Judy MacDonald Johnston’s 5 Step Plan to Die Well

By: Mindy Barnes

Death is a difficult subject to discuss, especially when the death is our own. Many of us avoid the topic all together until it is too late.  But like it or not, death is inevitable. According to Judy MacDonald Johnston, planning for your end of life is a very important process. It will not only help you die well, it will also help you to maintain a high quality of life right up to the very end. For those of us who are finally coming to terms with our own mortality but don’t know how to begin the planning process–or those of us who still need to be dragged kicking and screaming–Judy has some tips to help. Here are Judy MacDonald Johnston’s 5 practices to help you prepare for your end of life:

#1. The Plan

Here are some questions to help you begin your end of life plan. Who do you want as your power or attorney, and your medical power of attorney? Where would you like to go if/when the time comes when you are no longer capable of performing activities of daily living? Do you want your family to follow the palliative care outlined by a hospice program? How do you feel about physician-assisted suicide? Do you or do you not want the following extension of life procedures administered: CPR, feeding tube, surgery, breathing machine, antibiotics, etc.? These are all questions that you need to answer and have a plan for.

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#2. Advocates

Your advocates are there to communicate with others (medical teams, family members, etc.) what your wishes are in regard to your end of life care when you are no longer able to do so yourself. You want to make sure that you choose the right person(s) to ensure that you get the end that you want. Advocates should have the time and the ability to handle this important, yet at times stressful and emotional, task. A good advocate may have the following attributes: adapts well to change, keeps calm under pressure, has good people skills, is not afraid to ask questions. Before choosing an advocate(s), make sure to have an open conversation with them and be sure that they agree to be your advocate.

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#3. Hospital Readiness

Prepare a Medical Emergency Packet. This packet should include a summary of your medical information, and copies of important documents such as your ID, insurance cards, Durable Power of Attorney for Medical Decisions, and Do Not Resuscitate Order. Give a copy of this packet to your advocates and keep yours in an easy to access place This will make admission to the hospital quick and less stressful, and will reduce risks of treatment errors.

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#4. Caregiving Guidelines

Do you want to live in an assisted-living community, or would you prefer to stay at home and hire a professional caregiver? Determine what is a best fit for your personality, but also what you can afford. Do not settle either. You should not rush your decision. Take the time to find your perfect match.

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#5. Last Words

During your last days/hours, you may not be able to speak. So, it is important that you decide now what you would like to hear from others. You may want to be reassured that everything will be fine, so let others know what you may be worried about. Also, write a list of who you will want to see during your last days. And if you follow all of these practices, you will hopefully be able to die with peace of mind.

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Social Work and Mental Health: Working with Special Groups

By: Mindy Barnes

According to DiNitto and McNeece, “[m]ental health is the largest area of social work specialization, and social workers are the largest group of mental health practitioners in the United States (National Association of Social Workers, 2006)” (2008, p. 145). Social workers employed in the mental health field may work in a variety of different arenas, such as in hospitals, residential programs, and private practice. However, it isn’t just where they work that differs but who they work with. Below is a list of four specific consumer groups that social workers help:


#1. Children and Adolescents

One half of all mental disorders manifest by age fourteen (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 153). This fact alone would suggest that addressing the mental health needs of children and adolescents should be the primary concern of mental health professionals. Unfortunately, mental health services for children are lagging far behind those for adults. Social workers assist children of all ages, but they often try to identify those with mental illness or developmental problems as early as possible. Factors, other than biology, that increase a child’s risk for developing mental disorders include: physical, sexual, or substance abuse, running away from home, abusing others, family violence, having a caregiver or sibling who has been institutionalized or who has a felony conviction of substance abuse problem (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 153).


#2. Dual Diagnosis Consumers

Many individuals with mental health problems have co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse and medical problems. Having co-occurring disorders makes getting the proper treatment even more difficult. According to DiNitto and McNeece, “[i]deally, treatment agencies provide integrated treatments that address SMI, substance abuse, and medical problems simultaneously, but in many states, integrated programs are in their infancy, and consumers must go from agency to agency in what is a fragmented service delivery system” (2008, p. 154). Social workers usually work as part of a professional team, which includes physicians and nurses, and often conduct home visits to better understand the clients’ biopsychosocial conditions. Treatment techniques for these individuals can include: medication, education and outreach, peer support, and behavior therapy (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 154).


#3. Homeless Individuals


Roughly 25 percent of those who are homeless have a serious mental illness, and about one half of these individuals also have co-occurring disorders (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 154). Homeless families are a rapidly growing population, and “[s]eventy-six percent of homeless children have a mother who has major depression, schizophrenia, a substance use disorder, or high distress (Hicks-Coolick, Burnside-Eaton, & Peters, 2003)” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 155). These children also tend to show signs of mental health problems. Social workers may provide mental health services in homeless shelters, or they may be part of an assertive community treatment (ACT) team that delivers services to the homeless out on the streets.


#4. Military Personnel

Military personnel, especially those in combat, can experience mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and often have co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse. Also, “[m]ilitary personnel and their families can face a pileup of stressors that puts them at risk of dysfunction, including moving often; adapting to living in other countries; episodic or long separations; and, during wartime, the fear of death or disability (Black, 1993)” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 155). Social workers, many of whom are employed by the VA, help by addressing child abuse and IPV, and by providing mental health services and substance abuse treatment. Social workers can be, but are not required to be, military personnel themselves.


Whether you are a social worker or not, please remember that:


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


Four Reasons Why Children Need Social Workers To Be Their Super Heroes

By: Mindy Barnes

Social workers have a long history of working with children and families, and it is very important work, indeed. According to Rittner and Wodarski, “'[c]hild welfare’ generally refers to a broad range of services provided by agencies charged with maintaining legally mandated or socially sanctioned standards of safety and well-being for children” (1999, p. 217). But what is it that threatens the safety and well-being of children that renders child welfare as performed by social workers necessary? Below are four examples of life circumstances and events that social workers help shield children from:





#1. Child Abuse and Neglect


According to DiNitto and McNeece, “[n]eglect (the failure of adults to meet children’s physical, emotional, mental, educational, or social needs) accounts for 52 percent of the approximately one million cases of child maltreatment verified each year in the United States” (2008, p. 239). Of those cases involving abuse, 25% involve physical abuse, 12% sexual abuse, and the rest emotional or psychological abuse (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008). Social workers must be able to determine the type of maltreatment, its causes and effects, and how to help.


#2. Poverty


Children living in poverty are at greater risk for maltreatment. DiNitto and McNeece point out that, “[i]n the United States, 13 million or nearly 18 percent of children live in poverty, and children of color are at elevated risk of poverty (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Lee, 2006)” (2008, p. 240). Poverty can negatively affect the health and well-being of children in many ways. It is important that social workers understand these effects, as they are likely to work with many children and families from lower socioeconomic statuses.


#3. Trauma


Some children have gone through traumatic events which has left them with, sometimes permanent, scars. Such scars can include, “cognitive dysfunction (such as impaired memory), hypervigilance (a heightened state of fear), recurrent memories of the trauma, emotional numbing, aggressive responses, or limited future orientation (Steele, 2004)” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 240). Trauma can also be caused by abuse and neglect, which can have serious negative effects on a child’s mental health. Social workers can help families and children cope with and overcome these effects in a variety of ways.


#4. Substance Abuse

According to DiNitto and McNeece, “[a]n estimated 67 percent of parents involved with the child welfare system abuse drugs and/or alcohol (Child Welfare League of America, 2001)” (2008, p. 241). And substance abuse can lead to child maltreatment. What often happens is that children with parents who have drug or alcohol problems will end up having to function as parents themselves. It is up to social workers to offer an array of services in order to get the children and parents the help they need.





The work that child welfare social workers do to keep children safe and healthy is invaluable not only to the children that they help, but to the whole of society. As DiNitto and McNeece put it, “[w]orking with and for children is an investment in the future of humanity” (2008, p. 259). Children of all races, genders, ethnicities, religions, and socioeconomic statuses can be victims of maltreatment. It is important for social workers to consider the biopsychosocial conditions that affect these children, and to also use empowerment-based practices in order to give children a voice while also maintaining their safety.




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

Rittner, B., & Wodarski, J. (1999). Differential uses for BSW and MSW educated social workers in child welfare services. Children and Youth Services Review, 21(3), 217-235.

Why ALL Social Workers Need To Understand Substance Abuse

By: Mindy Barnes



Although only a small percentage of the social work population—roughly 3 percent—focus primarily on substance abuse, “nearly three-quarters of NASW members report having helped a client with an alcohol or drug problem in the last year (O’Neill, 2001)” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 171). This is because substance abuse can affect anyone and everyone. It does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. Social workers in the fields of health care, child welfare, domestic violence, and military and veteran affairs often work with individuals who have substance use disorders. Here are a few other reasons why social workers in all areas should be trained and competent in the diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse:




#1. Mental Health


The majority of those with a substance abuse disorder also have a mental illness. The goal of social workers who are working with individuals with dual diagnosis should be two-fold: “1) assess and diagnose the mental health issue and 2) address the addiction” (Grobman, 2012, p. 216). This is a complicated task. It is often difficult to determine if the mental illness preceded the addiction or vice versa, if the mental illness is a substance-induced disorder, or if the two are coexisting conditions. Unfortunately, as Doweiko points out, “only 8% of MI/CD patients received treatment for both disorders in the preceding 12 months, and 72% received no treatment at all (Prochaska et al., 2005)” (2009, p. 281). Thus, it is imperative that social workers recognize and treat both of the factors–substance abuse and mental illness–that are each affecting the client in different ways.


#2. Homelessness


Doweiko mentions that, “[r]esearchers have found that 45% to 78% of those who are homeless have a substance use disorder (Arehart-Treichel, 2004; Smith, Meyers, & Delaney, 1998)” (2009, p. 255). They may have become homeless as a result of their addiction, or their addiction may be a result of their trying to cope with being homeless. Social workers can help these individuals, “locate more permanent shelter in a halfway house or other residential program, find a job, apply for food stamps, and get health care from a free clinic and substance abuse and mental health care from a community mental health center of similar program” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 183). Social workers should also recognize that this population faces the dual stigma of being homeless and being an addict.




LGBTQ individuals are more likely to have a substance use disorder than non-LGBTQ people. It is also important to remember that they are at greater risks for contracting and transmitting HIV through higher rates of substance abuse. For social workers, “[t]o understand substance use disorder (SUD) among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, a number of environmental concerns need to be examined, namely, the state of the research on SUD in the LGBT communities, the adequacy of training of health care providers about LGBT health, and the impact of systematic oppression on LGBT communities in terms of disparate levels of psychosocial distress, violence, and access to health services” (Silvestre, Beatty & Friedman, 2013, p. 366). LGBTQ individuals with substance abuse disorders are particularly vulnerable in that they are already marginalized for their LGBTQ status, but on top of this are faced with the stigmas surrounding substance abuse.


#4. Criminal Justice


There is much debate as to whether it is substance abuse that contributes to criminal activity or vice versa, or if the two are even related other than substance abuse being an illegal activity. However, it is a major problem that, “less than 15% of inmates with a substance use disorder (SUD) receive some form of treatment for their SUD while incarcerated (Aldhous, 2006)” (Doweiko, 2009, p. 428). These individuals are then sent back out into streets, still suffering from an SUD or even a mental disorder, usually with no money, and are expected to successfully reintegrate back into society. This lack of awareness (or concern) about the problems these individuals face on behalf of the criminal justice system on the one hand, and the inability of physicians and other professionals to properly address these problems on the other, only perpetuate this vicious cycle (mental disorder-substance abuse-homelessness-incarceration). It is up to social workers to advocate for social justice.





While I focused on alcohol and drug addiction here, it is also important to remember that there are many other types of addiction. Different forms of addiction can include, “gambling, overeating, sex, internet use, and shopping,” and many often co-occur (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 171). It is also important for social workers to think about what causes substance abuse and how other factors come into play in order to properly diagnose and treat individuals with a substance abuse disorder. They need to, “consider whether and how biological, sociological, and psychological factors may contribute to an individual’s addictive or impulse-control disorders” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 178). The field of addiction needs social workers to promote social justice, create effective practice, and take a holistic, strengths-based approach in working with individuals who have addictive disorders.





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

Doweiko, H. E. (2009). Concepts of Chemical Dependency (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.

Grobman, L. (2012). Days in the Lives of Social Workers (4th ed.). Harrisburg: White Hat Communications.

Silvestre, A., Beatty, R., & Friedman, M. (2013). Substance Use Disorder in the Context of LGBT Health: A Social Work Perspective. Social Work in Public Health, 28, 366-376.

Six Ways the Vet Center Can Help YOU!

By: Mindy Barnes


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the number one employer of social workers in the United States. The VA employs over 11,000 social workers in service to the roughly 2 million veterans living in the U.S. (John Vassello, 03/08/16, Class PowerPoint). The priority of military social workers employed at Vet Centers is to assist these war zone veterans of all eras, including: World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf, and the Global War on Terrorism, among many others. If you are a veteran, here is what the Vet Center can do for you (all the information below was gathered from Connie Studgeon’s guest lecture and the materials she provided):


#1. PTSD

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is common among military members who have been through a traumatic event, such as combat. Some symptoms include: reliving the event through flashbacks, avoiding situations that remind you of the event, negative changes in beliefs and feelings, feeling keyed up (hyperarousal), and a long list of related complications like depression and anxiety. Spouses and children may also experience secondary PTSD. Vet Center staff help PTSD sufferers learn to cope with or lessen the effects of PTSD through utilizing the various psychotherapy techniques or through medication.


#2. Sexual Trauma and Harassment Counseling

The military is still largely a man’s world, sometimes making life very difficult for female military personnel. But sexual assault and harassment can happen to veterans of both sexes. Spouses of veterans can also be victims of sexual trauma and harassment. The Vet Center offers individual and group readjustment counseling, sexual trauma counseling, referral for benefits assistance, and liaison with community agencies, along with other services (discussed below) designed to help with the trauma or its side effects.


#3. Group and one-on-one counseling

The Vet Center also provides individual and group counseling for anger management, alcohol and/or drug problems, depression and anxiety, and social problems. Vet Center staff include wonderful social workers like Connie Studgeon, LCSW-R, from the Binghamton Vet Center who provide nonjudgmental and supportive therapy to vets in need. Sometimes just having someone who is willing to listen can make all the difference.


#4. Marital and family counseling

The families of military members are also affected by war. The military family member may be suffering from PTSD or sexual trauma, which can have negative effects on spouses and children. These effects may include secondary PTSD, marital troubles, or abuse. The best way to help veterans is through helping the whole family.


#5. Bereavement Counseling

Death is an unfortunate aspect of war. All too often veterans return home having lost many friends, while others do not return at all. Bereavement counseling is offered to military personnel, as well as to parents, siblings, spouses and children of military personnel who have died in the service to our country.


#6. Other programs and services

The Vet Center also offers a variety of other services such as parenting classes, benefits and job counseling, and even meditation and yoga classes. Vet Center staff are concerned with the health and well-being of the mind, body and soul of all veterans. They also respect rights to privacy, and all services are completely confidential.


If you are yourself a veteran, or if you are a family member of a vet, and would like to learn more about what the VA and Vet Center can do for you, you can visit www.vetcenter.va.gov for more info. If you live in Broome County, you can contact the local Binghamton Vet Center at (607) 722-2393. Remember, if you are experiencing any problems related to your combat zone experience, you are ­not crazy and you are not alone. You do not have to live at the mercy of these problems, and you have the strength and the ability to take back control over your life. The sooner you contact the Vet Center the better the outcome, but it’s never too late to seek help. Thank you all for your service.



Pamphlet (Binghamton Vet Center), information sheets (War Zone Veteran Eligibility, and “What is PTSD?” found at http://www.ptsd.va.gov), and lecture provided in class by Connie Studgeon, LCSW-R, Binghamton Vet Center, 03/10/16.

Vassello, John. 03/08/16. Class PowerPoint.

4 Reasons Why Leadership in Social Work is Under Attack Part 2: Social Work in Health Care

By: Mindy Barnes


Medical social workers are vital members of the health care profession. These social workers are often the only health care professionals able to assess and address all of the client’s biopsychosocial needs. Unfortunately, few social workers hold leadership positions within health care settings. Before are four reasons why:


#1. Reengineering of the 1990s was a major threat to medical social work leadership, as decentralization took supervisory positions away from social workers. And according to Judd and Sheffield, “[a]s social work leadership began to evaporate and free standing departments were absorbed into case management units, hospital social workers were placed into a position of competing for roles they had historically filled” (2010, p. 858). Today more than ever, patients are in need of social workers, and social workers are gaining back their valued positions within health care settings. However, social workers are still missing from prominent leadership roles. 

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#2. Social work leadership is overlooked by professionals at all levels. DiNitto and McNeece say that, “[s]ocial workers are taught to place a high value on collaboration, whereas physicians are generally taught to assume leadership roles in interdisciplinary groups (Mizrahi & Abramson, 1985)” (2008, p. 206). Interdisciplinary collaboration is certainly an important aspect of social work, but perhaps social workers could also learn to incorporate leadership styles into their practice within health care settings. Also, “[a]s in other important areas of social welfare policy, social workers have generally not been at the table when government or proprietary health-care organizations have made important policy changes in health-care programs. Social work’s multilevel perspective provides an important point of view that should be considered in any major policy shift” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 214).


#3. According to Liechty, “[d]espite the extensive knowledge and skills that social workers can bring to bear to assist patients with low health literacy, the concept of health literacy is underused in social work scholarship. This gap reflects missed opportunities for social workers to contribute their expertise to the evolving field of health literacy and to strategically align their work with organizational and national priorities” (2011, p. 99). The disconnect between health care providers and patients with low health literacy often leads to patients being referred to social workers, as social workers are highly equipped to deal with this vulnerable population. Unfortunately, health literacy terminology is rarely used within social work literature, which can hinder social workers’ ability to become leaders and advocates in health care settings (Liechty, 2011).

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#4. DiNitto and McNeece point out that, “[s]ome of the struggles social workers experience in the medical field can be attributed to the various ideas other medical professionals have concerning what constitutes medical social work” (2008, p. 194). The fact that medical social work encompasses a variety of roles is beneficial in that it allows social workers to assist and advocate for patients in many different areas within the medical field. However, because medical professionals differ in their ideas of what a medical social worker’s purpose should be, social workers could lose out on important leadership positions within medical settings.

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Ida Cannon, the first identified medical social worker, said that medical social work, “strives to bring to the institutionalized care of the sick such personal and individual attention to the patient’s social condition that his recovery may be hastened and safeguarded” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 193). Cannon’s words still hold true today. The patient’s health and well-being is the sole concern of medical social workers. So, it only makes sense that patients and medical professionals at all levels would benefit from having social workers fulfill leadership roles. To accomplish this, social work programs could promote the integration of leadership skills with interdisciplinary collaboration, and they could acknowledge the importance of addressing health literacy and evidence-based approaches within the academic literature. Also, all health care organizations should recognize the necessary work and specific knowledge provided by medical social workers, as well as the potential benefits of having social work leaders within their facilities.



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

Judd, R., & Sheffield, S. (2010). Hospital Social Work: Contemporary Roles and Professional Activities. Social Work in Health Care, 49(9), 856-871. doi:10.1080/00981389.2010.499825

Liechty, J. (2011). Health Literacy: Critical Opportunities for Social Work Leadership in Health Care and Research. Health & Social Work, 99-107.

Homelessness and Healthcare

By: Mindy Barnes

According to Baggett, O’Connell, Singer, and Rigotti, it is a disappointing reality that, “[a]n estimated 2.3 to 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year” (2010, p. 1326). When it comes to their healthcare, many homeless people visit emergency rooms. Because social welfare programs are constantly being eliminated, emergency rooms are replacing these programs as the primary providers of healthcare for poverty stricken individuals. There is also high ER use among the homeless because most do not have health insurance, especially those with past year employment, and insurance is the key determinant of access to healthcare (Baggett, O’Connell, Singer, & Rigotti, 2010, p. 1329). Healthcare providers will need to address the many negative ways in which homelessness and poverty affect individuals. Such unfortunate impacts on the health and wellbeing of homeless men and women include:



1.It has been found that more than one half of the homeless population suffers from some form of mental illness. But because they lack money and insurance, they are not able to get the proper medication to help with their illness. (Baggett, et al., 2010, p. 1326)


2. This inability to access prescription medications for mental illness can also lead many  down the path of drug and alcohol abuse, particularly as a form of self-medication. (Baggett, et al., 2010, p. 1326)


3. It has also been estimated that two thirds of homeless individuals have severe dental problems, and about 40% have vision impairments. (Baggett, et al., 2010, p. 1326)


4. Most individuals who are living in poverty, are also living in what are called “food deserts”. This means that they do not have access to good quality food, and are often forced to buy unhealthy food from convenience stores or fast food restaurants which can lead to obesity and other health problems. (Kelly Robertson, 02/23/16, Guest Lecture)


5. The population of homeless women is growing rapidly, and they are considered to be an extremely vulnerable population with higher rates of health problems than homeless men. Homeless women are more likely to be victims of physical violence and sexual assault, which can lead to bodily injuries or STDs. (Boes & van Wormer, 1997, p. 409)



Boes and van Wormer point out that, “[h]omeless people are at a greater risk for health problems than is the general public because of the harsh living conditions associated with being homeless and because of the inadequate system of health care delivery that is especially punitive toward people who have no health insurance (Belcher & DiBlasio, 1995)” (1997, p. 409). But it is also important to note that homeless individuals cannot be treated in the same way as the average patient. It is best for healthcare providers to take a social work approach when dealing with this extremely vulnerable population. One example of such an approach would be the strengths-oriented and feminist framework, which, “allows social workers to approach women’s needs both on a personal level and within the larger political and social context. In contrast to a diagnostic, pathology-based approach, social work practice from this framework looks beyond a client’s symptoms—for example, an unkempt appearance and suspicious demeanor—to positive qualities that can serve as an important resource even in the most desperate circumstances” (Boes & van Wormer, 1997, p. 410). This may include allowing the patient to shower, offering her (or him) a hot meal, and showing the individual unconditional kindness and support (Boes & van Wormer, 1997). Homelessness can happen to anyone, so it is important for healthcare providers and social workers alike to treat these individuals with the respect and compassion they deserve.


Baggett, T., O’Connell, J., Singer, D., & Rigotti, N. (2010). The Unmet Health Care Needs of Homeless Adults: A National Study.  American Journal of Public Health, 1326-1333.

Boes, M., & van Wormer, K. (1997). Social Work with Homeless Women in Emergency Rooms: A Strengths-Feminist Perspective. Affilia, 12(4), 408-426.

Robertson, Kelly. February 23, 2016. Guest Lecture.


8 Warning Signs That You May Be In Danger of IPV (Intimate Partner Violence)

By: Mindy Barnes

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is defined by the CDC as, “violence occurring between current and former spouses or dating partners and includes not only physical and sexual abuse, but also threats and emotional abuse” (Murphy & Ouimet, 2008, p. 309). According to Allen, “European statistics show that one in four women experience domestic violence and the World Health Organization multi-country study revealed prevalence figures between 15% and 71% for lifetime prevalence of physical and/or sexual abuse for women (Garcia-Moreno et al. 2006)” (2012, p. 245). While it is true that women make up the majority of IPV victims, it is important to note that men can be victims as well, as “men experience approximately 2.9 million assaults (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000)” per year (Murphy & Ouimet, 2008, p. 309). It is also imperative that one views IPV through an intersectional lens, as it can affect men and women of all social classes, races/ethnicities, ages, and sexual orientations (Laing & Humphreys, 2014, pg. 7). One of the most difficult aspects of IPV is recognizing the warning signs, not just for social workers but for the victims themselves. So, I would like to take the time now to highlight the characteristics of IPV found on the power and control wheel (John Vassello, 02/09/2016, Week 3: Intimate Partner Violence). If you can identify with any of these attributes, you may be a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence, and you should seek help as soon and as safely as possible:

1. Intimidation- uses actions, looks, and gestures such as breaking things or displaying weapons to make you afraid or to get you to obey

2. Emotional Abuse- uses mind games, name calling, and humiliation to make you feel guilty, crazy, or bad about yourself

3. Isolation- controls many or all aspects of your life such as who you talk to or where you go, to limit your involvement with other people and activities and claiming jealousy as a justification for this behavior

4. Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming- minimizes or makes light of the abuse, denies that the abuse happened, blames you for the abuse or abusive behavior


5. Using Children- uses the children as pawns to insight guilt or fear, threatens to take them away 

 6. Using Male Privilege- is in charge of defining male and female roles, dominates the household, makes all the major decisions 


7. Economic Abuse- prevents you from having access to the finances, keeps you from working, gives you an allowance or makes you ask for money 

8. Coercion and Threats- threatens to cause you harm or does cause you harm, threatens to leave or cause self-harm, makes you do things you shouldn’t do or don’t want to do

Remember, not all relationships have to be toxic. Below is a list of traits that constitute a healthy relationship, taken from the wheel of equality (John Vassello, 02/09/2016, Week 3: Intimate Partner Violence):


 1. Non-threatening behavior- behaves in a way that makes you feel safe and comfortable 

2. Respect- listens to you, values your opinions, and is non-judgmental and understanding  

3. Trust and Support- supports you in your life goals, trusts you and respects your right to have you own opinions, feelings, and relationships with others

4. Honesty and Accountability- communicates openly, acknowledges and admits wrong doing, accepts personal responsibility

 5. Responsible Parenting- is a good parent and role model for the children, does not use violence against them

6. Shared Responsibility- makes decisions with you and agrees with you to do a fair distribution of work

7. Economic Partnership- makes financial decisions with you and makes sure that financial arrangements are fair and benefit you both

8. Negotiation and Fairness- is willing to compromise and is willing to seek mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict

As social workers, it is important to educate the public about what IPV looks like. Many IPV victims may not even know that they are in a dangerous relationship, so education can save lives. However, it is ultimately up to the IPV victim to advocate for her–or him–self, and to choose to break the cycle of violence. You are a survivor and you are strong, but you also don’t have to go through this alone. If you are a victim of IPV or if you know of someone who may be, please know that there is help out there. Social workers, physicians, and police officers are your friends. Their job is to do whatever they can to protect individuals, like you, from harm. Never be afraid to ask for help.


Allen, M. (2010). Is there gender symmetry in intimate partner violence?. In Child & Family Social Work, 245-254. doi: 10.1111/j/1365-2206.2010.00735.x

Laing, L., & Humphreys, C. (2014). Introduction: Key concepts in social work and domestic violence. In Social Work & Domestic Violence: Developing critical & Reflective Practice (pp. 1-16). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Murphy, S., & Ouimet, L. (2008). Intimate Partner Violence: A Call for Social Work Action. In Health & Social Work, 33(4), 309-314.

Vassello, John. (02/09/2016). SW250 class PowerPoint, Week 3: Intimate Partner Violence.