About Me



M. Alejandra Acuña, MSW, LCSW, PPSC, PhD


I started a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in social work at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) in the fall of 2015.

I was a Social Welfare PhD student at UCLA from fall 2009 to winter 2015.

I was a Psychiatric Social Worker with School Mental Health at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) from 1998 to 2011. I have worked in the field of health and human services since 1989.

I have been a lecturer for undergraduate and graduate-level courses in social work. Also, I have provided clinical supervision to social work interns and associate clinical social workers at non-profit organizations and schools.

My research interests include:
  • Evidence-based children's mental health services in schools
  • Attachment security and it's impact on most everything
  • Family interventions and how they are one of the best ways to treat most everything
  • Resilience of all kinds - individual, family, community and professional
  • Cultural/traditional practices & approaches (the older the better) to healing and wellness
As a school social worker, I used a three-tier approach to intervention.  In social work, this is referred to as micro-, meso- and macro-level practice.  In the field of education, it is described as providing universal (all students), targeted (some students) and intensive (few students) evidence-based interventions.

As a team leader for the South Los Angeles Resiliency Project, a federally-funded counseling demonstration grant, I co-wrote the grant application and the project design.  I also implemented the three-tiered intervention model at one of the four elementary schools.  The project team and I presented the preliminary findings of our work at various school social work conferences across the country.  I am now analyzing and writing up the mental health and academic outcomes of the project services.

In the last few years, I have been involved in the implementation of Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS), an evidence-based trauma-specific treatment:
  • As a therapist in elementary and high schools
  • Providing ongoing CBITS training and supervision to LAUSD social workers
  • As a trainer for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health
  • Developing video products and cultural adaptations

At LAUSD, I partnered with Dr. Sheryl Kataoka, UCLA Health Services Research Center, to study how the Learning Collaborative model impacts the implementation effectiveness of evidence-based interventions, such as CBITS, in school settings.

I have supervised social work interns since 1998 and have taught social work courses at CSULA and UCLA since 2001 and 2007, respectively.  These have been some of the most rewarding professional experiences of my life.  I still keep in touch with many former students.  Also, I have won local and national awards for supervising social work interns.

In 1989, I began a career in health and human services developing and evaluating public health programs in the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood, working primarily with immigrants and youth. Some of the first employees I hired and trained, two teen advocates/peer educators from San Fernando High School, are now happily married to each other and involved in local politics - one as a former LAUSD School Board member and now an LA City Councilperson!

As a consultant for the California State Office of AIDS, I conducted HIV Antibody Pre and Post-Test Counseling certification training throughout the state.

After earning an MSW from UC Berkeley, I provided emergency response services with the child protective services agency in Sonoma County.

I am a steadfast advocate for children, youth and families and believe in our ability to be resilient in the face of adversity, with sufficient resources and social support.