An Operational Stress Injury (OSI) is a persistent psychological difficulty caused by traumatic experience or prolonged stress experienced while serving in the Canadian military or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Social workers support individuals diagnosed with an OSI and their families to help improve quality of life and well-being. They contribute to the treatment of OSIs as members of interdisciplinary healthcare teams at OSI clinics across the country.  

Sensitive to unique needs of clients with Operational Stress Injuries

When treating OSIs, social workers consider the psychological, social, physical, spiritual and financial elements that influence their clients’ physical and mental health. Social workers employed in this area are sensitive to the unique needs of military and police services personnel and they honour diversity and different ways to knowing. They create a safe environment for clients and their families, and help develop unique treatment plans focused on the client’s strengths and goals.

Role and responsibilities

Most social workers in this area work at OSI clinics across Canada where they:

  • Hold individual counselling and psychotherapy sessions for individuals, couples and families
  • Work as part of an interdisciplinary team to develop individualized treatment plans
  • Develop and conduct support groups for clients and caregivers
  • Liaise with community agencies and service providers
  • Participate in academic activities, like teaching and supervising students
  • Contribute to research initiatives and data collection, as needed
  • Develop and deliver education to individuals, caregivers, families and OSI clinic staff


Most social workers in OSI clinics must have:

  • Registration in good standing with the relevant provincial or territorial regulatory body
  • Master’s degree in social work from an accredited university
  • 2-5 years of related clinical experience
  • Experience working as part of an interdisciplinary healthcare team

It is helpful for social workers in OSI clinics to have:

  • Training in evidence-based therapies for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety disorders and knowledge of substance misuse
  • Experience assessing police, veterans and/or Canadian forces members with OSIs
  • Experience working with couples, families and groups