Client Violence in Social Work Practice

Prevention, Intervention, and Research

Christina E. Newhill

January 28, 2004
ISBN 9781593850388
Price: $36.00
278 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
Copyright Date: 2003

Presenting practical strategies for violence assessment and prevention that are grounded in solid empirical research, this book helps practitioners and agencies provide state-of-the-art treatment to aggressive clients while reducing violence risks. Effective methods are described together with specific recommendations for approaching, engaging, and intervening with violent clients in both office and field settings. Skills development exercises and guidelines for developing and implementing an agency safety plan enhance the book's utility as a training tool and professional resource.

“Could easily have been subtitled 'A Survival Manual.' Newhill examines client violence from just about every possible angle....If I were teaching introductory or advanced coursed on social work practice, I would open students' eyes to this problem by making Client Violence required reading....Both undergraduate social work students as well as those pursing MSWs and other graduate degrees should be forearmed with the information in Client Violence....Newhill's use of case examples seems ready-made for discussion and debate....This book possesses a generic utility....There is a wide variety of professionals who experience threatened and actual violence at the hands of those they strive to serve. Teachers, probation and parole officers, and even nurses are among those who face similar threats and therefore could benefit by exposure to Client Violence.”

Criminal Justice Review

“Social work students, practitioners, administrators, and educators: Read this book!...Newhill highlights an important subject that is frequently neglected both in agency policies, and in social work instructive volume that is both scholarly and readable....evidence-based and practical, and is a very well-written ground breaking book on a subject that has been the object of professional denial for far too long.”

Families in Society

“This comprehensive volume covers a multitude of information and strategies for social worker safety....The most comprehensive resource that VCPN staff found in our literature review of resources available in the field. Workers and administrators will find a wealth of information and practical suggestions. The reading is enhanced by case examples, case analysis questions, skill development exercises, and tables summarizing key points.”

Virginia Child Protection Newsletter

“Most of us who oversee social work field education programs are acutely and consistently aware of the risks inherent in social work practice. Indeed, the Tri-State Consortium of Field Directors has been on a resolute quest for a perspective that would address client violence against social workers, and that would meet our criteria for scientific evidence. Christina Newhill's scholarly approach provides that gold standard. This book is an essential addition to the libraries of every social worker and social service agency, as well as every social work student, practice professor, and field director. Moreover, no administrator should allow another day to pass without instituting Newhill's policy and strategy recommendations.”

—Sharon C. Lyter, PhD, LCSW, School of Social Work, Southern Region, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

“Newhill's book is a masterful balance of insight, clinical experience, and rigorous research. It should be required reading for clinical or direct practice social workers who intervene with clients in the fields of substance abuse, criminal justice, child welfare, mental health, or any related field where angry or potentially violent clients are encountered.”

—Lambert Maguire, PhD, LSW, ACSW, School of Social Work, University of Pittsburgh

“This book is a true tour de force, an admirable integration of research findings and clinical wisdom. Newhill recognizes that predicting and managing violence is an inherent part of social work practice, and instead of shying away from the complexities of this task, she presents invaluable information about how to address this challenge effectively. The book mixes sound reviews of available research with solid suggestions for improving practice with potentially violent clients. Newhill's extensive clinical experience and her in-depth knowledge of the research shine through and complement each other very well here. The book manages to be scholarly, engaging, and instructive, all at the same time. It is an extremely valuable teaching tool for systematically introducing social work graduate students to a potentially overwhelming topic.”

—Edward P. Mulvey, PhD, Law and Psychiatry Program, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Violence Is an Issue for Social Work Practice

I. Violence and Social Work Practice

1. Violence in Our Society and in Our Workplace

2. Overview of the Incidence and Prevalence of Client Violence toward Social Workers

II. Issues Related to the Risk Assessment of Violent Clients

3. Understanding Client-Initiated Property Damage and Threats

4. Understanding Client-Initiated Physical Attacks

5. Risk Factors Associated with Violent Behavior

III. The Instructional Package

6. The Risk Assessment of Violent Clients

7. Approaching and Engaging the Violent Client

8. Intervention Modalities for Treating the Violent Client

9. Strategies to Prevent Client Violence in Office and Field Settings

10. General Strategies for the Prevention of Violence

11. When Client Violence Occurs: The Multidimensional Impact on Social Workers

12. Future Directions for Practice and Policy

Appendix 1: Client Violence toward Social Workers Survey Questionnaire

Appendix 2: A Model Syllabus for a Course on Understanding and Managing Violence and Safety in Social Work Practice

About the Author

Christina E. Newhill, PhD, LCSW, is Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, where she teaches in the direct practice mental health specialization. With over 10 years of community mental health practice experience, Dr. Newhill is Principal Investigator on several research studies focusing on violent behavior and risk assessment. She has conducted training workshops on violence in the workplace at the local, state, and national levels for many years.


Social work practitioners, supervisors, educators, and students; agency administrators and policymakers; other mental health, human service, and medical professionals who work with potentially violent or aggressive clients.

Course Use

Serves as a text in advanced undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in clinical or direct practice, child welfare, substance abuse treatment, and related areas; also useful for field placement courses and professional development seminars.