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Work experience

Apr 2005Nov 2005

Psychiatric Social Worker

Cass County Community Hospital

Psychiatric Social Worker for the Hospital. Conducted evaluations, worked as a therapist with individuals, groups and families, directly involved in court committals. Designed and implemented full day program for behaviorally disordered children. Conducted counseling sessions in the Atlantic schools for children and adolescents. I enjoyed this position and left in good standing. However, I found working at the hospital far too difficult while giving full attention to my parents who suffered from numerous health problems.

Sep 2002Dec 2004

Psychiatric Social Worker Therapist

Psychology Associates Genesis Health System

Assisted in the development of the Moline Clinic. The primary clinic exists in Davenport. Conducted support group for eating disorders. Conducted therapy sessions with individuals and families. Promoted clinic through appearances on TV and written articles. Completed all reports in a timely manner. Developed branch mental health practice. Established a full-time private practice. Promoted the practice in the community. Led three support groups during this period. Developed, staffed, and maintained a full-time practice in the community. This was a wonderfully rewarding experience. However, I moved establish residence in Iowa to take charge of my elder parents care.

Jul 1998Aug 2002

Psychiatric Social Worker

Robert Young Mental Health Center

Conducted therapy sessions with psychiatric patients. Led groups, evaluated patients, conducted presentations within the community. Completed reports important to the welfare of patients. Served on various committees, both within RYC and within the community. Contacted insurance companies as an advocate for patient recovery. Served as a member of 4 interdisciplinary teams to promote access to community services, establish the very best treatment for psychiatric patients, and remove bias associated with mental health problems. Mental health evaluations, therapy for individuals, families, and groups. Attendance in team meetings. Supervision of several therapists and graduate students. Program planning. Chart completion. Treatment and discharge planning. Staffings. Directed the Partial Hospital Program within the first 3 months of hire. Achieved advanced status in training for Dialectal Behavioral Therapy. Organized and headed 3 educational conferences for community professionals.

Feb 1995Jul 1998

Mental Health Consultant

State of Iowa Dept of Human Services

Consultant for the State of Iowa Dept of Human Services. Evaluated case plans to determine if individuals met standards for Medicaid Group Care. Also involved in educational presentations specifically for employees of the dept. Adhered closely to guidelines. Worked as a well as a team member with other licensed professionals. Trained case 12 workers about diagnostic criteria for mental health clients and behaviors associated. Contract for the State of Iowa ended for all consultants in 1998.

Dec 1987Oct 1996

Coordinator of the Eating Disorder Program and Therapist

Covenant Medical Center/Cedarloo Psychiatric Clinic

Led and coordinator of hospital eating disorder program I designed and implemented. Provided therapy for individuals, families and groups. Staffing, therapy, programming, advertising, committee work, appearances on TV, presentations to the community, discharge planning. Designed and implemented full inpatient/outpatient hospital program. Operated a successful practice as a clinician in a private psychiatric clinic affiliated with the hospital. Employee of the Month Project Safe Committee Family Resources Advisory Board. Women's Center Advisory Board. My name at that time was Ava Reynolds. Certified in Advanced Ericson Hypnosis at this time. Certified in Rational Emotive Therapy at this time.


Liberal Arts

University of Iowa

All of education funded through scholarships and employment. Course work was taken on a part-time basis while working a full time job.

Aug 1985Dec 1987


University of Iowa

GPA 3.5+; Thesis on Hospice Program completed previous to graduation


Ms. Ava Dorrance has dedicated her life to the complexities of social work. In a variety of professional roles held over the course of two decades, she has nurtured the mental health of many patients and built her expertise. Consistently demonstrating outstanding leadership abilities, Ava S. Dorrance has been instrumental in the development of a number of programs to address the needs of children, adolescents, and families. Beginning her career at the Covenant Medical Center, Ava Dorrance designed and implemented the Eating Disorder Program and served as its Coordinator. After leaving her role at Covenant, Ava Dorrance worked at the Iowa Department of Human Services, the Robert Young Center for Community Mental Health, and the Cass County Memorial Hospital, where she implemented a day program for children with behavior disorders. Ava Dorrance attended the The University of Iowa, where she studied art and museum science as an undergraduate and then earned her Master of Social Work. Ava S. Dorrance is certified as an Advanced Ericksonian Hypnotist, a Dialectical Behavioral Therapist, and a Wellness Coach. Deeply involved with her professional community, Ava Dorrance is an active member of the Iowa Chapter’s Academy of Certified Social Workers, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders, and the National Association of Social Workers. Ava Dorrance is dedicated to helping others not just through her career, but also through her personal life. In addition to charity work through her local church, Ava S. Dorrance has been a member of the YMCA Service Club, The Humane Society, the American Cancer Society, and several music and arts organizations. Currently, Ava Dorrance lives in Iowa and divides her time between caring for her parents and running the family business.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

I have over 20 years of experience as a clinical social worker, serving in a variety of facilities in the state of Iowa. In my clinical work with patients, I apply a variety of different treatment modalities, each customized to the needs of the individual. For extremely unstable patients, and for those at risk of suicide or self-harm, I often employ dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Developed in the 1970s and 1980s by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan, DBT grew out of her attempts to treat women suffering from borderline personality disorder. Linehan published the results of her work in a landmark paper in 1993, and she has further codified the approach over the subsequent years. Linehan developed DBT based on her experiences with standard cognitive behavioral therapy. In the process, she discovered several problems. First of all, the focus on personal change in cognitive behavioral therapy caused many of the women to drop out. As their emotional experiences were not recognized as legitimate by cognitive behavioral therapy, the constant admonition to change became demoralizing. Secondly, volatile patients often had control over therapists in cognitive behavioral therapy. Treatment providers were reluctant to breach topics that would lead to violent emotional outbursts by the patients, and patients learned to use such reactions to avoid topics they were uncomfortable with discussing. Finally, when dealing with suicidal, non-compliant patients, therapists simply did not have the time to conduct a thorough cognitive behavioral therapeutic approach. As a result, Linehan developed an approach that begins with an acceptance of the patient’s condition. Suicidal and violent tendencies are recognized as logical, if unhealthy, reactions, and through a variety of treatment steps, patients learn when to trust their emotional reactions. DBT attempts first to decrease high-risk behaviors such as suicide or self-harm, then reduce behaviors that prevent the therapy from being effective, and finally decrease those activities that negatively affect the patient’s quality of life. Subsequently, patients learn enhanced self-respect and how to efficiently deal with stressors in their lives. The process of DBT generally consists of four modules. In the Mindfulness module, the patient learns to pay attention to what is happening at any given moment. The Distress Tolerance module teaches patients how to adapt to difficult situations in their lives. For highly volatile individuals, the Emotional Regulation module helps them to develop control over their emotions. Finally, the Interpersonal Effectiveness module teaches patients how to better interact with other people. DBT has been the subject of a large body of rigorous clinical research involving randomized clinical trials, and it has been shown to lead to greater treatment retention than many other approaches when treating patients with borderline personality disorder or those who wish to harm themselves. DBT has also been used successfully to treat eating disorders and substance abuse.