Dedra M. Forbes is a behavior intervention specialist with Birch Family Services, where she has provided clients and patients a range of mental health and behavioral analysis services since 2019. Since childhood, Ms. Forbes felt called to help others as a medical professional. Initially, she had dreamed of becoming a pediatrician, but discovered her fear of blood when a school baseball game sent her to the hospital for stitches. Realizing that she could “never stand to see blood on a child” if she could not handle seeing her own injuries, Ms. Forbes sought out another specialty that would allow her to work with children and youths.
Until her early 20s, Ms. Forbes had never considered studying psychology. Her first exposure to the field came when she began cognitive behavioral therapy treatment for a crippling phobia of snakes. During a trip to a local pet store, she was shocked to discover the severity of her fear, and began therapy hoping to understand what caused it and how to manage it. Ms. Forbes’ positive experiences with therapy and the empathy she developed during treatment led her to explore the possibility of a career in mental health services. She earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Pace University, and later continued her education at the University of Phoenix, where she completed a Master of Arts in organizational management. In 2011, Ms. Forbes completed a Master of Science in criminal justice with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis at St. Joseph’s University.
In 2019, Ms. Forbes joined Birch Family Services as a behavior intervention specialist. At Birch Family Services, her work centers on functional behavior analysis, including behavioral observations of patients and coordinating the creation of behavioral plans. She coaches teachers on instructional strategies and interventions for students who need additional behavioral support to succeed in a traditional classroom, as well as educational plans for students with ADHD and autism spectrum diagnoses. In addition to her work with educational professionals, Ms. Forbes also directly provides telehealth and counseling services to patients of all ages. She is a board-certified special educator and certified cognitive behavioral therapist, and holds an advanced certificate in pastoral counseling from Liberty University.
Outside of her involvement in the behavioral health field, Ms. Forbes is active in supporting community health and social services via partnerships with several organizations. She has been a foster care assistant and provided administrative human resources services to her area Department of Homeless Services throughout her career, and is active in the Sunday school and youth sabbath school ministries at No Limit Beulah Sabbath Pentecostal Church. Ms. Forbes is the chief executive officer of Daughters of Phoebe, a nonprofit organization created to connect at-risk young women with education and career skills training, counseling services, housing, and medical assistance to support them in reaching their highest potential. As chief executive officer, she draws on her experience in behavioral health and her previous leadership roles to help Daughters of Phoebe best execute its mission and remain financially sustainable for years to come.
Currently, Ms. Forbes is in the process of completing a doctoral degree in pastoral counseling and anticipates graduation in early 2022. She credits her longevity in her field to her sense of fairness and dedication to treating all people equally and with dignity. Describing her work as a collaboration with clients, she emphasizes that she is “not here to fix anyone,” and that the core of her work is helping others develop strategies to understand their challenges and succeed. She advises those new to the field to find a strong professional mentor and remain humble and open to learning from experience. Ms. Forbes is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Positive Behavior Support and the Council for Exceptional Children.