Doin' The Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change

Liberation Health Model – Dawn Belkin Martinez, PhD, LICSW

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Episode 65
Guest: Dawn Belkin Martinez, PhD, LICSW
Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW
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Doin’ The Work is offering our Racial Justice & Liberatory Practice Continuing Education Series through several of our partner universities. Go to to learn more and register. We hope you will join us!

Thank you to this episode’s sponsor! The University of Houston has a phenomenal social work program that offers face-to-face master's and doctorate degrees, as well as an online and hybrid MSW. They offer one of the country’s only Political Social Work programs and an Abolitionist Focused Learning Opportunity. Located in the heart of Houston, the program is guided by their bold vision to achieve social, racial, economic, and political justice, local to global. In the classroom and through research, they are committed to challenging systems and reimagining ways to achieve justice and liberation. Go to to learn more.

In this episode, I talk with Dr. Dawn Belkin Martinez, who is the Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion and a Clinical Professor at Boston University School of Social Work. Dr. Martinez explains the Liberation Health Model, which she co-created, as an approach that utilizes a sociopolitical framework for assessment of what is causing problems for people, and intervention techniques to help them live better. She shares the incredibly interesting history of the model, which started in a hospital inpatient psych unit in collaboration with patients and their families. You need to hear the story directly from her, but the model is rooted in a mix of transformative liberatory approaches Brazilian mental health practitioners were using at the time, as well as radical counseling and social work, Black feminism, and Marxist theory that Dr. Martinez, Nelson Ochoa, and colleagues studied together. Dr. Martinez breaks down how to use the model, explaining the assessment process using what is called the Liberation Health Triangle, and intervention tools and techniques, such as deconstructing dominant worldview messages and rescuing the historical memory of change. She shares examples and stories from her own experience applying the model. In addition to the sociopolitical analysis, assessment, and intervention techniques, I love how the model encourages practitioners to engage with clients in ways that feel much more authentic, the transformative approach of action for change once clients feel ready, and how it is deeply rooted in collective liberation. Additionally, it is flexible enough to incorporate various approaches within the model, as long as they are connected to the larger approach. Dr. Martinez and I get into all of this, as well as how to learn more and get involved. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.
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