Advancing National Service

The Challenges Facing Military Families are Unique, So This Program Gives Social Workers Specific Training

November 10, 2014
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The Challenges Facing Military Families are Unique, So This Program Gives Social Workers Specific Training
USC's School of Social Work created a program to train graduate students to address the specific challenges facing veterans, service members and military families. Luke Sharrett/Getty Images
The Master's program is the first of its kind among private universities.

The suicide rate among veterans standing at an alarming 22 deaths each day. As if that’s not enough, military families also face the challenges of high unemployment, debt and PTSD.

So the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work decided to create a Master’s program that would train graduate students to address the needs of veterans, service members and military families.

Social workers are often on the front lines when service members return home — diagnosing their problems and helping vets find housing, jobs and stability. Part of the USC program’s emphasis is in training students how to deliver effective therapy that doesn’t drive military members and their spouses away, a problem with some counseling that results in veterans failing to get the help they need. But in the USC program, a concept called the Motivational Interviewing Learning Environment and Simulation (MILES) teaches students how to effectively manage that vital first contact with both service members and veterans.

Many of the students that have enrolled in USC’s program since its inception in 2009 have direct experience with the military themselves — either as soldiers themselves or spouses of deployed military.

Pamela and Mark Mischel recently helped endow a new scholarship program, the Yellow Ribbon Scholarship Fund, which will pay the tuition for military members and vets who want to enroll. “These young men and women have given so much, and we want to do our small part to be able to help,” Mark Mischel tells USC News.

Pamela says that when they learned that many veterans and their spouses were interested in enrolling USC’s military social work program, they decided to help. “If these people wanted to become social workers, then we wanted to help them do that,” she says. “This is our small way of giving back to them for the services they’ve done for our country.”

MORE: This Mobile App is Preventing Veteran Suicides

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