Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder-Treatment, Attention-deficit disordered children-Drug use., Psychotropic drugs, Social work with children with mental disabilities, Post-traumatic stress disorder in adolescence., Child psychotherapy, Dual diagnosis-Patients-Care, Qualitative research, ADHD, Social workers, ADHD drugs, ADHD medication, Youth, Children, Psychostimulants, Trauma


The purpose of this exploratory study was to gain a deeper understanding of social workers' roles in treating children who take attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs. The study used semi-structured in-person and telephone interviews with twelve licensed clinical social workers to gather qualitative data about their experiences with children and families of children diagnosed with ADHD and their reflections on their roles in treatment, in particular those regarding medication prescribed to mitigate the child's ADHD symptoms. The findings suggested that social workers experienced difficulty teasing out ADHD from issues known to commonly co-occur as well as from a history of trauma. In cases where a child with a history of trauma had already been diagnosed with ADHD, social workers struggled with ambivalence when treating certain symptoms as ADHD rather than as trauma. Social workers' roles in treatment were found to be varied and complex and beyond the scope of the current literature. The clinical setting was a prominent theme in this study, with all participants identifying some way in which it affected their roles in assessment and diagnosis, medication, and other treatment approaches. Social workers in community-based agency settings generally defined their roles quite differently from those in private practice. The data also highlighted the disparate ways that racism and dynamics of oppression manifest within the broader query. A framework of four intersecting themes is offered to guide clinical practice and social work policy with children with ADHD symptoms.




v, 136 pages : illustrations. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 118-125)