How five leading social workers are influencing the industry today – shaping the nature of modern social work research, theory and service delivery.

The social worker environment is full of inspiring individuals working at all levels of the field. The nature of the industry and the role social work plays in society means it attracts people who are passionate about doing meaningful work that makes a difference.

There are many leaders shining a light for the future of social work and inspiring the next generation of social workers. Here we highlight five extraordinary individuals and the work they’re doing.

1. Ellen DeVoe, Associate Professor and PhD Program Director of Social Work, Boston University

Ellen DeVoe is one of the most highly regarded social workers practicing today, as well as one of the most influential. Her extensive work in the areas of domestic violence, sexual abuse and the effects of exposure to violence on children has included extensive studies on young children’s responses to 9/11 and the effects of deployment on military families, such as how children are affected when a parent is deployed to war.

In addition to her extensive research practice and publication, Ellen teaches clinical courses with a focus on trauma practice and intervention with children and adolescents, for which she has was awarded the Teaching Excellence honor from Boston University School of Social Work in 2008.

2. Joe Kort, psychotherapist, coach and author

Openly gay clinical social worker and sexologist, Joe Kort is well known for his work in advancing social acceptance for sexual identity issues. His clinical practice focuses on out-of-control sexual behaviors; childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse; mixed-orientation marriages; coming out; depression and anxiety. He is the author of four books and numerous articles on these topics including 2016 revised and updated 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives

Joe facilitates couples’ workshops and counseling based on gay affirmative psychotherapy and IMAGO relationship therapy. His approach is founded on the bestselling books by Dr. Harville Hendrix, Getting The Love You Want and Keeping The Love You Find, and he has appeared on numerous television and radio shows to discuss his work including the Tyra Banks Show and Oprah.

3. Darla Spence Coffey, President and Chief Executive Officer, Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)

Darla Spence Coffey is a leader in shaping the social work industry’s approach to the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence, and she is a nationally recognized speaker and author on these topics. After many years of research into the effects of domestic violence on children, Darla developed a curriculum called Parenting After Violence, which is used by the Institute for Safe Families to train social workers to work with children and families dealing with the aftermath of domestic violence.

“It is sometimes easier for other issues to become the focal point when there is domestic violence, which often contributes to the continued denial and silence about domestic violence in our society,” Coffey says.

4. Darrell P. Wheeler, President, National Association of Social Workers (NASW)

In addition to being a member of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the President of the NASW, Dr. Darrell P. Wheeler is a highly regarded academic whose pioneering research focuses on HIV prevention and intervention among African-American gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

He has authored dozens of articles and book chapters on these topics. His work has been funded by esteemed organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP). He was a recipient of the American International Health Alliance Partnership Award, which he used to develop the capacity of Nigerian social service programs targeted at orphaned and other vulnerable youth.

5. Joan Levy Zlotnik, Director, Social Work Policy Institute

Joan Levy Zlotnik has been recognized for her outstanding contribution to the field of social research and social justice, particularly in relation to the role social work plays in achieving better health outcomes for our aging population. As society’s demographics change, with baby boomers becoming “elderly,” new models of social work service delivery are needed and Joan has been at the forefront of researching the challenges and opportunities this presents social workers.

Joan has received numerous awards including the 2012 University of Maryland School of Social Work Alumni of the Year Award and was also selected as one of the school’s 50 Heroes for Justice. She is the editor of a series of books, Building Social Work Research Capacity, published by Oxford University Press.

To learn more about how the social work sector is changing and what you can do with a social work degree to create positive change, explore our careers section.

Article Name
5 Leading Social Workers Influencing the Industry
Who are some of the key social work industry leaders and what are they doing to make a difference?