Dr. Sally Brocksen, a faculty member with a key role in developing Walden’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program, describes how the degree helps professionals prepare for changes—and growth—in the field of social work.

Posted by Jen Raider
Posted on Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Dr. Sally Brocksen knows both social work and social work education well. She brings a PhD in social work and a decade of university teaching experience to her role as the academic program director for Walden University’s new social work program. Earlier in her social services career, she managed a health clinic for low-income Sacramento, Calif., residents and held a fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she focused on autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities. Dr. Brocksen played an instrumental role in creating Walden’s new Master of Social Work (MSW) program and is excited to share her thoughts about the program and the social work profession with Spotlight on Walden.

Dr. Sally Brocksen
Sally Brocksen

What is the role of social workers today?

Our role is to work on behalf of disenfranchised groups to ensure the quality of life and access to basic services for all people. Social workers advocate for the overall well-being of individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

The great thing about social work is that you’re not just treating the individual, but also looking at the individual within his or her environment. We advocate for larger societal changes and improved treatment options and make communities better places.

What is the employment outlook for social workers?

The need for social workers is increasing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of social workers is expected to grow by 25% through 2020. Social workers already make up the largest number of mental health professionals and provide services to vulnerable populations, such as the elderly. The need for social workers is growing because our population is aging. There’s also a growing understanding of social issues, such as the long-term impact of traumatic head injuries. This is creating more opportunities for social workers in veterans affairs, elder care, and mental health care.

What are some of the current issues that social workers must address?

We’re seeing that veterans and their families have incredible needs. Social workers are also involved with the Affordable Care Act. The social work practitioner needs to understand new policies and advocate in communities so that patients and clients get the appropriate coverage they need.

Social workers will also need to ensure people get appropriate services once the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) comes out. This has implications for families whose children may no longer qualify for mental health services through their schools or for ancillary services such as physical and occupational therapy.

Meanwhile, the recession cut social services to the bone. Yet many children and elders rely on these safety net services. As social workers, we need to make sure people are not cut off or left out.

We’re also facing changes within our own profession. The National Association of Social Workers is working toward requiring anyone with the title of social worker to be educated in social work. As more states adopt this standard, some social workers will need to return to school for the appropriate degree.

How can Walden’s new MSW degree program help social workers prepare for their professional opportunities and challenges?

Walden’s MSW degree program helps ensure that those who provide frontline services have a social work education. As an online program, it allows people to continue their social work education while they continue to serve their communities. For those who live in a rural community or an area without a social work program, Walden’s online MSW provides an opportunity for professional education.

The time is right for social work to embrace online education, and an MSW program is a natural marriage with Walden’s social change mission.

What are some of the hallmarks of Walden’s MSW program?

We’re using a case study approach in our MSW program. As students learn the content, they apply it to specific cases dealing with issues social workers face on a daily basis. These are cases involving diverse populations, provided by social workers in the field throughout the country.

Through an integrated media experience that complements the written cases, students “visit” the same four families throughout their education. Video clips derived from the cases make it possible to read nonverbal cues and to critique the process. Students also complete two face-to-face residencies, where they demonstrate their social work practice skills to fellow students and faculty, plus two field placements in their own communities.

Most important, the values embedded throughout the Walden program speak to what it means to be a social worker. Six different elective clusters allow students to focus on their areas of interest—military; addictions; crisis and trauma; children, families, and couples; forensic social work; and medical social work. There’s also an advanced standing option for those who qualify.

The social work program at Walden University is now part of the School of Social Work and Human Services. The school’s mission statement reflects the learning outcomes and the professional standards for social work. Social work education is a great fit for Walden University and we are excited to provide this educational opportunity to current and future social workers.

Learn more at www.WaldenU.edu/msw.

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