NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Shulamith Lala Ashenberg Straussner, DSW, CAS, CEAP, LCSW
Shulamith Lala Ashenberg Straussner

Pioneering Contributions

Shulamith Lala Ashenberg Straussner, DSW, CAS, CEAP, LCSW, is a professor at the New York University Silver School of Social Work and an internationally recognized authority on clinical approaches to substance abuse. For more than 40 years she has lead the charge to prepare social workers to work in the field of substance abuse. In 2000 she founded the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, the only social work journal dedicated to problems of alcohol, tobacco, drug, and other addictions, and has served as its editor ever since. Dr. Straussner was also a founding member and chair of the NASW Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Section. 
In addition to specializing in substance abuse, Straussner’s work focuses on addressing mass violence and trauma, mental health, international social work, occupational social work/employee assistance programs, women's issues, family dynamics, and social work education. Her current research is on “wounded healers,” or wellness issues among  social workers, and on mental health clinicians’ knowledge and views regarding medical and recreational cannabis use. 

At the Silver School of Social Work, Straussner teaches in the MSW, PhD, and DSW programs. For the past 25 years she has served as the founder and director of the School's Post-Master’s Certificate Program in Clinical Approaches to the Addictions, one of the first post-master’s programs in this area in the U.S. 

In recent years, Straussner has taught global MSW-level courses on trauma and substance use problems in Italy and Israel. During Spring 2016, she was a visiting professor at NYU Shanghai. Straussner previously served as chair of NYU Silver’s Practice Curriculum Area and currently is chair of the Human Behavior in the Social Environment Curriculum Area and co-chair of the Silver Faculty’s Executive Committee. 

She has also served on the faculty at the annual Summer Institute on Addictions Studies at the University of Amsterdam’s International School for the Humanities and Social Sciences and been a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  She was a member of the International Scientific Organizing Committee for It Takes a Village International Conference, held in Oslo, Norway in May, 2019, and is currently a member of the International Scientific Organizing Committee for the International Conference on Social Work in Health & Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities to be held in Australia in 2022. Straussner has also served as a consultant to various agencies, hospitals, and EAPs in the United States and abroad and has a private therapeutic and supervisory practice in New York City. 

Career Highlights

Straussner is a current member of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) Talent Management Committee and, from 2014-2018, served on the Fulbright Scholar Discipline Peer Review Committee. From 2008-2010, she was an invited reviewer for the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Social Work Peer Review Medical Research Program Panel of the US Army Medical Research and Material Command, and from 2009-2011, she was a consultant/board member on the SAMHSA funded Expand & Enhance Asian American Substance Abuse Treatment Services (EASTS) Project at Hamilton-Madison House. 
She also served on the National Center on Substance Abuse Treatment panel on workforce issues, and was the Northeast regional director for the multi-million dollar federally funded national Project Mainstream, an Interdisciplinary Project to Improve Health Professional Education on Substance Abuse sponsored by AMERSA/HRSA/CSAT. 

Straussner is a  founding member and past chair of the NASW Section on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (AToD). She was a member and chaired the NYC NASW Addictions Committee for many years and chaired its Addictions Institute, which has provided the main training on drugs and alcohol treatment to thousands of  social workers and other professionals in the New York Area for 50 years. 

She chaired the New York City Women's Issues Committee of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association and was a second vice president of the NYC Chapter of NASW. During 2002, she was a keynote speaker at the Betty Ford/Hazelden Women's Healing conferences throughout the United States, and during 2006, she chaired the National Association for Children of Alcoholics' (NACoA) Social Work Initiative to develop social work core competencies for working with children of alcohol and drug abusing parents. During Spring, 2019 she was a member of the CSWE National Task Force on Developing a Substance Use Curricular Guide for use by schools of social work. 

Biographic Data

Straussner was a child refugee from Eastern Europe who grew up on three continents and arrived in the U.S. without knowing a word of English. She earned her DSW/PhD at the Columbia University School of Social Work, her MSW at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, and her BA in Psychology at City College of New York. She is the mother of three young adult children, one of whom was adopted following the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Her two daughters have followed in her footsteps and are licensed social workers.

Significant Recognition and Awards

In 2013, Straussner was the recipient of the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Social Studies to the Czech Republic (the highest level of Fulbright awards), and during the 2006-07 academic year, she was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Academy of Labour and Social Relations in Kiev, Ukraine; a visiting professor at Warsaw University in Poland; and recipient of the Lady Davis Fellowship to Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Previously, she was a Fulbright Senior Scholar to Israel (2003) and a visiting professor at Omsk State University, in Siberia, Russia (2000). 

Straussner was honored for her work with the NYU Faculty/Staff Assistance Program following 9/11, and was the 2003 recipient of the Individual Distinction in Addictions Education and Training Award given by the Institute of Professional Development in Addictions. 
In 2000, the NASW ATOD Section selected her as Social Worker of the Year. Dr. Straussner also received the Award for Lifetime Leadership to the Addictions Community from the New York City Chapter of NASW in 2008, and in 2007 she was inducted into the Social Work Academy of The National Academies of Practice as a Distinguished Scholar. 

Straussner was also nominated as the 2008 Outstanding Teacher from NYU Silver, and has been twice nominated for the CSWE Significant Lifetime Achievement In Social Work Education Award (2011 and 2012). Since 2011, she has been listed every year in Who's Who in America. 

Significant Publications

Straussner is widely published, including 24 books, 29 book chapters, and approximately 50 peer-reviewed journal articles. While it is difficult to highlight just a few of her most significant works, the following books have had especially significant impacts on preparing students to provide substance abuse treatment:


  • Straussner, S. L. A. (Ed.). (2014). Clinical Work with Substance Abusing Clients (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford Press. The first edition was a main selection of the Behavioral Science Book Club. The third edition was selected as one of the “100 Great Books for the Social Worker's Library”.
  • Straussner, S. L. A. & Fewell, C. H. (Eds.). (2011) Children of Substance Abusing Parents: Treatment Issues and Interventions. NY: Springer Press.
  • Straussner, S. L. A. & Brown, S. (Eds.). (2002). The Handbook of Addiction Treatment For Women: Theory and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Straussner, S. L. A. (Ed). (2001). Ethnocultural Factors in the Treatment of Addictions. New York: Guilford.
  • Straussner, S. L. A., & Zelvin, E. (Eds.). (1997). Gender and addictions: Men and women in treatment. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. This book was featured in the Psychotherapy Book Club.

Some of her recent, significant peer reviewed publications are:


  • Straussner, S.L.A & Isralowitz, R. (in press). Alcohol and drug problems: Overview. In C. Franklin (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Social Work, 21st Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. 
  • Straussner, S.L.A. & Senreich, E. (online 2020). Productive aging in the social work profession: A comparison of licensed workers 60 years and older with their younger counterparts. Clinical Social Work. DOI: 10.1007/s10615-020-00747-y  
  • Senreich, E., Straussner, S.L.A., & Steen, J. (2020). The work experiences of social workers: Factors impacting compassion satisfaction and workplace stress. Journal of Social Service Research. DOI: 10.1080/01488376.2018.1528491  
  • Straussner, S. L. A., & Fewell, C. F. (online, 2018). A review of recent literature on the impact of parental substance use disorders on children and the provision of effective services. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 22. YCO 310411
  • Straussner, S. L. A., Senreich, E., & Steen, J. (2018). Wounded healers: A multistate study of licensed social workers’ behavioral health problems. Social Work, 63(2), 125-133.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.