Social Work


Spring 5-2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Type of Paper/Work

Banded Dissertation


Robin R. Whitebird


Social workers serve individuals, families, and communities affected by substance use. With lives lost daily to substance use, social work students must be prepared across settings to address substance use in practice. Using harm reduction as a conceptual framework, this banded dissertation includes three scholarly components that address substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery education and the importance of preparing students for social work practice.

First, is a conceptual article that argues for inclusion of substance use education into the BSW and MSW curriculum. Factors related to substance use are identified, incorporating the alignment of harm reduction with social work values. The intersection with social work practice, education, and the Grand Challenges of Social Work are explored. In response to the lack of required substance use training for social work students, macro, mezzo, and micro level implementation strategies are recommended.

Second, is a study aimed at understanding how substance use courses in Master of Social Work (MSW) programs are conceptualized, utilizing a qualitative content analysis of 29 syllabi. Though there was much diversity, common themes emerged. Content was focused primarily on substance use treatment including evidence-based practices, with a gap in course topics addressing prevention. Pedagogy frequently incorporated experiential learning. This review of courses provides support for inclusion of substance use concepts in social work education.

The third product is a poster presentation at the peer-reviewed NASW- Minnesota Chapter 2019 Annual Conference. The presentation included preliminary research findings from the qualitative content analysis of syllabi from MSW program courses focused on substance use. The poster included key components related to the current state of substance use education in MSW programs, research methodology, preliminary findings, and recommendations for social work education.

This dissertation contributes to the body of knowledge related to substance use education in social work programs. Implications for social work education include the need for the development of academic standards specific to substance use to prepare students for practice. Implications for future research include gathering insights from multiple diverse perspectives including faculty, practitioners, and individuals in recovery on what is needed to prepare social work students for practice.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License

Available for download on Sunday, October 01, 2023

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