Leadership Spotlight


Deborah Allen, LCSW, Assistant Regional Director Region G

Debbie is a senior staff member at Family Therapy Institute of Santa Barbara, providing direct clinical services and supervision, and also maintains a small private practice in Ventura. She is adjunct faculty with Antioch University teaching child and adolescence psychotherapy, theories of family therapy, and clinical skills with couples and families.

Her theoretical orientation includes family systems and integrative approaches to therapy. She has worked with children, adolescents and families in a broad range of treatment programs, including psychiatric hospitals, day treatment programs, residential programs, and both public and non-public schools. She has served on the California Chapter board of NASW and the Santa Barbara Unit.

What has been your favorite part as a regional leader?

Over the years, I’ve been able to meet social workers across the state and in my hometown. When people move to Santa Barbara, they find me and then I try to help them connect in the ways that make the most sense for them. It’s fun to meet people. Social workers have such diverse backgrounds. The one common factor I’ve seen in all of the people I’ve met is a big heart and a strong desire for social justice. I know that when I’m spending time with social workers, I am spending time with a group of people who embody the values and ethics of our profession.

What type of social work experience do you possess?

I’ve tried to do it all during the past 30 years…direct clinical practice, clinical supervision, teaching, mentoring. When I was a student, I did my first year UCLA practicum at a social rehabilitation program for adults with serious mental illness. My second year was at the VA Brentwood. After grad school, I was hired to work as a psychiatric social worker at Camarillo State Hospital Children’s Program. I fell in love with working with children. I’ve worked with mental health juvenile justice, special education for students with emotional and behavioral issues, and children in the foster care system. I think I changed jobs every three years until I ended up working at Family Therapy Institute band teaching for Antioch University. I’ve stayed with both for the last 15 years and love what I do and my colleague second family.

What is your favorite type of self-care practice?

Snow skiing, swimming near dolphins, beach walks, hiking, reading. I think hobbies are good self-care. It’s easy to let the career and the issues we care about dominate our lives. I know I need balance. I need to do things that make me laugh. I do a Buddhist practice that uses mantras, mudras and guided visualization. It’s easy to absorb things when I’m with people all day. I find that these practices help me clear and center so that I can notice and enjoy the simple things. I woke up this morning with my arm wrapped around one cat and our 17-year-old cat purring and sticking his nose in my face. I spent a few extra minutes with them luxuriating in the moments before I began my day. This to me is self-care.

What are the benefits of reaching out to regional leadership?

You meet great people when you get involved. I was always a bit shy. Having opportunities to develop leadership skills by serving in various roles in NASW helped me to develop professionally. I never imagined I would end up teaching, but I’ve learned to be comfortable and skilled doing it. I’m grateful to NASW for being a vehicle to spur my professional development.

Can you share information about the events you host in your area and how members can get involved or benefit from this?

The Santa Barbara unit has a great team on our local board. Any member can become involved with the board. We also have a great consultation group for social work professionals and seasoned professionals. We don’t discuss cases but instead focus on larger system  issues as well as self-care on the job. We typically have one or two social events each year and several CEU presentations by professionals in our community. We try to host clinical topics as well as addressing social justice issues and other trends in our community. We honor the best leaders in our profession at our annual Social Work month dinner. This last month, we had it near the Funk Zone at the Wildwood Kitchen. If you’re not on our google group, email me and I will add you. We have about 125 people in the group and post local CEUs, job announcements and other items of interest to the social work community.

 What is the best way to contact me?

The best way to reach me is at my work phone (805) 883-2424 ext. 103 or by email at debbielcsw@gmail.com.

Is there any additional information about yourself that you’d like to share with members in your area?

We’d love to know you if we don’t already. Hope you can join us for any or all of our gatherings. Let us know what interests you and we will do our best to create it.