Carmel Valley resident heads Soledad House recovery center

Soledad House aids women overcoming substance abuse


Carmel Valley resident Shana Shaterian Penny has forged a career helping women recover from drug and alcohol dependency as well as related mental health issues.

After graduating from San Diego State University (SDSU) with a master’s degree in business accounting, Penny’s first job was in a marketing position within the addiction treatment world.

Shana Shaterian Penny
(Soledad House)

“A long time ago, I also had my own experiences of substance abuse, depression, anxiety and relationship issues,” Penny said. “So all of the similar things that so many women deal with, I’ve also dealt with that.

“I really found a passion in working with other women and encouraging them and helping them to live their best life.”

That passion culminated in Penny’s current position as CEO of Soledad House, a San Diego-based recovery center providing treatment exclusively to women.

“We are probably one of the largest for-profit women-only programs here in San Diego,” Penny said. “We’ve probably helped over 3,000 women.”

She worked for several years with Soledad before taking its leadership role seven years ago.

Soledad specializes in treating women on the road to recovery after they go through detoxification usually in a 30-day, in-patient program in which clients are supervised with proper medication.

“So (at Soledad) you’re going to really learn how to put into practice everything that you learned in your 30-day program,” Penny said. “We are about how to apply recovery and sobriety to your real life. ... We help (clients) start building a solid foundation for their recovery.”

She said Soledad applies strategies designed to meet women’s needs and address issues that might not be dealt with easily when males are present.

“We wanted women specifically to have a safe environment where they could be with other women who have been through what they’ve been through, because a lot of people are continuing drinking and using over these (relationship) issues. ...

“Unless we provided them with a safe space to get the support they need, we weren’t going to make a lot of progress. That’s really where we excel here. ...

“For women, it is very important to reduce the distractions with men. It’s really easy for us to get distracted when there are men in your house or in groups with you. So eliminating that distraction really has helped our women focus on themselves and get the help and support that they need here.”

Founded about 15 years ago, Soledad has grown from one residential treatment home to nine with 70 beds and a staff of about 30. It’s website is

“One piece that truly sets us apart is that we offer a community of women who can support one another,” Penny said. “For the past 15 years, (Soledad) has poured our heart and soul into the community here. You’re going to find other women who can support you — other women who have been through our program and maybe even work here today.”

One of those staff members who went through the program is Helen Lotsoff, an associate marriage and family therapist at Soledad.

Lotsoff, a former North County resident who now lives in San Diego, entered the program about 14-and-a-half years ago shortly after Soledad House opened its doors.

“The thing about Soledad that I really hope to emphasize is it’s not just a treatment center,” she said. “The thing that’s really special about Soledad is we’re really interlocked into the recovery community.

“Once you get out of treatment, there’s such a large community of women who’ve been through the program, who’ve stayed sober. ... They do a really good job of integrating you back to your normal life and still maintaining the same dedication to your recovery.”

Lotsoff, who has a psychology degree from SDSU and a master’s degree from Alliant International University, said she has worked at Soledad for six years.

“I love it,” she said. “I personally always knew I really wanted to work with people. For me, the biggest reward is watching the transformation. I get to watch women come in struggling with addiction, struggling with self-esteem and self-worth, not knowing how to regulate emotions, and really get to watch them grow into themselves. It’s very rewarding.”

As a for-profit business, Soledad offers options ranging from $2,000 to $10,000, the CEO, Penny, said. The center attracts clients from all walks of life, she said.

“The biggest thing here is that no client is ever left behind,” Penny said. “We truly give 100 percent to every client who comes through our program and we also continue to follow up with them to make sure they’re continuing to do well and be successful in all areas of their life after they complete our program.

“And then, when they put some time together and have recovery, they come back and they help other women. To see these women be of service to other women because their life is so good today, that I think is the greatest gift that we give here.”