Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Dr. Elizabeth Walker


Social Workers' Perceptions of Exercise in Treating Chronic Mental Illnesses: Action Research


Carlene Battiste-Downie

MSW, Fordham University, 2000

BS, Oneonta State University, 1993

DSW Research Project Submitted in Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree of

Doctor of Social Work

Walden University

July 2020

Though social workers are an integral part of the mental health profession, there is a fundamental gap in the clinical mental health social workers' practice. This gap is a lack of physical exercise as part of the routine regimen in treating clients suffering from chronic mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Within the boundaries of the clinical social work practice, there are shifting ideologies in treating chronic mental illnesses. Physical exercise has been ignored as an effective intervention. Clients are not being encouraged to exercise as part of their daily routine, and there is a lack of educational materials being offered to clients to reinforce the benefits of physical exercise to reduce mental illness symptoms. While there is limited social work research regarding the effectiveness of physical activity as a primary intervention in treating chronic mental illnesses, there are studies that support a comprehensive treatment regimen that is inclusive of physical exercise. This qualitative action research explored the gaps and benefits of integrating physical activity in the treatment process of chronic mental illness. The ecological systems theory was adopted to explore the interactions between chronic mental illnesses and physical activity. The study found that clinical mental health social workers engage in various approaches in integrating physical activities when treating chronic mental illnesses. However, half of the research participants indicated inconsistencies in integrating physical activities in their practice and cited relevant factors.

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