In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Military Social Work

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Military Social Work Education
  • Ethical Dilemmas
  • Self-Care for Helping Professionals
  • War and Combat

Social Work Military Social Work
Eugenia Weiss, James Daley, Tara DeBraber
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0186


The authors of this annotated bibliography attempt to capture some of the more recent literature in the field of military social work since the beginning of the century. The reader will note that there is an emphasis on topics surrounding The Global War on Terrorism (TGWT), mostly on the US military involvement in Iraq (OIF/OND) and Afghanistan (OEF). This focus is not meant to minimize the sacrifices made by American service members serving in previous conflicts or in other conflicts outside of the Middle East. Additionally, for the purposes of facilitating a literature search for the reader, we attempt to categorize topics into discrete areas of study; however, the categories are not mutually exclusive, nor is this an exhaustive list. Rather, it is a compilation of reference works we gathered with the intent that this information would reflect current social work knowledge (as well as knowledge from allied fields) for social workers to effectively understand and assist military and veteran client populations and their families. The impetus behind our efforts stems from an important document created by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) that defined practice and knowledge competencies for military social work (which will be discussed in a later section). Additionally, we have limited our sources to texts in English, although we do cover a few references that pertain to international military social work. (The reader is also advised that each section, per editorial guidelines, has a designated number of references, and thus some citations that should seemingly appear in a particular place will appear under other associated headings.)

General Overviews

Though military social workers have been helping service personnel and their families since World War I, “military social work” as a specialty in the field of social work has received little attention, except for the inclusion of a brief entry in the Encyclopedia of Social Work with each edition (Harris and Pehrson 2008). For many years, the only textbook available was Daley 1999. Since then there have been a few additions. For instance, Beder 2012 has been recently published, as have Daley and Hassan 2012 and Rubin et al. 2012. Discussions on international military social work have been written (Daley 2003), with a more recent perspective coming from South Africa (van Breda 2012). The field of military social work is not only for social workers in uniform but also for civilian mental health practitioners, as discussed in A Civilian Counselor’s Primer for Counseling Veterans (Exum et al. 2011).

  • Beder, J., ed. 2012. Advances in social work practice with the military. New York: Routledge.

    The high number of returning combat veterans requires civilian social workers to be culturally competent to provide quality care. This edited book covers unique aspects of the military life, including its challenges. Appropriate assessment and interventions are provided, along with an exploration of ethical concerns that can arise when working with the military population.

  • Daley, J. G., ed. 1999. Social work practice in the military. New York: Haworth.

    The book covers the service branches and military social work, including programs such as Family Advocacy, TRICARE, substance abuse programs, medical social work, mental health programs, combat operations, policy, practice, and ethical dilemmas. The chapters provide an understanding of military social work, with implications for service member well-being, families, and deployment; military culture; and the future of military social work.

  • Daley, J. G. 2003. Military social work: A multi-country comparison. International Social Work 46.4: 437–448.

    DOI: 10.1177/0020872803464002

    Overview of military social work comparing the United States, Finland, South Africa, and China. A model for military social work development is proposed, and six international core requirements for military social work are suggested (enhancing deployability, facilitating military policies, implementing social service programs, offering intra-military perspectives and interventions, enhancing military social work services, and disseminating effective technologies).

  • Daley, J. G., and A. M. Hassan. 2012. Editorial: Embracing the diversity of military social work. In Special issue: Military Social Work. Edited by J. G. Daley and A. M. Hassan. Advances in Social Work 13.1: i–ix.

    The authors, coeditors of the special issue on military social work, discuss recent revisions, and conclude: “Military and veterans rely on our commitment and expertise in creating safety nets for them as they navigate the care systems that are available to ease their challenges” (p. ix).

  • Exum, H., J. E. Coll, and E. L. Weiss. 2011. A civilian counselor’s primer for counseling veterans. 2d ed. Deerpark, NY: Linus.

    Although this book is not specific to social work, the authors provide an overview of military culture and an introduction to working with military and veteran populations from a civilian mental health practitioner perspective. The appendices include a glossary of military-related terms, military organizations, and insignias.

  • Harris, J. J., and K. L. Pehrson. 2008. Military social work. In Encyclopedia of social work. 20th ed. Edited by T. Mizrahi and L. E. Davis, 1726–1736. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This entry highlights different historical points in military social work by service and program development. It is fairly brief and does not cover military social workers who are not uniformed. Available online by subscription.

  • Rubin, A., E. L. Weiss, and J. E. Coll, eds. 2012. Handbook of military social work. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    This edited textbook covers many aspects of military social work, including military culture and diversity, service-related stressors, military families and programs, suicide prevention, bereavement, treatments for PTSD and co-occurring disorders, substance abuse interventions, combat-related traumatic brain injury, systems of care, and homelessness.

  • Van Breda, A. D. 2012. Military social work thinking in South Africa. Advances in Social Work 13.1: 17–33.

    Describes four contextual factors that have impacted South African military social work. Additionally, the author describes a military social work practice model which consists of four practice positions: restorative interventions, promotive interventions, work-person interventions, and workplace interventions (p. 24). A useful concept is “binocular vision” (p. 23), whereby we see both client systems—the client and the military.

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