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Social Work and Disasters: A Handbook for Practice.

Social Work and Disasters: A Handbook for Practice

Margaret Alston, Tricia Hazeleger, and Desley Hargreaves New York, NY: Routledge, 2019

254 pp (paperback), $39.95, ISBN 978-1-1380-8954-9

Social Work and Disasters: A Handbook for Practice is an excellent book that provides insight into the ever-growing connections between the social work profession and disaster work. This book discusses historical events related to disasters happening around the world and explores how these events have shifted how social work provides services related to disaster needs on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Social workers play a distinct role in identifying biopsychosocial factors related to clients, but this book uniquely addresses the environmental factors linked to disasters that need to be considered by social workers. Critical to evaluating issues affecting worker and client in post-disaster relief are issues such as social worker burnout, social justice, and improved social worker training. Practically, this book identifies theories and interventions that holistically capture the client's individuality and build on nondiscriminatory interventional methods.

In part I (chapters 1-4) of the book, theory, policy, and history of disaster social work are explored. Early on, social workers such as Jane Addams documented environmental pollutions related to the industrial era and their negative impacts on people early in the twentieth century. Twentieth-century social workers have been documented as activists for environmental issues, but a clear distinction was recognized with social workers separating from the profession to advocate on a personal level. In chapter 4, the authors continue to emphasize that, although social workers today are active providers of post-disaster services, they need to further engage in policy, prevention, and research efforts that can minimize the effects of future disasters. The identification of relevant theories and the particular attention paid to inclusive factors of all clients were especially appreciated. The case studies gave helpful examples of how disasters affect communities and individuals, as well as how social workers work to restore equilibrium to those affected.

Part II (chapters 5-8) explains post-disaster-related factors such as disaster preparedness, disaster risk reduction, and disaster response that contribute to positive or negative impacts at the macro, mezzo, and micro levels. Typically, social workers identify client needs and address them with interventions. More recently however, there is an increased focus on identifying environmental factors that are recurrent in the client's lifestyle and providing appropriate interventions to mitigate the impact of those factors. This section explores the complexities of disaster social work, with a particular emphasis on trauma, and describes interventional methods in a manner that demonstrates the authors' solid knowledge of this field.

Although understanding the intricacies of post-disaster intervention is critical, disaster preparation is also important, and this text admirably outlines crucial elements of disaster preparation. For social workers, developing disaster preparedness skills and training for disaster situations are proactive measures to improve services related to this growing phenomenon.

Part III (chapters 9-11) provides key components of client vulnerability and resilience while emphasizing elements of intersectionality. Systemically, many clients are left vulnerable in societies where divisions exist, and this chapter captures the issues surrounding their ability to thrive despite these divisions. For social workers, the dignity and worth of clients and the promotion of human rights are of the utmost importance. This section's rich content focuses on social justice issues and contributes to an understanding of why it is more difficult for vulnerable populations than for individuals with better access to resources to persevere after catastrophic events. This is a particularly important section for social workers or any helping professionals who are strong advocates for intersectionality, diversity, and social justice issues in the context of disaster practice.

Part IV (chapters 12-13) promotes self-care and preparation for upcoming disaster work. The authors do an excellent job of explaining the threats to self-care. Self-care and preparation are particularly important for helping professionals in this field due to the unexpected nature of disasters. Social workers must be prepared to go at a moment's notice to provide services to those in need. For those who are not prepared or do not have the requisite skills, working in a disaster-affected area may be shocking and traumatic. Following up preparedness with targeted trainings for social workers in in this field, as well as supervision to monitor their efforts helps social workers to be more aware of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout. This focus on self-care and preparation is a great strength of this text.

In summary, Social Work and Disasters: A Handbook for Practice provides a wonderfully prepared, theoretically relevant, and pragmatic focus on social work service delivery in disaster situations. The emphasis on client diversity and worker self-care is important. I recommend this book to social workers in any field because, as we see climate change increase, disaster-focused work will become more critical As underscored by this text, preparation for such changes to our environment and the impacts they have on our clients is important. Social Work and Disasters: A Handbook for Practice is an excellent tool for those wanting to be better prepared.

Reviewed by Sherita L. Tompkins

Sherita L. Tompkins, DSW, is instructor in the School of Social Work, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS.
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Author:Tompkins, Sherita L.
Publication:Best Practices in Mental Health
Date:Sep 22, 2019
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