Cornerstones Training Program Q&A with David Kinsella
What is the purpose of training and development at Cornerstones and how does it benefit our staff?
The purpose of training and development at Cornerstones of Maine is multifaceted. First and foremost, the program demonstrates to our staff that they are valued and worth investing in as professionals. All employees are provided the opportunity to increase their working knowledge of the complexities that come with being part of a transitional living program. It assures that staff are operating under culturally competent trauma-informed best practices, adhering to regulatory standards, and learning current front-line interventions. Staff are equipped with and become adept at the skills needed to perform at a level of excellence that our residents and families deserve.
This comprehensive training program immensely benefits our staff in being prepared to successfully engage with the multitude of diverse experiences within the milieu ranging from understanding the impact of trauma and mental illness on behavior to learning how to mentalize with our residents while engaging in therapeutically informed interventions. Staff experience increased confidence and decreased burnout leading to more positive staff cohesion. The live, in-person trainings themselves provide a consistent opportunity for positive team building and an enhanced sense of community especially for our staff who otherwise would not see the staff from our other locations. Moreover, these trainings provide staff with constant professional growth that can potentially lead to opportunities for advancement and creativity at Cornerstones.
How does the training program benefit our residents?
The residents significantly gain from having thoroughly trained staff in that it creates an atmosphere of greater curiosity and understanding rather than one of reactivity and miscommunication. Staff learn to interact with residents mindfully allowing for an ebb and flow within their interpersonal interventions creating a high level of safety that allows for transformative experiences of growth and healing. Residents having a thoroughly trained staff team allows them to experience the epistemic trust needed to build grit, distress tolerance, and insight into themselves about who they are and want to be as individuals in moving towards independence.
What is your philosophy on training?
My philosophy on training is that learning is the key to understanding and obtaining skills, and the understanding and skills are the keys to being successful in any endeavor. Everyone has potential, but that is not enough, being given the opportunity to obtain and practice knowledge is paramount in activating one’s potential to actualize any endeavor. I also believe that those who already have significant knowledge and skill also greatly benefit from training. Through training and practice, one can move from a standard of being great to excellent. In other words, I believe that academic training is akin to professional sports where we see time after time the most talented and skilled players still attending focused weekly practices despite being already so talented and knowledgeable. Training is what makes them excellent.
How do you approach training at Cornerstones?
Keeping in line with my training philosophy, my approach to training at Cornerstones starts with the perspective that all staff have the potential for achieving excellence in their work. Every training is designed with that goal in mind. I intentionally foster a safe, respectful learning environment that enables staff with different levels of education and experience to feel comfortable engaging in active learning. Through a multidimensional lens, I teach through methods that connect with all the differing learning styles coupled with a dialectic approach where each student can question the content to arrive at a comprehensive understanding.
How do you measure the impact of the Cornerstones training program?
The impact of the training program is measured through several means. There are comprehensive evaluations for each course and instructor(s), there are tests at the end of most courses that are used to asses knowledge gained, periodic reviews with supervisory staff, and direct observations between staff and residents are considered and discussed as needed. Staff retention is also a measured indication of the trainings.
What is your experience in teaching and training?
I have over 13 years of experience in teaching and training. I have served as the Projects Manager and then the Division Manager for the Behavioral Health Sciences Institute where I oversaw both the Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Behavioral Health Services Behavioral Health Professional (BHP) training certification program; and the Department of Health and Human Services Adult Developmental Services Direct Support (DSP) Professional training certification program. In that position, I researched, wrote, and revised professional development curricula to advance workforce development as well as facilitated and instructed comprehensive strengths-based behavioral health training programs for professionals throughout the state of Maine. I then served as the Director of Training for a large Maine agency where I built the training department that handled the training and education of several hundred employees.
Lastly, for the last 12 plus years I have been and currently am an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Maine at Augusta in the Mental Health and Human Services Department where I Instruct, research, and create Mental Health and Human Services Courses.
David Kinsella, MSW, LCSW
Psychotherapist & Training Coordinator
Cornerstones of Maine