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Meet Dr. Crystal Collier

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Crystal Collier.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Dr. Collier. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Growing up, I always felt less than and my thoughts were filled with “not as” and “don’t have” statements. I was not as good as everyone else, not as cool as the other kids, didn’t have the latest name brand clothing, didn’t belong to the popular clubs, and didn’t have as many friends as the others. Bottom line, I was not as happy as everybody else seemed to be. What I was unaware of then was that something in my genetics was creating these feelings. In reality, I was a really great kid but buried deep within my DNA was a huge predisposition for addiction. My uncle died of alcoholism and my father struggled with drug addiction resulting in a lifetime of homelessness. Later, I learned that my family passed along genetic abnormalities that caused my body to create an imbalance of dopamine… the neurochemical your brain makes that causes feelings of calmness and happiness. This imbalance sent me on a journey filled with alcohol abuse, intravenous drugs, risky sexual behaviors, school drop out, overdose and rehab at age 18. Surviving these things was a blessing but early recovery was filled with shame. Not understanding why I had led myself down such a self-destructive path, I began studying addiction and how it affects brain development. Learning how my genes sped up the addiction process and how substances arrested my brain development helped alleviate my fear of being a defective person. As my knowledge base grew, I created an educational series to teach other kids how risky behavior affects neurodevelopment that won a national award! Today, I devote my life and career to educating and offering therapeutic services to those who might believe they are “not as” just as I once did.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road less traveled is always bumpier! My obstacles included not having a lot of money for college but I just kept working. Sometimes, I held three jobs while going to school part-time. It took five years to complete my bachelors, four years to complete my master’s degree, and four more years to get a doctorate. My first applications for graduate school were rejected because my test scores were not as high as others. So, I requested permission to begin taking classes that were open to the public in hopes that I could get to know the professors and convince them of my determination. Often, I found myself triggered by the stress and wanted to give up. My recovery meetings were instrumental at these times. Asking for help is one of the most difficult things for me to do. However, putting my ego away and connecting with others kept me from relapsing on alcohol and drugs and firmly planted in the middle of the road to success!

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
My private practice serves individuals, families, couples, and parents who need help with behavioral health issues or just want to learn the origins of their self-defeating behavior. I am well known for two things: 1) prevention presentations about risky behavior and the brain and 2) family-of-origin mapping.

Every year, I perform a literature review on a variety of risky behaviors that children and teens engage in. When I find the latest information about how these behaviors affect the brain, I update my public presentations. For elementary audiences, I engage 3-6th graders in a fun, interactive play about keeping their brain safe from risky behavior. Middle and high school students love to learn the science behind substance use, a much different approach than what I heard as a kid when commercials displayed my brain as a fried egg on drugs! Parents are always appreciative of the tools they learn and feel validated with the knowledge that they are protecting their child’s neurodevelopment.

Family-of-origin (FOO) mapping is a process of discovering what events or traumas from our past cause negative habits that create obstacles for us today. In this 8-12 week therapy, participants share their story and we map these events to gain an understanding of how they affected their neurodevelopment. Once all the FOO buttons are graphically “mapped” on the board, a process of awareness and skills building completes the sessions.

Empowering people to learn and understand the neurodevelopmental structure buried deep within their brain either to protect or heal themselves, is what sets my practice apart. In 2018, I was awarded a research fellowship by the Hope and Healing Center & Institute to write a neurodevelopmental guide to help parents prevent their children from engaging in risky behavior. The book is called the NeuroWhereAbouts Guide to be published in 2019!

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Houston is the bomb! Houstonians are diverse, accepting, and progressive, As a person who has struggled with self-acceptance, Houston provides my soul with a unique sense of belonging. In Houston, I am one of the cool kids and so are all of my Houstonian peeps!

Recovery is strong in this city. Houston is home to over 5,000 12-step meetings per week, the largest recovery high school in the country called Archway Academy, five Alternative Peer Group programs for teens who struggle with addiction, and an awesome collegiate recovery program at the University of Houston called Cougars in Recovery! This town offers so many things that make being clean and sober way more fun than using!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jan Johnson

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Susan Onstott Graham

    April 17, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    Crystal is an amazing woman and brings Hope to so many!

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