“A rare and unique opportunity”

Last year, Behavioral Tech formed a collaboration with Columbia University’s School of Social Work. The goal of this collaboration was to bring an innovative approach to training advanced students and licensed mental health professionals through a combined DBT Intensive training. We’re very excited to be offering this training for a second year and asked former student participant Jenna Williamson, MSW, to give us her impressions of what she believes is a “rare and unique opportunity.”

Jenna Profile Pic
Jenna Williamson, MSW

What did you gain from having a mixture of both clinicians and students in the room?

J: As a second-year graduate student attending the [Dialectical Behavior Therapy] Intensive Training™, it was an invaluable experience to have a mixture of both students and clinicians in the training room. I felt truly lucky to go through this experience with clinicians who were already practicing in the field, as they offered a different perspective of clinical work that you do not have when you are just starting your clinical career. Since most of the Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW) [student] team had only completed one clinical internship prior to the Intensive, we definitely benefitted from hearing the questions raised and examples provided from the other clinicians in the room.

What most surprised you about the DBT Intensive Training?

J: What surprised me the most about the Intensive was how much closer my teammates and I grew during Part 2. Towards the end of Part 2, [the trainers], Randy [Wolbert, LMSW, CAADC, CCS] and Gwen [Abney-Cunningham, LMSW], had all the teams meet to discuss their “professional dialectical dilemmas,” and I really pinpoint this as the moment we all became more energized to strengthen our CSSW consultation team. I think this exercise in particular helped us learn how to better work together as a team and enabled us to keep each other accountable in a non-judgmental way. I know I’ll take what I learned from my team with me to wherever I end up next, and I really couldn’t have asked for a better team!

Do you think that this experience was useful in transitioning into an internship?

J: The Intensive Training was very useful in helping me transition into my DBT internship. Since a large portion of the consultation team at my internship were trainees who had not completed the Intensive Training yet, I was able to offer more insight into the underlying theory and principles of DBT. Even though I did not have as much clinical experience as most of my team, having the Intensive training to fall back on when I encountered difficult cases was extremely helpful. My supervisor was also integral in helping me learn how to put the theory into practice in real world settings—if there’s one thing I learned this year, it’s how incredibly important it is to have quality supervision from someone who really knows the treatment when you are first learning how to do DBT.

Has your experience at the Intensive been useful in terms of moving forward in a career in social work?

J: Having the opportunity to receive specialized training like this is a rare and unique opportunity for a social work graduate student, as many social work graduates do not typically get this amount of clinical training during a 2-year graduate program. Both the Intensive and my DBT internship provided me with a clinical skill set that will hopefully allow me to continue working with difficult populations who struggle with a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues.

Would you tell other people in your position to apply for an Intensive Training?

J: Yes—especially if they can get it through a similar DBT graduate training program. There is a LOT of work required between Part 1 and Part 2 (in addition to DBT being a complex treatment to learn in general), so having many of these assignments infused within a school curriculum was really helpful to stay on track. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get a DBT professor who is both extremely knowledgeable about DBT, AND is dedicated to keeping your team motivated when burnout inevitably increases under the stress of an intense DBT internship and a graduate school workload!

In terms of the format of an Intensive, was there anything that you found particularly helpful in your learning process?

J: The client/consultation team videos and trainer role-plays were absolutely essential to learning DBT. It’s one thing to read about what irreverence is, and it’s another thing entirely to actually correctly execute an irreverent statement without sounding sarcastic or judgmental. So much of the value of these videos and role-plays rests in seeing how to use the various dialectical strategies, in addition to getting a better sense of the “movement, speed, and flow” of DBT. This in and of itself made the Intensive completely worth it.

If you are part of a DBT Consultation Team and would like more information on this training, click here.

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