Last month, 11 enthusiastic trainers from across the country participated in Prevention Solutions@EDC’s SAPST Virtual Training of Trainers (TOT). The TOT prepared participants to deliver the highly respected Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Training—or SAPST—in their states and communities.
Since its launch in 2006, the SAPST has played a critical role in professionalizing the prevention workforce. Thousands of substance misuse prevention practitioners have participated, and more than 30 state systems have adopted the SAPST as their foundational prevention training.
But critical to the success of the SAPST is the quality of its trainers. And right now, according to Master SAPST Trainer Sandra Del Sesto, there are not enough trainers prepared to deliver it.
“The SAPST is challenging,” says Del Sesto. “It’s long—four days. It covers a lot of territory. It’s not a curriculum you can pick up and train on without preparation. So as trainers retire, or go on to do other things, the pool of SAPST trainers has dwindled.”
Last month’s TOT offered states an opportunity to replenish their SAPST trainer pools. Delivered entirely online, the 16-hour TOT engaged participants in a review of the SAPST content. It also provided them with numerous opportunities to practice delivering different sections of the curriculum and facilitate training activities.
“We spent a lot of time on group facilitation—on how to deliver large amounts of content in the time you have, manage groups, trouble-shoot problems, and respond to sensitive questions,” says Del Sesto. “We also walked people through the seven case study activities that anchor the SAPST. Knowing how to facilitate these activities is key to a successful training.”
Unlike many other TOTs, the virtual SAPST TOT also focused on how to work with a co-trainer.
“We always recommend that people train the SAPST in pairs,” says Del Sesto. “It results in a much better experience for both the trainers and the participants. But learning how to work with another trainer, and build on one another’s strengths, takes practice.”
Though Del Sesto has provided many in-person TOTs during her long training tenure, she is enthusiastic about the virtual model, which she describes as both convenient, effective and cost-effective.
“Few individual states need enough SAPST trainers at any one time to merit offering their own TOT,” says Del Sesto. “Our virtual TOT lets trainers across multiple states to be trained all at once. This not only reduces costs, but also enables trainers from different areas to learn from one another.”
Participants were surprised at how interactive the sessions were, and how effective the TOT was in getting them ready to train. Several commented on the role of the facilitation and technology support: in “making the online environment more personal and ensuring that everything ran smoothly.” They also valued the thick binder of prep materials and training notes provided during the TOT, which they can use to prepare for their own future trainings.
Del Sesto is confident that the group is ready to train in their communities. “It was exciting to watch them grow more comfortable as the week progressed.” And her parting advice to her newly-minted trainers? “Have a quiet weekend before and after the training, and make sure to get a good night’s sleep every night you train!”
Interested in becoming a SAPST trainer? Click here to learn more about our next SAPST TOT.