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Santa Fe DBT launches postgraduate fellowship for social workers

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

Social workers at Santa Fe Dialectical Behavior Therapy in New Mexico are taking an active role in promoting more social workers with a specialty in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT.

Social worker and NASW member Cedar Koons, right, stands with Felice Marohn, the first fellow in a postgraduate program at Santa Fe Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which Koons co-founded.

According to Santa Fe DBT co-founder and social worker Cedar Koons, DBT is an evidence-based treatment for borderline personality disorder developed by Marsha Linehan, professor of psychology and adjunct professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington.

Koons, who also is a DBT trainer, said half of her trainees are social workers who work directly with clients.

“They are eager to learn about this treatment,” she said.

The key problem that DBT treats is “emotion dysregulation,” defined as a combination of extreme emotional vulnerability with difficulty in regulating emotions once they are aroused, Koons explained.

In an effort to promote the therapy to underserved clients, Santa Fe DBT has established a postgraduate fellowship for social workers to gain experience and supervised practice in DBT.

Koons said the fellowship is designed for recent graduates who are clinicians of color and are interested in working with underserved populations.

“These recent graduates, who are working toward their independent licenses, will co-lead a DBT skills group, attend the two-hour consultation team and follow at least four individual clients in DBT,” Koons said. They will receive at least one hour per week of individual clinical supervision on their cases and intensive didactics on DBT and evidence-based protocols.

The first fellow is Felice Marohn, a 2012 graduate of Smith College School of Social Work.

Koons said she believes the Santa Fe DBT fellowship is the only one of its kind in New Mexico and she hopes the program inspires other clinical social workers and social work practices to consider hosting fellowships.

“I want (social workers) to be prepared for the 21st century marketplace, to really be able to reach our clients with techniques that are shown to be effective,” Koons said.

“It’s really a delight to do this,” she said of mentoring other social workers. “This is a really rewarding thing to do.”

For more information about DBT, visit behavioraltech.org

From the July 2013 NASW News

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