Suzanne Brown

Suzanne Brown

Acting Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs, and Professor

 Expert in substance abuse, violence, trauma, and parenting

5447 Woodward Avenue, Rm 049

(313) 577-4444

Suzanne Brown


Brown received her PhD in 2012 from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.  At the Mandel School, she was a NIDA-funded research fellow on a study of the social networks of women in substance abuse treatment, and conducted her own research on the parenting competence, parental bonding history, and social networks of mothers with addictions.

Brown has authored or co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.  Topics of her published book chapters include Social Networks and Social Work Practice, Cognitive Theory and Interventions in Social Work Practice, Neurobiology of Addiction, and Gay and Lesbian Adoptive Families. Topics of peer-reviewed articles include Personal Network Recovery Risks and Enablers among Women with Substance Dependence; The Impact of Trauma on Quality of Life in Women with Substance Dependence; and Adoption Experiences of Gay and Lesbian Adoptive Parents. Brown has presented annually since 2008 at either the Council on Social Work Education or the Society for Social Work Research annual conferences.  She was part-time faculty at the Mandel School from 2009-2012, and received the John Yankey Outstanding Adjunct Teacher of the Year Award.

Brown received her MSW in 1994 from the Smith College School of Social Work and is an independently Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Michigan and Massachusetts.  She was clinical director of an outpatient mental health organization in Boston, prior to receiving her PhD, and was responsible for supervising outpatient mental health services, case management services, and day treatment programs for adults and elders with persistent mental illness.  She has provided clinical services and psychotherapy to adults, children, and families.  In her clinical practice she uses an integrative approach, incorporating methods from relational psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, family systems, and narrative perspectives within a trauma-informed framework. 

Click here to view Curriculum Vitae

Degrees and Certifications

  • Ph.D. Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University
  • M.S.W. Smith College School for Social Work
  • B.A. University of Vermont

Teaching Interests

  • Interpersonal Practice with children, adults, and families
  • Interventions with individuals with serious and persistent mental illness
  • Substance abuse and trauma
  • Dialectical behavior theory
  • Human behavior in the social environment

Areas of Expertise


  • Mothers with substance use disorders or co-occurring substance use and post-traumatic stress disorders
  • Attachment and reflective functioning in mothers with substance use disorders
  • Perceptions of parenting competence among mothers with substance dependence
  • Effects of neighborhood violence on parenting
  • Effects of neighborhood violence and social networks on parenting competence among mothers
  • Neurobiological dimensions of addiction and trauma
  • Gay and lesbian family formation and adoption


  • Quantitative methods
  • Qualitative thematic and narrative analyses
  • Personal social network analysis
  • Retention of participants in longitudinal research projects

Research Project

Current Research Projects

Perceived Parenting Competence among Mothers with Substance Use Disorders

Role: Principal Investigator

The effects of maternal substance abuse on children have been widely documented. Babies born to substance abusing mothers are more likely to experience hyperactivity, irritability, and attention and learning problems than babies born to non-substance abusing mothers. These issues then make parenting these children more difficult, increasing the risk for child maltreatment and making it more difficult for these children to form secure attachments to their caregivers. Mothers with substance use disorders frequently show parenting deficits such as less sensitive interactions with their children and difficulty in appropriately interpreting and responding to their children's cues. In spite of these deficits mothers with addictions frequently view their own parenting as non-problematic. The purpose of this study is to examine associations between perceived parenting competence in mothers with substance use disorders and multiple constructs purported to affect parenting competence. These include shame, trauma exposure, illusory control, reflective functioning, social support, and addiction severity. The long-term goal of this research is to develop better interventions and treatment processes to assist mothers with addictions and their children.

Parenting Enhancements in Substance Abuse Treatment

Role: Co-Principal Investigator

Substance abuse/addiction and/or mental illness is the most common reason for the loss of child custody by parents. Attainment of sobriety by women in substance abuse treatment does not automatically improve the mother-child relational quality. The current research proposes the conduct of focus groups to determine feasibility and interest in developing parenting enhancements during substance treatment. The first aim of this study is to determine interest, feasibility, and developmental ideas regarding the prospect of a parenting enhancement in substance abuse treatment from the perspective of clinicians. The second aim is to use data gathered from the clinician focus groups, determine interest, feasibility, and developmental ideas regarding parenting enhancement in substance abuse treatment from the perspective of clients.

Substance Abuse, Violence, and Mental Health Research Collaborative

Role: Co-Principal Investigator

Substance abuse, violence and mental health disorders are inter-related problems affecting the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. Addressing these problems can significantly decrease health risk behaviors and health consequences. The purpose of the current project is to develop a substance abuse, violence and mental health affinity group within the School of Social Work. The long-term goals of this group are to increase research collaboration among faculty members conducting research in these areas and build stronger partnerships with service providers in the Detroit metro community. One primary objective of this project is to conduct two collaborative pilot studies, one of which involves implementation of focus groups with addictions treatment providers regarding the training needs of service providers in the areas of addictions, violence, and mental health. Additionally, this group is developing a second pilot project to examine the overlapping areas of substance abuse, violence, and mental health. Given the importance of associations between substance use, violence and mental health problems, we will also disseminate pilot study findings through a brown bag lecture for service providers, practice brief, and inform curriculum development.

Grand Challenges Project

Protecting Youth from Substance Misuse

Brown and Associate Professor and C.A.D.A.S. Coordinator Stella Resko provide content expertise and consult on methods and measures for The Partnership for Success, a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administartion grant through which high-need countries are targeted for prevention coalition development and evidence-based practices to reduce underage drinking and prescription use. Elizabeth Agius, manager of community partnerships, provides the evaluation, technical assistance and data collection assistance for the Partnership. Students assist with project management, data, and literature searches. Learn more

Technology-based Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorders

Brown, Associate Professor Stella Resko and Assistant Professor Jamey Lister are part of a team studying the considerable opportunities for leveraging technology in the delivery of evidence-based intervention and prevention services to address alcohol misuse. With colleagues from Wayne State’s Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development and the University of Michigan, they are promoting information and communication technologies that include web-based tools, interventions on mobile devices, online counseling and support groups, gaming, and text messaging support, as well as computerized feedback on alcohol use during therapist-delivered interventions. Their work was presented in a special issue of the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions focused on the alcohol misuse Grand Challenge. Learn more

Screening for Risky Substance Use

With $1 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the School of Social Work and the Wayne State College of Nursing are training social work and nursing students to assess patients in primary care settings for substance use with Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Similar to screenings for diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases, SBIRT helps health care providers identify risk levels for substance use and to employ early, appropriate interventions that can prevent escalation. These include education about related risks, motivation to change behaviors and — in the most serious cases — referrals to specialty care. The first university in Michigan to receive a SAMHSA grant to train students in SBIRT, Wayne State began the three-year initiative in 2015 and has trained 151 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Brown, Director of Field Education Anwar Najor-Durack, Associate Social Work Professor Antonio González-Prendes and Associate Nursing Professor Feleta Wilson were part of an interprofessional team of nursing and social work faculty developing the training curriculum. The program has also trained more than 20 health care professionals at Detroit-area hospitals and treatment centers where Wayne State students trained in the screening tool are receiving field instruction. Learn more

Courses taught by Suzanne Brown

Fall Term 2024 (future)

Spring-Summer Term 2024 (future)

Winter Term 2024

Fall Term 2023

Winter Term 2023

Fall Term 2022

Winter Term 2022

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