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Staff Spotlight: Ilana Zivkovich

05/03/2017 Posted by Living Sober

This month, we interviewed Ilana Zivkovich, Northbound’s Chief Clinical Officer. Ilana operates as a leader at Northbound, overseeing clinical strategy and development, and providing clinical training, outreach, consultation, and collaboration both internally and externally.

Ilana received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC), and a Certified Daring Way Facilitator (CDWF) with 10 years of experience in the behavioral healthcare field.

Ilana has been with Northbound since January 1, 2015. She brings a wealth of experience, a passion for recovery, and a warmth of character that creates an impactful and positive experience for our clients and staff alike.

What led you to work in treatment?

I think my incentive for working in treatment is like many of ours: it’s very personal. I’ve been in recovery since I was 16, a gift for which I am beyond grateful. Both addiction and recovery have touched many members of my family. I’ve lived through the struggle and experienced the miracles – I couldn’t imagine a more meaningful or fitting field to work in.

We understand through science that long-term treatment enhances the likelihood of success in addiction recovery. This has certainly been the case in my life. My treatment journey lasted roughly two and a half years and ran the gamut from a wilderness program to residential treatment. This ran all the way through a transitional living program and into outpatient treatment.

I finished high school and completed my first three semesters of college in one form of treatment or another. I was lucky to work with some of the most extraordinary professionals. Without their help and guidance, I don’t know where I would be today.

Miraculously, I maintained my recovery without relapse throughout my late adolescence and young adult years. My family has always been heavily involved in my recovery. They’ve also been brave enough to engage in their own work so that our entire family system could heal.

I love working in treatment and getting to see similar miracles happen again, and again, and again. I believe in every single human being’s capacity to change themselves and their lives for the better. Bearing witness to these brave transformations is the hallmark of recovery and will never cease to thrill me.


Ilana with her parents, Robin and Michael

What other positions have you worked in since you started in the treatment field?

My experience working in treatment began as a clinical intern – providing therapy and case management services for a caseload of clients. I transitioned from that internship into a treatment technician role. The backbone of any recovery program is truly the strength of these operational team members – they interact with our clients day in day out, and set the tone for their entire treatment experience. Thank you to operations teams everywhere!!!

I continued to evolve as a therapist and loved my work with my small caseload of clients. To this day, the clients are some of my very best teachers.

I found a passion for leadership and engaged in a variety of roles that allowed me to continue my direct clinical practice, while also getting involved with program development, clinical supervision, operations, marketing, business administration, and management. Some titles included Executive Director, Clinical Director, Director of Clinical Development, and Clinical Outreach Coordinator. Each new role helped me get a feel for how everything within a treatment center works and how all the different pieces need to fit together.


Ilana with her daughter, Aviana

What brought you to Northbound?

Northbound is such a bright spot in my life! In late 2014 I was navigating a career transition. I knew I needed to find a team that would be an excellent culture-fit and would inspire me to push to new professional and personal heights. I knew organizational health was important and that I wanted to contribute to those efforts just as much as I wanted to continue with the clinical development work I had always been drawn to. I had no clue what this would look like or how to make it happen.

And then, like it so often does if we get out of our own way and trust the process, the universe intervened and delivered me what I could not have forced through stubborn ego or will. I was introduced to Paul, and shortly thereafter Mike, Devon, Ray, and the rest of the leadership team at Northbound. Our meetings were effortless. The congruence was spiritually, emotionally, philosophically, and culturally aligned…I was home.

I walked away from that very first meeting with Paul and wrote him an email entitled “inspired” – that was the only word to describe it. Hearing about Northbound’s emphasis on culture, holding my very first compass in my hands (it would travel multiple continents with me), and learning about the innovative model used to help clients achieve a sustainable lifestyle of recovery (we would later brand it “In Vivo™”)…I was thrilled. When Paul called me to formally offer me a spot on the team, I literally jumped out of my chair and did a happy dance – heart, mind, and soul full of hope and promise for what this next professional chapter would hold.

My experience since then has exceeded my greatest hopes. To be sure – Northbound is imperfect. We make mistakes all the time – I make more than my fair share of them. But what we talk about in Our Promise has truly been my reality – I have become a better PERSON (not just a better professional) for having come into contact with the Northbound experience for these past two and a half years. Being on the Northbound team has helped me deepen my recovery, enhance my ability to be my authentic self, and teaches me so much about relationships and leadership.

The culture inspires and enhances me, and our innovative model amazes me. In Northbound’s In Vivo™ clinical model, we expose clients to real life experiences so they may develop a sustainable lifestyle of recovery. This model empowers clients as they confront real life challenges and successes, joys, and stressors that they will need to know how to navigate to be successful in their lives.

We wrap support and accountability around them and walk with them as they put their new-found coping skills into practice. This model is daring, innovative, and effective. I am inspired to work within this approach!

What are some of your duties as Northbound’s Chief Clinical Officer?

My role focuses on four main things: strategy, leadership, development, and clinical intervention.

Strategy refers to helping shape how Northbound as a whole (and our clinical services in particular) is positioned now and in the future. How do we best keep up with the changing needs of our clients and our marketplace? What type of programming do we need to implement to best support our clients? How do we make the culture thrive at Northbound? This work consists of a lot of analysis, brainstorming, consultation, process improvements, and long-term perspective. It is the “10,000-foot view” stuff that I find fascinating.

Leadership encompasses a lot of what I do. This includes formal supervision, informal mentoring/coaching, training, recruitment and hiring, workshop facilitation across departments, cross-departmental collaboration, budget management, and clinically-informed outreach. I specifically get to work in a supervisory capacity with our Director of Clinical Supervision, J House, Saint Louis, and our Signature Services of Trauma, College/CareerBound, and Music.

Development refers to anything new that the team and I create! This includes new programs, curriculum content, training, process improvements, written materials (both internally and externally focused), structural changes, and new policies and procedures. This part of my job allows me to work with so many of our stellar team members to gather the best ideas out there and synthesize them into cohesive deliverables for our clients and our staff.

Clinical Intervention has become a smaller part of my role, as we have many talented operations, admissions, and clinical team member who are on the ground day in and out providing exemplary services for our clients. That said, where appropriate I love to get involved, whether that be engaging directly with a struggling family, consulting with the team on recommended modalities or interventions, or collaborating with a referent to ensure smooth continuity of care.

Across these various focus areas, my constant focus is on enhancing both the culture and service delivery of Northbound. I love this organization – our team, our mission, our dedication to our values and culture, our willingness to innovate, and the energy that courses through our programs. I am so grateful to be on board!


Ilana with Aviana and her husband, Zach

What are your hobbies outside of work?

Well, in terms of traditional “hobbies” – I love fitness and recently took that passion to the next level by becoming an indoor cycling (“spin”) instructor. I get outside as much as I can (hiking, running, days on the lake or in the water) and absolutely love to travel. I have a wonderful circle of diverse friends who keep me inspired, grounded, and always trying new things.

Overall it is my family who really keeps me going. My husband and I just celebrated 10 years together. We put a lot of energy into our relationship as well as our relationships with our extended family. We are lucky to be related to some amazing people who we honestly like as well as love. We have an 11-month-old daughter who we adore. I cherish every moment I get to spend with her, and hope to live my life in a way she can someday reflect back on and be proud of!

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Integrated Treatment Approach: Newer and Better

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