sharp pencil with jumbled letters behind it - Tips and tools for social workers

NASW Observes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Month

Denise Johnson, LCSW-C, Senior Practice Associate, Clinical Social Work

The month of June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) acknowledges the important role social workers play in treating individuals and families impacted by PTSD.

The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as a psychiatric condition that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as intimate partner violence, natural disasters, terrorist acts, and war.[1] It can have profound impacts on the lives of those affected that include physical, psychological, and social effects that disrupt an individual's ability to function. According to recent statistics from the National Center for PTSD, approximately 5% of adults in the United States experience PTSD in any given year. This amounts to 13 million Americans affected by the condition in 2020 alone.Women are also at higher risk of developing PTSD than men, with 8% of women and 4% of men experiencing the condition at some point in their lives.[2]

Social workers play a critical role in assessing and treating people living with PTSD helping them live with their trauma through psychotherapy, support groups, and other services. By providing a safe, non-judgmental environment, social workers can help those with PTSD manage their struggles and have a better quality of life.

NASW invites you to join us in recognizing the important role of social workers in treating PTSD. This June let’s spread awareness and understanding of PTSD and support those impacted by it.

Below NASW provides valuable information and resources for social workers who help people suffering from PTSD.

NASW Webinars

Clinical Art Psychotherapy in Complex Trauma Treatment with Diverse Populations

Clinical Art Psychotherapy is a multi-disciplined treatment modality that is deeply embedded in Psychoanalytic Theory, Bio-neurological Effect of Color and its Psychological Interpretation and the use of symbolic language in unveiling repressed Complex Trauma. This webinar, which is available at the Social Work Online CE Institute, focuses on the emotional wellness of students during/after the COVID-19 pandemic (as well as other trauma experiences). Analogies will be presented for helping students learn to cope with issues of loss and grief, as well as school-wide activities that promote traumatic growth and resiliency.

Promoting Traumatic Stress Growth in the School Environment

This webinar is available at the Social Work Online CE Institute and focuses on the emotional wellness of students during/after the COVID-19 pandemic (as well as other trauma experiences). Analogies are presented for helping students learn to cope with issues of loss and grief, as well as school-wide activities that promote traumatic growth and resiliency.

Self-Care, the Wounded Healer, Resiliency, and Post-traumatic Growth

This webinar, which is available at the Social Work Online CE Institute, focuses on self-care through the eyes of the Wounded Healer. It also examines how the experience of woundedness supports resiliency and post-traumatic growth.

NASW Books

Animal-assisted crisis response (AACR) Specialized Canine Intervention for Individuals Affected by Disasters and Crises

This book, which is available at NASW Press, discusses how each AACR presents its own unique challenges and opportunities. The authors explore the intersection of psychological first aid (PFA) and AACR, offering canine-based techniques that can be incorporated into PFA and all trauma-informed care.

Burnout and Self-Care in Social Work 2nd Edition A Guidebook for Students and Those in Mental Health and Related Professions

In this edition, which is available at NASW Press, author SaraKay Smullens has updated the text to reflect our evolving understanding of burnout. Once again, Smullens defines creative strategies for self-care and personal growth. For those who are struggling, this book offers opportunities for reflection, redirection, and hope. Whether you are a student preparing to enter the field or a professional at your wits’ end, let Burnout and Self-Care in Social Work be your guide to find direction and balance, better serve your clients, and increase your personal and professional fulfillment.

Faith-Based and Secular Meditation Everyday and Posttraumatic Applications

Drawing on his 40+ years of meditation practice, experience as a Vietnam veteran, and decades of psychotherapy work with his clients, Ray Scurfield demonstrates how to introduce meditation into treatment for clients with posttraumatic stress disorder or everyday stress. This book is available at NASW Press.

Moral Distress and Injury in Human Service Cases, Causes, and Strategies for Prevention

Moral distress and injury may trigger a wave of symptoms and emotions that adversely affect the practitioner: posttraumatic stress disorder; physical illness; hopelessness, and burnout. In this one-of-a-kind book, which is available at NASW Press, Frederic G. Reamer, the social work profession's foremost ethics expert, provides guidance to social workers and related professionals who grapple with these unwanted and unnerving situations and their aftermath, and inspires social workers to advocate for much-needed organizational and policy changes to prevent harm.

Social Work Practice with Veterans

This book, which is available at NASW Press, integrates research, practice experience, case studies, theory, and social work values into a single text that covers the entire cycle of deployment and the complicated adjustments associated with posttraumatic stress disorder, suicide, traumatic brain injury, and substance abuse, with special chapters devoted to military fathers, gays in the military, military children, and more.

Stories of Pain, Trauma, and Survival: A Social Worker’s Experience & Insights from the Field

In response to the need for undergraduate and graduate students to hear about real-life experiences working with traumatized clients, Stories of Pain, Trauma, and Survival is filled with anecdotal examples of social work with individuals and groups in a variety of settings that include nonprofit agencies, child welfare services, and veteran’s health care. Each masterfully written story is followed by Meisinger’s personal and professional insights on how these experiences have informed her practice. The book is useful for classroom discussions and critical self-assessments and will be helpful to beginning and seasoned social workers alike. This book is available at NASW Press.

Web Resources

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.

NASW Research Library 

NASW Research Library is a benefit for NASW members that provides resources that support your social work practice. Members can find the latest research on topics such as PTSD. Their NASW membership gives them unlimited access to more than 25 international databases with thousands of documents from leading research institutions, think tanks and advocacy groups.

National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs has specific information about PTSD. This site offers free expert consultation, education, and resources to Veteran Affairs providers and civilian (community-based) health care professionals treating Veterans. A Self-Care Toolkit is also available for providers who work with those exposed to traumatic events, to help reduce the effects of job-related stress, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) 

This unique network of frontline providers, family members, researchers, and national partners is committed to changing the course of children’s lives by improving their care and moving scientific gains quickly into practice across the U.S. The NCTSN has trained more than two million professionals in trauma-informed interventions. Hundreds of thousands more are benefiting from the other community services, website resources, webinars, educational products, community programs, and more.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

The NIMH provides information and resources to those who have concerns about their mental health to include those with PTSD.

Principles of An Anti-Racist, Trauma-Informed Organization

This resource, which is available on the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website, offers actionable principles that organizations and child-serving systems can implement to move toward the fundamental transformation of becoming anti-racist and trauma-informed.

Resource Guide to Trauma-informed Human Services

Developed for human services leaders, this guide from the Administration for Children and Families introduces the topic of trauma and explores trauma-informed services through a collection of resources. It includes concept papers focused on trauma and effective service delivery, several question-and-answer sections about trauma and other related topics, and community spotlights highlighting successful trauma-informed programs.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA)

SAMHSA offers tools, training, and technical assistance to practitioners who treat PTSD as well as other mental health and substance use disorders. The administration also has a Disaster Distress Helpline which provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.

[1] What is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?. - What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? (n.d.).

[2] How Common Is PTSD in Adults? PTSD: National Center for PTSD. (2023, February 3).