Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 408–418 | Cite as

Teaching Trauma Theory and Practice in MSW Programs: A Clinically Focused, Case-Based Method

  • Jane Abrams
  • Margaret Shapiro
Original Paper


Social workers provide much of the mental health treatment in the United States, and, given the ubiquity of trauma, most clinical social workers will provide treatment to trauma survivors during their careers. Therefore, trauma theory and practice must be included in MSW curricula and taught as a clinical course. This paper suggests that experienced clinician instructors teach trauma theory and practice classes using a case-based method. Bringing case material into the classroom helps prepare students for the complexities and challenges of treating survivors of trauma. To demonstrate how cases can help students connect theory to practice, the paper presents the treatment of a Central African asylum seeker recovering from trauma. The case emphasizes the centrality of the therapeutic relationship and illustrates the use of several evidence-supported trauma interventions along with core principles of social work practice. Finally, the paper suggests that social work educators consider developing a structured method of integrating cases into the trauma curriculum.


Trauma treatment Social work education Case-based teaching Trauma curriculum 



The authors wish to thank Jeffrey Applegate, PhD, for generously reading this manuscript several times as it evolved. We appreciate his thoughtful, incisive theoretical and editorial comments and his encouragement.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social Policy and PracticeUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Private Practice, Psychotherapy and Clinical SupervisionPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Council for RelationshipsPhiladelphiaUSA

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