Phoenix House New York

Shaun Willis

Director of Outpatient Services for Long Island

New York“I want to help people recognize their integrity and true purpose in life. I want to help them get whatever insights and resources they need to achieve their potential.”

Shaun has been working in the field of social work since 2003 in a range of roles, from case manager to counselor, clinical coordinator, and now, a program director.

Shaun, who was always interested in the “healing professions,” tried pre-medicine and nursing before a relative who worked in the field of substance abuse treatment guided him toward social work. Shaun received a Bachelor of Social Welfare from Stony Brook University and then a Master of Social Work from Hunter College, where he did his studies with a focus on community organizing. He is a licensed master social worker.

Shaun started his social work career as a youth advancement counselor with the Huntington Youth Bureau, where he provided individual and group counseling and facilitated community-based programs around the topics of education, employment, and the arts. When he decided he wanted to provide direct services, he began working as a prevention specialist and a case manager for the Long Island Association for AIDS Care, where he designed curriculum, trained staff, and provided counseling, HIV testing, and referrals. In this role, he often dealt with issues of substance abuse and worked within communities of drug users to offer HIV and hepatitis testing. He also began giving presentations in substance abuse treatment centers around the issues of harm reduction and working with high-risk communities.

In February 2010, he joined Phoenix House as the clinical coordinator of Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS)/ Foundation for Integrated Recovery Services and Treatment (FIRST) Program, a mental health program for individuals who have both severe mental illness and substance abuse disorders. This program was just beginning, so Shaun assisted in building it from the ground up and making it a top-performing program and a model for the state.

Afterward, he became director of substance abuse outpatient services for Phoenix House locations in Long Island. “I wanted to step in, share information and increase communication so we could develop a collective vision of clinical excellence and sustainability for the program,” Shaun says. This plan to bring clinical excellence to the program involves coordinating the delivery of care and designing innovative and client-centered programs with staff.

“Whether it’s group or individual counseling, we create a sober and safe space where people can unpack their baggage.” He uses the metaphor of a person unpacking mental and emotional baggage, examining the contents, and repackaging everything so that helpful thoughts are more accessible than the harmful ones. “I want to help people recognize their integrity and true purpose in life,” Shaun says. “I want to help them get whatever insights and resources they need to achieve their potential.”