David A. Deitch

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David A. Deitch
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CitizenshipUnited States
  • Psychologist
  • Professor
  • Educator
Known forRecognized as an architect of the American Therapeutic Community (TC) movement

David A. Deitch, (Ph.D.) a Social and Clinical Psychologist, and Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, is recognized as an architect of the American Therapeutic Community (TC) movement. His career as an educator, clinician and influencer spans the history of TCs worldwide.[1]

Therapeutic communities are “a common form of long-term residential treatment for substance abuse disorders” that grew in the 1950s out of recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Synanon.[2]

Deitch has over 45 years of experience in the development of drug abuse treatment systems for adolescents and adults. Deitch became a psychologist after having been addicted to heroin in his teens, telling psychology journal Addiction that “I became one of the first victims of the 1948 to 1951 heroin epidemic … in the United States. … I very much fit the psychological profile of the drug user that I have often talked about; I felt marginalized, alienated, probably in a lot of intrapsychic pain, and very curious about drug effects.”[3]

Daytop Village

In recovery – from which he often lapsed – Deitch finished high school and studied psychology in college, and began to work in the addiction recovery field. In 2010 he told Counselor magazine, journal of the California Association of Addiction Programs and Professionals, that in 1963 he was recruited to develop a TC program that would serve addicts placed on probation and ordered into a residential treatment facility.[4] In the process, he became a co-founder of Daytop Village Inc., a New York-based TC launched in 1963.[5] Daytop Village served as the model for TCs that sprang up across the U.S., including Gaudenzia House (Philadelphia), Walden House (San Francisco), and Gateway (Chicago).[5]

Deitch began using “humanizing community” rather than “therapeutic community” to characterize the underlying curative dynamic of Daytop Village. Beyond the strict regimen of a drug-free environment supported by encounter groups, hierarchical rewards-based advancement systems and other behavior modification and reinforcement techniques, Deitch believed that opportunities for developing deeper cultural awareness should be part of moving toward a productive, independent, drug-free existence. He introduced intensive intensive education and arts programs to the basic treatment regimen. Residents were encouraged to receive high school equivalency diplomas, at least, and to pursue higher learning when possible.[6]

According to Stan Satlin, MSW, Director of Culture and Education at Daytop from 1964-1968, Deitch inspired cultural events that broadened the therapeutic environment at the community, including a writers workshop, a filmmaking program, music lessons and art classes, and guest speakers to expand residents' outlook and knowledge. ‘The Concept’ (an off-Broadway play that New York Times drama critic Walter Kerr called, “Without question the most moving theatrical experience in New York”;[7] and the Daytop Music Festival in 1968 that featured Duke Ellington, Pete Seeger, Janis Ian, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck grew out of this ‘humanizing’ philosophy that Deitch espoused.[8]

Phoenix House

Deitch and a group of colleagues left Daytop in 1968 to join the University of Chicago's Department of Psychiatry in establishing the Illinois Drug Abuse Treatment Program, the state's first multi-modality drug treatment program featuring a residential TC, outpatient methadone clinics, residential and outpatient half-way houses, a youth counseling drop-in center, and associated University-based drug dependency research programs.[9] Deitch later served as Senior V.P. and Chief Clinical Officer for Phoenix House Foundation, an independent nonprofit provider of drug and alcohol abuse treatment and prevention services in nine states.[10]

While at Phoenix House, Deitch contributed to an ABC special report on the children of addicts and their life-long struggles, and an Orange County Register story on a potential vaccine to treat cocaine addicts.[11] He was a featured commentator in a 2008 documentary, The Narcotic Farm, which told the story of the federally-funded hospital-prison-research facility in Lexington, Ky., which operated between 1935 and 1974, and where Deitch had been incarcerated decades earlier.[12]

Deitch was the founding Director of the Center for Criminality & Addiction, Research, Training, & Application (CCARTA) at UCSD’s School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. He has also had appointments at Temple University, the University of Chicago, and as Chief of Substance Abuse Services University of California at San Francisco and is a member of the UCSD Health Science Academy of Clinical Scholars.[13]

Presidential Appointment

Deitch served in the Lyndon Johnson Administration as consultant.[14] He also chaired the Curriculum Development Committee of the National Addiction Technology Transfer Centers for Technical Assistance Publication Series 21 — "The Addiction Counseling Competencies: The Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes of Professional Practice," a guideline for corrections- and community-based treatment organizations.[15]

Deitch has co-edited four books regarding social issues, crime and delinquency; and authored numerous publications, chapters and videos in the field of drug misuse, treatment, prevention, and social policy, including Addiction Counseling Competencies – The Knowledge Skills and Attitudes.[16]

Deitch's research includes practice-based approaches in therapeutic community treatment of addictions and other outpatient methodologies, including development of specific competencies for treatment of addictive disorders. He has also addressed issues of addiction and criminality, the impact of prison-based therapeutic communities on inmate behaviors and uniform service quality of life. Along with innovation of TC treatments for adult and adolescent drug overdosers, Deitch has developed TC approaches with the aged and for spine and head injury.[13]


  1. White, William L. "Interviews with Pioneers: David Deitch, PhD and George De Leon, PhD on Recovery Management and the Future of the Therapeutic Community – Counselor Magazine".
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/therapeutic-communities/what-are-therapeutic-communities.
  3. "JOURNAL INTERVIEW-47 - Conversation with David Deitch". Addiction. 94 (6): 791–800. May 31, 1999. doi:10.1080/09652149933261 – via Wiley Online Library.
  4. https://www.counselormagazine.com/en/article/interviews-with-pioneers)
  5. 5.0 5.1 "History - Samaritan Village". samaritanvillage.org.
  6. http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/pr/Dr.%20David%20Deitch%20on%20Role%20of%20Paraprofessional%2C%201974.pdf
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/16obituaries/16sacharow.html
  8. "June 16, 1968 Jimi and Jeff Beck jam at the Daytop Music Festival on Staten Island, New York and again, later that night, at the Scene Club in New York". The Official Jimi Hendrix Site.
  9. Markham, James M. (May 21, 1972). "Concerning an intractable and contagious disease" – via NYTimes.com.
  10. "Our History | Phoenix House".
  11. "deitch | Phoenix House".
  12. https://www.forbes.com/sites/claryestes/2019/11/18-the-narcotic-farm-and-the-little-known-history-americas-first-prison-for-drug-addicts/
  13. 13.0 13.1 https://profiles.ucsd.edu/david.deitch#narrative
  14. Study, Institute of Medicine (US) Committee for the Substance Abuse Coverage; Gerstein, Dean R.; Harwood, Henrick J. (May 31, 1990). "Biographical Sketches of Committee Members and Staff". National Academies Press (US) – via www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
  15. https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma12-4171.pdf
  16. "Addiction Counseling Competencies the Knowledge Skills and Attitudes: Deitch, David A.: 9780788176074: Amazon.com: Books".

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