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Danielle Treiber, Ph.D. is a 2019 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Treiber at her Dissertation Defense.

L-R: Dr. Elizabeth Holloway, Committee Member, Dr. Lize Booysen, Committee Chair, Dr. Karsten Lunze, Committee Member (not pictured).

Dissertation Committee

  • Lize Booysen, DBL, Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Karsten Lunze, Ph.D., MD, Committee Member


Adolescence, Youth, Development, Identity, Self, Self-Concept, Substance Use, Substance Use Disorders, Drug use, Drug Culture, Addiction Culture, Leadership, Qualitative, Grounded Theory, Situational Analysis

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The purpose of this study was to unearth how adolescents with substance use disorders achieve the task of identity formation and the construction of self-concept in the midst of the drug culture and society that exists. It sought to uncover the social constructs designed to ignore and/or remove human complexities and allow an intersectional approach to be brought to a study on this population. Historically, there has been a failure to investigate the underlying social attitudes and behaviors that impact the very delicate and vulnerable process of finding self. Psychosocial and relational adjustment are strongly influenced by the extent to which adolescents successfully develop a coherent and structured sense of identity. One’s life pathways and decisions are guided by a consolidated sense of self. An understanding of key identity literature led to a methodological design using both Grounded Theory Methodology and Situational Analysis to provide a thorough description and understanding of the entire situation around identity development for adolescents with substance use disorders. The detailed analysis of the interviews provided by 20 adolescent females served as the basis for the development of a theoretical model depicting the findings from both the dimensional analysis and situational analysis. The research provided empirical evidence that adolescents in this situation form a pseudo-identity to achieve a sense of belonging that has pervaded their existence due to familial, social, and cultural factors. This pseudo-identity is reinforced by acceptance into drug-seeking and substance-using groups, as well as by leadership and practices in treatment, therapy, healthcare, criminal justice, and other macro forces. The research provides practical implications for prevention and intervention practices, as well as leadership practice. Recommendations for future research invite further exploration into whether the situation for the participants in this study hold true across diverse sampling. An animated version of the theoretical model is provided as a supplemental file (mp4). It is embedded in this text, as well as, provided on the AURA link following. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA, and OhioLINK ETD Center,


Danielle Treiber, Ph.D.

ORCID Scholar ID #: 0000-0003-4337-4806

As a science enthusiast and teacher, Danielle Treiber has been a long time systems-thinker. Her approach to everything strives to connect all the pieces that influence the status of that very thing, including herself. It is through the understanding of interdependence and interconnectedness, along with a deep understanding of the self, where we can truly examine what is actually going on. Her work with youth began nearly 17 years ago when she first discovered that youth coming from substance using homes or struggling with substance use were going to be a part of the rest of her life.

She recognized then that these youth needed to be able to write a different narrative than the one they were forced to buy into. Her journey has taken her through many classrooms through informal and formal education, developing curriculum, and training professionals in education. She is currently the head of the science department at a therapeutic boarding school.

Danielle has provided a home for many of these struggling youth which has allowed a genuine understanding of the process and need for compassion and unconditional love. She has always found herself as one to go against the grain and talk about the things that people want to pretend do not exist. She once again has found herself in that situation. It is through the stories and experiences of these beloved youth that she will work to transform the narrative for these youth globally.

Danielle graduated from the University of San Diego with a BA in Biology. She earned her Master’s from Antioch University in Urban Sustainability. She is the co-founder of Transform-Ed Collaborative. Danielle holds certifications in mindfulness meditation and yoga for recovery. She also hosts a podcast, Recovering YOUth.