Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 159–167 | Cite as

Educating Graduate Social Work Students in Disaster Response: A Real-Time Case Study

  • Patricia A. FindleyEmail author
  • Kathleen J. Pottick
  • Stephanie Giordano
Original Paper


Social workers are mental health first-responders in disaster events, yet that role has been relatively underemphasized in social work curriculum for agency-based practice. The recent increasing number of disaster-related events has challenged schools of social work to respond with curriculum and field placements that meet the student demand for education in disaster behavior health. This paper describes how a real-time education and training program for disaster response was created and adopted into an existing graduate social work school curriculum. It also details how new field placements were created, and others were transformed to focus on mental health counseling and disaster relief following a significant weather-related event. This case study demonstrates how resources were developed and leveraged to address the immediate needs of devastated communities, and it provides strategic information on the way that social work students worked to address both acute and longer-term symptoms and needs of victims and survivors through clinical training and supervision. Through the historical lens of disaster response and behavioral health, resiliency-building is shown to be the cornerstone of effective community networking.


Disaster response Mental health Social work training Disaster curriculum Field placement 



The authors thank Project Manager Sandra Moroso, M.A. This paper was funded in part by a grant from the Robin Hood Foundation (Grant Title: Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Initiative, Grant Number 435346).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia A. Findley
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kathleen J. Pottick
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stephanie Giordano
    • 1
  1. 1.Rutgers University School of Social WorkNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging ResearchNew BrunswickUSA

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