Shaun M. Eack
Mental health research is the study of the causes and correlates of mental health and illness, approaches to improve mental well-being, and the delivery of effective mental health services to those in need. Social workers have been leading researchers in each of these areas of inquiry, and this article provides an overview of the broad field of mental health research, with particular emphasis on the contributions of social work. A biopsychosocial review of research on the correlates of mental health and illness is provided, followed by a synthesis of studies examining pharmacological and psychosocial approaches to improving mental health. Research on mental health services is then presented, with a focus on studies seeking to improve access to quality care and reduce service disparities. Key directions for future mental health research include identifying specific causal predictors of mental illness, improving existing treatments, and disseminating advances to the community.
Sara Sanders, Matthew Tvedte, and Mercedes Espinal-Lujan
This article summarizes the history of grief theory and provides an overview of major theoretical frameworks for understanding grief and grief work. Specific types of losses are defined and described, including the newer concept of community grief and loss. Interventions for individuals, groups, and communities are outlined, followed by a discussion of the role of social workers in addressing grief and loss.
Jessica M. Black
Although it was once widely held that development through toddlerhood was the only significant time of tremendous brain growth, findings from neuroscience have identified adolescence as a second significant period of brain-based changes. Profound modification of brain structure, function, and connectivity, paired with heightened sensitivity to environment, places adolescence both as a heightened period of risk and importantly as a time of tremendous opportunity. These findings are of key relevance for social-work policy and practice, for they speak to the ways in which the adolescent brain both is vulnerable to adverse conditions and remains responsive to positive environmental input such as interventions that support recovery and resilience.
B. Michelle Brazeal and Gordon MacNeil
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating anxiety problem. This article reviews the characteristics, etiology, prevalence, and assessment of OCD and presents information on the efficacy of psychological, pharmacological, and combined treatments for this disorder. Early intervention that includes pharmacological agents (typically SSRIs) as well as behavioral and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapies (particularly exposure and response prevention) is the preferred method of intervening with OCD.
Sarah E. Bledsoe, Brianna M. Lombardi, Brittney Chesworth, and Samuel Lawrence
This article discusses interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), a psychotherapeutic intervention developed by Gerald Klerman, Myrna Weissman, and colleagues in the 1970s as an outpatient treatment for major depression in adults. Based on the theories of Harry Stack Sullivan and Adolph Meyer, IPT is a manualized, time-limited intervention that addresses the underlying interpersonal antecedents and correlates of psychiatric illness. The goal of IPT as originally developed is to reduce depressive symptoms and improve interpersonal relationships. IPT has been widely tested in adults and adolescents and is an empirically supported treatment for major depression. IPT has been adapted for a variety of psychiatric illnesses and problems of living including perinatal depression, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders. Current evidence detailed below supports the use of IPT across cultures, illnesses, and populations.
June Simmons, Sandy Atkins, Janice Lynch Schuster, and Melissa Jones
Transitions in care occur when a patient moves from an institutional setting, such as a hospital or nursing home, to home or community, often with the hope or expectation of improving health status. At the very least, patients, clinicians, and caregivers aim to achieve stability and avoid complications that would precipitate a return to the emergency department (ED) or hospital. For some groups of vulnerable people, especially the very old and frail, such transitions often require specific, targeted coaching and supports that enable them to make the change successfully. Too often, as research indicates, these transitions are poorly executed and trigger a cycle of hospital readmissions and worsening health, even death. In recognizing these perils, organizations have begun to see that by improving the care transition process, they can improve health outcomes and reduce costs while ensuring safety, consistency, and continuity. While some of this improvement relies on medical care, coaching, social services and supports are often also essential. Lack of timely medical follow-up, transportation, inadequate nutrition, medication issues, low health literacy, and poverty present barriers to optimal health outcomes. By addressing social and environmental determinants of health and chronic disease self-management, social workers who make home visits or other proven timely interventions to assess and coach patients and their caregivers are demonstrating real results. This article describes care transitions interventions, research into barriers and opportunities, and specific programs aimed at improvement.
Lia Nower and Kyle Caler
Gambling disorder is a significant public health concern. The recent and continued proliferation of land-based and interactive gambling opportunities has increased both accessibility and acceptability of gambling in the United States and abroad, resulting in greater and more varied participation. However, there is currently no designated federal funding for prevention, intervention, treatment, or research, and states are left to adopt varying standards on an ad hoc basis. Social workers receive little or no training in screening or treating problem gamblers, though research suggests that a significant proportion of those with mental health and other addictive disorders also gamble excessively. Raising awareness about the nature and scope of gambling disorder and its devastating implications for families and children is a first-step toward integrating gambling into prevention, assessment and treatment education in social work. This, in turn, will increase the chances of early identification and intervention across settings and insure that social workers can lend a knowledgeable and credible voice to addressing this hidden addiction.
Personalized health care (PHC) is a broad term that describes how we leverage our growing understanding of the human body and developing technology to provide more effective health care. PHC requires that health care providers consider prevention and treatment in the context of available advanced technologies, best practices, and known variables that define us as individuals. These variables or characteristics may run the gamut from genetic, to biologic, to environmental, to even personality, personal values, and choice. By considering how these characteristics interact with specific illnesses and available interventions, outcomes can be improved. The purpose of this article is to: describe PHC’s current conceptualization including relationship with personalized medicine and patient-centered models of care, discuss its development and application by specific stakeholders, and review pertinent economic, legislative, and ethical issues.
Concepcion Barrio, Mercedes Hernandez, Paula Helu Fernandez, and Judith A. DeBonis
Social workers in health and mental health and across public and private health sectors are expected to be knowledgeable of comprehensive approaches to effectively serve individuals dealing with psychotic disorders, including family members involved in their care. Effective services require expertise in assessment, diagnostics, treatment planning, and coordination of community support services. This article provides a knowledge base for social work practitioners working with clients challenged by the experience and consequences of serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders. We begin by reviewing the public health significance of these disorders, clinical phenomenology and its historical context, and symptoms and classification. We then discuss the family and cultural context, evidence-based treatments, and several social and clinical issues that social work practitioners should be aware of when working with this client population.
Tonya Edmond and Karen Lawrence
Since its inception in 1987, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been the subject of lively debate and controversy, rigorous research both nationally and internationally, and is now used by licensed practitioners across six continents as an effective treatment of trauma symptoms and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The aim of this entry is to provide social work practitioners and researchers with a description of the treatment approach for adults and children, EMDR’s development and theoretical basis, a review of controversial issues, and an overview of the evidence of effectiveness of EMDR across trauma types and populations.