Program Director and Clinical Supervisor, Regional Director of Performance ImprovementNew England“I value being part of a team that helps people in early recovery by challenging them to become self-aware, honest, and courageous in facing change.”
Dan Pender was working as a Wall Street broker when he decided to make a change: “I wanted to reclaim my life.” After becoming a new father, he wanted more out of a career than long 14-hour work days and the wining and dining of clients.
In a career about-face, Dan eventually decided he wanted to give back to families in need and earned a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy at Saint Joseph’s College. From there, he went on to build a private practice where he supported two churches as ministry staff, counseled victims of clergy sex abuse, and worked with adolescents. Although Dan didn’t work directly in addiction treatment, he sometimes encountered issues of substance abuse and worked with a case manager to refer his clients to addiction treatment services.
When Dan decided he wanted to move in a new career direction, he saw that Phoenix House Academy was looking for a family therapist in Springfield, Mass. He had enjoyed his work with adolescents in Christian education, so he applied and was hired as a senior counselor. After working in that position for over two years, he headed the launch of a new Phoenix House program for adults at a co-ed facility. Phoenix House Transitional Support Services’ mission is to engage and motivate individuals in early recovery, since most of their clients come right out of detox and go into the intense, highly-structured 30 day program.
Every week Dan meets with clients to find out how he and the staff can improve the program to better meet client’s needs, and then he uses the NIATx method of change—a system to improve processes and help organizations make change—to identify the incremental improvements that the program should make. The changes include designing the building to provide space for people to focus on recovery without distractions. Staff also moved their administrative office space when it became clear that a move would help the client’s needs.
The method has gotten results, Dan said: “We’ve moved with the challenges of the time and continued to modify our program and meet the consumers and their needs.” Dan is now the Regional Director of Performance Improvement for Phoenix House New England, and he has used his experience to advance performance improvement, create reports, and provide consistent measurable outcomes. “My specialty as a family therapist is relationships and understanding systems,” he says. Just as a family system depends on how people relate to each other in different roles, so does an organization like Phoenix House: “I’ve always been a student of the system of change.”