Abstract: Evaluating Social Work Training in Evidence Based Practice: The Columbia University DBT Training Program (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Evaluating Social Work Training in Evidence Based Practice: The Columbia University DBT Training Program

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 9:30 AM
Union Square 16 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Andre Ivanoff, PhD, Professor, Columbia University in the City of New York, New York, NY
Lauren Bochicchio, MSW, Doctoral Student, Columbia University, New York, NY
Neha Deshmukh, MSW, Doctoral Student, Columbia University, New York, NY
Background and Purpose:  Traditional social work education frequently trains clinical practice as a series of survey courses covering a range of practice approaches, ranging from those particular to social work to psychodynamic, CBT and evidence-based models.  The consequence of this type of training can be an inability to articulate a clinical case conceptualization from a chosen model of practice coupled with a lack of demonstrable clinical skills. The Columbia University DBT Training Program, the only DBT training program in a school of social work, was designed to train second year MSW students in a model of evidence-based practice developed to address multi-problem clients suffering from severe and complex disorders in diverse practice settings.  The 12-month program is entered via competitive application and is comprised of a rigorous academic curriculum paired with specialized field settings with trained DBT supervisors.  Students participate in 15 extra class credit hours and 10 days of DBT Intensive Training, 90 hours of online training and independent study and a 2.5 day workshop in suicide risk assessment & management.

Methods: This mixed methods evaluation involved several waves including standard quantitative & specific qualitative student program and classroom evaluations from specialized DBT Program coursework from 2015-16 and 2016-17, an online alumni evaluation and an in-depth telephone follow-up interview.  Using university-available contact information 80% (71/89) of alumni were surveyed.   Participants were all graduates of the DBT Training program.  

Results: Response rates were 100% for coursework and program evaluation (n=30).  Alumni response rates by year of graduation range from 100% to 25%.  Specialized coursework and training activities were evaluated as significantly enhancing the impact and value of the MSW degree and career trajectory with in-person training activities regarded as more important to learning than online, remote or self-directed activities. DBT fieldwork activities were assessed as critically important to career development by all alumni.  Supervisory contact and mentoring by program faculty were also cited as important to career decisions.  Program participation was also credited with providing advantages in job searches and with providing a self-selected cohort of highly committed and motivated peers, adding to overall satisfaction with the MSW program.

Conclusions and Implications: Enhanced clinical training in social work can address some of the deficits in the standard MSW curriculum for self-selected and highly motivated students, creating specialized practitioners willing and able to work with severely disordered, multi-problem clients.  Scaling this model through developing active alumni into supervisors so that students located outside of New York can participate in targeted training and clinical education is an important next step.