The USC School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families (CIR) co-hosted a consortium with the Army Behavioral Health Division’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program to develop a competency model for training mental health professionals treating military personnel and their families.

A group of 32 senior Department of Defense and military service behavioral healthcare leaders, distinguished academics, representatives from the Veterans Administration family programs and other behavioral health care experts convened in Los Angeles on Jan. 5-6 to develop competencies for behavioral health educators and providers caring for families impacted by military service.

“The ongoing war in Afghanistan has vastly increased the need for behavioral healthcare services and practitioners with specialized knowledge to practice military social work,” said CIR’s Director Anthony Hassan. “This collaboration is essential to generating a rapid ramp-up of capacity and competence focused expressly on the unique treatment requirements of today’s veterans and their families.”

Participants were tasked with constructing an over-arching philosophy, as well as the scope of practice and definition of “military family.” The group utilized the Council on Social Work Education’s recently published guidebook, Advanced Social Work Practice in Military Social Work, an initiative Hassan helped lead to create more programs of learning and enhanced training in military social work for educators.

At the end of the two days, the resulting recommendations were submitted to a steering group, comprising 12 of the consortium’s participants. These members will review the competencies and refine their scope and content. In the spring, the entire task force will reconvene to review the final set of competencies for publication in the summer by the University of Southern California.


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