Prior to joining the USC faculty in 1983, HELEN LAND was a psychiatric social worker and in-service coordinator, first with emotionally disturbed children and their families in residential treatment, and later with abused, neglected and high-risk infants and their families.
Her research focuses on ways in which culture and gender factors, stress, role strain, coping and spirituality interact to affect both physical and mental well-being in vulnerable populations, particularly those struggling with immigration, poverty, violence, HIV/AIDS and family caregiving.
Her publications include articles on longitudinal investigations examining how stress proliferation, stress buffers, and physical and mental well-being differ across various groups infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, including heterosexual females, men who have sex with men (MSM), Anglo men and women, and Latinas. She has published validation studies examining factorial invariance across groups affected by HIV, and she has developed ethnic sensitive burden instruments for the assessment of stress proliferation in caregiving. In addition to authoring AIDS: A Complete Guide to Psychosocial Intervention, Land is co-editor (with Herman Curiel) of Outreach and Care Approaches to HIV/AIDS along the U.S.-Mexico Border. She is also the consulting editor on several social work journals.
Land consults and trains in the areas of couples and family therapy, spirituality and clinical practice, and HIV/AIDS. Formerly chair of the Mental Health concentration in the Master of Social Work program, she continues to teach advanced clinical practice courses and elective classes in couples therapy, spirituality, religion, and faith in clinical practice, as well as Explanatory Theories of Human Behavior and Theories and Practice with Small Systems in the doctoral program.
Outside of the school, Land is senior editor of the Journal of HIV/AIDS and Social Services. She is also president of the Society for Spirituality and Social Work, an international organization that disseminates information on methods of sensitizing faculty, students and practitioners to the spiritual and religious needs of clients seeking services. Her latest book is titled Spirituality, Religion, and Faith in Psychotherapy: Evidence-Based Expressive Methods for Mind, Brain, and Body. Her current research interests include developing a treatment framework for recovery from moral injury due to trauma, and advancing sacred-sensitive treatment for special populations.
When a student suggested in the mid-1980s that the USC School of Social Work do more about the HIV crisis in Los Angeles, Dr. Helen Land decided to take action. She began collecting articles, volunteering at AIDS Project Los Angeles, and running support groups for gay men who were caring for friends, partners and family members with AIDS. Soon, Land realized her new work with HIV/AIDS fit perfectly with her research on the ways in which culture and gender factors, stress, role strain, coping and spirituality interact to affect physical and mental well-being in vulnerable populations.
Coming of age at the height of the civil rights movement, in which her family was actively engaged, Land always knew she wanted to be an “agent of change.” She majored in social work and minored in English literature, women’s studies, sociology and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh before pursuing her MSW with an emphasis on mental health from Syracuse University. Seeking to develop her clinical skills, Land worked at a residential treatment home for emotionally disturbed children located within a center for abusive parents, where she gained valuable experience in therapy. After receiving her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh in 1983, she focused her research career on abusive parents and began exploring how stressful life events interact with mental and physical health outcomes.
During her early years at USC, Land focused on experiences with HIV and received federal funding to study the stress associated with caring for AIDS victims. At that time, a diagnosis of AIDS was essentially a death sentence, and the stress for caregivers was particularly acute. As a result of this research, Land became interested in the role of religion and spirituality in the coping process, including the interaction between body, mind and brain, and is developing faith-based interventions that integrate the three. New knowledge in neuroscience has greatly expanded Land’s research interests and gives her work a cutting-edge appeal.
Land is also writing a manual on interventions based on religion, spirituality and faith, with an emphasis on the neurological similarities and differences between mind, body and brain. Students working with her have opportunities to participate in this fast-developing area of research, and Land’s courses touch on faith in clinical practice, couples therapy and clinical intervention in mental health settings. A self-proclaimed “research clinician,” Land values her clinical background as much as her research experience and believes social workers need to develop both skill sets to be effective.
Land, H.M. (2015). Spirituality, Religion, and Faith in Psychotherapy: Evidence-Based Expressive Methods for Mind, Brain, and Body. Chicago, Ill.: Lyceum Books.
Land, H.M. Chapter 1: Introduction. Spirituality, Religion, and Faith in Clinical Practice: Linking Expressive Arts Therapy and Best Practice Models. (pp. 25 pages).
Land, H.M. Chapter 2: A New Model of Assessment: The Sacred Triad, Psychoneurobiological and Sociocultural Influences. Spirituality, Religion, and Faith in Clinical Practice: Linking Expressive Arts Therapy and Best Practice Models. (pp. 40 pages).
Land, H.M. Chapter 3: Using Art. Spirituality, Religion, and Faith in Clinical Practice: Linking Expressive Arts Therapy and Best Practice Models. (pp. 30 pages).