Episode 35 - Dr. Elizabeth Tracy: Social Networks, Trauma, Substance Abuse, and Dual Disorders Among Women

Monday, December 14, 2009, 10:20:43 AM

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In this podcast, Dr. Elizabeth Tracy traces the significance of social networks in social work practice, describes the types of social network interventions used by social workers, and discusses her research concerning social networks and the role of trauma and violence among women presenting with substance abuse or dual disorders.

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Average Rating: 4.9 stars (10 listener reviews )

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Average Rating: 5stars  social networks-details and insights, Saturday, February 08, 2020

By Bridget W :

I found this podcast to be quite informational in offering a more in-depth picture of support networks and the idiosyncrasies of such systems for women trying to recover from substance abuse.
To begin, Dr. Tracy offers a definition of the "natural helper" as someone who a client would naturally turn to for support or advice. These individuals could be family, friends, or a professional. I found it interesting as she mentioned the network can contain those who support and undermine a clients recovery. In assessing the support network, it is not only viable to work with the client to pin point who is in the network, but what role and how they affect the client's recovery and well being. As I work with my own clients, this aspect of identifying how the client is supported will become more of a focus. Perhaps skills training for family/friends will be necessary to offer positive support. Dr. Tracy additionally mentioned having network meetings which includes all those who impact and support the client. Open communication and identifying who is able to best help in various parts of someone's recovery makes perfect sense. I believe working as a team would be more comprehensive and effective. Lastly, I found the mention of self-help or mutual aid groups helpful in realizing that not all support is client driven and drawn from their own personal interactions and circle of contacts. The support groups can add to the recovery by offering a safe environment and to let the client know they are not alone.
Overall, I gained some knowledge about support networks and will carry this forward with my own clients.

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Average Rating: 4stars  podcast 35, Tuesday, January 27, 2015

By Kaitlyn Coon :

The podcast includes an interesting take of social networks and their roles in working with trauma, substance abuse and dual disorders among women. In the interview Dr. Tracy describes networking to be similar in function to a foster family. Individuals that make up a client’s network or foster family are all the people that the client has contact with. Examples of social supports could be friends, co-workers, church affiliates, family members etc. Dr. Tracey discusses how she assesses individuals in those networks by asking about each and every person in the clients life and basically identifying if the person helps the client or not. Dr. Tracey’s work have different goals but one goal is to establishing and maintain social support through skills training. One important point that Dr. Tracey mentions is that just because someone has many people in their social network does not mean that they have functional social support. An example here could be just because a person has 900 friends on Facebook, they might not have a friend that aides them in coping in their daily lives and could be detrimental to the persons wellbeing. One benefit of developing and maintain this network of support is that they can identify problems earlier and they can also respond quicker. An example of this is when Dr. Tracey explains developing a crisis plan for a mother in the case that her normal baby sitter is not available who is next in line for help. Support from these networks also makes the client understand that they are not tackling life alone and that there are people in their live that care.

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Average Rating: 5stars  substance abuse and dual disorders, Monday, April 22, 2013

By Danevia McGee :

The pod cast aims to discuss the use of social networks in the social work profession. Dr. Tracy defines a social network as a system that can be made up of family members, friends, co-worker, professionals, and anyone who can be a resource to an individual. She expresses that social networks have two fields, the first studies the social network as a whole and she gave the example of a community or a treatment program as a whole. The second field is that of an individual and looks at the specific relationship an individual has in their in person environment. Dr. Tracy expresses that social support and social network does not necessarily mean that an individual is having their needs met as they can have a large social network but the support ie. emotional, day to day support, encouragement, and reliability can be deficient. Dr. Tracy states that in a social network there are “natural helpers”, those that a person would go to for advice or guidance or someone that has gone through a similar situation. Dr. Tracy expresses network facilitation is important to generate a social network. This would assess the person’s resources and aid in defining who is capable and willing to fulfill what role in a person’s social network.

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Average Rating: 5stars  podcast episode 35 review , Thursday, January 27, 2011

By Theresa Gmelin :

Although the podcast has a focus on substance abuse, Dr. Tracy starts out generally describing the importance of social networks and types of interventions in a broader scope She does this by defining four different types of network interventions (natural helper, network facilitation, social network skill training, and self-help group), which helps to visualize the ways that social workers can use social resources already available and make these networks as effective as possible. The idea of social network skill training was especially interesting to me, as both her and the interviewer pointed out through personal stories has a broad implication of making a social worker or case worker’s job more effective and successful. Dr. Tracy comes from a strengths based perspective in this interview, and also points out the strengths based perspective as a skill that is effective for all these network interventions.

Dr. Tracy also shares some of her early findings on social networks and those with substance abuse issues. For the woman she did her pilot study on it was found that they had, on average, a small social network of eleven people, and half of these people had substance abuse issues themselves. This was particularly interesting as it raises many questions about the way treatment centers often encourage people to disentangle from others in their life who are not supportive of sobriety.

Overall the podcast provides a lot of information and future implications for further research, even if you are not someone who may be focusing in substance abuse. Dr. Tracy understands the benefits but also limitations that social network interventions have. She raises research questions such as just how helpful these interventions can be as a component of formal help, as well as how well they help maintain change in a person.

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Average Rating: 5stars  significance of social networking & the role of trauma, Monday, December 06, 2010

By Katrina B :

I really enjoyed this podcast. I knew that there were multiple types of networks (whole community versus connections to an individual) and it makes sense that networks would provide social support and coping; however, I was unaware of how important they are. I like the strength based perspective of this idea, the idea that everyone has a strength and does something important it is just important to correctly match that with a need in order to be effective. I also like the idea that if one makes a plan, crises are less likely to occur, prevention is key.

It was also interesting to consider the idea of a "natural" helper. There was a program in my high school and natural helpers were selected to go on a retreat to improve their natural skills. It was cool to see this idea within the social networking context.

This podcast outlined what to consider if and when implementing this idea with our own clients very well.

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Average Rating: 5stars  wide spread implications for social networking, Monday, April 05, 2010

By wendy :

I really commend Dr. Tracy for identifying and researching the needs for social networking to be part of a treatment plan. She uses the example of substance abuse, particularly for women and how assisting a client in finding and utilizing a variety of social supports can help some one not only achieve but even more importantly maintain their sobriety. Part of our human make-up is based on the fulfillment we derive from our interactions and relationships with others. Addressing as part of a treatment plan the idea that substance abusers often have a social network that reinforces their use and needs to be eliminated has been a long standing advice. The unique perspective Dr. Tracy has is that clients often do not know where to turn to have that need for the interpersonal relationship and interactions filled through positive means. She explores the idea that family, friends and even community members interacted with on a very casual basis can begin to form a positive social network. Dr. Tracy looks on to how to work with a client in filling the gap that eliminating the negative interactions leaves.

The implications for this is that it can be used across specialties. Many times, clients feel "stuck" in certain relationships or patterns or feel isolated which is reinforcing their depression and negative self image thus creating a cycle of unhealthy coping mechanisms. This is true whether we are working with substance abuser, domestic violence victims, mental health clients or families whose children are at risk or have been neglected or abused. During the process of addressing issues, assisting clients to find their social network (both large and small) perhaps is one of the keys in breaking the cycle permenantly once the client is no longer in treatment. It is definately an area that needs more research and publication in order for it to become more widely recognized as a very valid part of the treatment process.

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Average Rating: 5stars  very good, Saturday, April 03, 2010

By Allison :

I really enjoyed this podcast. Dr. Tracy touches on a lot of important points about social networking. I think developing a positive social network is a very important approach while we are working with individuals. I think that assisting people we work with in developing a personal social network may allow them in being more successful in their treatment and also more likely to utilize their supports in the future. While many of us will work with woman, substance abuse, and trauma, I look forward in hearing more about Dr. Tracy’s research on this very important topic.

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Average Rating: 5stars  dr. tracy review, Monday, January 25, 2010

By Roy Golia :

This was a very interesting podcast that I learned a lot from. In my limited but growing experience in working with people with substance abuse issues, it has occurred to me how important social networks are for the client. Dr. Tracy puts a strong emphasis on these in her work and I feel it is a very important contribution to the field. She details in the interview what she's looking for in members of a social network and if they would be a healthy proponent of the client's sobriety. In addition to family networks, the support systems could also include neighbors, co-workers or any other person that could support the client. This is very helpful because I feel that sometimes in counseling substance abuse clients, it's easy to focus on family or friends that cut ties with the client instead of looking at the people that are still supporting the person. This also ties into the importance of the strengths perspective that Dr. Tracy says is integral to any of the four types of network interventions that she describes in the podcast. I also appreciated Dr. Tracy's discussion on some difficulties when building strong support networks. As she describes a study that she did with women with co-occurring disorders, she says that many of the women's support networks contained major family figures that either used or did not support the client's sobriety. In substance abuse treatment, it's encouraged to not hang around with users when trying to stay sober. As Dr. Tracy says, it would be very hard for these women to cut out these supports, which in some case make up most of their network. Dr. Tracy is doing very important work and it made for a very informative podcast.

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Average Rating: 5stars  review of podcast- episode 35 (dr. elizabeth tracy), Monday, January 25, 2010

By Allison Reitz :

As a BA/MSW student, I significantly benefited from this podcast as it related much to the work I conduct at my field internship. As I continue to work in the setting with families and children who are at risk of being placed outside of the home, I persistently look for new findings and that correlate with the wrap-around process my agency works with. Dr. Elizabeth Tracy mentions the importance of social networking intervention, and the need for social workers to continually improve their social working skills as it relates to developing a strong social network for their clients.
As Dr. Elizabeth Tracy detailed the four main types of social network interventions, I especially benefited from learning about the natural helper type of intervention. It was interesting to learn how natural helpers, or ordinary members of the community in which the client is involved with, can be just as important as the resources and services social workers provide. It was surprising and beneficial for me to discover that natural helpers, such as bank tellers, or meter readers, could develop a stronger relationship with a client of mine that positively benefit my client and aid them in achieving their goals and improving their lives.

Dr. Elizabeth Tracy also mentions the importance of family involvement with client success. At my field placement, using a families-first perspective and working with the Child and Family Team allows me to utilize and improve on the important social working skills Dr. Elizabeth Tracy mentions in this podcast. In addition, by using a family driven process, I am providing my client’s with a strong social network and a strong social support system.

This was a very informative podcast and I plan to follow up on this topic as I am interested in learning more about the success of this type of intervention as we add it to other client interventions many social workers use today.

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Average Rating: 5stars  excellent podcast on the importance of social networks, Tuesday, January 05, 2010

By David G. Markham, L.C.S.W. :

Excellent podcast. Even though I have 41 years of experience in the field I learned a lot from this podcast. Deserves wide dissemination.

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DISCLAIMER: The content shared by the presenter(s) and/or interviewer(s) of each podcast is their own and not necessarily representative of any views, research, or practice from the UB School of Social Work or the inSocialWork® podcast series.