David Albright, Ph.D., an associate professor and Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health at the University of Alabama School of Social Work, will deliver the Graduate School of Social Service Centennial Lecture on Friday, Nov. 11 at 3:30 p.m. in the Costantino Room at Fordham Law School. Dr. Albright is also the chair of the Military Social Work Track for the Council on Social Work Education. The talk, “A Vision for Social Work in the Next 100 Years: Staying the Course in Response to Our Veterans,” will be followed by a centennial celebration for alumni and friends of GSS.
What are the parallels between social work, military service, and Jesuit service?
The Jesuits were founded by a soldier, St. Ignatius. Serving others is central both to the mission of service members and social workers.
What is lacking in training for social workers as it relates to our veterans?
There are many factors involved in improving training and building “military cultural competence” and clinical competence for social workers. Changing the test questions on our licensing exams is one. To my mind, the National Association of Social Workers, the Council on Social Work Education, and graduate schools offering social work credentials, must do more to ensure that appropriate content is being provided, evaluated, and meaningfully translated into a variety of settings, clinical and otherwise.
How do you identify the veterans who is dealing with grief?
Keep in mind that grief is often times a normal response to loss, and that loss isn’t necessarily about the death of someone. It might include other losses like separating from the military or changes in family dynamics. All of this is most likely a healthy process rather than something that should be sensationalized, which happens far too often.
Do we need a wakeup call for corporations and nonprofits?
Basically, the United States has many, many organizations, both government and nongovernment, that serve veterans in some form—so many, in fact, that it can be overwhelming and become inaccessible for veterans and their families. Social workers can help veterans navigate that “sea of good will.”
What sort of veteran would make a good social worker?
I think all potential students, irrespective of military service status, should consider becoming a social worker if they want to assist other people and communities; if they value advocacy and social justice; if they want to facilitate and/or lead social change. To be a social worker, to me, is to be a doer, to be a change-maker.
But I don’t think that veterans who are social workers are necessarily better situated to work with other veterans than nonveterans.Veterans who are social workers may share common referents with clients who are veterans, which might afford them some understanding of the military jargon and lexicon and perhaps aid them in establishing therapeutic rapport. But there is also the potential for veterans who are social workers to transgress blurred professional boundaries. Perhaps a veteran social worker who has not done the important work of reconciling his or her military experiences into his or her post-military narratives, could bias his professional decision-making.
We have a lot of veterans at Fordham undergraduate schools. What can the Graduate School of Social Service do reach out the veterans in our midst?
Having purpose matters to many veterans. Some form of service often gives veterans that sense of purpose or mission. Perhaps the Graduate School of Social Service can focus on content and messaging that highlights how graduate degree attainment might be both a purpose and a potential lever for facilitating and leading social change in their communities.