NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Capt. Barry Adams
Pioneering Contributions: Dr. Barry Adams, a Captain in the Navy Medical Service Corps, is currently the Navy's top-ranked Social Worker and served as a Navy Social Work Specialty Leader appointed by the Navy Surgeon General. In a civilian and military career spanning over 28 years, Adams has served as a Navy Social Work Officer for over twenty years. Throughout his career, Adams established himself as an expert in child abuse and domestic violence, residential mental health treatment for adolescents, private psychotherapy practice, combat stress control, suicide, and performance under pressure. Adams was personally appointed by the Deputy Surgeon General of the Navy to serve as the first social worker officer-in-charge of Navy Mobile Care Team FIVE, Afghanistan. From 2012 to 2013, Adams served the Surgeon General and Navy Medicine as the subject matter expert on suicide prevention, where he directed the Surgeon General's 2012 review of Navy Medicine personnel suicides. This resulted in the Navy's "Every Sailor, Every Day" suicide prevention strategy. Adams coordinated the Navy Medicine suicide prevention training film of the same name, which was awarded the 2014 Thomas Jefferson Visual Information Award for the best overall Department of Defense broadcast and visual information production. While directing the Marine Corps Counseling and Advocacy Programs in Okinawa, Adams developed the "Beating the Blues" holiday morale, Combat Stress and Performance, Substance Abuse prevention, and Safety Issues program which was presented to all Marines and Sailors in the Asian Pacific throughout November and December of each year. These programs combined professional subject matter briefs with music and comedy interludes to provide an upbeat and informative delivery method to address holiday issues and promote safety. During 1998 to 2000, then Navy Lieutenant Adams personally delivered up to two combat stress and performance lectures per day for over thirty days per year to over 39,485 Marines and Sailors across Japan.
Career Highlights: Adams was commissioned as Lieutenant, Junior Grade in the Navy Medical Service Corps. He was assigned to Operation Sea Signal and Navy Hospital, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where he provided mental health services and cultural classes to a population of over 50,000 Cuban and Haitian immigrants. Adams served as Combat and Operational Stress Control Consultant, Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. In 2009, Adams became the first navy social worker in history to graduate from the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute. Adams completed two tours to Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan as the first Navy/Marine Corps social work research specialist on the Joint Mental Health Advisory Team. He has personally trained over 50,000 military personnel in mental health, peak performance, and life management skills.
Biographic Data: Originally from West Texas, Adams received his Bachelor degree in Psychology from Abilene Christian University in 1984, his Masters of Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1987, and his PhD from the University of Maryland Baltimore in 2007. An avid runner, he is only three states short of completing his goal of running in all 50 states. A musician since age ten, he previously served as president and CEO of an independent record company and artist management and publishing group, and served as the North Carolina regional coordinator for the Nashville Songwriters Association, International. He has been a member of the National Association of Social Workers since 1997.
Significant Achievements & Awards Received: Adams's personal awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Navy Meritorious Service Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medals, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal (with campaign star), the NATO ISAF medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal.
Significant Publications: Adams, B. (2013). Just show up: Building therapeutic relationships in combat zones; OEF Afghanistan 2010-2013. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 19:2, pp. 28-37.
Adams, B. D. Military families in war. Mental Health Section Connection: A newsletter of the NASW Specialty Practice Sections. Issue 1, 2010, pp. 12-14.
Taylor, M.K., Gould, D.R., Adams, B.D., Potterat, E.G., Dial Ward, M.D., Padilla, G.A., Evans, K.E., Markham, A.E. (2009), Age-matched comparison of elite and non-elite military performers during free living and intense operational stress: A pilot study. Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory Report No. 09-26.
Grieger, Thomas A. & Adams, Barry D., Psychiatric Migrant Operations in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba during Operation Sea Signal, 1995, Military Medicine, December 1997.