Boston’s Dimock Center Turns to The Network at BU for Customized CBT Training Solution 

The Dimock Center in Roxbury, Massachusetts, is a national model for the delivery of comprehensive health and human services in an urban community. But over the past few years, they noticed a growing challenge.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, clinicians at the Center saw a concerning increase in anxiety and panic disorder among its patients—from children to older adults. They turned to The Network for Professional Education at Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW) for help developing a program to train their staff.

“We went to The Network because we knew they could deliver evidenced-based training tailored to our specific population and needs,” says Jacqueline Maher, LICSW, Dimock’s integrated behavioral health assistant manager for adult medicine.

Working closely with The Network team, Maher outlined her needs. It had been about five years since Dimock provided in-person training, so they wanted an onsite experience that would bring staff together in a collaborative environment. They were looking to learn more about cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and other strategies that staff with various amounts of experience could apply to their work in individual and group therapy, and with both adult and pediatric patients. They also needed culturally responsive tools that were sensitive to the diverse needs of their patients.

“Most trainings assume patients have a certain level of access to healthcare, a certain level of education, and speak a certain language,” says Maher. “We meet our patients where they’re at, so our training had to be customized to take that into account.” As predicted, Maher says, The Network was great to work with. “During the planning phase, the team was so helpful. They asked all the right questions to come up with the right trainer for us—and she was definitely the right trainer.”

That ‘right trainer’ was Odessa Holt (MSW’02), MPH, LICSW. A public health social work professional with over 20 years of experience in healthcare as a medical social worker, trainer, clinical supervisor, and manager, Holt is a dedicated member of The Network’s Trainers Hub. Her expertise in CBT and her inclusive, interactive, and solution-focused training style was perfect for Dimock.

“As healthcare providers, we barely have time to take a breath, nevermind check in with each other,” Holt says. “Giving people the time to interact and learn from each other really helps professionals feel empowered. It also gives them a boost to know their employer believes in them and is investing in them.”

Having worked as a manager for the Massachusetts COVID Community Tracing Collaborative, Holt focused on developing a culturally appropriate training for Dimock. During the half-day workshop for 20 staff members, she covered the theoretical underpinnings of CBT and how it can be used to treat panic disorder in a range of patients—inclusive of age, gender expression, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic background.

“Since the training took place, staff members are saying they feel revitalized and excited to put what they learned to work,” says Rachel Shotkin, LICSW, pediatric behavioral health specialist. “We needed theoretical concepts, but also concrete tools we could use right away, and that’s what Odessa delivered,” adds Shotkin. “She was really knowledgeable, engaging, and personable.”

“It definitely exceeded our expectations,” says Maher. “Odessa really took the time to get to know us and our population, as well as the day-to-day obstacles that prevent us from consistently using structured modalities. By the end, I felt more confident in my knowledge of CBT and using intervention in a more targeted way.”

 Learn more about how the Network Trainers Hub connects organizations with expert trainers.