting because it allows us to support and assist the veteran population that may not have access to services,” she said. “The ability to support our veteran and military families means so much to me because I am a military spouse and understand some of the challenges faced. My husband was active duty in the Navy for four years and continues to serve, now for over 11 years, in the Reserves.”
In her spare time, Adriana enjoys crafting, sewing, and knitting – all while wrangling two young children.
Fernando Raygoza, ASW
As a clinician at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, Fernando provides individual, couples and family therapy to veterans, active duty service members and their families. He previously worked in a Los Angeles County contracted community mental health clinic for five years, mainly providing individual psychotherapy. During his time there, he worked with a variety of populations ranging from older adults to transitional-aged youth and children. His experience has included working with adults suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as working with young adults, adolescents and children dealing with depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. He is trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, and Seeking Safety Therapy.
Fernando received his B.A. in Psychology from California State University, Northridge and a Master of Social Welfare from University of California, Los Angeles. He has multiple family members and friends who have served in the military. Learning and witnessing the difficulties veterans have faced after returning to civilian life is what sparked his desire to support others in similar situations. What has really stood out to him about the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles is how client-centered it is. “You can truly sense the genuine care and efforts to provide a high quality of care to veterans. I am extremely grateful and feel honored to be a part of an organization that aims to provide the best care and access to those who have served in the military,” he said.
In his spare time, Fernando loves to spend time with his wife and two children. He also enjoys backpacking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
As the Intake Coordinator at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, Angelique supports veterans, active duty service members and their families as the first contact for services. She conducts intake screenings, and also provides resources and referrals to clients.
She has 25 years of experience working with children, transitional age youth and adults experiencing challenges with co-occurring disorders, mental health, substance abuse, anger management, and parenting education. She also has experience working in residential and intensive outpatient settings, providing rehabilitative skill building, intensive case management and housing resources. Angelique has a B.A. in Psychology and is credentialed as a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work.
“My father was a Vietnam marine veteran who suffered from mental Illness upon returning from war. He was 100% disabled due to PTSD and long-term effects of Agent Orange. My father was not able to be present consistently in my life due to his severe PTSD,” she said. “Cohen Clinic is impressive for their dedication to providing mental health services to post-9/11 veterans, service members and their families. Accessibility to mental health services for veterans and their families will help eliminate barriers in obtaining mental health treatment. “
In her spare time, Angelique focuses on spending time with family members, nature and reading. She is also a history enthusiast.