Social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as high social media usage among teens and children, are among the reasons why health care providers such as social workers are seeing an increase in psychological maltreatment (PM) and need to better understand it, according to researcher Stuart Hart, PhD.

Dr. Hart, who is principal of strategic initiatives for the International Institute for Child Rights and Development in Canada and a professor emeritus at Indiana University, will be among the panelists at a PM training May 21. Co-hosted by NASW Virginia, NASW Metro DC, and NASW Texas chapters, the 4-CE training--Psychological Maltreatment--Cognitive and Emotional Violence to Children: Its Nature and Intervention—runs 1-4 p.m. EDT and requires an additional one-hour pre-course viewing of a video.


Hart defines PM as “a repeated pattern of extreme incident(s) of caretaker behavior that thwarts a child’s basic psychological needs (e.g., safety, socialization, emotional and social support, cognitive stimulation, respect) and conveys a child is worthless, defective, damaged goods, unloved, unwanted, endangered, primarily useful in meeting another’s needs, and/or expendable.”

He notes that teenagers are most likely to experience PM. “Recognizing that bullying is primarily PM, social media experiences of late childhood and adolescence appear to be increasingly corrupting and destructive,” Hart says. “… It is not fully appreciated by many mental/behavioral health providers that PM has been found to be one of the most powerfully destructive components of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and that it deserves systematic assessment and centrality in interventions.”

The pandemic has only worsened matters. “It appears probable that the severe limitations on face-to-face human relationships considered necessary for protection have increased depression and suicidal behavior – both of which are strongly related to [PM],” says Hart.

In response, he co-developed the NASW chapter course to help social workers understand child PM’s “nature, significance, most promising interventions, and relevance for their service responsibilities and opportunities.” The course, which includes 3 ethics CEs, also aims to strengthen social workers’ “capacity to advance attention to and reduction of PM in the policies and practices of their systems of service.

“Additionally, it is our intention to promote the strengthening of ‘upstander’ behavior--the readiness to intervene where PM is occurring at the interpersonal level through ‘soft start-up’ communication and compassionate empathy to generate respectful, supportive, and caring relationships.”

Save your live-virtual seat for this training by registering by May 18.