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Veliska Thomas - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Los Angeles, CA, US

Veliska Thomas Veliska Thomas

Adjunct Lecturer | USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work


Clinical social work expert, focusing on human behavior in the social environment


Veliska Thomas joined the social work adjunct faculty in 2016, teaching courses on human behavior and the social environment and clinical practice with service members and veterans. She previously taught at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

A licensed clinical social worker, she currently serves as a psychotherapist to patients with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other co-occurring medical/mental health issues in long-term care facilities through Wellness Solutions Geriatrics. She has also worked in private practice, providing counseling services to individuals, groups and families at Restoration Counseling Services and Volunteer Behavioral Healthcare Systems. As a Bachelor of Social Work-level practitioner, Thomas worked as a case manager at Children’s Home/Chambliss Shelter, as a corrections officer at Silverdale Detention Center, and as a court appointed special advocate and auxiliary probation officer for Hamilton County Juvenile Court in Ohio.

She also has practice and research experience in leadership, political advocacy and community practice. She co-authored an article in Social Work that addressed political activities of social workers and perceived barriers to political participation. She held office as branch chair of Southeast Tennessee’s National Association of Social Workers, served on the Chattanooga Organized for Action steering committee and worked as a student intern under the deputy regional administrator for the Southeast Regional Office of Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services.

Thomas’ research focus on military veteran community reintegration has provided her with the opportunity to conduct program evaluations for the Tennessee Veterans Business Association and coordinate a research team at UT College of Social Work. She continues to research and publish in this area with her most recent publication in the Journal of Social Service Research titled “Sense of Community: Is it a protective factor for military veterans?”

She was recognized as the Southeast Tennessee Region Master of Social Work Student of the Year and Tennessee State NASW Graduate Student of the Year. She was also inducted into the Phi Alpha Honor Society.

Education (1)

University of Tennessee: PhD, Social Work 2014

Areas of Expertise (3)

Political Advocacy

Veteran Mental Health

Counseling Services and Volunteer Behavioral Healthcare Systems

Industry Expertise (7)

Mental Health Care

Program Development

Social Services



Public Policy

Health and Wellness

Accomplishments (2)

MSW Student of the Year (professional)

Awarded by the Southeast Tennessee Region

NASW Graduate Student of the Year (professional)

Awarded by Tennessee State


Research Articles & Publications (2)

Sense of Community: Is it a Protective Factor for Military Veterans? Social Work


Veteran community reintegration (VCR) difficulties impact personal, interpersonal, educational/occupational, and community aspects of returning military service members. Sense of community (SOC), an individual's feeling of membership, influence, need fulfillment, and emotional connection, is the theoretical underpinnings for community-based practice interventions used with this population. This study investigates the mediating role of SOC on the relationship between mental health risk factors (PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation), employment status, and VCR difficulties among military veterans. Data used in this study (N = 131) were collected by the authors for an outcome evaluation study in 2013. Results found a statistically significant path from depression to SOC and a significant and direct path from SOC to VCR difficulties, suggesting that veterans who are connected to their local communities may be more at risk for depression and VCR difficulties. Practice implications suggest social workers should look beyond the local community as a resilience factor for military veterans and explore more culturally relevant responses (such as veteran support at public universities, individual social support, and local/virtual military support groups). Future research should continue the search for resilient factors among this millennial generation of returning military veterans.

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Political Activities of Social Workers: Addressing Perceived Barriers to Political Participation Social Work


This article reviews the literature on political participation of social workers and the variables that promote or impede political advocacy. Early research in the 1980s and 1990s most often reported education, feelings of efficacy, having a macro-type job, and being a member of a national association as factors that determine greater political participation. Since the late 1990s, organizational and legal issues have surfaced more prominently as barriers to political participation by social workers. This article addresses barriers to participation, such as not feeling competent to perform policy-related tasks and perceived legal barriers. It then analyzes the actual restrictions that nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations and publicly employed social workers face in lobbying and partisan politics. The article summarizes the activities that are legally allowed in these areas and concludes that social workers can be more politically active than they often realize.

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