Celeste Johnson

Celeste Johnson, MSS, LCSW, PhD

Associate Professor

Research Interests
Traumatic stress, grief and loss of underrepresented populations with a focus on urban adolescents.

Courses Taught
Human Behavior and the Social Environment I and II, Social Work Practice with Individuals, Advanced Social Work Practice, Concentration Field Instruction III and IV, Extended Advanced Field Practice Seminar.

Social work is a rich and rewarding profession that is also demanding and complex. At the Center for Social Work Education at Widener University, clinical social work is a primary focus. Ultimately a very human experience, clinical social work involves a coming together of the social worker and client, each in context and for a specific purpose.
Having extensive experience in the field*, I am constantly reminded of the need for social workers to be grounded in an understanding of the use of the professional relationship and the professional use of self within that relationship.
This is easy to say, yet often a challenge to do. Given that challenge, I am interested in creating with a learning atmosphere and experience that will help develop social workers who can be reflective and reflexive. By reflective, I mean social workers who can be curious about the interface of all the factors influencing their work with clients and systems. This includes issues of race, ethnicity, gender, class, the broader social context and themselves. By reflexive, I mean social workers who are able to be responsive in the moment, allowing the theoretical to enhance all that is possible.
Teaching interests include clinical social work practice courses, HBSE sequence
* Practice with individuals, families and groups in child welfare, psychiatric, mental health, medical and school settings--case management, counseling, supervision, consultation and private practice.


  • Ph.D. Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research
  • M.S.S. Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research
  • B.A. Hampton University/Institute (Psychology)

Awards and Grants

  • 5/2004  Christian R. & Mary F. Lindback Foundation Minority Junior Faculty Award
  • 6/01 – 6/04  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Minority Fellowship Program – Doctoral Clinical Fellowship Administered by the Council on Social Work Education
  • 12/2000 Fahs-Beck Fund for Research and Experimentation Grant


• Johnson, C. M. (2012, December). The loss of friends to homicide and the implications for the identity development of urban African American teen girls. Clinical Social Work Journal. doi: 10.1007/s10615-012-0425-y ( online pre-print publication)
• Johnson, C. M. (2010) African-American teen girls who grieve the loss of friends to homicide: Meaning-making and resilience. Omega: Journal of death and Dying. (61)2, 121-143. doi: 10.2190/OM.61.2.c
• Johnson, C. M. (2010). When African American teen girls' friends are murdered: A qualitative study of bereavement, coping and psychosocial consequences. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, (91)4, 364-370. doi: 10.1606/1044-3894.4042
• Johnson, C. M. (2009). Teenagers and traumatic grief: Tina's story. In Carolyn A. Walter, & Judith L. M. McCoyd. Grief and loss across the lifespan: A biopsychosocial perspective. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Co.

Program Evaluation
• Johnson, C. M. (2010, September). Thinking for a change: Heal a woman, heal a nation. Inaugural annual evaluation prepared for Mothers in Charge for the Philadelphia Prison Board Philadelphia, PA. Manualized cognitive restructuring and educational program administered at Riverside Correctional Facility for Women


• Johnson, C. M. (2013, March). Sharing with Thammasat University: Urban African American teen girls grieve the loss of friends from homicide. Thommasat University, School of Social Administration, Bangkok, Thailand.
• Johnson, C. M. (2011, June). Murdered friends: African American teen girls make meaning. Making connections: Dying, death and bereavement in the global community. 9th International Conference on Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society and 33rd Annual Association of Death Education Conference. Miami. Florida
• Johnson, C. M. (2008, May). Mourning murdered friends: Voices of African American teen girls. Global Mourning-Death among and Beyond Ourselves. 30th Annual Association of Death Education Conference. Montréal, Québec, Canada
• Johnson, C. M. (2008, January). When friends are murdered: A qualitative study of the experience, meaning, and implications for identity development of older adolescent African American females. Research that Matters. Society for Social Work and Research. Washington, D.C.
• Johnson, C. M. (2007. October). Trauma and African American teen girls: Knowledge in their narratives. Preparing the next generation of educators. Council on Social Work Education- Annual Program Meeting. San Francisco, CA
• Johnson, C. M. (2007, April). When friends are murdered: The Unintended consequences of schools serving as emotional holding environments. Dilemmas in American education: The struggle for equity and inclusion. Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work & Social Research. Child and Family Wellbeing Conference. Bryn Mawr, PA. [Invitational]
• Johnson, C. M. (2006, June). African American adolescent females experience traumatic loss and make meaning toward healing. 17th Annual International Trauma Conference, Boston, MA. [Poster Session - Honorable Mention]
• Johnson, C. M. (2005, May). Working with adolescents who witness violence. Grandparents as Caregivers Conference. Center for Social Work Education, Widener University and Community Service of Delaware County. Chester, PA
• Johnson, C. M. (2005, February). When friends are murdered: A qualitative study. Council of Social Work Education – APM. Minority Fellowship Program. Juried poster session for retirement luncheon for Dr. Aracelis Francis. New York, NY.
• Johnson, C. M. (2004, May). Understanding and communicating with teens who have witnessed violence. Center for Social Work Education, Widener University and Community Service of Delaware County. Grandparents as Caregivers Conference.
• Johnson, C. M. (March, 2004). When friends are murdered: Listening to the voices of young African American women. Effects of violence on children, families and communities. Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work & Social Research Child and Family Wellbeing Conference. Bryn Mawr, PA
• Johnson, C. M., Alexander, Leslie B., Richman, K., Smith, N. C. (2002. June). Responsible conduct of research: Ethical dilemmas and solutions in review of non-medical research. 9th National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Connecticut College. New London, CT

Post Masters Research Experience

• 1994 - 1996 Center for Research on Adolescent Drug Abuse - Multi-site clinical treatment research project investigating the effectiveness of the Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy Model with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for adjudicated youth with substance abuse problems. Family Therapist - Multi-Dimensional Family
Therapy Model
Site: Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Funded: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Principal Investigator: Howard Liddle, Ed.D.
• 1990 – 1992 The Study Of Differences In Family Functioning Between Adolescent Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Adolescent Admissions –Family Assessment Team Member
The Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital
Researchers: Harvey Horowitz, MD and John Steidl M.S.S