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Professional Staff

The experienced multi-disciplinary team of experts at Houghton House offers the full spectrum of care including a detox programme, inpatient care, outpatient clinic, and step down services such as aftercare and relapse prevention.

Alex Hamlyn

NAADAC; UKPCBADC – Co-Founder and Director

“If you want to stop using, you are going to have to stop using”

Alex Hamlyn is co-founder and director at the Houghton House Group of addiction treatment centres in Johannesburg and is a nationally recognised expert in addiction rehabilitation.

As a certified member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counsellors (NAADAC) and an accredited additions counsellor in the United Kingdom Professional Certification Board of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counsellors (UKPCBADC) since 2000 Alex is well qualified to handle virtually any substance abuse case.
Since 1995 Alex has been involved with several prominent addiction recovery practices and participated in numerous road-shows, seminars, training programmes, authorships and advisories on the field of addiction rehabilitation.

He specialises in the field of groupwork with addicted populations, maintaining that groupwork is the most powerful dynamic available in psychotherapy. Alex has been running groups for almost 20 years.

He currently provides counselling and group treatment services from the recovery facilities where he supervises and coaches numerous addiction counsellors both inside and outside of the Houghton House Group.

Alex also trains counsellors, human resources departments, medical professionals, student counsellors and a number other professionals including doctors studying at the University of the Witwatersrand school of family medicine, through a series of specialised courses namely 12 Core Functions of Addiction Counselling and Counselling the Addicted Communities.

Alex has walked the harrowing line of heroin and crack cocaine addiction into recovery and has remained clean and motivated since 1994 and continues to be active both inside the and out of the substance abuse community.

Meet him on Facebook at “Friends of Houghton House” or at meetings of CA (Cocaine Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), where he still contributes regularly.

Dan Wolf

MA Psych – Director

“The first step is always the most difficult, but also the most rewarding, to take…”

Dan Wolf, director of Houghton House Group of Treatment Centres, is a registered psychologist who specialises in dealing with addictive disorders. He graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand and completed his internship at Phoenix House.

Dan has had extensive exposure to the major drug rehabilitation centres in South Africa and is recognized as a national expert on addiction treatment.

In 2000, Dan established the First Step Drug and Alcohol Outpatient Recovery Centre, which pioneered as the first intensive outpatient program established in Johannesburg.

In addition to being involved in assessments and individual and group therapies, Dan also supervises lay-counsellors, facilitates family support and aftercare groups, and is well equipped to assess substance abuse and dual diagnosis cases in order to advise on treatment options and a suitable way forward.

In 2006, Dan, together with Dr Charles Perkel and psychologist, Allan Sweiden, established the General Addiction Programme, known as the GAP. The GAP is a residential treatment facility, which, merged with Houghton House in 2009 to form the Houghton House Group of Treatment Centres, offering the full spectrum of addiction treatment options.

Dr Hashendra Ramjee

MBBCh – GP with an interest in addiction treatment

“A multidisciplinary approach gives people in recovery the best chance of staying clean”

Upon completion of his medical degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2002, Dr Ramjee worked and trained for two years in the United Kingdom in the field of specialised addiction medicine.

He returned to South Africa in 2005 with this specialist knowledge and skill-set and joined the GAP, a residential treatment centre established by Dan Wolf, Dr Charles Perkel and Allan Sweiden.

Dr Ramjee was also instrumental in the establishment of SANCA Nishtara, a non-profit inpatient treatment programme in Lenasia, and he serves as an executive member on the board of the South African Addictions Medicine Society.

Dr Ramjee focuses on the physical and medical progress of patients as they move through treatment. He conducts an initial physical and mental assessment and then oversees a patient’s progress from detoxification and stablisation to medication management and relapse prevention.

In order to maintain a continuity of care Dr Ramjee communicates with Houghton House staff and each patient’s own psychiatrists and physicians. When patients are discharged a relapse prevention and aftercare strategy is discussed and this is communicated to relevant practitioners enabling them to participate in the ongoing recovery of their patients.

Kenneth Wilson

MA Psych – Outpatient services director

“Act as if”

Kenneth qualified as a counseling psychologist at the University of Natal almost 20 years ago. He went on to establish the counselling psychology masters programme at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1995.

His specialised research interests include addiction treatment, dual diagnosis and chronic pain. He is a member of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa and Pain SA.

In 2005 Kenneth founded an outpatient treatment programme called Clean Start. When Clean Start merged with Houghton House’s outpatient programme in 2013 Kenneth joined the Houghton House Group of Treatment Centres as director of outpatient services.

He is responsible for the clinical and operational aspects of the Group’s outpatient, aftercare and relapse prevention programmes. In addition to recruitment, staff training, supervising and management, Kenneth is also involved in facilitating groups and individual therapy.

In Kenneth’s opinion the Houghton House programme is South Africa’s most robust addiction treatment programme. The programme has evolved over the 20 years and is based on evidence, best practices and experience.

Research clearly shows that a successful recovery is significantly linked to how long a recovering addict retains contact with their treatment centre. Kenneth is the architect behind Houghton House’s ‘one year of treatment’ programme.

Nikki Munitz

Bachelor of Arts – Facility manager

“If it is important you will find a way and if it is not you will find an excuse”

Nikki joined Houghton House as an addictions counsellor in 2011, with two years addiction counselling experience. She manages all admission enquiries and assessments, as well as the entire admission process.

Nikki also manages the administrative, cleaning, kitchen, maintenance and grounds staff, and is the medical aid liaison for both inpatient and outpatient treatment.

She continues to be involved in individual and group therapy and the most rewarding part of her job is actually watching people getting well.

Herself a graduate of the Houghton House programme, Nikki admits:
“I live, work, breathe, and eat 12 step recovery. For me this is not just a 9 to 5 job.” This is one of the reasons why she believes that Houghton House is different from other centres: “You don’t get the same results if it is just a job.”

Debbie van der Merwe

BA – Addictions and Trauma Counsellor

“Serenity, courage and wisdom…”

Debbie graduated with an Honours Degree in Economics from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1987 which led her into a career in banking. It was only many years later that she returned to studying in order to follow her passion in Psychology.

After obtaining an Honours degree in Psychology from Unisa, she completed her internship at Johannesburg Parent and Child Counselling Centre as a school counsellor which earned her a B Psych degree in trauma counselling. She is registered with the HPCSA. After her internship, Debbie continued to be involved with schools and also did private counselling before joining Houghton House in 2014.

Having had some personal experience of substance abuse through the addiction of a close family member and friends, Debbie believes that education and involvement of family members in the recovery process is one of the reasons that Houghton House’s treatment programme is so successful:

“Family support is an important element in the prolonged recovery of a loved one. So often when someone goes into rehab you think the problem has gone away and when they come out you realize that not everything has changed.”

Franca Omokhomion

SANC – Staff nurse

“Keep going”

Franca is a South African Council registered nurse with a qualification from Epiweni Nursing College in Johannesburg. She has completed courses in auxillary nursing, enrolled nursing and caregiving. During the course of her practical training she worked at MediClinic and has also worked at Lenmed Hospital.

Franca joined Houghton House in 2013 and is responsible for monitoring each patient on a daily basis. Working closely with Dr Ramjee, Franca dispenses medication, carries out assessments, manages medical appointments with external practitioners, and compiles daily reports.

Zippy Gaven

SANC – Nurse

“Don’t be hard on yourself… You have taken the first step towards a better life.”

Zippy is a South African Council registered nurse with over nine years experience in psychiatry and substance abuse nursing. She trained and qualified in 1987 at the George Sterkman Hospital in the former Boputhatswana. She has also completed a course in community nursing.

Prior to joining Houghton House in 2006, Zippy worked in the substance abuse ward of two psychiatric facilities. She is responsible for attending to patients over the weekend, dispensing medication, carrying out assessments, screening patients and reporting on progress.

Ashley Wilkinson

Admissions Co-ordinator

The boy bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea. He replied,
“I made a huge difference to that one!”

Ashley is a trainee counsellor who has worked at Houghton House for over two years. Prior to her appointment as admissions co-ordinator she was responsible for the oversight of the nurses and patients during the weekends.

Ashley has completed two of the Alex Hamlyn Counselling Courses.

It has been five years since she herself was dragged into Houghton kicking and screaming, but it worked for her. Since then she has been eager to stay close to the treatment centre that gave her back her life.

Initially she volunteered her time here by doing lifts. She then co-ordinated the arts and crafts programme at the GAP for two years and starting running the Sunday night meetings. These acts of service are what keep her clean and how she works her recovery. She still brings her counsellors flowers on her sober anniversary.

Recovery is easy if you are just guided how to do it. I love recovery. I have never had so much fun and laughed so much. It upsets me that I’m only five years clean in October. It breaks my heart that it is so short. I tell this to our youngest patients, saying that if they don’t use this opportunity to clean up now their life could pass them by in a blur.

Ashley is passionate about cats. When she was still using, she applied this mantra to saving stray cats. Now she relates it to saving individuals from a life of addiction:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.


The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied, “I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea. He replied, 
”I made a huge difference to that one!”

Tessa Otten

Bachelor of Social Work

Bachelor of Social Science (Hons)

“You don’t have to be better than everybody else.  You should strive to be better than you ever thought you could be”

Tessa has completed her Honours degree in Clinical Social Work, specialising in Substance Abuse, through the Social Work Department at the University of Cape Town.  Prior to joining Houghton House in 2015, Tessa worked as a counsellor at two rehabilitation center’s based in Cape Town.  She also completed volunteer work at Pollsmoor Prison for an NGO, which included developing a substance abuse programme for a number of prisons in the Western Cape.

At Houghton House, Tessa’s role includes group therapy, psycho-educational lectures, and individual therapy.

Having been introduced to the addiction field as a student, the 18 months working at this facility  opened up a new world to Tessa, one filled with challenges and trying times, yet a constant sense of hope, love and spirituality and so she chose to specialise in the field.

Don’t feel disillusioned by where you are now
your progress is good enough
it’s meaningful
it’s on time
though everything may go unacknowledged
every silent step is movement
in the right direction

when it feels as though
everyone is going forward
and you’re being pulled back by
your own demons or your past
remember that every moment in this journey
will play its part in the greater narrative –
what a beautiful story to share one day
written just by living your life

Mirelle Wong Cardoso

Addiction & Trauma Counsellor

“Only you can make your recovery a reality, but you cannot do it alone”

Mirelle joined Houghton House in 2015 as an Addiction and Trauma Counsellor with 2 years experience in the field.

Mirelle graduated from Midrand Graduate Institution with a BPsych(hons) focusing on Psychological Counselling and Trauma. In addition to Addiction Counseling, Mirelle has experience in Child Therapy and has worked at a University lecturing Social Psychology.

Mirelle’s passion for working with addicts came from her experience with loved ones battling with the disease, but also this developed while completing an internship a Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre.