Pioneer in social work practice in the field of addiction
L. Georgi DiStefano received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from City University of New York, Richmond College in 1974 and her MSW two years later from State University of New York at Stony Brook. Since 1982, her career has focused on substance abuse treatment, a greatly underserved area at the time she began her work in this field.
DiStefano became the Clinical Director of the San Diego State University Research Foundation’s Driving Under the Influence Program (DUIP) in 1986. Since 2001, DiStefano has served as the Executive Director of this organization demonstrating her mastery of both clinical and administration skills. She oversees approximately 80 staff members, 3,000 clients and a $3 million budget.
In addition to her longstanding leadership with the DUIP, she has utilized her expertise to expand awareness and share information on addiction in her roles as a corporate trainer, consultant, counselor and private practitioner. For over a decade, she has been a trainer for NASW, providing education in the area of chemical dependency. She has also served as a board member for the San Diego State University (SDSU) Center on Substance Abuse and Employee Assistance Professional Association; California Women’s Commission on Alcohol. She is currently a member of the California State DUI Advisory Board. She has been a strong advocate for statewide program integration of a mental health component for assessment and referral for DUI participants struggling with substance and psychosocial issues. She has been instrumental in influencing Title IX legislation regarding social policy, advocating for the enhanced identification and intervention for high-risk clients.
DiStefano has advanced substance abuse services technologically by creating On-System, a data management software program that improves the organization and efficiency of tracking patient progress. She has also developed a model treatment for those with substance abuse disorders that supports her advocacy for a larger mental health component in DUI treatment across the state. Her model is incorporated in treatment programs throughout California and is the topic of her book, The Paradigm Development Model of Treatment: A Clinical Guide for Counselors Working with Substance Abusers and the Chemically Dependent, which has been translated into Spanish and Japanese.
DiStefano has influenced the addiction field beyond the United States through presentations and workshops presented at conferences in Greece, Japan and Paraguay. Additionally, she gained worldwide attention in 2005 when she was an honored guest at the 70th Annual Alcoholics Anonymous International Convention. The San Diego Chapter of the Society for Clinical Social Work has also recognized DiStefano as Social Worker of the Year and the San Diego Chapter of NASW has presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
DiStefano’s diligence and inventiveness have advanced and modernized treatment intervention in the field of addictions benefiting thousands of patients not only in San Diego, but in programs across the State of California.