TCC Social Work Professional Gaining National Reputation

By: TCC Release
By: TCC Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (January 13, 2011) –

Janet Nelson is a licensed clinical social worker who provides mental health services to Tallahassee Community College students through TCC’s Division of Student Affairs. She also has been a student of the martial arts since 1974 and has taught self-defense for women since 1980. In 1995, Nelson began to see how she could bring together her social work background with her knowledge of self-defense techniques to help social workers and other human services professionals learn how to stay safe while helping others.

In October, Nelson was a presenter at the Council of Social Work Education’s annual academic conference in Portland, Oregon. She and researcher Christina Newhill from the University of Pittsburgh led a session titled “Effective Strategies for Teaching Personal Safety Skills to Social Work Students.” That opportunity grew out of work Nelson does in her private business, Everyday Self Defensesm for Social Workers.

“Social workers tend to think that their good intentions will be enough to keep them safe,” explained Nelson. “But it is important for us to understand the nature of our work. Social workers are on the front lines, often working with desperate people. If the client has mental health issues as well, it can be a volatile combination. We have to be prepared.” Nelson has travelled to 11 states to provide training, and taught nearly 400 social workers at the Teri Zenner Safety First Conference held in Kansas in October 2009. Zenner, a social worker, was brutally murdered by a client in 2004.

In Nelson’s training, participants spend part of the session up on their feet learning classic physical techniques to help them escape an attacker. She also addresses unique challenges social workers face, such as home visits. “We talk about assessing the situation in advance, figuring out how you would get out, knowing where to sit, when it’s time to leave—and recognizing when not to go in the first place.”

Nelson believes that personal safety must become part of the curriculum for college students who are training as social workers. She also supports legislation to increase penalties for violence against social workers and human services providers. A bill aiming to do that was introduced during last year’s session of the Florida Legislature, but failed to make progress.

For information, contact Janet Nelson at (850) 201-7726 or, or visit Nelson’s Web site,

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