Social workers play a vital role in our society, and serve across many different industries. When it comes to trauma and disaster relief, their work is especially crucial. For individuals and communities who are facing the largest struggles they’ve ever known, specialist social workers are there to make all the difference.

The MSW For Disaster Relief

MSWs are trained to handle a diverse set of problems and contexts, and qualified to support different types of populations. One area in which MSW degree holders increasingly play a role is in disaster relief. Social workers interested in this type of work focus on helping individuals and communities through the recovery process. This involves assisting with the emotional and physical trauma associated with surviving a disaster.

MSWs may operate as part of a team of community organizers in the aftermath of disasters large and small. The work they do includes providing mental health services and identifying and treating post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma related disorders. They might also assist with recovery efforts related to navigating relief benefits (such as FEMA), and might help individuals find local housing to rebuild their lives.

Social workers interested in disaster and mental health relief work might consider pursuing an MSW degree and seeking out a dedicated course of study or certification program with a focus on intervention, disaster management, and trauma treatment options.

However, it is also possible to build expertise in this area by selecting a clinical mental health track as the focus of MSW study. Students choosing to generalize in clinical mental health can use their fieldwork placements to build specialized expertise in disaster relief and mental health. Veterans Hospitals, other military agencies, and groups like the Red Cross often participate with graduate social works schools to provide fieldwork internships. It is not uncommon for veterans to experience stress disorders such as PTSD after returning from deployments. On top of that, the military is often involved in disaster relief efforts. So it makes sense that military organizations have strong placements for MSWs who wish to practice disaster and trauma relief.

Nedda Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert is a certified social worker and 30 year educational consultant with an interest in helping college-bound and graduate school students manage the process and stress of admissions effectively. She is one of the senior founding managers of the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company, and the author of The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and another book, Business School Essays that Made a Difference (Random House). She is a guest contributor to Forbes Magazine on college and college life. Ms. Gilbert is also certified as a collaborative family law professional in New Jersey. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MS from Columbia University.