Program DirectorTexas“I truly believe in second chances. Our residents come into the program discouraged and entrenched in the criminal justice system; by the time they have completed the program they are transformed and have the skills and tools to become productive members of their community."
De’An Olson says Phoenix House’s “clinical integrity and cutting-edge perspective” drew her to work here. Program Director for Judge John C. Creuzot Judicial Treatment Center, De’An works with a criminal justice population and says it’s rare to find an organization with Phoenix House’s national commitment to clinical excellence and understanding of residential treatment, a crucial factor for the criminal justice population.
De’An has been working in the field of behavioral health since 1987, but she thinks she was “somehow born a social worker.” She remembers giving a sixth grade speech on how TV violence affects children. Now a licensed clinical social worker, De’An has a Master of Science in Social Work from University of Texas at Arlington and is pursuing her Ph.D. in Health Studies at Texas Woman’s University. She plans to focus her research on responsivity in addiction treatment, knowledge she can directly apply to improve treatment outcomes.
For her first job in the behavioral health field, De’An provided substance abuse treatment for people on probation. Since then, she’s gone on to work in both the public and private sector as a consultant, a trainer, an adjunct professor, a private clinical practitioner, hospital director, and senior clinician. She has provided behavioral health services for a wide range of populations: LGBT, liver and stem cell transplant recipients, the bariatric population, adults, children, and adolescents. As director and consultant for Adapt of Texas, she launched a new residential pilot project serving a criminal justice population with co-occurring disorders.
In November of 2011, she joined Phoenix House as Program Director for the Judge John C. Creuzot Judicial Treatment Center. She enjoys working with substance abuse and addiction because she’s always been interested in how environment shapes behavior: “Addiction is right up there in the forefront of all of the new science around neuroplasticity and the neurochemical process of addiction, which I find fascinating.”
Stopping the cycle of addiction is always difficult, but it can be even more difficult for those who have fallen into the criminal justice system and have trouble finding jobs and accessing basic services. De’An said one client told her it was good to be at Phoenix House so she could stop, take a step back and reflect on what’s going on in her life. De’An says of the center’s rural Texas setting, “It takes clients out of the high stimulus environment of addiction and criminal behavior and gives people a minute to look and reflect.”