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.
Kirsten Alfaro White, M.A., NCC, APCC
Kirsten White is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor and serves as the Associate Director for the Cohen Clinic at VVSD-Oceanside.
Kirsten was born and raised in San Diego, California and received her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from California State University San Marcos. She then went on to receive her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of San Diego. She completed her practicum experience for her graduate program in a residential treatment center for homeless veterans with substance use disorder and other co-morbid disorders. Having a passion for the veteran population, Kirsten continued her clinical experience at the residential treatment center as she accrued hours towards licensure.
Prior to joining the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Kirsten worked as the Clinical Manager for a national non-profit organization where she oversaw their national Support Center and worked to help disseminate educational courses and resources to those who work with, live with, and care for military members, veterans, and their families. Kirsten first started her clinical work as a behavior technician for children with autism in the field of applied behavior analysis, working mostly with military families. Kirsten initially joined the Cohen Clinic at VVSD team as the Intake Coordinator and part time Clinician. She has been trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Prolonged Exposure, and Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy.
As the daughter of a retired Navy veteran, Kirsten is excited and honored to continue her work to with veterans and their families. “At the end of the day, our active duty service members, veterans, and their families made a commitment to serve and sacrifice. It’s a privilege to play some part in serving them back. “
In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family on mini adventures around the city and trying to new food.
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.
Cesar Padilla, BBA-IMC
As Data Manager at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Cesar oversees the clinic’s various data and IT systems. He is responsible for organizing, storing, and analyzing data as effectively as possible, while always upholding agreed-upon security standards.
Previously, Cesar worked as the Executive Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer at Veterans Village of San Diego. A Purple Heart Recipient and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran of the U.S. Army, he held the following military occupations during his 11 years of service: M1 Armor Crewman, U.S. Army Recruiter, and Public Relations Specialist.
As a veteran, Cesar is excited to be part of the Cohen Clinic at VVSD’s vision of helping veterans and their families address mental adversities. However, more importantly, he believes the services provided at the Cohen Clinic are an essential step in bringing down the stigma around mental health, especially debunking the stigma that claims asking for help is a form of weakness.
Born and raised in San Diego, Cesar earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Integrated Marketing and Communications from San Diego State University. In his leisure time, Cesar loves to spend time with his daughter, play Airsoft, Paintball or just be outside enjoying the San Diego weather.
Destin R. Williams, CRC, APCC
As a Clinician at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Oceanside, Destin provides high-quality, evidence-based mental health care to veterans, service members and their families. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army, Destin served in OIF/OEF and received his Combat Action Badge (CAB) during those operations. He began his journey into the field of therapy with a venture in Interpreting American Sign Language (ASL) for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing populations. This introduction to the population of differently abled people allowed him to express his passion for helping people in a non-intrusive manner. In his pursuit to make a bigger and more direct impact, he learned of the counseling field.
He says, “The Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Oceanside has provided me with the opportunity to connect with active-duty, veterans, their family members, and people close to them. As a post-9/11 veteran, I look forward to utilizing my experience in the military, coupled with my knowledge of the human psyche to address challenges endured by those who have given so much for the masses.”
In his spare time, Destin enjoys activities like hiking, camping, paddleboarding, biking, board gaming, electronic gaming, and puzzle solving. He also enjoys traveling out of the country to grow his life and cultural experience.
Alexandria Smith, MSW, ASW
As a clinician at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Oceanside, Alexandria provides high quality, evidence-based mental health treatment to veterans, service members and their families.
Alexandria received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Development, with a concentration in Health Services in 2016. She went on to receive her master’s degree in Social Work from California State University of San Marcos. Alexandria has experience working with various populations in residential treatment and mental health outpatient settings. Her passion for serving the military community led her to working with several programs in San Diego that provide support to veterans, service members and their families.
Alexandria has accrued ongoing clinical experience and hours towards licensure by providing individual therapy, group therapy, crisis intervention and ongoing assessment of individuals with co-occurring disorders. She has a passion for providing trauma-informed, client-centered, and culturally-inclusive care.
She says, “I am so grateful to be able to be a part of such a wonderful mission and to give back to our veterans, service members and their families. I am honored to have the opportunity to utilize my clinical skills and knowledge to deliver quality care with a compassionate approach to our military community.”
As the spouse of a Marine Corp veteran, she is honored to continue working with the military community. In her spare time, Alexandria enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family.
Akina Goodson, MBA
As Case Manager and Outreach Coordinator, Akina is a client advocate who researches, coordinates, and provides much-needed resources to support and improve client outcomes, so that they can achieve wellness and autonomy. She is also able to share the great services that our Cohen Clinic provides to the wider community. Through outreach initiatives and events, Akina helps de-stigmatize seeking mental health services.
She holds a Master of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in human resources and a Bachelor of Science in Social Psychology degree, both from Park University. Akina has worked with military service members and their families for more than 20 years.
Prior to her role at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD in Oceanside, she worked as a case manager for an organization whose mission was to help solve homelessness through providing housing, programing, reunification with children parenting and work development skills. While there, she also facilitated and taught parenting and work force development classes. Akina has also worked and volunteered as a Family Readiness Assistant aboard Camp Pendleton and numerous other bases throughout the United States and overseas, helping to connect military service members to needed resources, advocating on behalf of military families, serving as a liaison between the military community and the command team, helping to coordinate and execute community outreach events to increase military family awareness and connection, as well as helping to plan and host family events.
The daughter of a Marine and a Marine spouse of 20 years, Akina quickly learned to become resilient as she and her family PCS’d every three years to a new duty station. She has had the opportunity to travel and live across the nation and overseas meeting and working with diverse groups of people and learning firsthand the needs of our military and veteran community. Her passion for the betterment of society started at an early age as she began advocating on behalf of the military community, working toward bridging the gap of resources and services.
Akina has volunteered as the Director of Programs for a nonprofit called Network for Exceptional Military Families, which helps to bridge the gap for military service members, their families, veterans and caregivers with exceptional needs. She along with four other spouses founded this Network, where she also held positions of Vice President of the Board and Director of Programs. Akina believes knowledge is key and spends time building on her professional and personal development through attending trainings, seminars, and webinars. Akina has been honored as a volunteer of the year, awarded a certificate of recognition in honor of her leadership and dedicated service by the California Legislature Assembly and North County Philanthropy Council, and awarded Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Camp Pendleton in 2018. Currently residing in Southern California, Akina is a Green Bay Packers fan and enjoys watching and attending football games (high school and NFL), wrestling matches Greco-Roman, Freestyle, and Folkstyle (Collegiate), track meets, fishing, traveling and history museums.
“The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at VVSD’s mission ‘we seek to improve the quality of life’ and their vision ‘to ensure that every veteran, active-duty service member, and family member is able to obtain access to high-quality care that enables them to lead fulfilling and productive lives’ is what resonates with me,” Akina said.
As Office Coordinator, Keshia facilitates front desk responsibilities, including answering incoming calls, scheduling therapy appointments for clients, and supporting the various other roles within the Cohen Clinic at VVSD in Oceanside. Prior to the Cohen Clinic, she was working alongside her husband at a manufacturing company in Orange County, while completing her Bachelor of Science degree in Counseling. Born in Heidelberg, Germany as a daughter of an Army soldier, she is able to resonate with the unique lifestyle of the military families the Cohen Clinic has the pleasure to serve. She said, “I have had many jobs throughout my career, but my role at the Cohen Clinic is by far one of the most rewarding opportunities that I have had to date. I have the pleasure of meeting and speaking to so many wonderful people. Helping post-9/11 veterans, active-duty service members and their families is a gift, and I am grateful and excited about the future of our Cohen Clinic and those we serve.”
Joshua Sheahan Suárez
As Office Coordinator, Joshua facilitates front desk responsibilities, including answering incoming calls, scheduling therapy appointments for clients, and supporting the various other roles within the Cohen Clinic at VVSD in San Diego. Whether it is scheduling, organizing information, or being the first point of contact for clients, he helps to make sure the office runs smoothly. Prior to working at the Cohen Clinic, Joshua worked in software testing.
He was attracted to the Cohen Clinic, “particularly because of my personal history with mental illnesses, both with myself and my family. It’s good to see an effort toward these things, not only to spread awareness, but also to emphasize accessibility to these services,” he said.
In his spare time, Joshua enjoys being a father, a musician, and a woodworker.