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Article

Jessica M. Black

Scientific findings from social sciences, neurobiology, endocrinology, and immunology highlight the adaptive benefits of positive emotion and activity to both mental and physical health. Positive activity, such as engagement with music and exercise, can also contribute to favorable health outcomes. This article reviews scientific evidence of the adaptive benefits of positive emotion and activity throughout the life course, with examples drawn from the fetal environment through late adulthood. Specifically, the text weaves together theory and empirical findings from an interdisciplinary literature to describe how positive emotion and activity help to build important cognitive, social, and physical resources throughout the life course.

Article

Tara M. Powell, Shannondora Billiot, and Leia Y. Saltzman

Natural and man-made disasters have become much more frequent since the start of the 21st century. Disasters have numerous deleterious impacts. They disrupt individuals, families, and communities, causing displacement, food insecurity, injury, loss of livelihoods, conflict, and epidemics. The physical and mental health impact of a disaster can have extensive short- and long-term consequences. Immediately after a traumatic event, individuals may experience an array of reactions such as anxiety, depression, acute stress symptoms, shock, dissociation, allergies, injuries, or breathing problems. Given the economic and human impact of disasters, social workers are often quick to respond. Historically, the social work profession has provided services on the individual level, but initiatives have expanded to address community preparedness, response, and recovery. This article will explore the complexities of disaster response and recovery. Health and mental health impacts will be examined. Resilience and posttraumatic growth will then be discussed, exploring how individuals overcome adversity and trauma. Individual and community level preparedness mitigation, response, and recovery will explore how the field of social work has evolved as disasters have increased. Followed by an exploration of how social work has evolved to develop individual and community level preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery activities as disasters have increased. Finally, the article will examine special populations, including those with disabilities, children, indigenous people, older adults, and social service workers in all phases of disasters. As disasters grow more frequent it is vital for social work professionals to improve their efforts. We will conclude the chapter by examining the coordinated efforts the social work profession is involved in to help communities recover and even thrive after a traumatic event.

Article

Selena T. Rodgers

Trauma literature has seen a paradigm shift from pathology to embracing positive trajectories. Posttraumatic growth (PTG), defined as a positive psychological change resulting from a struggle with traumatic or life-changing events, may occur in a variety of populations and events. This entry, therefore, aims to increase our understanding of PTG. The entry begins with the conceptualization of PTG, followed by a discussion of protective factor associations, measures, and psychometric priorities. Nuanced attention is given to global translations and cultural aspects. The entry then presents debates about the challenges, controversy, and biases, as well as an overview of the empirical literature. The entry concludes with PTG contributions for social-work practice and pedagogy, together with recommendations for future research.

Article

Martin Bloom

Primary prevention involves coordinated efforts to prevent predictable problems, to protect existing states of health and healthy functioning, and to promote desired goals for individuals and groups, while taking into consideration the physical and sociocultural environments that may encourage or discourage these efforts. This entry discusses the history of this basic approach to professional helping from medical, public-health, and social-science perspectives. It also reviews major theories that guide preventive thinking and action. One section sketches the substantial empirical base for evidence-based practice and how such information can be retrieved. This entry concludes with a review of practice methods for increasing individual strengths and social supports while decreasing individual limitations and social stresses, which together characterize most contemporary preventive services.

Article

Wilma Peebles-Wilkins

Practitioners who were presumed to be competent may develop difficulties that interfere with job performance. Such professionals are considered impaired and may suffer from compassion fatigue, substance abuse, mental disorders, and other forms of distress associated with daily living. Practicing while impaired is unethical and can potentially be harmful to clients. Colleague Assistance Programs from professional associations or diversion systems and legal sanctions imposed by state regulatory boards are forms of intervention strategies that are employed. Self-care strategies and consciousness-raising among professionals are the best forms of prevention.

Article

Psychosocial (or psychiatric) rehabilitation is a mixture of skills and support for persons severely impaired by mental illness. The population in need is vast. Practitioners marshal support at the level needed while helping a person develop skills that will gradually reduce the need for support. Financial support is gained by offsetting treatment and other supports such as institutional care. Social workers are especially well qualified for this work on multidisciplinary treatment teams. Recovery is key to most agency mission statements.

Article

Kia J. Bentley and Christopher P. Kogut

To advance the discussion of the interface between psychopharmacology and contemporary social work practice, we present a brief primer on the different types of medications used in psychiatry and our current understanding of how they work. We also discuss how decisions are made about psychiatric medications in the real world to treat some of the more common mental illnesses. Along the way, we will also present some of the recent research in psychopharmacology of particular interest to social workers and the clients they serve, as well as some of the future directions we can expect in the years to come. From that foundation, we review major activities of social workers in psychiatric medication, address some of the key controversies centering on issues of access, the role of drug companies, and especially medication for children. We conclude with brief reflections on what is “best practice” and notions of the future of interdisciplinary practice in health, mental health, and beyond.

Article

Enola Proctor and J. Curtis McMillen

Assessing and improving the quality of social services is one of the most pressing concerns for social work practice and research. Practice in nearly every setting is affected by stakeholder expectations that agencies monitor and improve quality. This entry addresses the meaning of the phrase “quality of care” with respect to social work services, considers this topic in relation to quality improvement, quality assurance, and evaluation of services, and points to the research that is needed in order to assess and improve quality.

Article

Steven L. McMurtry, Susan J. Rose, and Lisa K. Berger

Accurate measurement is essential for effective social work practice, but doing it well can be difficult. One solution is to use rapid assessment instruments (RAIs), which are brief scales that typically require less than 15 minutes to complete. Some are administered by practitioners, but most are self-administered on paper or electronically. RAIs are available for screening, initial assessment, monitoring of service progress, and outcome evaluation. Some require author permission, others are sold commercially, and many more are free and in the public domain. Selection of an RAI should be based first on its psychometric strength, including content, concurrent, and known-groups validity, as well as on types of reliability such as internal consistency, but practical criteria such as readability are also important. And when used in practice settings, RAIs should be part of a well-rounded measurement plan that also includes behavioral observations, client logs, unobtrusive measures, and other approaches.

Article

This article describes issues related to culturally competent social work practice with religiously fundamentalist families in public school settings. It addresses the history of religious fundamentalist identities, the complexity inherent in such identities, and the nature of fundamentalism. A review of issues related to culturally competent practice in educational settings is offered. Recommendations informed by spiritually sensitive and strength-based approaches are discussed. Challenges to working effectively with religiously conservative and fundamentalist families in educational settings are also explored. Emphasis is placed upon the practitioner’s role in developing spirituality-sensitive therapeutic relationships by improving religious literacy, developing enhanced self-awareness, and approaching clients from a perspective of cultural humility and a lens of intersectionality.

Article

Concepcion Barrio, Mercedes Hernandez, Paula Helu Fernandez, and Judith A. DeBonis

Social workers in health and mental health and across public and private health sectors are expected to be knowledgeable of comprehensive approaches to effectively serve individuals dealing with psychotic disorders, including family members involved in their care. Effective services require expertise in assessment, diagnostics, treatment planning, and coordination of community support services. This article provides a knowledge base for social work practitioners working with clients challenged by the experience and consequences of serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders. We begin by reviewing the public health significance of these disorders, clinical phenomenology and its historical context, and symptoms and classification. We then discuss the family and cultural context, evidence-based treatments, and several social and clinical issues that social work practitioners should be aware of when working with this client population.

Article

Tomi Gomory and Daniel Dunleavy

Social work is perhaps most distinctive for its clear and outspoken commitment toward improving the well-being of society’s vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, while still emphasizing the importance of respecting and defending personal rights and freedoms. Though there is a fundamental necessity for coercion, or its threat, for eliciting civil social behavior in a well-functioning society, it is professionally and ethically imperative that social workers make explicit our rationales for, justifications of, and the evidence used to support or reject coercive practices in our work. Social work’s engagement with coercion inevitably entails the ethical and social policy arguments for and against its use, as shown in a review of the empirical evidence regarding its impact on the professions’ clients, exemplified by three domains: (1) child welfare, (2) mental health, and (3) addictions. Recommendations for future improvements involve balancing the potential for harm against the benefits of coercive actions.

Article

Paula S. Nurius and Charles P. Hoy-Ellis

Evolving understandings of stress have literally transformed how we think about health as contextualized within complex and multilevel transactions between individuals and their environment. We present core concepts of stress through the lens of life-course and life-span perspectives, emphasizing appraisal-based and biobehavioral models of stress response systems. We describe theories of allostatic load, embodiment, epigenetics, weathering processes, and accelerated aging that operationalize mechanisms through which stress affects health and contributes to health disparities. In addition to social determinant and life-span developmental perspectives on stress and health, we emphasize the value of health-promotive factors that can serve to buffer stress effects. Social work has important roles in targeting health-erosive stress from “neurons to neighborhoods”.

Article

Clare S. Gaskins, Melissa A. Bitalvo, and Michele R. Cohen

There is growing evidence that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is much more common in children and adolescents than originally believed. While some youth with mild to moderate OCD may be able to navigate their school day with minimal interference, for others the disorder can cause significant impairment in the ability to concentrate on school work, complete homework, and make and maintain peer relationships. School social workers and staff can play a pivotal role in shaping learning environments that support students with OCD. This article provides an overview of clinical characteristics of OCD, its assessment and treatment, how children with the disorder may present in the school setting, and ways in which school staff can assist students with OCD.

Article

Suicide  

Stacey Freedenthal

Every year, more people in the world die from suicide than from homicide and wars combined. Efforts to reduce suicide have made several advances. Research has identified numerous suicide risk factors, and, though small in number, effective prevention and intervention strategies have been identified. Social workers are likely to encounter suicidal clients in their work, requiring suicide assessment and intervention skills.

Article

Katherine Walsh

The term survivor has been applied to people who have endured diverse traumatic or life-threatening experiences ranging from sexual abuse to airplane crashes and wars. In the past 25 years, the term has also been applied to those diagnosed with cancer, an illness that once claimed the lives of most who were diagnosed with it, but which many now survive because of treatment advances. This entry addresses the social-work profession’s involvement with cancer survivorship as one example of survivorship. Social workers encounter cancer survivors in every practice arena, including hospitals and palliative-care programs as well as schools, correctional facilities, and mental-health clinics. They conduct research and provide education about the psychosocial impact of cancer and also provide counseling and advocacy. With their focus on strengths and resilience and their range of skills and knowledge about the biopsychosocial impact of life-threatening and traumatic experiences, social workers are uniquely positioned to assist survivors in adjustment to survivorship and in restoring well-being through micro, mezzo, and macro systems interventions.

Article

Suicide is a more prevalent cause of death in many countries than automobile accidents, homicide, and breast cancer. Despite this, the experience of people left behind after a suicide is not well understood. This entry provides a sociohistorical overview of suicide to place suicide death in a relevant cultural context, explores the bereavement experiences of those grieving a loss to suicide, and presents the debate about similarities and differences regarding suicide bereavement in relation to other forms of traumatic death. In addition, this entry examines the role of social workers in working with people bereaved by suicide.

Article

Grace Christ

The ability of medical technology to prolong life over the past century has forced an examination of the experience and care of the dying. Many diseases that once were expected to follow a sloping illness trajectory with predictable deterioration and ultimately death are now more commonly experienced as chronic illnesses. They require more medical and other resources and challenge the family's ability to cope for much longer periods. The knowledge, value, and skill base of social work, and its broad range of practice sites make it uniquely suited to contribute to the movement to improve the care of the dying. The Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network were formed in 2007 to advance and give voice to social work's expertise in this area and to promote its development in practice, education, research, and policy.

Article

Gilbert J. Greene

Research and meta-analysis of research on psychotherapy outcome has consistently supported the use of therapy that is planned from the beginning to be brief. In recent years several brief therapy approaches have been developed, often by social workers, and found to be effective. This article provides an overview of the research supporting the use of brief therapy and describes the basics of the major approaches to brief therapy such as the task-centered approach, the psychodynamic approaches, interpersonal therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, emotion-focused therapy, the strength-based approaches, couples and family therapy, and group therapy. It closes with the discussion of several future trends in brief therapy.

Article

This article presents information regarding the evolving understanding of the relationships between impulse-control disorders, compulsion-related disorders, and addictions (both substance-related and behavioral). The traditional model describing the relationship between impulse-control disorders and compulsion-related disorders is now considered overly simplistic. New research suggests that this relationship is complex, and distinctions between these disorders are not as solid as previously thought. Information about this dynamic relationship also has implications for substance use disorders and behavioral addictions.