Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Marcia Martin Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Nicholas McKinnon, MD

Third Advisor

Jonathan Everett Brown, M.Div., MSW, LCSW, LCAS


Social workers are expected to serve, communicate, and interact effectively with a broad range of clients across various cultural contexts. Military culture is unique in that it puts the mission first, above one’s life, family, and personal comfort. Military culture has its own beliefs, language, values, and legal system that significantly impact the use of healthcare practices. There has been recent research identifying the significant gap in knowledge and training for behavioral health providers serving military members, veterans, and their families. In 2014, a survey examining behavioral health providers in Maryland identified significant gaps in knowledge and confidence for providers assessing and treating clients with military experience (Koblinsky, Leslie, & Cook). Additionally, the RAND Corporation examined community based providers’ capacity to deliver culturally competent, quality mental health care to veterans and their families (Tanielian et al., 2014). The findings highlighted that few civilian providers are prepared to serve military members, veterans, and their families. Only 13 percent of surveyed civilian providers met all the readiness criteria, and those that met these criteria did not necessarily meet the other threshold for providing the best evidence-based care (Tanielian et al., 2014). This dissertation briefly explores the history of military social work both in active duty and civilian settings. It provides an introduction to military culture and social work practice, seeking to identify the unique culture of each branch of service and its impact on the psychosocial health of our service members and their families. It aims to thoroughly examine the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) code of ethics and many ethical dilemmas social workers encounter serving this unique population. It addresses dual loyalty and mixed agency concepts, educating students on how the social worker is tasked to maintain allegiance to the military and the profession. It critically examines and addresses both legal and moral contexts for ethical dilemmas in active duty and veteran social work settings. The dissertation examines the veteran’s developmental processes, predisposing factors, and vulnerabilities that often exacerbate military related trauma. Finally, it identifies the copious amounts of transitional resources available to our nation’s veterans and the many social work implications. The primary objective of the dissertation is to create a military social work graduate certificate program guided by the Council on Social Work Education Core Competencies and Practice Behaviors. The graduate certificate program will include three elective courses designed to fulfill requirements of the MSW program and specified field placement experiences. This format will allow students to complete their MSW and military social work graduate certificate program simultaneously with no additional coursework required.

Included in

Social Work Commons