NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Ruth Klein Cohen, MSW
After graduating with her masterís degree in social work from Hunter College in 1959, Ruth Cohen consolidated her skills in family and child therapy, and then moved on to include teaching and supervision. She moved to the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area in 1963, and has remained in the area since then.
As a young clinical social worker, Mrs. Cohen became an early pioneer in demonstrating and advocating family therapy, family support, and outreach for abused and neglected children from the home regardless of counter-indications. Her early work contributed to a change in how Montgomery County, Maryland, deals with families accused of child abuse or neglect.
Ruth Cohen has always believed that collaboration with other professions is an essential component of clinical social work. After teaching and supervising students at the University of Maryland Department of Family and Community Development, she was successful in establishing a new program: a masterís program in Marriage and Family Counseling. This required stamina, commitment, and an ability to negotiate through the University bureaucracy, and resulted in social work having a permanent foothold in the College Park Campus of the University of Maryland. To accomplish this, Mrs. Cohen used her considerable clinical social work skills, which have been proven to underlie all successful social work practice.
Mrs. Cohen was an early proponent of private practice, and has maintained a private clinical social work practice, either full or part-time, during most of her professional career.
A continuing member of NASW since first becoming eligible as a new MSW graduate, she has also been active in the Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work. She was thus able to maintain a bridge between the clinical societies and NASW during the turbulent times of mistrust and suspicion between these two organizations. Her commitment both to her professional association and to clinical social work provided a model of integrity and principle, which helped to defuse some of the animosity prevalent between these two organizations during that time.
Ruth Cohenís professional social work career has spanned agency practice, academia, private practice, research, and consultation. She has demonstrated the ability to be creative, to forge new avenues for social work, to provide a model of integrity and professional competence, to actively promote the profession, and to make a difference to the people with whom she has come in contact.
Mrs. Cohen and her husband, Robert Cohen, are members of the Pioneer Steering Committee.
Social Work Pioneer-1999