Social Work



Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Type of Paper/Work

Banded Dissertation


Ande Nesmith


Disparities in mental health treatment have been well documented over the last 30 years. Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is poised to be able to address these disparities for people experiencing severe mental illness if we ground practice (i.e., ACT) in theory (i.e., ecological perspective of social work). The ecological perspective pushes social workers and other practitioners to be critically aware of the complexities of humanity and be expansive in our outlook and approach to practice.

Product One was a systematic review focused on primary research that assessed the outcomes of the effectiveness of ACT with people of color who are experiencing severe mental illness. The purpose of conducting a systematic review was to establish a foundation of quality research that assessed the outcomes of ACT. From that body of knowledge, the question of ACT’s effectiveness with people of color was then explored.

Product two was a conceptual paper that explored grounding ACT theoretically in the ecological perspective of social work to enhance its effectiveness in working with people of color. Grounding ACT services in the ecological perspective will enhance ACT teams’ ability to provide care that meets the needs of all consumers, including consumers of color. The professional standards of holism, sensitivity to diversity, and strengths were used to analyze ACT services and the ecological perspective.

Product three explored the concepts of intersectionality, cultural humility, and power to operationalize the ecological perspective in practice. Practitioners who understand and operationalize these key concepts in their work are more aware and attentive to the concepts of adaptability, habitat and niche, life course, power, stress, and resilience. This enhanced understanding aids practitioners in being attentive to the complexities of human dynamics that are impacted by race, ethnicity, and culture.

To effectively treat people experiencing severe mental illness, implications of their illness and identity must be considered. Inattentiveness to these factors will result in practitioners being less effective. Providing ACT services from an ecological perspective provides mental health practitioners with a framework for understanding and being critically aware of the consumer’s unique lens and life experiences. This enables practitioners to be effective in addressing the needs of all consumers, including consumers of color.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.