Social Workers Being Prepared to Serve those who have Served

29 Jun

By Cindy Webb, MSSA, LISW-S

NASW Ohio Chapter Executive Director

As a social worker, I am concerned that social workers in the community are not prepared to adequately serve our military personnel and their families. Yes, we have a strong VA system with highly trained social workers serving the military and their families. But what about the veteran who chooses to see a civilian provider outside of the VA system. There are the family members, the child who may become involved with a school social worker or the wife who may seek community based services. Do you understand the culture, the dynamics of this population? How aware are we, civilian providers, to the issue of military sexual trauma?  (View a PPT on Military Sexual Trauma here)

Ohioans are a large number of those who have or will be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. More women are serving than ever before. Length of deployment in the army is from 12 – 15 months. Studies (like this one) have demonstrated that combat exposure and deployment stressors are linked to psychopathologies including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. What supports will our soldiers need to readjust as they move into the post deployment phase? How are families coping?

In my quest to comprehend the issues faced by our military I came to appreciate the importance of understanding military culture, terminology, and stressors. It is apparent that as social workers we must become culturally competent to effectively treat members of the military, veterans, and their families. There are a number of sources for you to become more informed about military culture.   View one here>>

Today there is a store house of information. Many websites have been set up to assist providers as well as service members and their families. NASW, OH has created a resource page and will keep you updated in regards to trainings in our state. Also check out the Center for Deployment Psychology which offers courses for civilian providers at no cost or a minimal fee in various locations across the Nation as well as on-line courses.

What are you experiencing in your practice? Are you beginning to see more military and family members? What resources would you suggest to other social workers? I would certainly like to hear about your experiences in serving those who have served in the military.

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