The Westport House Team

Westport House is led by an experienced team; passionate about improving the lives of our clients.

Leadership Team


Albert Samaras

Executive Director & Founder
Albert Samaras

Executive Director & Founder

Al has close to 25 years of experience building and growing organizations with a focus on healthcare services. He excels at managing complex environments and is a recognized leader in developing innovative and effective addiction recovery programs.

Under his stewardship, Westport House has grown from one location to three and is recognized as the standard for structured sober living in the northeast United States. Prior to founding Westport House, he served for five years as Vice President of a long-term addiction treatment program where he was instrumental in its transition from a local residential recovery program to a nationally recognized provider of treatment services.

Before his own experience with addiction and recovery, Al spent over 15 years in executive leadership and business development positions at HealthSouth Corporation and SourceMed, Inc. He studied Marketing at the University of Maine and majored in Management Information Systems at Central Connecticut State University.

203.293.1589 x101; 203.293.3348 (cell)

Robert Deffendall

Director, Residential Services
Robert Deffendall

Director, Residential Services

Rob oversees all aspects of the day-to-day operations of our sober living facilities, including staff management and client programming. He continually seeks opportunities to develop residential services and programming to ensure that all clients receive the highest quality experience during their time at Westport House.

Rob is a dynamic leader, both in the recovery community and at Westport House. His incredible passion stems from his own recovery experience and his work with young men suffering from addiction and co-occurring disorders. Prior to joining Westport House, he spent five years in various management and direct care roles at Turnbridge, where he was regularly recognized for excellence and community involvement.

Before his own recovery and his later career in addiction treatment, Rob, a native of the Midwest, was a popular on-air radio personality in Chicago and St. Louis.

Molly Ashcroft, CAC

Director, Business Development
Molly Ashcroft, CAC

Director, Business Development

Molly’s passion for her work stems from a desire to offer hope for families and clients who are struggling with addiction. She excels at developing relationships with prospective clients, families, and other addiction professionals, with the goal of finding the right placement for everyone and ensuring the best care for each.

Molly’s journey of recovery began in 2008 after many family interventions and treatment experiences. She attributes her success to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and the amazing people she has met along the way. It’s hard to overstate her impact in the local recovery community, where she is an extraordinary force for good; sponsoring numerous young women, chairing meetings, accepting commitments, and never turning down a request to tell her story.

Marty Gaudrault

Director, Admissions
Marty Gaudrault

Director, Admissions

As Director of Admissions, Marty supports Westport House clients at the beginning of their journey with us. Before his current role, he served as a Case Manager, where he was responsible for coordinating services for clients and acting as the primary point of contact for their families. Thru positive coaching, role modeling, and mentorship, he enjoys helping clients find the joy in a clean and sober way of life.

Passionate and energetic, Marty has been in recovery for many years and is particularly passionate about the 12-Step philosophy for treatment. A regular speaker, he is committed to contributing to service work in the community. He sponsors several young men at a time, is a sober coach, and involved in many recovery-based activities throughout New England. He prides himself on nurturing relationships to mutual benefit for everyone involved and spends his free time developing personal and professional relationships within the community and our organization.

Marty currently resides in Norwalk, CT with his wife, Jeanmarie.

Jim Gabal

Director, Career Services
Jim Gabal

Director, Career Services

A long-time resident of Westport, Jim’s journey of recovery began after the successful completion of the the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Program at the Betty Ford Center. Since then, he has amassed over 25 years of sobriety – one day at a time. He is very active in Alcoholics Anonymous, attending several AA meetings a week and working with others in the program to help them stay sober and lead productive lives.

Prior to joining Westport House, Jim had a long and successful career working in some of the world’s largest media companies, launched numerous businesses and was a marketing consultant. In those capacities his management responsibilities included personnel search and acquisition, employee development, mentoring and performance evaluation.

Nabeel Khandwala

Director, Finance & Human Resources
Nabeel Khandwala

Director, Finance & Human Resources

As the Director of Finance & Human Resources, Nabeel oversees the organization’s financial functions, human resources, and various other administrative operations. He also draws on his experience developing client relations and financial operations at American Rags, Inc. in Houston, Texas.

Nabeel studied Economics and minored in Business Administration at the University of Texas at Austin.


Case Management Team


Robert Deffendall

Director, Residential Services
Robert Deffendall

Director, Residential Services

Rob oversees all aspects of the day-to-day operations of our sober living facilities, including staff management and client programming. He continually seeks opportunities to develop residential services and programming to ensure that all clients receive the highest quality experience during their time at Westport House.

Rob is a dynamic leader, both in the recovery community and at Westport House. His incredible passion stems from his own recovery experience and his work with young men suffering from addiction and co-occurring disorders. Prior to joining Westport House, he spent five years in various management and direct care roles at Turnbridge, where he was regularly recognized for excellence and community involvement.

Before his own recovery and his later career in addiction treatment, Rob, a native of the Midwest, was a popular on-air radio personality in Chicago and St. Louis.

Pete Schmid, CAC

Case Manager
Pete Schmid, CAC

Case Manager

As a Case Manager for Westport House, Pete is responsible for the coordination of resident's care, including outpatient services, organizing recreational activities, financial management, and acting as the primary point of contact for family members. More importantly, as a passionate member of the recovery community, he exemplifies what it means to "live in recovery" for Westport House clients - an important component of the Westport House model.

A Connecticut native, Pete earned a BA in Sociology from Southern Connecticut State University in 2004. After several years of sobriety, he went on to receive his Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) certification  His professional career includes program manager for The Connection, Inc., a provider of residential, outpatient and community-based services throughout Connecticut. His prior experience includes various roles for a New Haven-based drug and alcohol treatment program.

Pete is very passionate about health and wellness.  He has been a  personal trainer for many years; helping individuals of all ages achieve their physical, spiritual, and wellness goals.  With his life and professional experience, education, and ability to connect with young people in recovery, Pete is a great addition to the Westport House team.

 

203.293.1589 x106

Tim Holt

Case Manager
Tim Holt

Case Manager

A native of nearby Wilton, CT, Tim Holt graduated from St. Michael’s College with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is currently working towards a Master’s in Social Work. His professional career includes corporate advertising and sales in New York City. After his personal experience with addiction and recovery, Tim joined Serenity House NYC as a sober coach and companion. In this role, he supported clients in early recovery and helped facilitate their integration into long-term sobriety.

Tim is very active in the recovery community and is a strong advocate for mental health services. His experience working in treatment settings combined with his leadership abilities, ability to connect with clients, and attention to detail, make him a valuable addition to the Westport House team.

203.293.1589 x107

Clinical Treatment Team


Michel Mennesson, MD

Psychiatrist
Michel Mennesson, MD

Psychiatrist

Dr. Mennesson is board certified in general psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and pediatrics, with an added qualification in addiction psychiatry. He received his psychiatric training at Yale University where he also served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry for three years. Prior to his work at Yale, he trained as a pediatrician at University of Connecticut.

Dr. Mennesson blends his knowledge of psychology, family systems and psychopharmacology to meet the client’s individual needs. He is an expert in co-morbidity, and has a talent for assessing what medications will be most helpful as our clients continue on their journey of recovery. Dr. Mennesson believes that through a proper balance of medication, when appropriate, and therapeutic intervention, one can truly achieve sustained sobriety, a reduction in impulsive behaviors, and improved relationships.

Lori Pelosi, APRN

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Lori Pelosi, APRN

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Lori is an advanced practice registered nurse and has spent many years treating individuals with mental health and addiction disorders. Her career includes experience at various nonprofit organizations and most recently, as a Nurse Practitioner at Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, Connecticut.

Lori received her Master of Science in Nursing at Sacred Heart University, and among her many interests outside of work, Lori truly enjoys teaching others the practice of nursing. She currently works part-time as an adjunct professor at Western Connecticut State University and Wilkes University.

Liz Modugno, LCSW, LADC

Primary Therapist
Liz Modugno, LCSW, LADC

Primary Therapist

Liz is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Alcohol & Drug Counselor; she received her Master’s from the University of Connecticut, with a concentration in substance abuse and mental health. Liz specializes in emotional trauma and its relationship to addiction.

She incorporates several therapeutic methods, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness, and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR).

Ava Diamond, LCSW

Primary Therapist
Ava Diamond, LCSW

Primary Therapist

Ava holds a Master’s in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University and has completed intensive trainings in addiction and trauma recovery, emotional intelligence, emerging adulthood, family systems, and motivation. She has over 20 years of experience both in private practice and with non-profit and private mental health organizations serving young adults and their families. Ava uses several clinical models — including EMDR, CBT, DBT, Relational Theory, and Family Systems Theory — to provide the best clinical practice for each client.

An accomplished athlete, Ava combines her professional athletic experience with her clinical background to empower clients and their families to optimize their mental, physical, and professional selves.

Warren Lancaster, LPC, MBA

Primary Therapist
Warren Lancaster, LPC, MBA

Primary Therapist

Warren is a licensed professional counselor with a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling; his approach emphasizes cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness. Warren enriches his counseling with his personal history: he is a former executive and a recovering alcoholic with over 25 years of sobriety. He is active in the local recovery community and firmly believes the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has been critical to his long-term success.

A native of Australia, Warren earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics & Mathematics from the University of Melbourne, an MBA from the University of New South Wales, and his MA in Counseling from Fairfield University.

Ashley Watson, LCSW

Primary Therapist
Ashley Watson, LCSW

Primary Therapist

Ashley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a Master’s from New York University. Prior to opening her private practice in Greenwich, CT, Ashley worked at Silver Hill Hospital on the inpatient detox unit as well as at an outpatient mental health clinic working with young adults and people with co-occurring disorders.

Ashley has experience conducting substance abuse interventions and is certified in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). She believes that change can happen through mindfulness and compassionate understanding.

Margo Friedman, LPC, LADC, CCDP-D

Primary Therapist
Margo Friedman, LPC, LADC, CCDP-D

Primary Therapist

Margo specializes in treating individuals struggling with addiction, trauma, anxiety and mood disorders, eating disorders, exercise addiction and body image issues in men and women. She utilizes therapy as a vehicle to help people create the reality they want for themselves, especially when they are feeling stuck or disconnected from the life they would like to have.

Margo is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) with a national and international certification as a Co-Occurring Disorders Professional Diplomat (CCDP-D). In addition, she is certified in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBTC) through the DBT National Certification Accreditation Association.

She graduated Cum Laude from Fairfield University with BA in Sociology and later with a Masters degree in Counseling. Margo has worked in outpatient, intensive outpatient and residential settings throughout her career. In addition, she has a private therapy practice in Westport, CT.

Juliet Gurevitz

Juliet Gurevitz, LCSW

Primary Therapist
Juliet Gurevitz
Juliet Gurevitz, LCSW

Primary Therapist

Juliet is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in areas of mental health and addiction. She has experience with different treatment modalities including, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and medication-assisted treatment. Her professional background includes several years as a primary therapist at "The Canyon" in Malibu, California and before relocating to the west coast, two years as a Residential Counselor at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, CT.

Juliet has a Bachelor degree in Psychology from Fairfield University and a Masters in Social Work from the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service.

Warren Phillips

Warren Phillips

Clinical Intern
Warren Phillips
Warren Phillips

Clinical Intern

Warren is currently a Master’s of Social Work candidate at Quinnipiac University, specializing in substance abuse and mental health. He joins Westport House with several years of experience working in various capacities at Turnbridge New Haven, CT. A native of St. Louis, MO, Warren is in long-term recovery and is passionately dedicated to recovery advocacy and providing quality addiction treatment.

Clinically, Warren is developing his therapeutic skills while utilizing a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and motivational interviewing.