NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Tessie D. Berkman ( - 1976)
Tessie D. Berkman conducted the only national study of social work practice in psychiatric hospitals and clinics that has been done to this date. This was a study financed by the National Institute of Mental Health and sponsored by the American Association of Psychiatry Social Workers. This study was undertaken in 1949/50-1952 as a part of NIMH's attempt to develop adequate social work manpower for psychiatric facilities throughout the country and to increase the number of training centers. It was important to find out how many social workers there were in the field, what they were doing, the levels of responsibilities that they carried, and the ratio between trained and untrained workers. Some of the findings of this study were controversial, particularly to those persons who thought that this psychiatric social worker should only be doing casework under the direct supervision of a psychiatrist. Not only were many psychiatric social workers doing group work and community organization as well as casework, many were also administrators or directors and were quite autonomous in their practice.
Tessie Berkman participated in many of the conferences, committees, or task force that were designed to further psychiatric social work knowledge and practice. She also was a member of the Social Work Research Group and was one of the persons who tried to bring more scientific research know-how into social work practice. After the publication of the study in 1953, entitled ''Practice of Social Workers in Psychiatric Hospitals and Clinics", she completed her staff Position with AAPSW. She then taught at New York University School of Social Work for eleven years. In 1965, Berkman joined the NASW staff for several years working on manpower and research issues, and was Project Director of the NASW Research Abstract for Social Work. Later she taught at Hunter College School of Social Work. While she continued her residence in New York City, she also continued her affiliations with her New England family and friends particularly at the summer place in Maine and her alma maters. She died after a very short illness in March 1976.