Online MSW Curriculum

Focus on Trauma. Treat the Cause.

The online MSW program at Widener University focuses on improving the lives of those in need through a strong understanding of trauma as a root cause of mental illness. The program features two tracks based on qualifying criteria.

Regular Admission: Students in the regular admission program complete 64 credit hours; 32 of which are core courses, 23 advanced concentration coursework, and the remaining 9 are achieved by choosing three elective courses. Students complete a total of 20 courses.

Advanced Standing: Students in the advanced standing program complete 41 credit hours; 9 of which are core courses, 23 of which are advanced concentration courses and the remaining 9 are achieved by choosing three elective courses. Students complete a total of 13 courses.

The 41-credit hour Advanced Standing option is available for applicants who have earned an undergraduate degree in social work, within the last six years, from a CSWE-accredited program. It can be completed within just two years. These applicants are eligible to apply to the Advanced Standing option, however, holding an undergraduate degree in social work does not guarantee acceptance.

*Courses with an asterisk below are the required courses for Advanced Standing students in addition to your three elective courses.

Additional Program Options

  • Hybrid Dual Degree: Master Of Social Work / Master of Education, Human Sexuality Studies (H/MSW/MEd)
    To learn more about this unique dual master’s degree click here.
  • Trauma Certificate 
    While earning your MSW, you have the option of also applying for a trauma certificate to deepen your knowledge and direct experience. The trauma certificate includes participation in a two-semester Trauma Supervision Seminar. Click here to request more information and speak with a Program Manager about which option is the best fit for you.

Program Outcomes

Graduates of the online MSW program are culturally competent social workers who:

  • Are dedicated to the attainment of social and economic justice for the betterment of poor, vulnerable, and oppressed individuals, families, groups, and communities.
  • Demonstrate care and compassion for clients from diverse cultural, social, and economic backgrounds.
  • Hold an unwavering belief in client strengths, client empowerment, and the importance of the helping relationship.

Core Curriculum

This course emphasizes the essential knowledge and conceptual frameworks used in social work to understand and assess human development and behavior in multiple social contexts. The focus is on a normative-strengths and resilience perspective. Students are expected to become critical consumers of this knowledge, using it to inform assessment, intervention, and evaluation in their social work practice. Basic concepts of human development and behavior in context are introduced using multidimensional, multi- theoretical, and multisystemic frameworks. Elements of diversity and difference such as ethnicity, age, culture, race, social class, gender, sexual orientation, spirituality, genetics, and the social environment are examined to promote the appreciation, understanding, and respect for human difference. This course also looks at how social and economic justice issues impact the development and interaction of the person-in-context. Core competencies and related practice behaviors associated with this course are developed through didactic presentations, experiential activities, class discussions, films, speakers, and online activities.

Course outcomes:

  • Critically examine biopsychosocial-spiritual theoretical frameworks for understanding individual human behavior as it affects and is affected by family, group, community, and societal dynamics.
  • Apply multi-theoretical knowledge in order to assess human development and behavior from a multidimensional perspective that reflects the intersection and interaction of the social/physical environment with individuals, families, and communities.
  • Apply knowledge of culture, social class, race, ethnicity, economic factors, gender, sexual orientation, age, oppression, and other variables that influence human development and behavior, in support of non-discriminatory social work practice.

This course builds on conceptual frameworks of human development, with emphasis on the biological, psychological, and environmental influences on social and emotional disturbances. The course will consider diagnosis and assessment within the framework of culture and life cycle changes. The student will acquire a working knowledge of the DSM-5 and its uses in identifying and classifying mental disorders. Students will also be encouraged to view these disorders within the context of the individual's culture and environment. This course provides students with the Core Competencies and Related Behaviors for conducting assessment of human psychosocial functioning to inform culturally and socially sensitive social work interventions.

Course outcomes:

  • Demonstrate social and psychological understanding of emotional and behavioral dysfunction.
  • Recognize strengths as well as vulnerabilities in understanding emotional and behavioral dysfunction.
  • Understand the differences between a nosology that is derived from human strengths and vulnerability and one that emphasizes "health" and "illness" in the pursuit of social justice in the provision of services.
  • Consider ways in which gender, race, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, age, physical disability, and other variables contribute to people's unique strengths and vulnerabilities.
  • Understand the uses of classification systems, such as the DSM-5, and think critically about them through alternative perspectives.
  • Assess an individual's functioning within a multi-dimensional framework (biopsychosocial).
  • Identify ethical concerns in making judgments about people's competence.

This course welcomes the new MSW student to the profession of social work. It addresses both the educational needs of the students while providing a vehicle for community building to support the Center's learning environment. Students will develop the interpersonal and communication skills necessary to communicate comfortably with clients, in classrooms, on teams, with work groups, and in client groups. The course will focus on the skills for building collegial relationships, increasing comfort with diversity, handling challenging conversations, and managing conflicts. This course will provide the Core Competencies and Related Behaviors to support field internships, beginning work with individuals and small groups, and navigating agency cultures. This course will have a rich experiential component and will utilize individual interactions between dyads, small group work, and large group work as a class, as well as provide opportunities for self-reflection. It is within the context of these dyads and small groups that students will be able to learn and practice effective communication skills, including empathic listening. In addition, students will be supported and guided in their experience and observation of group dynamics as they pass through the stages in their own small groups. Students will have the opportunity to develop insight into their own style of interaction and the roles they play within groups.

Course outcomes:

  • Demonstrate professional self-awareness that facilitates students' creative use of themselves with ethnically and culturally diverse clinical populations in diverse settings.
  • Engage in self reflection regarding their interactions with individuals and groups.
  • Practice their graduate-level oral and written communication skills including effective speaking in groups.
  • Become aware of and articulate their styles of conflict resolution.
  • Explore means of effectively working with challenging conversations.
  • Integrate personal and professional values in a way that supports ethically based clinical social work practice in agencies.
  • Apply a generalist strengths-based approach in working with individual, group, organizational, and community client systems.
  • Practice interviewing effectively.

This course is the first of four in the practice sequence. It provides the student with an overview of generalist social work practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The course focuses on the values, concepts, and skills necessary to conduct social work practice from a generalist perspective in the context of a social service agency or program. SW 505 – Foundation Generalist Practice is followed by SW 506 – Foundation Social Work Practice with Individuals, Families, and Small Groups. These foundation practice courses, along with the two foundation field practica (SW 552 & SW 553), provide a solid grounding in generalist social work practice and prepare the student for the advanced concentration in clinical social work practice with individuals, families, and groups. This course will provide the student with the conceptual framework and techniques of the strengths-based approach to assessing client systems and developing appropriate social work interventions. Critical thinking and experiential learning are emphasized throughout the course. Class discussions, readings, exercises, and assignments will be directed at developing a range of social work skills including: a) analyzing and resolving ethical dilemmas; b) developing and sustaining helping relationships with clients systems; c) conducting assessments of various-sized client systems; d) selecting and implementing appropriate intervention strategies with individual, family, small group, organizational, and community client systems; e) working with diverse populations; and f) monitoring and evaluating social work practice interventions. The course is a prerequisite of SW 506 and SW 552.

Course outcomes:

  • Critically evaluate the theoretical basis of generalist social work practice and its associated concepts.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of a generalist, strengths-based approach in working with individual, family, group, organizational, and community client systems.
  • Describe the core values of the social work profession and apply ethical principles in resolving ethical dilemmas.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of a strengths perspective in working with socially and economically disadvantaged client populations.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of ethnically-sensitive generalist social work practice with clients from culturally and ethnically diverse populations.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the skills in engaging clients in a collaborative helping process and in establishing professional helping relationships.
  • Conduct client systems assessments from ecosystems and strengths perspectives.
  • Demonstrate understanding of assessment, intervention, and evaluation with individual client systems.
  • Demonstrate understanding of assessment, intervention, and evaluation with family client systems.
  • Demonstrate understanding of assessment, intervention, and evaluation with small group client systems.
  • Demonstrate understanding of assessment, intervention, and evaluation with organizational client systems.
  • Demonstrate understanding of assessment, intervention, and evaluation with community client systems.
  • Demonstrate understanding of various ways to evaluate practice effectively.

This course is the second of four in the practice sequence. It builds upon the generalist social work practice perspective provided in SW 505 – Foundation Generalist Social Work Practice. The course prepares the student for the advanced social work practice with individuals (SW 630) and families (SW 633) and groups (SW 635) courses. This course focuses on the theoretical basis of direct social work practice with individuals, families, and small groups and on developing the student's repertoire of direct practice skills. Students explore and develop strategies for engaging in, assessing, intervening with, and evaluating social work interventions with individual, family, and group client systems and with ethnically and culturally diverse populations. Solution-focused, cognitive-behavioral, and psychodynamic interventions are highlighted. Various service systems are also explored to give students exposure to a wide variety of practice areas. Critical thinking and experiential learning are emphasized throughout the course. This course is a prerequisite of SW 552. Prerequisite: SW 505.

Course outcomes:

  • Critically evaluate the theoretical basis of direct social work practice with individuals, families, and groups and its associated concepts.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the theoretical context and repertoire of direct practice skills for working with a variety of client systems.
  • Demonstrate ability to develop a range of intervention strategies, match interventions with a diverse range of clients, and identify the appropriate techniques for implementing those strategies.
  • Demonstrate continued development of a professional identity and integration of the values and ethics of the professional social work community.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the influence of the organizational context, and the ability to analyze the effect of policies on the helping process and develop strategies for enhancing organizational responsiveness to human service needs.
  • Demonstrate ability to apply all phases of the helping process – including engagement, assessment, contracting, implementation, and ending – in working with individuals, families, and groups.
  • Demonstrate ability to perform a variety of helping functions, including those of advocate, mediator, enabler, teacher, social broker, and counselor.
  • Integrate knowledge of the influence of the community context on social work interventions with a variety of client systems.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the strategies for empowering and supporting diverse client systems and populations as a locus of change.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the range of social work research methods for evaluation of direct social work clinical practice and human service programs.
  • Demonstrate an appreciation for and willingness to engage in ongoing professional skill development and self-evaluation.
  • Demonstrate increasing skill in working with diverse populations and appreciation of the influence of diversity on the helping process.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the development of social work practice theories and models.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the impact of oppression, discrimination, and injustice on delivery of services to client populations and practice areas.

This course focuses on general research methods and their application to social work. The course introduces students to the scientific method; culturally competent research; protection of human subjects; survey, experimental, quasi-experimental, and qualitative research designs; evidence-based research; measurement; sampling; questionnaire construction; and qualitative data collection methods. Specifically, the course prepares students to 1) design social work research related to needs assessments, program evaluations, and practice evaluations; 2) appreciate and understand the benefits of evidence-based practice; and 3) develop the ability to critically evaluate and consume social work research. These areas of social work research are fundamental components of social work practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

Course outcomes:

  • Identify steps in social work research and their relationship to each other.
  • Describe evidence-based practice.
  • Identify the ethical issues associated with a research study.
  • Critique culturally sensitive research studies.
  • Analyze and summarize a social service program dataset.
  • Use empirical studies as a knowledge base to support professional interventions and decisions for the enhancement of client well-being.

This is the first of two core courses addressing the competencies and associated practice behaviors related to social and economic justice. This course provides students with the opportunity to examine and analyze the historical, philosophical, and value base of social welfare and social welfare policy. It helps students to understand and define the concepts of social and economic justice, examine the application/manifestation of these concepts (as well as related concepts such as power, class, oppression, and poverty) in American and world history, and to develop generalist skills and core competencies necessary to analyze, influence, and change policy.

Course outcomes:

  • Trace the history of social welfare from the English Poor Laws to the present.
  • Identify the influence of values and ideology on social policy choices.
  • Identify one's personal values and assumptions regarding the public role in addressing private needs.
  • Identify how assumptions regarding difference affect past and present policy choices.
  • Identify empirically based social policy strategies for ameliorating human need and furthering social and economic justice.
  • Identify ways in which perceptions and beliefs about various populations-at-risk have influenced contemporary service delivery choices.
  • Identify political and organizational factors that affect policy development and implementation, including the role of interest groups.
  • Identify economic factors that affect policy development and implementation at the U.S federal level.
  • Describe the roles of legislative and judicial systems in the formation and implementation of U.S. social policy.
  • Describe the critical policy and service delivery issues associated with U.S. Federal poverty policies, including federalism, selective (targeted) and universal eligibility, and the relationship between public and private auspices.
  • Identify critical social policy and service delivery issues associated with U.S. Federal social welfare policies and their impacts on agency-based practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Demonstrate basic skills of policy development and change in furthering social and economic justice, including needs analysis, social advocacy, and resource mobilization.
  • Apply various models of social welfare policy analysis to U.S. federal social welfare policies.
  • Understand the relationship of the global context to national and personal social welfare.

Social and Economic Justice II, the second of two courses in the SEJ sequence, builds on the conceptual areas of SEJ I, but now moves the student into the domain of advocacy, policy change, and community practice. The course provides the student with the opportunity to understand community and communities, analyze community problems, formulate community-level interventions, and develop advocacy skills appropriate to such tasks. Prerequisite: SW 540.

Course outcomes:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the value base, code of ethics, and history of social work practice with communities.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the influence of community processes on human behavior and development.
  • Demonstrate understanding of an ability to integrate macro and micro interventions within the generalist social work and ecosystems perspectives.
  • Demonstrate skills in assessing communities.
  • Demonstrate ability to work with diverse, oppressed, and special populations in the context of social work practice with communities and in service to the promotion of social justice.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the historical and current impacts of social policies upon communities, community members and the delivery of services by human service organizations.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of ethical dilemmas in social work practice with communities.
  • Demonstrate a willingness to engage in social change activities.
  • Demonstrate ability to make use of the professional literature related to social work practice with communities.

This is the foundation year, two-semester field instruction placement. The field placement provides students with the opportunity to apply the basic knowledge and skills of agency-based social work practice from a generalist perspective. The field placement also provides students with the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the foundation core curricula to social work practice with individuals, families, small groups, organizations, and communities within an agency setting. Students will work in the field 16 hours per week while enrolled in SW 552. The field seminar is completed concurrently with the field placement. The field seminar is designed to support students in the process of integrating knowledge attained in foundational coursework and applying skills to practice in the field. Much of the focus of the seminar will be on reflection of students' learning and development as professional social workers. Perquisites: SW 505 and SW 506. For more detailed information about the MSW Field Experience, click here.

Course outcomes:

  • Critically evaluate the theoretical basis of direct social work practice with individuals, families, and groups and its associated concepts.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the theoretical context and repertoire of direct practice skills for working with a variety of client systems.
  • Demonstrate the ability to develop a range of intervention strategies, match interventions with a diverse range of clients, and identify the appropriate techniques for implementing those strategies.
  • Demonstrate the continued development of professional skills to identify and integrate the values and ethics of the professional social work community.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the influence of the organizational context, and the ability to analyze the effect of policies on the helping process and develop strategies for enhancing organizational responsiveness to human service needs.
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply all phases of the helping process – including engagement, assessment, contracting, implementation, and ending – in working with individuals, families, and groups.
  • Demonstrate the ability to perform a variety of helping functions, including those of advocate, mediator, enabler, teacher, social broker, and counselor.
  • Integrate knowledge of the influence of the community context on social work interventions with a variety of client systems.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the strategies for empowering and supporting diverse client systems and populations as a locus of change.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the range of social work research methods for evaluation of direct social work clinical practice and human service programs.
  • Demonstrate an appreciation for and willingness to engage in ongoing professional skill development and self-evaluation.
  • Demonstrate increasing skill in working with diverse populations and appreciation of the influence of diversity on the helping process.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the development of social work practice theories and models.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the impact of oppression, discrimination, and injustice on delivery of services to client populations and practice areas.

This advanced standing bridge course is designed to provide advanced standing students with the knowledge base and skills needed for the advanced clinical curriculum courses: SW 630 Clinical Social Work Practice with Individuals, SW 633 Clinical Social Work Practice with Families, and SW 637 Field Instruction III & Seminar. It builds on the generalist social work practice perspective and focuses on the theoretical basis and skills needed to work effectively with individuals and families. Students explore the beginning, middle, and ending stages of practice and the skills needed for creative and effective use of self with individuals and families. Attention is given to ethnicity, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Students also develop knowledge of theory, including ecological, systems, individual and family life cycle, ego psychology, learning, and cognitive theories. Students are introduced to evidence-based practice and qualitative and quantitative methods of research and begin to critically analyze research to inform practice. Class discussions, experiential exercises, role plays, audio/ video recording, assigned readings, and written assignments are directed at integrating the theoretical generalist foundation and developing a range of skills.

Course outcomes:

  • Demonstrate knowledge and critically evaluate the theories and models used by social work in understanding client systems.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of assessment tools in social work practice (Biopsychosocial, Genogram, and Ecomap).
  • Demonstrate ability to monitor interventions and evaluate effects of the interventions focusing on the use of supervision to evaluate one's own practice.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the stages and skills needed in the rendering of social work service to individuals and families.
  • Demonstrate continued development of a professional identity and the integration of social work values and ethics into practice.
  • Demonstrate increasing skill in working with diverse populations and understanding the influence of diversity on the helping process.
  • Demonstrate the ability to use research evidence to inform practice.

Advanced Concentration Courses

This concentration level course is designed to build on the practice of generalist social work by refining and deepening the conceptual and technical knowledge of clinical social work practice with individuals. Students will continue to consider principles and assumptions learned in the foundation year with the goal of achieving synthesis on a more advanced level of knowledge, attitude, skill and method. The clinical processes of engagement, biopsychosocial assessment, worker-client relationship, intervention, evaluating practice effectiveness, and termination are considered with an aim toward greater precision of application. More complex theoretical material and intervention methods as well as case situations are utilized and you are encouraged to reflect on past field experience for integration of material. Throughout the semester, attention is given to issues of gender; sexual orientation; and ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity. This course is a prerequisite of SW 639 and SW 637.

Course outcomes:

  • Apply differential assessment with various populations to identify treatment focus and intervention options. Analyze multiple theoretical perspectives and differentially apply them to client situations.
  • Apply theoretical conceptualization to design practice interventions.
  • Identify the interpersonal dynamics and contextual factors that both strengthen and potentially threaten the therapeutic alliance.
  • Demonstrate acute awareness of the needs of oppressed and disadvantaged populations and of ways in which the clinical process is modified to respond to those needs.
  • Employ an ecological framework to conceptualize the influence of institutional policies and practices on the clinical social work process with a view toward mobilizing forces for organizational and social as well as individual change.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of practice including the application of theoretical and intervention models as they meet the needs of the client and affect the therapeutic relationship.

Focusing on social work practice with families, this course expands systemic thinking by introducing multiple models for family work, including Psychodynamic, Bowen, Narrative, Communication, Contextual, Structural, and Solution-Focused, as well as newer models of family work such as Multidimensional Family Therapy. Using these models and their related theories, students will gain a solid foundation for assessment and intervention with families, knowledge of the family life cycle, and the impact of wider systems on a family’s structure and functioning. The definition of family will be inclusive of many different family forms. Students will examine how cultural issues such as class, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation must be considered while assessing a family’s presenting issues, unique strengths, and vulnerabilities. Students will learn to think critically about the relevance of particular concepts and interventions for each family system, including whether certain “Western” concepts apply to all families.

These courses comprise the two-semester concentration-level field placement. Students work in a supervised social work setting for three days (24 hours) per week for a total of 680 hours for the year. Field Instruction III and Seminar and Field Instruction IV and Seminar provide students with the opportunity to further examine and integrate the theories and skills of agency-based clinical social work practice with individuals, families, and small groups; to develop and refine clinical assessment, intervention, and evaluation skills; and to consolidate their own identity as a professionally disciplined and self-aware professional social worker. Field Instruction III and Seminar and Field Instruction IV and Seminar build upon the generalist social work practice perspective introduced in the prerequisite courses. Prerequisites: SW 630 and SW 639. For more detailed information about the MSW Field Experience, click here.

Course outcomes:

  • Integrate classroom material in the field.
  • Reflect on practice in the field.
  • Engage in clinical supervision.
  • Reflect on use of self in the therapeutic relationship.
  • Critically analyze and apply evidence-based practice.
  • Evaluate your own practice.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of policy and contextual issues that impact practice.

This advanced-level course builds upon the core competencies and associated practice behaviors addressed in the foundational social and economic justice courses. The course presents theoretical and practical materials necessary for all aspects of practice affecting the social service agency. Conceptualizing agencies as the foundation from which most services emanate, this course prepares students both to effectively work within the organizational context, including developing new programs, and to enhance organizational capacity and treat the agency as a "client" when necessary. Course topics include organizational theory and assessment, management, the budgetary process, fundraising, program development, proposal writing, technology, and program evaluation.

Course outcomes:

  • Understand and articulate the ethical issues that arise in working with human service organizations.
  • Understand and articulate beginning skills in organizational assessment, practice, and program management.
  • Understand and articulate beginning skills in program development.
  • Understand and articulate beginning skills in program evaluation.
  • Appropriately use the professional empirical and theoretical literature related to social work practice with individuals, families, and small groups to assist in writing a program proposal.
  • Understand the relationship between the actions of the social service agency and the continuation of, and/or the remediation of, oppression and discrimination.
  • Demonstrate the ability to write a grant proposal.

This seminar is designed to build upon the clinical competencies and associated practice behaviors of SW 630 Clinical Social Work Practice with Individuals by helping refine and deepen conceptual and technical knowledge of the clinical process in the context of agency-based social work practice. The seminar focuses on issues related to the agency-based social work practice context, considering the dimension of time in terms of how it can be exploited to promote change (short-term treatment) and examining how principles of change are operationalized by social work practitioners applying psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, narrative, emotionally focused, and family systems theoretical orientations to various client populations within different settings. Whenever relevant, students are invited to examine how policy issues, particularly those related to managed care, affect clinical practice. As students become more familiar with alternative applications of the clinical process, they are expected to develop greater clarity about their own clinical skills, strengths, limitations, and interests. This increased professional self-awareness is intended to facilitate students' autonomy and creative use of the self with diverse clinical populations. Throughout the semester, attention is given to issues of gender; sexual orientation; ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity; and the effects of oppression and discrimination upon clients. Through reading and written assignments, students use research knowledge to understand issues confronting them in their clinical work with clients and to examine and evaluate various intervention strategies with clients. SW 630 and SW 639 are cohort courses. Students remain together as a group for both courses. This course is a corequisite of SW 638. Prerequisite: SW 630.

Course outcomes:

  • Integrate personal and professional values in a way that supports ethically based, trauma-informed clinical social work practice in agencies.
  • Integrate knowledge of relevant research to differentially apply and assess the effectiveness of interventions.
  • Demonstrate professional self-awareness that facilitates students' creative use of themselves with ethnically and culturally diverse clinical populations in a variety of settings.
  • Examine how principles of change are operationalized by social workers from varying theoretical orientations, such as psychodynamic (ego-psychology and self-psychology), cognitive-behavioral, narrative, and gestalt theories that emphasize client competencies and strengths.
  • Intervene with oppressed and disadvantaged clients in ways that demonstrate knowledge of social, political, and economic factors associated with poverty and discrimination.
  • Demonstrate the skills necessary for continuing professional development, including the use of supervision, consultation, and continuing education opportunities.

This course concentrates on the etiology and treatment of traumatic symptomatology. Students explore conditions that contribute to the development of acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorders, and other disorders of extreme stress. Comorbid conditions, including substance abuse and self-harming behaviors, are considered. The intergenerational, socio-cultural, and societal impact of trauma is explored. A strengths-based approach is emphasized. Readings orient students to the assessment of trauma symptoms, as well as to some generally applicable treatment approaches, and to research on the psychobiology of trauma.

Course outcomes:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the factors that contribute to the development of traumatic symptomatology and stress disorders.
  • Demonstrate integration of the knowledge needed to assess traumatic symptomatology.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the impact of trauma on psychobiology.
  • Demonstrate a general understanding of a variety of treatment approaches, including the ability to incorporate unique client strengths and resources into chosen treatment approaches.
  • Demonstrate the analytical skills needed to integrate theories into trauma treatment.
  • Demonstrate the ability to make use of professional literature.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of personal and professional strategies for minimizing the risks of vicarious traumatization.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the intergenerational, cultural, and societal impact of trauma.

Elective Courses (9 credit hours)

This course prepares students to use and integrate the biographical timeline as a multipurpose tool in their clinical social work practice. The tool can be used to understand how to better support a person with challenging behaviors holistically. As a therapeutic modality, it also functions as a team builder, an empathy builder for caregivers, and a systems change tool, as well as a data source for research. While the tool is highly applicable for all client populations, students focus on applying the timeline in their work with children in care and with people who have developmental disabilities or other vulnerabilities who might be less able to advocate for themselves. Students develop their own research questions and design their approach to the timeline and analysis of the results in response to their questions. Prerequisite: SW 506.

Course outcomes:

  • Demonstrate skill in applying the biographical timeline approach to group facilitation, biopsychosocial assessment, and holistic treatment planning.
  • Develop the skills to facilitate interdisciplinary involvement in a treatment team approach.
  • Identify the neurobiological consequences of early childhood abuse and neglect, and overwhelming change in the environment.
  • Apply strengths-based models in case assessment, planning, and management.
  • Demonstrate the application of an evidence-based practice intervention.
  • Demonstrate the ability to conduct a literature review to identify and critically evaluate evidence-based practice models.

prepare social workers for working with people who are currently or formerly incarcerated. Class participants will consider: 1) ethical, professional, and personal dilemmas that may arise in this work and ways to maintain social work values while working in settings with conflicting values; 2) issues of oppression and intersectionality and their impact on certain groups' likelihood of becoming incarcerated and the social problem of mass incarceration; 3) practice issues, including identifying and critiquing evidence-based practices with people formerly or currently incarcerated and using trauma-informed and restorative justice approaches as innovative social work practices in criminal justice settings. An emphasis is also placed on social work's role in helping to reform places of incarceration and reintegration so they are more responsive to the needs of people who are currently or formerly incarcerated.

Course outcomes:

  • Examine the relationship/intersection between social work and the criminal justice system.
  • Investigate the structure of the criminal justice system and its terminology, functions, theories, and trends.
  • Explore the unique impact of the criminal justice system on specific populations and issues, including (but not limited to):
    • Persons with substance abuse
    • Persons with mental health issues
    • Racial and ethnic groups
    • Women
    • Juveniles
    • Persons with histories of trauma
  • Analyze the effects of criminal justice involvement (i.e. mass incarceration) on multiple levels, including: individual, family, community, and society.
  • Explore innovative programs that interact with the criminal justice system in ways that promote positive results for their participants.
  • Devise ideas for practice and/or policy interventions which may affect problems within the criminal justice and social work interface, particularly interventions that reduce the use of incarceration.
  • Discover the implications of criminal justice knowledge in clinical assessment, service provision, program development, and policy analysis.

This course will focus on the dynamics of challenges families face, including the various aspects of child maltreatment, substance abuse, mental illness, trauma, domestic violence, homelessness, elder abuse, and caregiving. It will also look at environmental factors influencing families such as poverty, violent communities, racism, and oppression. Students will look at the history of social policy and its current impact on "at risk" families. Students will explore evidence-based and strengths-based treatment modalities to look at ways to help individuals and families overcome challenges and build resiliency. In addition, students will learn about vicarious traumatization and ways to effectively build resilience for themselves.

Course outcomes:

  • Acquire knowledge of family systems and the development of dysfunction.
  • Identify risk factors and determine how race and culture impact service delivery.
  • Identify environmental factors that impact the family system and impede the upward trajectory.
  • Assess how current social policy impacts the family system and the availability of services.
  • Acquire knowledge of family resilience and strategies that tend to prevent dysfunction.
  • Apply knowledge of the neurobiological consequences of early childhood trauma, abuse, and neglect to intervention strategies.
  • Engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research.
  • Apply strengths-based models in case assessment, planning, and management.

This course is intended to increase social workers' capacities to work effectively with individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The course increases participants' understanding of many of the issues relating to people who have developmental disabilities and who exhibit challenging behaviors. Students examine these issues through the lenses of positive approaches and explore person-centered planning, autism spectrum disorders, understanding the impact of trauma on individuals with IDD, and working effectively with psychiatric needs.

Course outcomes:

  • Identify and explain the Everyday Lives and Positive Approaches paradigms for working with individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their caregivers.
  • Analyze and utilize the assessment process holistically — with an interdisciplinary team perspective — to support individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
  • Theorize how to support the work of the "Social Therapist," or direct support person, in the assessment process and through therapeutic approaches.
  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of individuals with Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disabilities, other Developmental Disabilities Syndromes, and related Neurology.
  • Identify the symptoms and impact of trauma in people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
  • Analyze issues with dual diagnosis of intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental health conditions.
  • Analyze and explain a topic affecting people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
  • Develop a therapeutic plan for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

This course will introduce students to a range of theories about substance use disorders, provide an overview of commonly abused substances, and evaluate assessment and treatment strategies employed in work with both individuals and families. Assigned readings and class discussions will explore the special needs and concerns of specific population groups including adolescents; older adults; women; racial and ethnic minorities; and individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. The class will examine psychosocial factors affecting both the identification and intervention for individuals with substance use disorders and their families.

Course outcomes:

  • Identify and assess three major theories regarding the etiology of substance abuse: the disease model, the psychodynamic model, and the social learning model.
  • Examine the pharmacology and the acute and long-term effects of selected substances as defined by the DSM-5 Substance Use Disorders.
  • Demonstrate the effective utilization of various substance use assessments and intervention strategies applicable to different populations and clinical settings.
  • Evaluate methods of treatment, including the role of self-help groups, utilized in work with substance abusing individuals and their families.
  • Examine the various ethical and legal issues, public health concern (e.g. AIDS) issues, and policies impacting treatment decisions with individuals with substance use disorders.
  • Examine the unique concerns and issues affecting assessment and treatment of various specific population groups for substance use disorders.

This course is taught in seminar style and focuses upon understanding losses and appropriate interventions for clients who endure loss across the life cycle. These losses include death, community disaster, and chronic illness. The following are addressed: perinatal loss (including SIDS), loss of a child and a child's reaction to loss, loss of an adolescent and an adolescent's reaction to loss (sibling, friend, parent), losses in early and middle adulthood (parental loss, spouse/partner loss, and loss of an adult child), loss in later life (including chronic illness and its effect on the individual and family), disenfranchised loss (domestic partners, gay and lesbian partners), the dying patient, end of life issues, community resources (including hospice), and support networks. Theoretical perspectives are drawn from both traditional and postmodern approaches to grief and loss. Issues of cultural diversity are addressed throughout the course.

Course outcomes:

  • Explain traditional and postmodern theories pertaining to the issues of grief and loss.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the issues facing individuals and families regarding grief and loss across the life span.
  • Examine how issues of cultural diversity and the ethics of social work practice influence responses to grief and loss.
  • Identify issues and apply techniques appropriate for assessment of individuals and families facing grief and loss.
  • Examine issues of grief and loss as they apply to interventions with individuals and families facing death and other loss(es) across the life span.
  • Identify and explore their own personal attitudes and feelings regarding loss, death/dying, and grief.

Human sexuality is one of the basic foundations for life. From before birth, individuals are sexed, gendered, and bombarded with messages about whom they are, who they should be, and how they are expected to behave. In adult life, whether individuals choose to date, to partner, or to remain single; to have children, adopt, or create other forms of family, sexuality is one of the central and organizing components of the human experience. Human sexuality is explored using the weekend course format in three separate sections from a biopsychosocial perspective. The first of these units addresses an overview of sexuality information and functioning. The second examines psychosocial issues as they exist within sexuality. Lastly, the manifestations of human sexuality as they occur within the social work context and subsequent practice issues are investigated.

Course objectives:

  • Identify and describe the varied factors which comprise human sexuality as an aspect of the biopsychosocial model of the human condition.
  • Analyze the anatomy and physiology of the human sexual system.
  • Explore the range of sexual expression and its manifestations cross-culturally.
  • Analyze the concept of self-awareness and self-assessment around issues of sexuality as they affect your professional development and practice.
  • Distinguish when empathy for individuals and families facing psychosocial issues in sexuality, can be helpful, including assessment and diagnostic skills.
  • Analyze how personal and professional sexual values interact in clinical settings and how to address such incidents via supervision, referrals, and informed practice by the literature.
  • Develop and demonstrate clinical skills in specific practice issues including conducting a sex history, utilizing inclusive assessment skills/tools, and identifying appropriate referral sources.

This course provides students with an opportunity (1) to think through and emotionally experience the place of spirituality in social work practice, (2) to come to an understanding of the meaning and application of spirituality in each student's own social work practice, and (3) to explore the impact of religion and spirituality on social policy. This course is premised on the view that spirituality is a basic human need whether it is expressed in a formal institutional setting or takes a myriad of other forms. As social workers more and more encounter diverse belief systems, it is important that practitioners at all levels of practice have some understanding of how the adherence to different beliefs affects peoples' functioning. The course addresses the knowledge and skills needed to work within the spiritual and religious contexts of the "lived" world of clients. The course explores spirituality as a core dimension of human experience and addresses the need for social workers to understand their own beliefs and biases about spirituality and religion and have regard for their own spiritual growth.

Course outcomes:

  • Identify and explain the difference between spirituality and religion.
  • Identify and reflect on diverse religious and nonreligious spiritual perspectives and their implications for the social work perspective.
  • Analyze the nature of spiritual development.
  • Interpret a spiritual assessment and construct a genogram.
  • Identify and explain the place of students' spirituality in their own social work practice.
  • Identify biases towards other spiritual practices and reflect on how they will apply this knowledge when helping others in the field.
  • Compare and contrast spiritually sensitive interventions and identify when to apply them.
  • Examine diversity issues from the perspective of spirituality and religion, including supportive and non-supportive perspectives concerning issues such as gender, age, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and culture, and social class.
  • Determine the place of spirituality in social work practice.
  • Identify how to work with clients' spiritual and religious issues in social work practice while attending to ethical issues.
  • Examine and explain how religion and spirituality influence social policy.

The objective of this course is to introduce master-level social work students to the interdisciplinary practice of medical social work. Students will become knowledgeable of the variety of roles social workers employ within the medical community. Theories, models of care, and cross-cultural issues will be examined. Students will develop skills in engagement, assessment, intervention planning and implementation, and practice evaluation. Because the populations served in health care settings span the spectrum of severity in both the physical and behavioral health dimensions, students will develop competencies in engaging and supporting patients across a range of health conditions.

This course employs a variety of teaching strategies, such as class discussions, experiential exercises, case examples, and other activities in order to facilitate understanding of the course content and to promote skill development. This course is designed to be practice-oriented and will highlight advanced clinical practice techniques to work effectively with clients and colleagues in a variety of integrated healthcare settings.

Course outcomes:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the role and function of social workers in health care settings.
  • Practice professional self-awareness that facilitates their creative use of themselves with ethnically/culturally diverse populations, older adults, children, adolescents, substance users, and people with physical issues, mental health issues, and disabilities in diverse settings.
  • Engage in self-reflection regarding their readings and interactions with individuals and groups.
  • Explore means of effectively working with acute and chronic health care areas — such as Nephrology, Oncology, Neonatology, HIV/AIDS, Genetics, & palliative care — in challenging conversations.
  • Integrate personal and professional values in ways that support ethically based, clinical social work practice in agencies.
  • Apply a generalist, strengths-based approach in working with individual, group, organizational, and community client systems.
  • Demonstrate the ability to work with interdisciplinary groups.

Social work with older adults is one of the fastest growing areas of practice in the 21st century. The graying of the baby boomer generation combined with improved medical technology has led an overwhelming number of individuals into the "third age." Despite the staggering demographic figures and future needs of the "senior boom," there continues to be a paucity of social work students interested in practice and research with older adults. This course provides students with a comprehensive overview of the field of gerontological social work practice from a research, clinical, and biopsychosocial perspective. Students completing this course are prepared to work with older adults and their informal/formal support systems. They are also prepared to use qualitative methods for the purpose of evaluating efficacy of practice interventions and building knowledge. The content includes theories of aging; biological, physical, and social changes; psychosocial adjustments to later life; conducting a biopsychosocial/research assessment; differential assessment and diagnosis; social work interventions and evaluation of their effectiveness; use of evidence-based practice; addictive disorders; suicide prevention; groups work; spirituality; ethics, dying, bereavement, and advanced directives. Research instruction in qualitative methods and single-system design is interwoven throughout the course. The requirement of conducting a life story research project or focus group is used to emphasize the critical relationship between gerontological social work, human behavior, and research.

Course outcomes:

  • Demonstrate professional self-awareness that facilitates students' creative use of themselves with ethnically and culturally diverse clinical populations in diverse settings, in particular with older adults.
  • Engage in self-reflection regarding their perspectives on aging and ageism.
  • Practice graduate-level written communication skills.
  • Gain awareness of service utilization problems facing older adults.
  • Explore the biopsychosocial approach in assessment, intervention, and evaluation of older adults.
  • Integrate personal and professional values in a way that supports ethically-based clinical social work practice in agencies with older adults.
  • Apply a generalist strengths-based approach in working with older adults.
  • Discuss a variety of roles that social workers have in working with older adults.
  • Network with other social work professionals in the field of aging/ gerontology.
  • Identify the signs and symptoms of burnout within social practice with older adults.
  • Identify and evaluate strengths of peer workshop presentations on older adults.