Social Work School Launches New Domestic and Sexual Violence Training for Massachusetts Licensed Health Professionals

Online training helps health professional meet state law Chapter 260 requirements and prepare them for work with survivors and others impacted by domestic and sexual violence 

Simmons University’s School of Social Work recently announced a new comprehensive online domestic violence and sexual violence (DV/SV) training to educate Massachusetts-based health professionals and prepare them for work with survivors, children exposed to violence, and people who engage in violence. 

The training, Simmons University Massachusetts Chapter 260 Training on Domestic and Sexual Violence, is designed to meet state law requirements, which mandates that health professionals participate in domestic and sexual violence training in order to be licensed by their respective boards. The training was developed to fulfill the Chapter 260 mandate and has been approved by Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health (DPH). 

“Domestic and sexual violence is a pervasive problem that virtually every health professional will encounter at some point in their career,” said Dr. Kristie Thomas, Associate Professor of social work at Simmons University, and the training’s lead designer. “This new training is a crucial resource that provides essential knowledge and tools to social workers, nurses, physicians and other health professionals so they can enhance care and better serve their patients impacted by sexual and domestic violence.” 

The online training, which takes about three and a half hours, is informed by the latest empirical evidence and best practices, and is designed to be easily accessible so health professionals can apply it in their work. 

“The training requirements of Chapter 260 will help ensure that every health professional working with someone impacted by sexual and domestic violence is informed about these difficult issues and can provide the best possible care,” said Judy Benitez Clancy, director of the Division of Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention and Services at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “Simmons University has provided high-quality online domestic violence training for several years. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health was excited to approve this new training, which includes extensive information about both sexual violence and domestic violence.”

The training is organized into four units and covers a variety of topics, including the health impacts of domestic and sexual violence, common physiological symptoms, the immediate and long-term impacts on survivors, the role of structural oppression in increasing risk and decreasing help-seeking, prevention strategies, reporting requirements, and a range of resources for people who are affected by domestic and sexual violence. 

“Simmons University is a leader in educating students in social work and public health, and we’re pleased to offer this new training that is easily accessible online,” said Dr. Stephanie Berzin, Dean of Simmons University’s College of Social Sciences, Policy, and Practice. “This training provides crucial knowledge and tools that thousands of health professionals across Massachusetts can utilize and apply in a tangible way to their practices.” 

Massachusetts’ Chapter 260 law requires that the following groups of MA health professionals participate in the DV/SV training: physicians, licensed mental health counselors, social workers (LICSW, LCSW), psychologists (APA), licensed educational psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, physician assistants, nursing home administrators, nurses, and licensed rehabilitation counselors.

“People who experience sexual and domestic violence interact with a wide host of health and human service providers who can be a big part of their healing process,” said Debra J. Robbin, Executive Director, Jane Doe Inc. “This online training can make a tremendous difference in the readiness and ability of these caregivers to identify, support, and refer people who are impacted by abuse to sexual and domestic violence programs. We also appreciate the inclusive, survivor centered, and trauma informed content and philosophy that runs throughout the training.”

The training will be accessible online through Simmons University and DPH at:

Home to the oldest school of clinical social work in the country, Simmons has more than a century of experience educating social workers who are equipped to serve urban, suburban, and rural communities. Simmons also offers the only MSW program in Massachusetts with a required course in substance use disorders for all first-year students. In addition, the Simmons MSW is the only program in New England to use hired actors as part of its innovative Simmons Clinical Simulation curriculum.

Using Your Expertise to Develop Training Programs

Did you know that as a Social Worker, Social Service Worker, or other Paraprofessional that you have knowledge valuable outside of your day job? It’s true! Social workers often learn a variety of transferable skills that are in demand in the corporate world and among other nonprofits, and with a little know-how, you can leverage that training to improve your own income.

As a program manager working on a crisis line, I had the opportunity to build evaluation programs and write outcome reports that demonstrated the value of that service – as well as train others to do this. It turns out, there are a lot of people out there who would like to brush up on their statistics, data analysis, and evaluation skills. If you have these skills, you can do training sessions ranging from 45 minutes “Lunch and Learns”, all the way up to full day sessions.


As the Online Text and Chat (ONTX) Facilitator at Distress and Crisis Ontario, I trained the program managers who went back to their agencies and trained volunteers to provide crisis intervention through their computer and over the phone.

You can build a Train-the-Trainer program too if you have in-demand skills. For example, as an organization working with women exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV), you may develop a training program for your volunteers that focuses on communication skills, advocacy skills, working with women in crisis, and defusing conflict. You can package that training and use it to help train people who want to launch their own IPV organization in a part of the state or country that doesn’t have one.

The QPR Institute has a Train-the-Trainer (T4T) for their QPR Suicide Awareness Program. The T4T costs $500 and allows you to charge participants about $20 each for the 2-hour training. LivingWorks safeTALK T4T costs $1000 and allows you to charge participants about $50 each for the 3-hour training, while LivingWorks Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) costs $2500 – but allows you to charge $100-300 per participant.


E-Learning is an under-used training technique in the nonprofit world, and that can be to your benefit as well. Record yourself delivering a training session and sell access on a subscription or one-time basis. Your content will be mostly “evergreen” meaning you don’t need to update the sessions that frequently, but you can continue to bring in subscribers or new users. Offer a certificate of completion for those who complete a quiz or test at the end, and build a library.

Virtually any training you want to deliver in person can be delivered in an e-learning format – if not via an asynchronous format (where someone logs in and watches videos), then in a digital classroom environment.

Moodle is one of the most common free e-learning platforms, but requires a fair amount of technical know-how. On the other hand, WordPress (a blogging platform) is a lot easier to set up and can be modified with “plugins” to add membership, subscription, and other features necessary to build an e-learning program. If you’re someone with knowledge of these programs (like me) you can also do training on how to set up training programs!

Custom Training

Finally, you can develop your own custom training for corporations and other nonprofits. Distress Centre Ottawa conducts training sessions on communication skills and delivers them to the many government agencies in that area.

As a Social Worker, you can develop your own training. Example topics could include:

  • Having Difficult Conversations
  • Crisis Intervention for non-Social Workers
  • Building Rapport for Salespeople


Do you facilitate your own training? Whether or not you work in private practice, consider it as a way to expand your skills, improve the capacity of local nonprofits and your community, and to continue networking.

Trauma Informed Care: What Is It and Why Should We Care?

Over the last 20 years, there has been increasing recognition of the role that psychological trauma plays in a wide range of health, mental health and social problems. When people think of trauma, they think about experiences like war and the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The reality is that trauma includes a wide range of situations where people are physically threatened, hurt or violated, or when they witness others in these situations. This includes such experiences as childhood physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, witnessing domestic violence, serious accidents, natural disasters, physical torture, riots, shootings, knifings, being threatened with a weapon, combat, house fire, life-threatening illness, and death of someone close, especially sudden death.

Although, there have been no comprehensive studies of the prevalence of exposure to traumatic events, studies conducted in the United States such as Kessler’s Posttraumatic stress disorder: The burden to the individual and to society suggest that exposure to traumatic events occurs in at least 50%-60% of the U.S. population, and rates in clinical settings run much higher. However, problems like child abuse and domestic violence are challenges faced by almost all societies on our planet, and natural disasters certainly affect everyone, regardless of national origin.

The impact of living through traumatic events, especially multiple events over the course of a lifetime, can result in a range of behavioral health problems other than post-traumatic stress disorder, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety problems, childhood behavioral disorders, psychosis, and some personality disorder diagnoses.

Some psychiatrists have suggested that the entire medical model of mental illness needs to be reevaluated in light of the recognition of the role of trauma (e.g. see Canadian psychiatrist, Dr. Colin Ross’s book The Trauma Model)– this is not to say that biology doesn’t play a role in behavioral health problems, only that it doesn’t, by itself, cause them in most circumstances.

The reality is that social workers have been working with trauma survivors from the first day our profession began. However, the growing knowledge base about how trauma affects people is now being used to inform changes in policy and practice to ensure that we support recovery and don’t inadvertently hurt people. Simply stated, trauma-informed practice is policy and practice based on what we know from research about the prevalence of trauma and how affects people. Within the U.S., trauma-informed practice is usually referred to as Trauma-Informed Care (TIC), a term that is used in national policy efforts initiated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

What Does Trauma-Informed Practice Actually Look Like?

Trauma-informed practice incorporates assessment of trauma and trauma symptoms into all routine practice; it also ensures that clients have access to trauma-focused interventions, that is, interventions that treat the consequences of traumatic stress. A trauma-informed perspective asks clients not “What is wrong with you?” but instead, “What happened to you?”

However, trauma-informed practice also focuses our attention on the ways in which services are delivered and service systems are organized. Recognizing that traumatic events made people feel unsafe and powerless, trauma-informed practice seeks to create programs where clients and staff feel safe and empowered. Generally, trauma-informed practice is organized around the principles of safety/trustworthiness, choice/collaboration/empowerment, and a strengths-based approach.

Trauma-informed organizations ensure that every staff member, from the receptionist to the executive director, understands trauma and trauma reactions. Trauma-informed organizations routinely examine all policies, procedures, and processes to ensure they are not likely to trigger trauma reactions or to be experienced as re-traumatizing, that is, putting a client through a process that shares characteristics of the traumas they have lived through. For example, within psychiatric hospitals, restraints have long been used for patients who are out of control in some way. However, for a person who has lived through abuse, restraint may well have been associated with being hurt physically or with being sexually abused.

Restraints, therefore, have a high potential to actually re-traumatize a client and trigger more psychiatric symptoms. A trauma–informed perspective recognizes the damaging impact of restraints and focuses on incorporation of psychiatric advanced directives into mental health care. This is just one example of practice within mental health that can be hurtful to trauma-survivors. For more examples of how our efforts to help can inadvertently hurt people, read the heart-wrenching case study, On Being Invisible in the Mental Health System, that describes the devastating impact of the mental health system on one young woman’s life and provides a compelling example of how our systems can fail trauma survivors.

Why Should We Care?

Each of us chose social work because we want to make a positive difference in the world. Some of us can see clearly where our work has this contribution. Many of us struggle to “do good” within service systems that are broken–we know at a basic level that something is very wrong, even if we manage to bring about positive outcomes much of the time. The systems within which many social workers are employed are often based on principles that are not only not trauma-informed, but instead, reinforce damaging messages to both staff and clients, such as “your voice doesn’t matter here.”

Bloom and Farragher in their book Destroying Sanctuary, have written eloquently about the current crisis facing our human services delivery systems and how the impact of our systems often is the opposite of creating safe and growth-promoting environments, both for clients and staff. While it may not be the only lens that can be helpful in addressing this crisis, a trauma-informed perspective shines a clear light on what’s broken, what needs to change, and what will work instead.

It focuses us not only on our direct practice, but on organizations, service systems, and ultimately our paradigms for understanding the work we are doing and the work we would like to do–in other words, it’s a true social work perspective. The paradigm fits well with the values of our profession, it draws attention to all that we know about a systems perspective, and it incorporates a holistic, biopsychosocial perspective on human beings.

It’s because of all of the above reasons that our faculty chose to incorporate a trauma-informed perspective (along with a human rights perspective) into all aspects of our master’s in social work program. We feel that this perspective is a missing piece in social work education and that having it will make a difference in our graduates being able to practice effectively at all levels of social work practice, especially in their ability to bring about needed transformations in our service systems.

Beyond the growing body of research that I’ve mentioned, part of what brought our faculty to this understanding was the feedback we were receiving from clients and agencies within our own community, Western New York, about the power of this perspective after years of incorporating it into our School’s continuing education programs. Agency directors were becoming increasingly interested in seeking out trauma trainings for everyone in their agencies because of the transformational impact they were seeing with clients and the workforce. One after another, social workers and other human services professionals were describing this as “the missing piece” in their knowledge base and that having this knowledge made a difference in their practice.

Many social workers feel disempowered within the systems in which they work: trauma-informed practice is a framework of system and practice transformation that can provide us with a blueprint for empowerment for ourselves as well as for our clients. I hope I’ve piqued your interest in this concept enough that you’ll consider learning more about it.

Where Can I Learn More About Trauma-Informed Practice?

Many of the resources cited in this post are good places to start learning more about trauma-informed practice. In addition, try checking out the following:

  • Podcast interview (part 1) with Brian Farragher: The Sanctuary Model: Changing the Culture of Care – It Begins with Me (part 1 of 2) Episode #77 of the Living Proof Podcast Series
  • Podcast interview (part 2) with Brian Farragher: The Sanctuary Model: Changing the Culture of Care – Transforming Human Services (part 2 of 2) Episode #77 of the Living Proof Podcast Series
  • Podcast interview with Dr. Sandra Bloom: The Sanctuary Model: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Treatment and Services, Episode #10 of the Living Proof Podcast Series [note, I recommend listening to this after listening to the Farragher interviews]
  • Videos from a conference on trauma and trauma-informed care, including talks from two national presenters, Dr. Sandra Bloom (Sanctuary Model) and Dr. Robert Anda (ACE study)–videos included are Trauma 101, the ACE study, and an overview of the Sanctuary Model, one model of trauma-informed care.
  • Creating Cultures of Trauma-Informed Care (CCTIC): A Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol (pdf) by Roger D. Fallot and Maxine Harris, April 2009.
  • The book Trauma-informed practices with children and adolescents (2011) by William Steele and Cathy A. Malchiodi. London, Routledge.
  • Innovations in Implementation of Trauma-Informed Care Practices in Youth Residential Treatment: A Curriculum for Organizational Change (pdf) by Victoria Latham Hummer, Norín Dollard, John Robst, and Mary I. Armstrong.  (article from Child Welfare)
  • Podcast I did for World Social Work Day: Trauma-Informed Social Work Practice: What Is It and Why Should We Care? (March 2012).
  • Online Trauma-Informed Clinical Foundation Certificate Program through our  Continuing Education department (University at Buffalo School of Social Work)
  • A list of all the inSocialWork podcasts on trauma.

Include Youth’s Commitment to Northern Ireland Care Leavers


Located in Northern Ireland, Include Youth supports vulnerable and disadvantage youth by helping them to improve their educational and employment training outcomes, and their main objectives are to increase employment opportunities for disadvantage youth in addition to boosting their self-esteem and life skills.

According to a commissioned review by Include Youth, criminal justice reform and policing were acknowledged as two major areas of concern impacting disadvantage youth with early intervention/family support and diversion programs listed as interventions to reduce risks and increase protective factors for this vulnerable group.

Sharon Whittaker from Include Youth courteously agreed to facilitate a Q&A with us to highlight the amazing work of Include Youth.

SWH: Could you tell us about the mission and vision for Include Youth?

SW: Include Youth is an independent rights-based charity which promotes the rights of and best practice with disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people in Northern Ireland.  In particular Include Youth supports those involved with the criminal justice system and those who need education, employment and training.

Inspired by the experiences of young people Include Youth works to ensure that their rights are being realised. Young people’s views guide us in our advocacy work to achieve social justice, change and promote a greater understanding of their lives in government and across statutory organisations and the community and voluntary sectors.

We provide direct services to support young people to develop their employability and life skills, which are based on working at the young person’s pace and understanding their needs.

SWH: What are the main barriers affecting young people in Northern Ireland?

SW: Overall youth unemployment remains consistently high at 17.5 per cent in Northern Ireland, this is three times that of the adult population.  There are high levels of suicide and self-harm among young people generally, as well as other recognised mental health issues, including severe depression and anxiety.  Almost half of children in care or placed in custody at the Juvenile Justice Centre have serious mental health concerns.

We work specifically with 16-24 year olds from socially disadvantaged areas, have had poor educational experiences, have committed or are at risk of committing crime, misuse drugs and/or alcohol, engage in unsafe or harmful sexual behaviour or at risk of being harmed themselves.   All of the young people we work with are not in education, employment or training and many will have experience of the care system.

Education and employment is a huge barrier for young people in care.  Almost 3,000 children are in the care of the state here and only a quarter will go on to achieve five GCSE’s (grade A*-C) compared with more than 80 per cent of the general school population.  More than 350 young people aged 16 to 21 in care here are not in education, employment or training at any one time.  The unemployment rate for care leavers is double that of young people who grew up in the community.

SWH: What types of challenges have you run into?

SW: How children and young people are perceived in their community is a real challenge for Include Youth. A simple thing like how a young person might be portrayed in the media can impact on social policy is made and on how services to children and young people are delivered.

The young people we work are often most in need or at risk, yet do not have their voices heard and acted upon by organisational representatives and decision-makers.  This means the most vulnerable young people in society are more likely to suffer the consequences of inadequate policies and poor services.

Piecemeal and short-term funding is a challenge for our organisation, as to address the long-term needs of children in care a more sustained and cohesive approach is needed.  There is funding available for short-term projects, which will only ever help long-term goals to an extent.

SWH: Do you think enough is being done to help children in care?

SW: Too many young people from a care background are being detained in the Juvenile Justice Centre under PACE because suitable accommodation cannot be found.  Custody should only be used as a last resort, so not enough is being done to redress the overrepresentation of looked after children within the justice system.

In figures supplied to us by the Youth Justice Agency looked after children represented 40% of individual young people admitted under PACE, between October 2014-September 2015.  Up to 50% of these young people did not receive a custodial sentence, evidence that custody is not being used as a last resort.

We also continually look to Scotland to see what is happening there, as they tend to have more positive policies and practices around their responsibility to children and young people in care.  However some progress has been made to increase labour market opportunities for young people in care.  Business in the Community and Include Youth run targeted initiatives and the Employability Services run by all five health and social care trusts.  Each health and social care trust has employability and guidance schemes in place to help prepare young people for employment and have developed a range of service models, for example, ring-fenced posts and social clause provision in partnership with a number of companies.

SWH: What other vulnerable groups of young people does Include Youth support?

SW: We work in partnership with community-based organisations to deliver cross-community or employability programmes to young people aged 16-24.  Most of these young people won’t have experience of care, therefore their needs vary from young parents, to carers, substance abuse issues to early school leavers.

We also lobby on behalf of children and young people in our formal youth justice system.  Currently 10 year olds living in Northern Ireland can be arrested, prosecuted, get a criminal record and even be locked up however we’re seeking legislative change so that 10 and 11 year olds who commit crime are dealt with in a much more effective way.

SWH: Is there any way people can support Include Youth?

SW: There are a number of different ways people can support our work.  If you’re an employer, public, private or charity sector you may be able to provide a workplace tour or experience for the young people on our programmes or you may wish to join our Board of Directors.  We’re also always on the lookout for volunteer mentors who can support a young person in their area on a one to one basis.  Finally, you can get involved in our Raise the Age campaign and help us raise the age of criminal responsibility in Northern Ireland.

SWH: What is next for Include Youth?

SW: To continually improve our services for the young people we work with.

You can keep up-to-date with Include Youth on Facebook, Twitter and their website on the latest services they offer young people in Northern Ireland.

5 Effective Ways to Deal with Office Politics

office politics

Office differences can be oh so difficult to avoid, especially seeing as you spend most of your life with the people you work with. The workplace is a modern day jungle and to survive you need to know how to stand up and deal with crucial situation or know when to lie low and say nothing. When conflicts do happen, it’s very easy to be sucked in.  Meaning, you’ll run the risk of inviting more resistance from those around you.

The key is learning to steer these awkward situations in a direction that suits you, meaning you can disengage from those petty differences and position yourself as someone who is only interested in doing their best and getting things done. Before the whispering and the finger pointing begins, here are 5 things that you need to remember when it comes to office politics.

1. Worry about Your Own Job

Focus on your career, not that of others. In almost every environment the most unsuccessful employees are the ones who are more worried about how others go about their business.

Learn to appreciate and acknowledge other’s success, but don’t become envious or jealous of it. Be generous to your fellow workers and soon enough people will notice and your efforts will be recognised.

The genuine support of colleagues can really change the nature of work relationships for the better and it also shows you are above any petty squabbles.

2. Learn to Deal with Disappointment

In business, as in life, things are not always fair. People’s reactions to difficult scenarios like missing out on a promotion, so dealing with confrontation or personality clashes will say a lot about their character.

Demonstrating a little calm and objectivity shows you have the maturity for greater success going forward.

3. Ignore Others and Don’t Gang-up

Your perception of how you view yourself is often shaped by how others see you and in almost every work environment, whether it’s a result of a poor culture, or simply jumping on the bandwagon – employees tend to gang-up.

To be the most successful employee it pays to build relationships with many and different individuals and various groups.

So if you can do this without being pressured into joining a destructive pack, you will be viewed by the management as a collaborative individual – rather than a just a sheep that follows the pack.

4. Know Your Role and Play it Well

Don’t let office politics distract you from your ultimate goals. This means taking every opportunity to build and maintain relationships without becoming bogged-down in petty arguments.

Exposing yourself to environments both inside and outside the workplace can always be beneficial, as this will provide you with experience of working alongside people who face issues and challenges that you aren’t necessarily used to.

Also, make it your business to position yourself as the person who will step in when disagreements do arise. This will enable you to provide a positive perspective when others are no longer capable of doing so.

By focusing on these goals, your context and judgement will continue to improve, and you will further insulate yourself from the destructive nature of office politics.

5. Get to Know Your Colleagues

Maintaining a position of influence can see you rise above any needless office bickering, but in order to do this, you must build authentic relationships in your work environment.

This means being genuinely curious about the people you work with and finding out just what makes them tick. This could be their expectations, ambitions and what drives them on. As well as training seminars and out of work interests they partake in when you are not around.

Getting to know people you spend most of your working week with will often make you stand out as a trustworthy individual, as well as allowing you to detect any disingenuous political agendas that might exist amongst others.

Educating the Social Workers as Consultant (8th and Final in Series)

The standard social work education curriculum has 5 areas of inquiry: Practice Methods, Policy, Ethics, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, and Social Research.  The social worker as consultant may organize these into two categories: Systems of Practice with Human Behavior and Social Mechanisms.

“Systems of Practice with Human Behavior” describes the systems level the social worker as consultant is hired to impact. The systems level can be individual, family, group, organization, or community. Often, the social worker as consultant is tasked with assessment of one or more systems and observation, intervention or evaluation of one or more systems.  The traditional social work education practice methods informed by human behavior in the social environment can be enhanced with coursework that specifically applies these concepts to behavior change, culture change, leadership, innovation, and mobilization.

“Social Mechanisms” describes the structures that may be used to engage systems at any level. The social worker as consultant utilizes social mechanisms to intentionally support change. Traditional research training can be enhanced with specific techniques for information gathering and sharing. Advanced research can draw on in-depth interviewing, demography, and crowd sourcing.  Traditional policy can be expanded to include skill practice in outlining cultural mechanism, comparative analysis, and case construction. Traditional ethics can be augmented to emphasize economic justice, financial capability, and collective promotion of social good.


Toward jump starting the inclusion of content that would prepare the social worker as consultant, I propose a group of competencies. Each competency organizes modules having both skills suitable for classroom practice and connected abilities to be demonstrated in the field. Successful completion of skill challenges, demonstration of the abilities, and articulation of professional ethics would comprise a portfolio of competence.

Social Entrepreneurship

This group of modules explores the concept of social good as a business strategy. It includes concepts of social development, social capital, and social economics. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Articulate the process of value creation in 4 different business models: Sole proprietorship, B-Corp, C-Corp, and Non-Profit
  • Outline a successful supply chain model complete with holons, nodes, partners, third parties and logistics.
  • Calculate the expected return on investments in market development that includes support for financial capability and asset building of potential customers.
  • Compose a plan for sustainable growth with attention to the long-term health and well-being of human resources.
  • Define mechanisms of venture capital and crowd funding.

Leadership & Culture Change

This group of modules explores the power of a leader to cast a vision, build supportive structures, train staff, inform stakeholders, and manage organizational culture. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Define leadership for intentional goal achievement in interpersonal, organizational and community contexts.
  • Identify key stakeholders in a change process along with methods to engage each stakeholder group.
  • Outline a competency-based approach to training and education including certification and continuing education.
  • Analyze the compile the learning orientations and change facilitating factors present within an organization.
  • Articulate a process for creating and maintaining a social change movement within a community.

Behavior Change & Influence

This group of modules explores the unique ability of social workers to engage in interpersonal relationships, promote dignity and worth of the person, influence self-sufficiency, and support sustainable behavioral health choices. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Define complex adaptive systems in the context of emergence, human nature, and the concept of individual will.
  • Operationally define human interaction as a control system.
  • Identify the biological, social, psychological, spiritual, and perception parameters representing individual inputs into Sociocybernetic systems.
  • Model institutional systems utilizing agent-based model techniques.
  • Identify institutional structures that promote, stabilize, and constrain human choice behavior.


Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) policy, state licensure requirements, and typical university operating procedures provide supportive mechanisms for the education of the social worker as consultant. The competency-based structure of the aforementioned modules is in line with CSWE’s own competency-based approach. In addition, CSWE has adopted the concept of “Field as Signature Pedagogy.” This means that field work is the important opportunity to demonstrate skill and assess ability.

State licensure boards require continuing education almost without exception. This mechanism provides an opportunity for social work programs to continue to educate their graduates beyond the confines of their traditional curricula. Content on the social worker as consultant and other specialized competencies can headline continuing education content.

Universities maintain connection with their alumni as a matter of sustainability, but also as a matter of service. As a long-standing institution, universities have unique reciprocal offerings for students. Offerings such as credibility, personal introduction, event hosting, grants management, and others can benefit all alumni including the social worker as consultant.

Field Work

Students are a built-in opportunity for collaboration and capacity recognition when they are connected to the school and practicing in agencies. Enhance campus-community partnerships. Construct a continuum of service learning from volunteerism through project-based learning, to field practicum. Identify and strengthen all collaborating agencies by training them on competency-based education tenets and practices. Track student service contributions including class assignments, service learning, and student government activities. Provide an individualized learning plan for each student—a plan that recognizes the individual career and competence goals of the student. Connect students in purposeful advising with faculty and field instructors.

I propose that schools of social work engage students early, from the sophomore year for undergraduates, first semester for graduates. Identify projects based on the expected skill level of students. For example:

  • First Year: Customer Support, Office Rapport and Data Entry
  • Second Year: Knowledge Management, Training Support, and Client Assistance (Navigation through Service System)
  • Third Year: Compliance Evaluation, Quality Assurance, and Staff Training
  • Fourth Year:  Caseload Management, Policy Drafting, Group Engagement
  • Graduate/Continuing Ed: Supervision, Consulting, Grant Writing

Organize the field supervision model as a consultancy involving field liaisons as consultants to advance the mission of the agencies with which they liaison. Graduate students who are already employed in an agency can refocus on innovation and leadership in order to keep their jobs while growing educationally and adhering to the requirements of CSWE.

Continuing Education

Many schools of social work recognize the opportunity and service represented in continuing education programs. Many collaborate with on-site centers or community organizations to provide the information that alumni desire. Many also provide certification programs or other credentialing. Still others provide courses or supports for licensure examinations.

An innovation would find schools developing centralized training data stores, compiling the information reported from the field, and informing new service opportunities. The repository can be enhanced through agency collaboration creating a knowledge base and training platform for social work practice. Association partners can provide certification and credentialing along with a pool of diverse members. Agencies provide the practice environments for evaluation and available clients for research. The school of social work provides capacity in the form of student and expertise in the form of faculty.

The result for staff and faculty is continuing practice experience, continuing education, and increased relevance in the classroom. The result for students is educational innovation, certification, and a solid ability to contribute to their alma mater as well as the social work profession. For agencies, the return includes increased capacity, research & evaluation services, and continuing education for staff. For associations, the benefit is in the form of increased membership and collaborative research opportunities.

Alumni Services

With little experience, you need connections. Schools of social work often leverage their alumni connections, credibility, and reputation for the benefit of graduates. An innovation would find institutions partnering with associations to provide applied education & practice, networking, and demography symposia that bring together current and former students, agencies, and funders to discuss approaches to community development. Similar to what a chamber of commerce does for local businesses, schools of social work can act as “chambers of social good.” The result is an intentional impact on the community and a boost for students attempting to engage in their communities of practice. Schools can engage with agency boards and offer student representation from among current students or graduates. This maintains relationships between schools of social work and community agencies, but it can also be a model for engaged service to the community.

Schools of social work can engage consistently with local and state governments to outline a clear path for social workers to enter politics and engage the larger political discussion. School-sponsored visits to Capitol Hill, local congressional offices, and city council meetings can provide students with context for what they are learning. School-sponsored “suppers with the state representative” or other such events can engage alumni and current students in important issues and reveal politics as less intimidating.

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