Supports and Gatekeeping: Experiences of Schools of Social Work With Students With Mental Health Conditions

Lynn C. Holley, Jennifer L.K. Charles, David C. Kondrat, Heather A. Walter-McCabe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Scopus citations


    Some social work educators advocate for people with mental health conditions to become social workers because they may possess experiential knowledge and insights that equip them to help others achieve recovery goals. Educators also are tasked with gatekeeping, ensuring that students demonstrate social work competencies. Minimal research exists about how schools handle these dual responsibilities. Using an online survey of deans and directors and BSW and MSW coordinators of programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, this mixed-methods study asked about program administrators’ (a) experiences with students with mental health conditions and (b) existing and needed policies and practices related to these students. According to findings, a large majority described problems experienced by students with mental health conditions; schools managed mental health-related issues in a variety of ways; most said these students have graduated using supports; about half indicated students had been terminated because of mental health-related issues; disruptive behaviors, absences, and boundary issues were key challenges; and some programs’ practices might violate federal statutes. Student counseling, legal advice, and relationships with disability resource centers were desired resources. Implications include considerations for policies that are consistent with social work’s social justice mandate, federal laws, and our gatekeeping responsibilities.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)76-95
    Number of pages20
    JournalJournal of Social Work Education
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 2022

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education
    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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