Ever since she took her first undergraduate social work course at age 18, Ashley Curry, PhD, has seen herself striving to improve the lives of everyday people. Whether working one-on-one with families or preparing a new generation of social workers, she has always paid close attention to the impact of her work on children and families.
“As a social worker, you have to put so much of yourself into your work, and in order to do that, you have to have self-awareness,” Dr. Curry says. “I’ve always given a great deal of thought to what I bring to my work from my own background, and at Erikson, I ask my students to do the same.”
She stresses to her students the importance of reflective practice, a core component of the Erikson experience. Throughout their time here, students learn to examine themselves — their own assumptions, biases, and experiences — in order to best help children and families.
Dr. Curry’s academic interests center around child welfare services and the experiences of children while in the system. “One of my primary interests is the therapeutic relationships that children develop with professionals, such as social workers, therapists, and even paraprofessionals like mentors,” she says. “We know from the psychotherapy literature that the therapeutic relationship is a significant predictor of positive outcomes. The child welfare system, however, presents multiple barriers to relationship-building, which is why I believe studying relationships within that context is especially important.”
Prior to joining Erikson’s faculty, she worked in an array of direct service roles in many settings. She has provided support to children and families within the child welfare system, conducted mental health and crisis intervention in hospital emergency rooms and inpatient floors, and worked in residential treatment facilities for children with social emotional difficulties.
Most recently, she worked for 10 years as a clinical therapist on the crisis and consult liaison teams in the emergency department and on the medical floors of a Level I trauma center. In that role, she provided a variety of therapeutic services to patients with complex medical and mental health needs, including biopsychosocial assessment, crisis intervention, brief supportive therapy, and linkage to services. She also served as a field liaison to several universities and provided clinical supervision to social work interns and psychology externs.
- PhD, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
- MSW, School of Social Work, Loyola University Chicago
- BSW, Department of Social Work, Central Missouri State University
Areas of Expertise
- Mental health emergencies and crisis intervention
- Relational approaches to social work practice
- Children’s experiences of child welfare services
- Organizational context of social work practice, especially worker turnover
- Therapeutic relationship-building and therapeutic communication
- Reflective practice and reflective supervision
- Principal Investigator (2016-present), Developing Reflective Practice Capacities for Work with Children and Families (with Pamela Epley, PhD)
- Co-Investigator (2016-present), Envisioning Developmentally Informed Case Managers in Child Welfare: A Pilot Study of Illinois (with Tonya Bibbs, PhD)
- Principal Investigator (2016-present), Child’s Perspective of Worker Turnover
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- Havlicek, J., Curry, A., & Villalpando, F. (2018). Youth participation in foster youth advisory boards: Perspectives of facilitators. Children and Youth Services Review, 84, 255-270.
- Marsh, J.C., Angell, B., Andrews, C., Curry, A. (2012). Client provider relationship and treatment outcome: A systematic review of substance abuse, child welfare, and mental health services research. Journal of the Society for Social Work Research, 3(4), 233-267.
- Rzepnicki, T.L., Johnson, P.R., Curry, A., Guerrero, E., Nguyen, H., Smagner, J. (2007). Child Endangerment Risk Assessment Protocol (CERAP) Report. In Office of the Inspector General, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Report to the Governor and the General Assembly.
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- Curry, A. (2018, February). Through a Child’s Eyes: How to Build Meaningful Relationships with Children in Your Care. Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, Keynote Speaker, Road to Resilience Partner Agency Conference, Phoenix, AZ.
- Curry, A. (2018, January). “I Don’t Want a New Worker. Where’s My Old Worker?:” Relationship Disruptions between Young People and their Child Welfare Professionals. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for Social Work Research, Washington, D.C.
- Curry, A. & Epley, P. (2017, October). Educating Critically Reflective Social Workers for Work with Children and Families. Paper accepted for presentation at the Annual Conference of the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE), Dallas, TX.
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Related professional experience
- Licensed clinical social worker with numerous years of practice experience within child welfare and mental health, including in a variety of community-based, outpatient, residential, and inpatient treatment settings
- Teaches a variety of theory and practice courses at Erikson
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