By Jill Rafferty-Weinish, Strategic Director of Vocational, Day, and Community Supports

When the COVID-19 shutdown last spring required many Wildwood services to go "virtual", Behaviorists Brittany DeBell, Ingrid Martinez, and Alex Keefer really felt the loss of professional camaraderie from their office interactions. They knew the people and families they supported would be having similar challenges, so they spoke to the Communications team about developing a podcast that would help provide – as Martinez puts it – "a little behaviorist in your pocket."

The format is simple: DeBell, Martinez, and Keefer (later joined by new behaviorist Cailin Sofko) chat easily about the process of decoding the messages of human behavior. They work in varying parts of the agency, and come from different philosophical backgrounds in regards to behavioral support work, so they are accustomed to this kind of banter. The conversations are part clinical case study, part detective story, and part coffee break with your co-workers. Episodes are short, concise, and packed with useful information. As they go, they open a window to the methodical process of understanding why people do what they do, whether it is the people they support, their own families or themselves.

I am an avid consumer of podcasts. I listen to them in my car, while I'm cooking or while exercising; so I know that podcasting isn't as easy as just turning on the recorder and uploading the results. There are a lot of interesting podcasts out there that fall short of greatness because they're disorganized, don't stay relevant or don't keep the audience's attention. The podcast, Behavioral and Therapeutic Supports (BTS), avoids all of these pitfalls. The sound quality is good. The conversation flows rapidly but naturally. The hosts are relatable, pulling the listener into the conversation. The content is just technical enough to help me learn and grasp new concepts without leaving me feeling lost and left out. I've learned some new terms and concepts that I've used in my day-to-day life.

I asked the team how much time they spend rehearsing for each episode and was surprised to learn the answer - not much. The co-hosts are all so busy working in different parts of the agency that they don't have a lot of time for planning. They select a topic and independently think of what they have to say, then have that discussion on air. If the dialogue seems authentic and natural…that's because it is! From the introduction explaining Wildwood's mission and BTS's purpose, to the final moments of each episode where the hosts expertly sum up the day's insights, BTS is informative, engaging, and natural.

A Wildwood colleague has listened to episodes with the team he supports to help facilitate a conversation about their own anxieties. He also shared an instance where BTS helped start a conversation with his eight-year-old son.

"At the time my kids were being homeschooled due to the virus. I was listening to an episode about how the world looks different, how we are grieving the ways things are during this pandemic and how we all experience grief differently. It opened up a conversation with my son about loss and how we all deal with it,” he said. “We were able to identify ways in which things changed for us. Then we were able to see if there were any solutions to them. We moved on to the other episodes. I really enjoyed listening to the burn out episode. It validated my own burnout and gave me awesome tools to be able to change and adapt to these uncertain times. I realized I ‘cannot pour from an empty cup.’ This helped me realize that I need to care for myself or I won't be able to give to my family, my peers, the staff, and the individuals. This helped me remember to say ‘no’ when I needed to.”

According to Martinez, most of their listeners are Wildwood staff. They would love to expand their audience to include more families and people supported by Wildwood. The group would also really appreciate feedback and suggestions for future episodes. Questions, suggestions, and requests can be sent to imartinez@wildwoodprograms.org.

You can listen to the Wildwood Podcast via https://anchor.fm/wildwoodpodcast, and most major streaming sites (Spotify, Apple Podcasts).