NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Helen Northen was born in Butte, Montana. She received her bachelor's degree in 1939 from the University of Pittsburgh, her master's degree in 1944 from Bryn Mawr College, and a doctorate in 1953. She is a renowned social work educator, clinical social work practitioner, and author with over 40 years of exceptional leadership in the profession. As an educator, Dr. Northen has made an important contribution to the development of services in health and mental health settings. During her many years as a professor at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Social Work, she set a precedent in the development of a health care concentration and was a leader in formulating a generic model of social work that became the cornerstone of USC's social work curriculum.
A lifetime member of NASW, Dr. Northen's work has always emphasized health and mental health and the application of a broadly conceived, ecologically focused social work practice. Her ideas about social work practice and health and mental health settings have been widely disseminated. She is a prolific writer whose published books have been adopted as texts by many schools throughout the nation.
Dr. Northen has held many leadership positions in professional organizations. She played a key role in the founding of the Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups (AASWG); currently, she is a member of AASWG's board of directors. She also has served on NASW's National Council on the Practice of Clinical Social Work.