Gerontological Social Work

  • This field of work deals with the elderly population and assessing how their aging affects various aspects of life ranging from physiological, to psychological, and social functioning to name a few.
  • Not everyone ages the same. There are four ways to assess age; by chronological age, biological age, psychological age, and social age. In doing so, social workers are able to best assess the characteristics and needs of their client through a biopsychosocial approach.
  • Field has good job prospects as the demand for gerontological services grows due to the fact that those aged sixty five and over make up nearly 15% of the population.
  • Field also faces trouble though, as shortages continue, not enough people are being drawn into the field. This may be due to the fact that there is a sort of stigma around death and dying that doesn’t make end of life care appealing in our culture.
  • Certain subpopulations within the elderly may be at higher risk of suffering economic or health difficulties. For example, women and minorities dealt with gender and racial discrimination back in the day that didn’t enable them to save as much as they would’ve liked to ensure economic security.

While many may be scared to work with the elderly, it can be a very rewarding experience. Death  and dying is a very touchy topic in our culture, and often times people do not understand how to accept it or move on from it. Social workers in this field play a very important medium between various age groups and must encourage community involvement as the elderly can offer a lot of insight and advice that younger people can learn from.


Class notes – Professor John Vassello, MSW

DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.

Mental Health

Social work practice in mental illness is a much needed service, as nearly half of all Americans are bound to be afflicted by it at some point in their lifetime. Mental health is broadly defined since it varies from culture to culture based on different conceptions and values.

  • According to the American Psychiatric Association, to be diagnosed with a mental disorder one must show significant distress or even impairment in respects to one’s ability to function certain areas of life like social life, family life, or work life.
  • An emphasis should be put on children’s mental health. Half of mental disorders start to show by age 14 and that rises to 75% by age 24.
  • According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the suicide rate in America increased by 24% from 1999 to 2014. Although many groups have shown an increase, suicide amongst youths (ages 15 to 24) has almost tripled since 1960.
  • Mental health disorders may be very difficult to treat because often times they are comorbid. Many people develop a substance use disorder while trying to self-medicate symptoms like depression and anxiety.
  • Motivational interviewing is one of the best tools for social workers to gain their clients trust and help point them in the right direction. Some major keys for this counseling approach are reflective listening, patience, and supporting self-efficacy. It is the client who must be responsible for carrying out change and the interviewer should offer insight but never the solution to the problem.
  • While all mental health disorders are serious, some are deemed more serious than others due to the persistence of the disease (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, certain types of depression). Either way, any mental health disorder will become more debilitating the longer it is left untreated.


DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.

A Tough Road for Tough People

Throughout the history of the United States, many minorities have been oppressed or been looked at as not good enough, or not capable enough. Not to take away from other minorities and their struggles, but one of the most oppressed groups are those people with mental or physical disabilities.

  • Back in the 1700s, mentally disabled people were looked at as a threat to others and often jailed. Public view changed slowly, in the 1800s those with disabilities were still institutionalized and sterilized.
  • Even though social security had existed since 1935, disabled workers weren’t able to receive social security payments until amendments were made in 1956 and 1960.
  • Unlike other minorities who were able to advocate for themselves whether it be through policy change or something like civil disobedience, disabled people need public support. Many social workers step up to the plate in this case, working to change or pass new laws that will benefit the lives and even out the playing field for the disabled.
  • Even with the help of social workers and law makers, it is very difficult to create new legislation that is beneficial to everyone involved. While a new law may provide resources for one subgroup of the disabled, it also may be taking away the funds and resources needed for another disabled population.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is aimed to end discrimination against those with disabilities in dealing with things like employment and access to facilities and services. However, to this day, people with disabilities still have higher rates of unemployment and partial employment which leaves them more susceptible to poverty and a diminished health outcome.

Fortunately, the field of social work continues to grow in a culture that for the most part, has learned to be kind, compassionate, generous, and grateful. Although there are still many close minded people, there is no doubt that the people facing these mental and/or physical challenges are more than capable to live a life full of prosperity and happiness.


For the love of God, and the sake of our country, PLEASE do not vote for this man.


DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.

4 Things to Know About School Social Work

School Social work interventions can be measured on four levels of functioning. Based on a risk and resiliency framework, the effectiveness of interventions are measured in regards to interpersonal, intrapersonal, academic, and systemic functioning. Some interventions used are individual counseling, family/ group counseling, teacher consultations, and home visits. The intervention used at any given time is very situational and every kid has different needs to be met.

School social work services have been shown effective in treating certain problem behaviors. Multiple studies have shown that social workers reduce violent and aggressive behaviors in their patients. As social worker Sam Bligen from the Johnson City School District said; he realized it was the job for him because of the impact he’s able to make—working directly with kids to fix problem behaviors while they are miniscule in adolescence and set them in the right direction.

Through using an ecological perspective, school social workers are able to assess and develop the best plan of action because it allows them to understand how systems like school, community, and home life overlap and affect one another.

School social workers must be able to work in a team. They work side by side teachers, principals, administrators, and school psychologists. With that being said, they have to be careful not to disseminate any privileged client information but at the same time be able to collaborate. Guest speaker Sam Bligen had said that his colleagues are invaluable resources because they can offer insights that he may not have that may enable him to better help his students.


Bligen, S. In class lecture, 4/7/2016

Diehl, D., & Frey, A. (2008). Evaluating a Community-School Model of Social Work Practice. School Social Work Journal, 32(2), 2-17.

Social Work with Children

Child welfare pertains to a broad range of services that are provided by an agency to ensure that children are living in non-hazardous conditions that will not inhibit their full physical, psychological, emotional, and social development.

  • About 25% of the cases of child maltreatment are due to physical abuse
  • Even though child maltreatment occurs at all socio-economic levels, children living in poverty are more susceptible to maltreatment
    • Currently there are 13 million children in the United States are living in poverty
  • Many abused children are forced to grow up way faster than they have to. On top of the trauma of being abused, many have to take on the role of being the parent for their younger sibling.
    • This is because many parents are unable to take on their responsibilities while dealing with drug or alcohol habits, which account for 67% of parents involved with the child welfare system.
  • Social workers intervene in a variety of ways
    • Through direct services such as central register screening, risk assessment, problem identification, crisis intervention, needs/ resources identification, and much more immediate supervision work. ( micro work)
    • In program development and administration, social workers handle the logistics of an organization to ensure it is ran efficiently
    • Lastly, through program evaluation, social workers ensure that whatever program being ran conforms to the needs and assessments of the population being dealt with to ensure they are bringing about as much change as possible.

Works Cited

DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books


The Complexity of Substance Abuse

Like other areas of social work, the history of addiction in social work has changed throughout time to adapt to different situations in society. Addictions affect people from all spectrums of society: rich and poor, black or white, it doesn’t matter.

  • 9-10% of the U.S. population currently meets the criteria for substance abuse or dependence (Dinitto & McNeece, 2008 p. 175).
    • The American Psychiatric Association diagnoses addiction based on how much it impacts an individual’s life, not the type or quantity of drug used.
  • The difference between substance abuse and substance dependence is that substance abuse is looked at more short term and psychologically like a person coming home from work and binge drinking to relieve stress from the week. Substance dependence is more long term, with biological aspects as well— like the same guy coming home except he’s been drinking so long that his body has built a tolerance to the usual 12 pack and now resorts to a fifth of vodka.
  • Social workers in this field may work in a variety of impatient rehabilitation programs ranging from therapeutic communities and half way houses to outpatient treatment/addiction programs in jails and prisons (Dinitto & McNeece, 2008 p. 181).
  • There are many underlying causes that are widely debated:
    • Many people are biologically predisposed to develop an addiction. Depending on their family history, their genes may make them more susceptible to becoming addicted.
    • Learning and personality theories in psychology hint to the notion of drug use as a learned behavior—so while for some of us it may be easy to pass up another drink, it is hard for addicts when they see the usual conditioned stimulus (friends they usually do drugs with, a place where they may usually take the drug at, etc..) and have the drug of choice readily available as a reinforcer.
    • Gender and sexual orientation impact the likelihood of addiction. Women are less likely to engage in risky behavior, whereas men are more likely to engage in risky behavior. Members of the LGBT community also see higher rates of drug use.
    • Last, but not least, various socioeconomic factors come into play.
  • The biopsychosocial perspective used in social work is also critical in understanding addiction, making social workers great candidates to enact brief interventions, help monitor progress, run prevention programs, and advocate for change.

Works Cited

DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.

Social Work in the Military

  • Even though social work perspectives may change from country to country, most key elements like client empowerment, advocacy, and referral services stick around.

  • There are some factors that may impede a country’s military social work. China, for example, doesn’t have the required infrastructure to maintain the value of the profession. Even though they have 2.84 million military personnel, there are no social workers because after the revolution of 1949, all social work schools were closed until fairly recently leaving a gap in expertise. So, without an education system in place, advocacy is unlikely and growth/advancement of the field is unlikely (Daley, p. 443)
  • Social work and the military joined up back in 1918 after a successful Red Cross Project (Daley, p. 439)
  • Although it is not necessary, a background in psychology and/ or sociology is really helpful as the role of many military social workers is to assess the client’s mental health and figure out what treatment/ intervention is needed (Class notes).

  • The military population is currently at 270 million with an active force of 1,481,760. Out of this population there are: 150 Army social workers, 31 Navy Social Workers, 215 Air Force social workers, and 600 civilian workers aiding the efforts (Daley, p. 439).
  • Military social work is crucial to the success of the military. Often times, soldiers choose not to re-enlist because the impact it has on their family. The loss of soldiers means the loss of money due to having to train new soldiers for the same missions. To mitigate this, military social workers help reduce family stress which in turn increases motivation for the soldier to stay enlisted.

  • Many countries do not need a division of military social work because there military population/expenditure isn’t large enough. On top of that, the social service systems of some countries are adequate enough to take care of their veterans.


Daley, James G. (2003). Military social work: A multi-country comparison.International Social Work, 46(4), 437-448