Michelle “Miki” McClurg


Building Relationships in Social Work Field Education to Make Space for Trauma Discussions


Presentation Description (150-300 words): The culmination of social work education is executing the field practicum experience. During the apex of social work education, the field practicum experience offers a unique transaction between students and their field supervisors. The practicing student is not only bridging classroom theory to practice during this time. They engage in a commensurate experience in the relationship building, engagement, and utilization of supervision (Bogo, 2015; Calderwood & Rizzo, 2022; Pehrson et al., 2012). During this experience, students engage in practice that exposes them to the traumatic experiences of others. Students are vulnerable to the effects of secondary trauma, or indirect trauma, in social work placements. Feminist Theory and Social Exchange Theory offer perspectives on how developing relationships between students and field supervisors can create a mutually beneficial experience. Both theories can delineate assurance in cooperation and address power imbalances that can occur during supervision. Utilizing existing avenues of student learning and professional development while facilitating a cooperative learning program, students and field supervisors can begin to develop trusting relationships while exploring the intricacies of secondary trauma prior to the placement semester. The terminal result of social work field education should be confident graduates and practitioners with experience highlighting the field of social work while prioritizing mental health. The following presentation offers a systematic review of literature, the ontology of theories, and the programming that can provide social work students and supervisors with the tools needed to succeed during the pinnacle.


Michelle “Miki” McClurg is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work. Miki holds a Master’s degree in social work from the University of Kentucky and Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Morehead State University. Miki is currently employed as a Clinical Specialist in Kentucky providing comprehensive assessments, psychological diagnosis, and treatment recommendations for families in the Northeastern region of Kentucky.

Miki has a professional career dedicated to child welfare and social work education. She specializes in the investigation, assessment, and treatment of child sexual abuse and human trafficking. Miki’s current research interest includes field education and the social work student experience. Her capstone project focuses on building relationships between field supervisors and social work students to create space to discuss secondary trauma. Her capstone highlights the need for relationship building in supervision and the creation of supervisor professional development in concert with student curriculum that focuses on building relationships, utilizing supervision, and assessing for and addressing secondary trauma in field placement.

Miki has been recognized as a Superhero for Our Children at the Northeastern Child Abuse Conference in 2020 and 2023. Miki is a member of the National Association of Forensic Social Work. She is a volunteer with several local social service agencies and civic organizations.