South Miami Recovery was founded and directed by Howard Lerner, CAP, ICADC. Howard is a native Miamian. After many years of his own struggle with substance dependency, he found his direction and purpose by reaching out and helping others seeking recovery. Howard has worked side by side with the pioneers in substance treatment. Since 1987 he has provided primary inpatient care at Mt. Sinai Hospital, started outpatient and residential programs at South Miami Hospital, and most recently, was the Clinical Director for Baptist Health Systems’ Addiction Treatment Center.
Lester was born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico. He relocated to Miami for college and fell in love with the “Magic City”. After struggling with his own substance abuse, he decided to devote his career to helping others overcome their addictions. Lester earned his MCAP certification and went on to earn his Master’s Degree in Social Work from Barry University. He’s spent the last 20 years working in substance abuse and has become an authority in the community. He’s currently a featured guest monthly on the Television Network WLRN, “Ante Usted”, discussing and educating important matters related to substance abuse.
Kathleen is the Director of Administration where she ensures the daily operations of South Miami Recovery run smoothly. Kathleen has 20 years of experience in Administration, Sales and Marketing with the last 8 years devoted to the Health Care Industry. She’s gravitated to start-up ventures and has led several businesses to profitability. Substance Abuse has hit close to home for Kathleen and has taken a personal interest in the field. “I’ve seen too many people lose their life to the disease of addiction, I want to be a part of the solution and let those who are suffering know that they’re not alone and we’re here to help.”
Dr. Larocca is a specialist in the fields of addiction and family medicine. He has cared for patients struggling with alcohol and drug addiction for more than a decade and has maintained a private family practice for more than 25 years, where he also has identified and cared for patients suffering from substance use disorders. Dr. Larocca is board certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and is a member of the Florida Society of Addiction Medicine (FSAM).
Much of Dr. Larocca’s focus in his practice has been his work with the Hispanic population. Dr. Larocca, along with a team of therapists and support staff, is able to provide individualized treatment by understanding the many cultural differences that exist among very diverse clients and their families.
A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dr. Larocca graduated from Universidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Medicina in 1979, and completed postgraduate studies at the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1980. He completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital and worked as a resident in the Family Medicine Department.
Juan Angel is a psychotherapist specializing in recovery from substance use. His main intention when working with clients is to empower them to be in tune with their deepest truths and to relate to life in more authentic ways. His approach is strongly influenced by more than 10 years of dedicated meditation practice. Through such practices, he has come to understand the value of becoming curious about our present mental state.
Thus, Juan’s therapeutic style includes the use of mindfulness techniques and somatic psychotherapy. This kind of work is valuable in supporting clients to become more aware of their cravings, triggers, challenging feelings, and repetitive thoughts. In doing so, he trusts people’s ability to welcome their experience creates a lasting impact on their path of recovery.
Juan has over 7 years of experience working in multiple mental health settings with people of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliations, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, and various mental health conditions. He welcomes people from all walks of life and has worked with a wide range of clients.
Thomas is a recent graduate of Florida International University (FIU) with a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. He also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from FIU in 2015. During his time as a student, he founded Panthers for Recovery, a student organization dedicated to helping students in recovery. For his efforts with Panthers for Recovery, he received a Shining Star award from FIU Student Affairs and was recognized as a Worlds Ahead Graduate during his recent graduation.
Thomas divides his time between South Miami Recovery and volunteering at FIU, helping to lead the transition of Panthers for Recovery into a Collegiate Recovery Program.
Thomas’ favorite job, though, is being a father to his kids, Anthony, 2, and Anabella, 5. His personal recovery has allowed him to be present for his family and help others do the same.
Victoria Rodriguez is South Miami Recovery’s couples and family therapist. For over a decade, she has worked with individuals of all types who are experiencing a variety of challenges in their lives such as substance abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety, stress, and interpersonal discord. Victoria graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a minor in Criminal Justice from Florida International University. Following this, she earned her Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. She has participated in research for the treatment of mood disorder and is trained as a Gottman Couples Therapist and CRAFT/SMART Recovery Facilitator.
She will offer a safe and serene place for individuals to share their experiences. She is skilled in implementing therapeutic interventions designed to help families and couples create effective coping skills in their journey to mutual respect and love for one another.
A message from Victoria: “I’ve made it my lifelong goal to help people grow past their childhood traumas, overcome their self-imposed limitations, forge meaningful relationships, and reclaim their happiness. In doing so, I have found my true fulfillment.
I have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of mental health complications on friends, family, and acquaintances. I have always had a listening ear for anyone who touched my life’s pages. Growing up, I used my compassion to help people overcome their challenges. Today, I use proven methods and techniques to help people regain control of their lives.
By helping others be the best version of themselves, I continue to develop myself professionally and personally as a wife, mother, daughter, and sister.”
Since 2008, Veronica has dedicated her career to the treatment of substance use and mental health issues affecting individuals of all ages. As a native Miamian, she obtained her Bachelors’s in Psychology from FIU and her Masters in Clinical Social work from FIU. Veronica began her career in case management and counseling in 2008 and was formerly the clinical manager at Baptist Health Systems’ Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center.
Veronica believes that individuals have the innate ability to meet their ultimate potential when equipped with psychosocial support and life skills that can help them overcome their personal obstacles. She believes that providing psychoeducation to individuals and families regarding their diagnosis can lead to more successful outcomes. Her counseling style incorporates a strength-based approach, motivational enhancement therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Lastly, Veronica also believes that family participation and support are crucial to the recovery process.