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Harry Aponte developed a systematized approach to training the use of self in therapy, the Person of the Therapist training model (POTT), that prioritizes clinicians making the fullest use of their personal selves, in particular of their emotional vulnerabilities, in all aspects of the therapeutic process – the relationship, assessment and interventions. While the work on self in the training of therapists has traditionally focused primarily on helping therapists resolve personal emotional issues that interfere with their clinical effectiveness, the POTT model emphasizes therapists in the present therapeutic moment making purposeful and strategic use within their therapy models of their personal core emotional issues, life experiences (good and bad), and their values/world views.The special attention to therapists’ use of their emotional vulnerabilities is based on the premise that it is through these personal issues of theirs that therapists are best prepared to relate to the emotional struggles of their clients. Thus, their training aims at therapists coming to better know themselves, have ready access to their inner experiences when engaged with clients, and to gain greater mastery in the purposeful use of their personal selves in the moment when actively engaged with clients.
Attention to work on the emotional life of the self of the psychotherapist started with Sigmund Freud’s expectation that aspiring analysts undergo their own psychoanalysis as part of their training. With the birth of systemically based therapies, Murray Bowen and Virginia Satir stand out as proponents of working on nascent family therapists resolving personal issues. However, these models emphasized resolving personal issues that may interfere with their professional performance. The POTT model adds the next step by recognizing that none of us fully resolve all our issues, and trains therapists to work purposefully with who they are, especially through their human vulnerabilities, at the moment of therapeutic engagement. Therapists are trained in a uniquely systematized and structured program to be aware of self and be disciplined in the use of self as described in a new book, “The Person of the Therapist Training Model: Mastering the Use of Self” ((Routledge).
The POTT model takes a unique stance regarding the value of these core issues by not just suggesting that therapists’ core personal issues, “signature themes,” are resources that can enhance therapists’ effectiveness, but by placing learning to work through these signature themes at the very heart of the training of therapists in the use of self. The signature themes are not narrowly viewed as hindering therapy, but rather, whatever challenges they present, as potentially valuable resources enabling therapists to work effectively by identifying with and differentiating from their clients (individuals or families). The training has two basic components – helping trainees become personally self-aware, and then incorporating this self-insight into their therapeutic models. This new book, “Training the Person of the Therapist Model,” serves as a handbook that details systematically how to structure the training. The book is being sold and used in the US, Europe and Asia.
The book is the prime resource for universities and other training institutions to create their own training programs based on the model. The faculty of Drexel University’s Couple and Family Therapy Department published five articles in the Training and Supervision section of the Journal of Marital & Family Therapy (October, 2009) describing how they developed the model in a university setting. Aponte with Joan Winter published a lengthy chapter in Michele Baldwin’s “The Use of Self in Therapy,” (first edition, 2013, and now in its 3rd edition), that described how the model could be implemented in a private training institute. Students who graduated from the Couple and Family Department at Drexel come from many parts of world, and are conducting training in the model in Singapore, Turkey and many parts of the US. A Japanese publisher in this last month asked about translating the book to publish it in Japan.
As noted above, this innovative program is being replicated in other universities in the US and abroad. The new book, “The Person of the Therapist Training Model,” offers a handbook that provides the theory behind the model, describes in detail the program itself with excerpts from the syllabi, and chapters with transcripts of the actual training experiences of students. Aponte and other faculty from Drexel are being consulted and invited to present on the model. Graduates from the program are establishing the program elsewhere, and offering consultation, as well as publishing their research on the model.
Three recent qualitative studies on POTT offer examples of research that supports the effectiveness of the training (Apolinar Claudio, 2016; Niño, Kissil, & Apolinar Claudio, 2015; Niño, Kissil, & Cooke, 2016). The first study, conducted by Niño and her colleagues (Niño et al., 2015), explored the professional gains that first year master level MFT students reported following the completion of a nine-month POTT training. Findings suggest that students experienced increased ability to purposefully use their selves in therapeutic encounters to connect, assess and intervene. The second study, conducted by Niño and her colleagues (Niño et al., 2016) explored the perceived effects of POTT on MFT students’ ability to create positive therapeutic relationships with their clients. The third study, conducted by Apolinar Claudio (2016) explored the perceived impact of POTT on clinical effectiveness in a sample of POTT postgraduate who reported that the way that they provided therapy, had transformed.