Happy Holidays from Dean Nina Heller

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this greeting and update finds you all well and healthy. It has certainly been a strange twenty months as we have had to find ways to adapt and develop new ways of relating, teaching, learning, and working. For some of you, things may feel a bit more “back to normal” and others may find that there are lessons learned through the pandemic that we can incorporate into our family and work lives.

Here, at the School of Social Work, we are nearing the end of the fall semester, with almost all our classes taught in person and with appropriate health measures. For most of our second year MSW students, this is the first time they have stepped foot on our campus, having taken the three prior semesters online. Our BSW and MSW students are back in their field settings and they and our partner agencies have certainly found this preferable to providing remote services. At the same time, we know that current and residual effects of the COVID pandemic have disproportionately affected many of the communities we serve. Where possible, we have placed more students in agencies who have expressed significant needs of their clients and opportunities for our students. As always, we are grateful to our community partners for their role in educating the next generation of social work practitioners.

Our faculty continue to engage our students in our classrooms and through advising and mentoring. They are also engaged in research and scholarship that explores pressing social issues such as substance abuse; food insecurity; juvenile justice; the isolation experienced by many older adults; health, educational, and economic disparities; and the effects of racism.

Of particular note, is the forthcoming book by two UConn professors, Dr, Ann Marie Garran, and Dr. Lisa Werkmeister Rozas, along with Dr. Hye-Kyung Kang and Dr. Josh Miller. Racism in America: Implications for the Helping Professions, 3rd Ed., to be released at the end of December, this book addresses historical, structural, theoretical, and interpersonal perspectives. This is the right moment for this book, and it provides a critical overview of contemporary issues around race, with a particular focus on the educational and professional needs of social workers and other related practitioners.

The SSW embarked on a Strategic Planning Process last spring, under the leadership of Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Dr. Joanne Corbin and Doctoral Program Director, Dr. Scott Harding. We will continue our work for the next several months with a completion date of mid-spring 2022. Our aim Is to produce a living document that emphasizes our strengths and guides us through investment in areas for development and expansion. Core to this plan is a focus upon multiple aspects of diversity, inclusion, and equity and the creation of an anti-racist culture at the school. Our ultimate goal is to promote a sense of belonging for all, while preparing to meet the multiple needs of the communities and profession we serve, through our teaching, scholarship and community engagement. Our focus upon emerging needs.

We always look forward to connecting with our alumni and hearing about all you are doing with your UConn SSW degree. Our students are eager to see what their degree can do for them and what they, in turn, can give back to the profession and people we serve.

Please come and visit, support our students through the UConn Foundation, check out our Continuing Education options – and have a healthy happy holiday season.

All the best,


Alumni Spotlight: Ayesha R. Clarke


  1. Name, Profession Title, SSW Class & Concentration

Ayesha R. Clarke, Deputy Director at Health Equity Solutions, c/o 2018, Policy Practice


  1. Brief description about your current career path 

After I graduated, I was hired by COMPASS Youth Collaborative and assumed the role as Vice President of Operations. I utilized the skills I learned about program planning and policies to understand my role and how to push accountability for programming. After two years, I was able to transition to the Deputy Director at Health Equity Solutions, where I am no longer involved in programming, but able to handle all of the organization’s operational needs. The School of Social Work allowed me to understand functional requirements and to ensure that policies are in place to help everyone understand their roles, responsibilities and expectations.


  1. What are your favorite hobbies?

I enjoy traveling, reading, and spending time with my family and friends.


  1. What was your favorite moment at UConn SSW?

My favorite moments are the times I spent building relationships with my policy cohort. We learned and supported each other so much during the course of our time at UConn SSW. It’s been three years since we graduated and we still keep in touch to discuss our work and the latest policies.


  1. What is something you learned at UConn SSW that still applies to your work today?

The Nancy Humphrey Institute has helped me tremendously. I was able to apply so much of what I learned to my own campaign when I ran for a board member position. The institute helped me understand how to be an elected official and the process of running successful campaigns. Logic models are important! (LOL).

During my time at UConn SSW, I didn’t fully understand the importance of logic models and why we needed to have them. Since then, I’ve discovered that having a proper understanding of these models has allowed me to support change management in my current roles.


I have also learned how policies affect people’s daily lives. It is essential to understand who a policy impacts, who is on your side and against you, what to look for in policy decision making, and when policies can be implemented. The process recordings were also beneficial and helped me remember conversations and understand my feelings. More importantly, the school taught me how to use empathy to support, promote and help shift policies.




Heart Path Therapy® for Therapists

Debra Franklin, LCSW

Register for CE programs now

Wednesday, November 17, 2021
9 am – 12 pm
3 CECs

$60 – UConn SSW Alumni and Current Field Instructors
$75 – All Others

Webinar link will be emailed when your registration is complete.

Heart Path Therapy® for Therapists combines powerful healing approaches from ancient spiritual wisdom combined with guided imagery, Family Constellations, inner child work, sound healing, and energy psychology. There are many wonderful psychological and spiritual healing techniques, but until you heal your own wounds in order to really free your heart, mind, and intuition, those techniques will not be fully effective. As you transform, you empower love, understanding, intuition, and compassion – the most important ingredients to healing. Integrate those with spiritual, sound, and imaginative and energy-oriented approaches, and you will discover your true therapeutic gifts. You can learn to see and feel clients’ “wounds” even before they talk about them and intuitively guide them through a life changing journey once you have traversed your own.

This transformational webinar will take you on an inner journey to experiencing life in a new way. Ms. Franklin will provide a “practitioners introduction” to Heart Path Therapy® to help you significantly on your healing path and inspire your creative gifts as a therapist. Some of what you experience you can begin to apply with your clients.

This webinar will enable you to apply wisdom from sacred traditions whether offering online or in person services, including:

  • the power of an altar, clearing and blessing your space and your clients’, prayer and intention, and the use of sound
  • brief reference to the use of chakras (energy centers in body)
  • ways to increase and apply your intuition, including “feeling” energy
  • explore the roots of emotional struggles, via the inner child and ancestral wounds (the latter from concepts from Family Constellations by Bert Hellinger) through an experiential guided meditation
  • learn about the available options for more in-depth training in Heart Path Therapy® for Therapists

Why the DSM 5 Doesn’t Acknowledge Sensory Integration Symptom and How that Harms All of Our Clients

Register for CE programs nowRuth Pearlman, LISCW

Wednesday, November 10, 2021
10 am – 12 pm
2 CECs

$40 – UConn SSW Alumni and Current Field Instructors
$50 – All Others

Webinar link will be emailed when your registration is complete.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition where a person has difficulties regulating their senses within their environment. These are our clients who can experience the world as being “too loud” or “too intense”. They can experience the world as being so sensory over-whelming that their bodies go into a defensive “fight, flight or freeze” stance. For many people with SPD, their constant need to re-regulate their senses to adapt to the stimuli around them, creates symptoms of distractibility, irritability, anxiety, and depression.

So where is SPD in the DSM-5? It isn’t. Although more than half of all the diagnostic criteria of disorders in the DSM-5 describe symptoms of SPD, the APA refuses to acknowledge SPD as a disorder. Therefore, DSM-5 conditions such as ADHD, PTSD, Tourette’s, ASD, ODD, the Anxiety Disorders as well as Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, are never understood or treated through the lens of sensory integration. Yet all of the above disorders are, in large part, sensory-based disorders. Imagine trying to treat a client with ASD or PTSD and not teaching the client about their sensory system reactions?

In this interactive webinar, participants will:

  • Explore the long-delayed need to incorporate sensory integration issues into our working knowledge of the DSM-5
  • Recognize that negative behaviors of are better de-escalated when sensory overload can be quieted (calmed down), similar to “sensory rooms” and “sensory placed” used in schools
  • Consider the clinical cost of these misinterpretations for both children and adults

Understanding Military Culture: Implementation in Treatment

This webinar provides 2 hours of content on practice with Veterans.

Christopher Morse, MSW,  Readjustment Counselor, Providence Vet CenterRegister for CE programs button

Thursday, November 11, 2021
10 am – 12 pm
2 CECs

$40 – UConn SSW Alumni and Current Field Instructors
$50 – All Others

Webinar link will be emailed when your registration is complete.

While the U.S. is seeing increased attention paid to the mental health, substance abuse, and suicide issues within the military and veteran communities, there is also increased concern about our nation’s capacity to provide the services needed. More and more veterans are obtaining mental health care in the civilian sector, but frequently community clinicians have a limited understanding of military and veteran culture.  To assist in developing a therapeutic rapport with veterans and service members, trainer Chris Morse MSW, has drawn on his own military and clinical experience to develop this webinar. Chris will provide clinicians with an overview of military culture, norms, and mores and explore how military life and the combat environment may shape the presentation of the client throughout treatment.

This webinar will:

  • provide a brief overview of military culture and cultural components
  • examine how military service may later affect a veteran’s future interactions
  • identify aspects of military culture that may influence the presentation of the client

Dr. Kathryn Libal Co-PI on OVPR Research Excellence Program Award

Dr. Kathryn Libal Co-PI on OVPR Research Excellence Program Award

Dr. Kathryn Libal, Associate Professor and Director of the UConn Human Rights Institute, was named a Co-PI on an Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) Research Excellence Program (REP) award:

Investigator: Oscar Guerra, Digital Media and Design
Co-PIs: Glenn Tatsuya Mitoma,  Curriculum & Instruction and Human Rights Institute; Kathryn Libal, Human Rights Institute
Project: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout in Stamford, CT: A Multimedia Archiving Project
Award: $24,999.35

The primary goal of the Research Excellence Program is to provide seed funding to fuel innovative research, scholarship, and creative endeavors with strong potential for:

  • Significant extramural funding from federal and state sponsors, corporations, industry partners, and foundations.
  • Achievements consistent with the highest standards of accomplishment in the discipline.

Shall We Zoom? Benefits and Challenges of Providing Group Work Services in a Virtual Environment

All practitioners of groups are welcome – those currently facilitating in the virtual world and those facilitating in person groups who are interested in developing new knowledge and skills to integrate into their practice.

Joan Letendre, PhD, LCSWRegister for CE programs now

Thursdays, December 2 and 9, 2021
1 pm – 3 pm
4 CECs

$80 – UConn SSW Alumni and Current Field Instructors
$100 – All Others

Webinar link will be emailed when your registration is complete.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us personally and professionally. At a time when many of us were experiencing personal challenges related to the pandemic, we were asked to develop ways of creating positive virtual group experiences in our agencies, communities, and classrooms. Flexibility and creativity were called for as practitioners and educators adapted new models for working safely with clients so in need of services during this time.  With the use of technology for delivering services, it was necessary to adapt different ways of engaging and working with students, group members and colleagues. This 2-part webinar will focus on the challenges and successes of this work.

We will have an opportunity to learn about and experience a virtual group as we examine this model.  We will pay special attention to the elements that foster group engagement and development of mutual aid. In Session 1, we will focus on planning and engagement of members in the overall group and each session and activity. Much of the planning will involve the translation of elements of an in-person group to one that is virtual. In Session 2, we will use a problem-solving model to address the common challenges that group workers encounter (high and low participation, conflict, value-laden topics, curriculum vs process etc.).  Instructor and participant examples will be used to illustrate the problem-solving model that encourages members to be active participants in learning from one another and offering mutual aid.

Using didactic instruction, small and large group discussions, activities, and videos, participants in this 2-part webinar will:

  • Develop a group climate where we can share the challenges and successes of on-line formats of group service delivery
  • Review planning and engagement strategies and apply to on-line formats
  • Share different creative strategies for developing a climate of support and mutual aid in on-line groups
  • Review the problem-solving model in relation to common group challenges that may be exacerbated by the on-line format
  • Learn to manage conflict in a way that gives affirmation to many points of view

Understanding Animal Assisted Therapy: How it Conforms to Social Work Practice

Lori Ratchelous, LMSW
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Saturday, October 23, 2021
9 am – 11 am
2 CECs

$40 – UConn SSW Alumni and Current Field Instructors
$50 – All Others

The webinar link will be emailed when your registration is complete.

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) has become increasingly popular over the past decade. Questions surface as to what AAT really is. Therapists often question if by having their animal present while working are they actually providing AAT services to their clients. AAT is a specialty and is much more than bringing a pet into the office.

This webinar will explore a model of understanding the impact of the human-animal bond on attachment, affirmation, and affect regulation while providing an overview of three broad areas: a) What is AAT and how is it incorporated into our practice; b) How human-animal interactions and the human-animal bond can impact human health and well-being; and c) The powerful potential that positive connections with animals have for healing and promoting resiliency in human beings while at the same time providing a benefit to the animal.

At the conclusion of this webinar, you will be able to:

  • describe and classify human benefits-including physical, emotional, psychological, and social benefits that can be communicated through HAI (human-animal interaction) and HAB (human-animal bond)
  • demonstrate the ability to match differing therapeutic animal roles and interventions to address the different types of human-health and wellness related needs in different settings (schools, nursing homes, hospitals)
  • identify and examine values, ethics, and risk issues for both humans and animals involved in human-animal interactions
  • gain knowledge on ways to incorporate animals in a psychotherapeutic process for special populations (children on the spectrum, elderly, dementia)

JSWE Focuses on Education During the Pandemic

Dr. Cristina Wilson, Associate Professor and Research Director, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UConn Health), coedited a special issue of the Journal of Social Work Education (JSWE) that included 19 articles focused on best practices and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and prior natural disasters. Visit the CSWE website to read more and access the special issues. 

Helping Parents Navigate the New Normal: Promoting a Child’s Social and Emotional Wellness

Deborah Poerio, DNP, APRN, FNP-BCRegister for CE programs now
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
2 CECs

$40 – UConn SSW Alumni and Current Field Instructors
$50 – All Others

Webinar link will be emailed when your registration is complete.

The past year and a half have brought about unprecedented transitions for families and many parents find themselves in uncharted waters. Unanticipated life challenges, added roles to parental responsibilities, social isolation, and fear of the unknown have increased stress for both parents and children. Participants will examine these remarkable transitions and their impact on preschoolers (2 – 5 years) and parents. The webinar will incorporate approaches from ADAPT©, a multidimensional community wide evidence-based, screening, assessment, and therapeutic intervention program.

Through lecture and the use of case scenarios, participants will:

  • review the normal growth and development for Preschoolers (2 – 5 years)
    • identify common deviations and the methods children use to express deviations
    • learn about effective interventions and valuable resources to address behavioral issues