The Academy

“You learn something new every day!”

Think about how often you’ve heard this phrase. It was probably uttered the last time you showed someone how to use the new coffee machine at work or when you divulged that contrary to popular belief, bats aren’t actually blind.

Continual curiosity and the relentless pursuit of knowledge inspire us. With this, we soar higher, stretch our fingers farther and brush up against what once seemed impossible – be it glimpsing at the hazy halo surrounding Pluto, using micro technology to destroy cancer cells or identifying molecules which can help unlock the mysteries of the human brain.

Community Partners firmly believes in the importance of continuing education and have long considered themselves to be a ‘learning organization.’

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn,” and this is a mentality that the organization has taken to heart with the foundation of The Academy.

The brainchild of CEO and president Patrick McNamara, Chief Operations Officer Pattie Bremekamp and the organization’s clinical supervisors, The Academy was the natural next step in an organization dedicated to learning.

“We have always aspired to have a teaching hospital set up for folks coming out of grad school,” said Patrick. “And we wanted to do that in such a way that we maximum the experience for folks while they’re with us. All while delivering great service.”

Helming this project is Clinical Training and QI Jackie Vega, Director of Crossroads Community Care and  Trauma Care Lindsay Shaffer, Director of Client Outreach Services Jibby Ciric and Senior Targeted Case Manager Jody Olayinka.

“Enrollment in The Academy is something we are providing to all new hires and green therapists, if they’re interested,” said Jackie.

New hires are assigned an experienced mentor who helps them navigate through their first few months at Community Partners.

“Having a mentor certainly helps instill a sense of confidence and it promotes social interaction,” said Jackie. “Therapy is very independent and it’s always nice to have someone you can connect with professionally.”

In addition to establishing a mentor-mentee relationship, The Academy covers information therapists don’t typically get in New Hire Orientation as it only pertinent to their particular skill set.

“One of the big things is home visitation guidelines for higher risk and low-income areas,” Jackie explained.  “We prepare our new hires with home visitation safety guidelines and teach them about the importance of being cognizant of your surroundings.”

There’s more to this training than just basic awareness.

“We want it to be more than Safety 101 so, we also cover how to make best use of your environment and how to frame the situation so that way, the power dynamic between therapist and client still exists,” she said. “Even though we’re in the client’s home, we want to maintain an environment conducive to therapy as opposed to being too casual or too guarded.”

Like any good educational institution, The Academy features a fully-stocked library with a bounty of resources. 

“It’s a very scripted therapy module,” Jackie said. “We have something called MATCH which is focused on four different problem areas – anxiety, depression, trauma and behavior. Let’s say a client has anxiety. We have a flow chart for that that guides the new therapist through it. If they encounter an issue along the way that interferes with progress, they can try X, Y or Z.”

In addition to therapeutic training, new hires also receive training on the basics of Client Directed Outcome Informed therapy and motivational interviewing techniques.

“Motivational interviewing is a counseling technique that we really want to get our supervisors certified in,” said Jackie. “They can mentor their staff moving forward and become really cognizant of co-occuring disorders like mental illness and substance abuse.”

Training schedules are emailed out on a monthly basis featuring a variety of different courses ranging from time management to child welfare.  The latter is particularly important as a majority of CP clients are under the age of 18.

“We provide all therapists with play therapy within first 30 days of hire so they can help their younger clients,” Jackie explained.

Senior Targeted Case Manager Jody Olayinka went on to expound on the importance of trainings catering solely to children.

“I’m partnering with (Director of Crossroads Community Care and  Trauma Care ) Lindsey to help train on the child welfare aspect of the academy. This will give the staff a better understanding of how to interact with the Dependency System to provide the best services for the clients.”

Jackie also hopes to expand the program so it covers “extracurriculars.”

“We would also like to offer trainings on mindfulness, trauma focused and sand tray therapy for kids that have had adverse childhood experiences,” she said. “We have a therapist who is really interested in art therapy and I think it would be awesome for her to lead a course about it when she’s more comfortable. “

Paying it forward is a cornerstone of The Academy concept and those involved are deeply entrenched with the idea of learning being a cyclical process.

“We’ve got really great therapists here and they are all really open to this idea,” Jackie said. “I would like to see it be very full circle - the people who we trained eventually going through training themselves and giving back to new hires. We want them to grow into experienced people as well.”