Course Descriptions

Online Master of Social Work Courses

Courses from the School of Social Work’s online Master of Social Work programs are designed by the same renowned faculty members who teach on campus. All course descriptions for the Traditional and Advanced Standing online MSW programs are listed below.


SWK 715: Administration in Human Services

Familiarize yourself with the three primary supervisory tasks: administration, education and support. You will learn the difference between supervision and leadership, assess your own leadership style in a variety of ways, and learn several leadership techniques. You will also become familiar with various administrative roles, such as program assessment, team building, human resource management, board relationships, working with the media, budgeting and ethical practice.

Prerequisites:

  • SWK 601 or Advanced Standing status

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SWK 743: Advanced Integrated Social Work Practice

Gain a set of social work skills that includes integrated assessment, intervention planning, intervention methodologies and direct practice in multidisciplinary teams. These skills will be presented with application in contexts such as aging, child welfare, mental health and health care, as well as micro to mezzo linkages in community-based practice. The course presents conceptual frameworks for integrated social work practice that build on your understanding of systems theory, empowerment theories, strengths-based perspectives, and evidence- and trauma-informed practice.

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SWK 781: Alcohol and Other Drugs in Social Work Practice

Learn relevant theory and skills needed by social workers to address the alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems they will encounter with clients in various practice settings. The course uses lecture, discussion, case study, videos, music and field experiences to facilitate learning in the following areas: current theory pertaining to AOD problems, the role of self-help (mutual aid) groups, assessment strategies appropriate to human services settings, motivational enhancement, relapse prevention, family issues, key public policy issues and the chemical dependency treatment system. The influence of gender, age, race, disability and sexual orientation on addiction and recovery are also addressed. In keeping with the “personal awareness” aspect of social work practice, the course involves critical exploration of your own attitudes and beliefs regarding AOD.

Prerequisite:

  • SWK 601

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SWK 662: Applied Research in Social Work

Prepare for the design and execution of research in human service settings. Emphasis is placed on the development of research skills for the integration of research and practice. You will have the opportunity to practice research activities through a set of exercises that require the development of a research proposal, the review of data collection instruments, a review of computerized data analysis, a review of internet-based research and a critical analysis of the social science literature.

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SWK 732: Advanced Practice With Individuals, Families and Groups

Build on the social work foundation practice courses and the Social Work 730 Family Systems Theory course. The emphasis is on a systems approach to practice. The basic systems paradigm provides the context for practice. You will be expected to learn advanced skills and methods necessary for working with individuals, families and groups in various settings. Problem definition and proposed solution through a variety of methods and related skills will be introduced. Various views of change within a systems framework will be explored. 

Prerequisite:

  • SWK 730

Corequisite:

  • SWK 771

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SWK 776: Clinical Practice Evaluation

You will take this course in tandem with your field placement and focus on the evaluation of clinical practice. The course covers principles of measurement, single system design, critical thinking in clinical decision making, quantitative and qualitative methods of systematic self-evaluation, instrument design and data analysis.

Prerequisite:

  • SWK 662

Corequisites:

  • SWK 771 or 772

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SWK 712: Clinical Social Work With Groups

This advanced practice course emphasizes group process and introduces you to the application of group theory across diverse group work settings (e.g., educational, support, mutual aid/self-help, task and therapy groups). You will be required to: 1) Review relevant literature and materials pertaining to a best-practice model for group work with a specific population; 2) Facilitate a small group exercise within the class, targeted to a defined population; 3) Pursue group experiences outside of the class (e.g., facilitate or co-facilitate at least one group in field placement or workplace and/or observe group dynamics in action; e.g., observing group therapy when appropriate and/or visiting a group that is open to visitors, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon or others); 4) The final assignment will provide the opportunity for you to work with a small group of peers to prepare a classroom session focused on a specific aspect of group intervention. 

Prerequisite:

  • SWK 601

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SWK 777: Community Organization and Development

Develop an advanced understanding of community economic development in urban and, to a lesser focus, rural areas within a social work framework. Throughout the semester, emphasis will be placed on the usage of a variety of community economic development tools. Social and cultural factors including race, class and gender are placed at the center of community development approaches and are woven into the course throughout the semester. Correspondingly, social work values of self-determination, advocacy and social justice form the basis upon which various practitioner approaches and methods are developed.

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SWK 738: Core Concepts in Trauma Treatment for Children and Adolescents

This course introduces the core concepts (general theory and foundational knowledge) that inform evidence-based assessment and intervention with traumatized children and adolescents. Trauma is broadly defined and includes children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events including, but not limited to natural disasters, war, abuse and neglect, medical trauma and witnessing interpersonal crime (e.g., domestic violence) and other traumatic events. The course will highlight the role of development, culture and empirical evidence in trauma-specific interventions with children, adolescents and their families. It will address the level of functioning of primary care environments and assess the capacity of the community to facilitate restorative processes. 

Prerequisite:

  • SWK 601

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SWK 754: Death, Dying and Terminal Illness 

Develop an understanding of death, dying terminal illness and coping with trauma and loss impacting individuals, families and identified social networks. In this course, you will study social work practice, theory and ethics surrounding the dying process.

Prerequisite:

  • Previous clinical coursework

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SWK 736: Evidence-Based Approaches to Mental Health Treatment

Develop the knowledge and skills necessary for working with individuals with a diagnosis of serious mental illness using recovery-oriented, evidence-based practices (EBPs). You will become familiar with the relationship of evidence-based practices to current health care priorities, as well as to social work ethics and recovery-oriented standards of practice. Several specific evidence-based practices will be discussed in terms of their key elements, practice applications and need for further study. You will gain experience searching for evidence-based practice resources as well as participating in online learning related to EBPs. You will also be introduced to organizational change principles and the importance of ongoing learning to the health of organizations. You will build self-awareness of your own learning styles and preferences as well as your own values related to the use of knowledge, leadership and systems change.

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SWK 768: Family & Child Welfare Policy

Familiarize yourself with a range of policies affecting families and children, with particular emphasis on the political and institutional questions raised by the delivery of services to vulnerable populations. We will examine policies and programs in two broad policy areas: family policies that affect all and/or high-risk populations of families and intensive interventions through the child welfare system to protect children.

Prerequisites:

  • SWK 611 or Advanced Standing status

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SWK 727: Family Violence: Policy, Practice and Research

Understand family violence as a biopsychosocial phenomenon with particular attention to partner violence. Elder abuse, child abuse and sibling violence are discussed but are secondary topics. Although historical, sociological and political perspectives are explored, we focus on an integrated theoretical model that supports movement toward evidence-based practice and policy innovation.

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SWK 730: Family Systems Theory

Gain an introduction to the theory and practice of family therapy. The course reviews the development of the seminal thinking about family systems and family therapy. It also studies the various theories and approaches that have emerged more recently. Consideration is given to the paradigm shift represented by the systemic/cybernetic perspective, as well as postmodernism and the related ideas of constructivism and social constructionism. Course objectives will be met through a variety of methods, including lectures, assigned readings, writing assignments, experiential exercises, films/videos and class discussions. There will be a planned template of topics for each class session as to the proposed focus and direction of the session, but topics may be moved or continued to the following week depending on the necessary extension of any given discussion.

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SWK 671 Field Instruction I 

Learn to apply knowledge, social work principles, values and methods and obtain increasing competence and skill for professional practice. This course has two components: an internship in an approved social service agency under the supervision of an agency-based field instructor and a seminar that meets weekly with an instructor.

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SWK 672 Field Instruction II 

Learn to apply knowledge, social work principles, values and methods and obtain increasing competence and skill for professional practice. This course has two components: an internship in an approved social service agency under the supervision of an agency-based field instructor and a seminar that meets weekly with an instructor.

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SWK 771 Field Instruction III 

Participate in a supervised practice experience in social agencies related to your concentration choice. The course has two components: an off-campus internship in an approved social service agency under the supervision of an agency-based field instructor and a seminar that meets weekly with an instructor.

Advanced Integrated Practice Concentration

Corequisites:

  • SWK 743 Advanced Integrated Social Work Practice 
  • SWK 775 or 776

Advanced Clinical Practice Concentration

Corequisites:

  • SWK 732 Advanced Practice With Individuals, Families and Groups
  • SWK 776

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SWK 772: Field Instruction IV

Participate in a supervised practice experience in social agencies related to your concentration choice. Field Instruction is provided in collaboration with human/social service agencies, forming an integral part of the preparation of students for professional practice in social work. The concentration field experience emphasizes the knowledge, values and skills of advanced social work practice. You and a field instructor will cooperatively use a formal instrument to develop an individualized Professional Development Plan (PDP). This document details the opportunities/activities that will permit you to demonstrate the knowledge, values and skills that support the attainment of the program competencies and advanced related practice behaviors. As a student social work intern, you will be expected to carry a number of client cases, projects and assignments specific to your concentration level and focus. In addition, as a concentration-level student, you will be expected to organize your workload to demonstrate the assumption of personal responsibility for planning and setting priorities with regard to use of agency time and resources, and to take increased responsibility for your own learning through productive use and content of supervisory sessions. 

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SWK 601: Fundamentals of Social Work Practice I

Gain an introduction to direct practice in social work. Two frameworks inform course readings and discussions, the generalist and ecological perspectives. These frameworks provide practical tools for assessing common challenges that social workers face in their practice. Through course readings, you will learn to formulate effective interventions with clients and client systems. Class exercises will be used to develop direct practice skills that apply to working with diverse communities. Field-based assignments will advance your conceptual grasp of the fundamentals of social work practice and build a foundation for advanced concentrations.

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SWK 602: Fundamentals of Social Work Practice II

Learn to understand how communities, political systems and organizations shape possibilities for actors within them. This course is also designed to prompt you to think about how to act strategically within these institutions to advance social justice. This course examines the strengths of diverse communities in relation to best practices. Attention is given to assessing community and organizational assets and needs, as well as engaging in policy advocacy. Building upon Social Work Practice I, you will use exercises and projects to develop the knowledge necessary to apply macro skills in your social work practice.

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SWK 763: Health Care Policy

Develop knowledge about health policies and programs relevant to the health practice field and its client systems. Using a public health framework, health laws, policies and programs are examined in terms of 1) assumptions and values; 2) formulation, development and implementation; and 3) effectiveness. The roles of the different professionals and organizations that participate in delivering health care are examined. Health disparities and inequalities in health care access experienced by vulnerable, at-risk populations and minority populations are explored in light of major changes in both health policy and social welfare policy. Health policies involving the human-animal relationship also will be covered.

Prerequisites:

  • SWK 611 or consent of instructor

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SWK/WGS 628: Human Diversity in Social Contexts

How, do you, as a social worker, ethically and effectively engage with people who are different from you? How does your own social location in terms of race, class, gender, sexuality, age, (dis)ability and other factors affect the way you view problems and solutions? How can you challenge identity-based oppression rather than reproducing it through your work with vulnerable people? In this course, these questions will be explored as you learn about the broad spectrum of human diversity as well as the structural inequality, discrimination and privilege that give our differences serious real-world consequences. You will become familiar with various conceptual lenses for understanding difference and its consequences, including multiculturalism, social constructionism, critical race theory and intersectionality. Special attention will be paid to issues of concern for social work practice with a diversity of individuals and communities in the U.S. In this course, you and your peers will explore your own multifaceted identities and investigate some of your own experiences with discrimination and privilege. You will develop proficiency at talking with others about difference in ways that are respectful, reflective and conducive to mutual learning and growth. And you will practice using the ideas encountered in course readings to critically engage with current events and your experiences in the field.

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SWK 627: Introduction to Military Culture and Social Work Practice 

After reviewing a brief history of mental health practice with military service members, veterans and their families, you will gain an understanding of the unique demands of the military and its influence on the service member and the social worker. It will entail a thorough review of command structure, the NASW code of ethics and ethical dilemmas social workers encounter when working in a military environment. In this course you will examine the many complex aspects of trauma and available evidence-based treatment modalities. In addition, the course will highlight the effects of trauma on the entire family unit, impacting children and spouses. The role of psychological stigma, systemic and organizational barriers to care will be explored. The role of social workers in assisting the service member with reintegration back into the civilian sector and access to VA care will also be examined.

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SWK 761: Mental Health Policy

Build on your foundation in social welfare policy. Content focuses on the analysis of policies and programs in the mental health arena and the processes for policy advocacy and policy development and implementation in mental health. Special attention is given to public understandings of mental illness, stigma and how these and the definition of mental illness shape policies. Also examined is the organizational structure in both the public and the private sectors for services delivery, the financing of mental health services, the rights of persons with psychiatric disabilities, rights involving mental health treatment and differences in service use by different population groups. Topics of special importance to social work practice, including confidentiality and duty to warn, are covered.

Prerequisites:

  • SWK 611 or consent of instructor

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SWK 626: Persons in Social Context

In this broad-based foundation course, you are encouraged to understand that human behavior—individual, family, group or in larger communities—is influenced by a wide array of factors. Sociological theories of institutions and psychological theories of behavior are explored separately as well as integrated into bio-psycho-social-spiritual and ecological systemic models. SWK 626 uses biological, psychological and socio-cultural content to analyze human behavior and development and the functioning of social systems. Theoretical conceptualization is within a developmental socio-ecological perspective on the reciprocal relationship of persons and social contexts. The course is designed to sharpen your capacity to understand and systematically explain human behavior and social events you will face in human service positions, and to consider the pragmatic, political and ethical dimensions of these explanations.

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SWK 709: Practice With Children, Adolescents and Families

Perform an in-depth analysis of issues commonly faced in working with children, adolescents and their families. The course investigates the principles at work in the dynamics in these families and in the organizations in which they are situated. Using a systems theory approach and current research findings, the course focuses on treatment approaches that are most efficacious in the remediation of specific problems for children, adolescents and families. 

Prerequisites:

  • SWK 626
  • SWK 730
  • SWK 732

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SWK 735: Principles and Methods of Social Work Practice With Black Families

Explore the principles and methods in working with Black families. Various practice interventions will be examined within the cultural context germane to this population with respect given to historical underpinnings that have molded the consciousness of the Black experience in America.

Prerequisites:

  • SWK 601 or consent of instructor

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SWK 775: Program Evaluation

This course is designed for students whose primary interest is in the evaluation of health and human service programs. While the course emphasizes the internal evaluation of service delivery programs, connections are also drawn to policy level evaluation and the evaluation of clinical practice. The overall purpose of the course is to help you develop the conceptual knowledge and research skills necessary to evaluate social work practice in its many forms and applications. The course first presents an overview of basic elements of program evaluation and examines the agency context of evaluation, using your field placements. You will develop a program description and visually portray program theory. Building on this, the course addresses how to develop meaningful, context-appropriate evaluation questions of needs assessment, program monitoring, process evaluation, outcome evaluation or cost analysis. We then review the conceptual and methodological tools and procedures needed to design an evaluation that would answer the questions. Finally, the course addresses how to develop a communication and reporting strategy that will maximize utilization of what is learned from evaluation. Throughout the course, ethics and cultural competence are addressed as core issues of evaluation practice. You will also become a more critical consumer of published research and evaluation literature.

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SWK 774: Proposal Writing and Program Development

Prepare to participate in the planning, development and funding of social service programs in both private nonprofit and public settings. Emphasis is placed on the development of skills that combine the technical aspects of grant-seeking with the analytical skills of social planning. Technical, political and methodological factors will be explored. Methods of identifying and accessing various sources of financial support will be included. Although proposal writing will be the major focus, other forms of fundraising will be covered briefly. You are not required to have prior proposal writing or fundraising experience. Although not required, it is recommended that you have field placements or are employed in agencies where you can participate in program development and/or proposal writing activities concurrent with this course. You must at least have access in some form (e.g., as a volunteer, prior placements) to an agency for those activities. 

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SWK 724: Psychopathology

Examine the stressful processes of human living, focusing on attitudinal and behavioral responses that may be maladaptive. Traditional and contemporary theories and classification systems, as developed by the mental health disciplines, are studied, as well as relevant perspectives from sociology, anthropology and biology.

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SWK 707: Short-Term Intervention in Social Work

This advanced social work practice course in short-term interventions is designed to provide you with an introductory level of efficient and effective knowledge for application of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, cognitive therapy and narrative therapy to resolve personal and interpersonal problems. Foundational work will include the evolution of short-term methods, the difference between long- and short-term models as well as basic skills necessary to ensure genuine, empathetic and respectful therapeutic rapport and assessment. Emphasis throughout the course will be placed on working with individuals, families and couples from diverse backgrounds and those who have experienced trauma, crisis or grief. 

Prerequisites:

  • SWK 601 or consent of instructor

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SWK 779: Seminar in Organizational Development and Leadership

Gain an introduction to selected theories, research and practice models of organizational development in the human services. This course is both an outward exploration of how organizations function as well as a personal exploration of the self as an organizational change agent. As such, we explore both the underlying assumptions regarding the nature of organizations and the implications of those assumptions for the conduct of change. Using social science and social work theory to interpret your own practice experiences and practice examples from the professional literature, you will develop an appreciation of the complexity of organizational development as a powerful tool to promote change. You will develop skills of analysis and synthesis aimed at constructing integrated approaches to meeting today’s mezzo/macro practice challenges and opportunities. You will perceive the organizational settings where practice takes place as an appropriate milieu for change. Just as individuals, families, groups, networks and communities are legitimate client-systems for specialized intervention, so are human service organizations. Organizational development is a form of social work macro practice and, as such, embraces the same goals and values, with particular emphasis on creating and maintaining more humane, growth-promoting organizational contexts for effective practice.

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SWK 611: Social Welfare Policy and Services

Learn about the history and philosophies underlying social welfare policy in the United States and the policies and programs currently in place. Attention is given to the economic, political and social factors that influence policy. The values, ethics and roles of the various social policy actors, including social workers, in the evolution of selected human service policies and programs designed to achieve social and economic justice also are addressed. Methods of policy analysis, strategies for affecting policy and the differential effects of policies on racial and ethnic minorities and other population subgroups are examined. You will be introduced to, and apply, basic techniques of policy analysis as a component of public policy development and implementation.

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SWK 733: Social Work Practice in Mental Health

Designed for students in the Clinical concentration, this course focuses on advanced skills and methods necessary for working with clients in various settings. The course emphasizes the professional use-of-self and integrates bio-psycho-social-spiritual and ecological-systemic models in considering human behavior. You will have the opportunity to learn principles of group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and psychopharmacology. This course will also include content on assessment and treatment planning. The impact of gender, race, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, power and privilege will be addressed throughout the course. Class sessions will build on knowledge from other courses in the curriculum and will include the opportunity for discussions of field experiences, case presentations and feedback from colleagues and instructor. This course will be taken concurrently with field practicum. 

Prerequisites:

  • SWK 601
  • SWK 730
  • SWK 732

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SWK 714: Supervision, Consultation and Staff Development


Examine the organizational context of administration, education and supportive social work supervision, staff development and consultation. Research shows that the quality of an organization’s supervision and management has the greatest impact on social work staff job satisfaction, quality of work, morale and staff development. The course aims to introduce you to the principles, methods and techniques of social work supervision. Emphasis is on enhancing staff motivation, morale and effectiveness. 

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SWK 740: Treatment of Complex Trauma With Individuals

Review current approaches and best practices in the clinical treatment of adults who have experienced complex trauma. Trauma theory, diagnostic principles and the predominant treatment models and associated techniques will be explored, as well as related clinical dilemmas and controversies. Psychopharmacological approaches in conjunction with psychotherapeutic modalities will be discussed. Selection and application of appropriate intervention approaches based on specific type and timing of trauma and access to resources will be considered.

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