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MSW Focus Areas and Embedded Certificates

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Take a deep dive into the social work topics that interest you and chart a course toward your ideal career.

Pursue Your Passion With a Focus Area or Embedded Graduate Certificate in Social Work.

Do you want to expand your knowledge and skill set in a specific area of social work? Walden’s online MSW program offers focus areas that allow you to explore some of the most pressing issues in the social work field. Target your learning and start shaping your dream career working with the populations that matter most to you.

  • Focus areas: Customize your online social work program by filling the two open electives with courses from various focus areas. You can choose courses from different areas—or focus your electives by choosing both courses from a single area.
  • Embedded certificates: If you want to take your studies a step further, you can add a third course from a single focus area and earn an optional certificate along with your MSW degree. (Note: Certificates require 5 additional credits and any associated costs)

Focus Areas and Embedded Certificates Courses

Addictions

Clients experiencing addiction have specific needs when it comes to accessing and receiving services. In this focus area, you’ll learn to:

  • Address the unique needs of patients with addiction and the impact addiction has across all aspects of the client’s life.
  • Perform advanced social work skills and assist the client in creating a plan for recovery.
  • Develop appropriate interventions using current theory for practice to support these interventions.
  • Apply social work best practices to help clients develop skills to navigate the path to recovery.

Courses

Course Code Title Credits
Choose two of the courses below to create a focus area for your program—or take all three courses to earn an embedded Graduate Certificate in Social Work: Addictions.
SOCW 6103
Introduction to Addictions

Students gain an overview of the addiction counseling profession in this course. They are introduced to aspects of professional functioning as an addiction counselor, including but not limited to: role setting; history, philosophy, and trends in addictions counseling; professional standards; the effects of crises and trauma-causing events on persons with addictions; self-care; and ethical and culturally sensitive practices. Students also explore competencies, credentialing, and other professional issues.

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6202
Treatment of Addictions

Students in this course are provided with an understanding of theories, treatments, and  interventions for addiction. The focus of the course is to introduce various models of treatment, recovery, relapse prevention, and continuing care for addictive disorders. In addition, students understand the treatment principles and philosophies of addiction-related programs. Students increase their self-awareness as helping professionals by understanding their own limitations, recognizing when they need additional resources and support, and knowing when and where to refer clients. In addition, students examine substance abuse policies and regulatory processes that influence service delivery in addiction counseling.

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6443
Psychopharmacology and Biopsychosocial Considerations for Social Workers

The potential for addictive disorders to present like a variety of medical and psychological disorders is common. In this course, students examine how to treat addictions that may coexist with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and other psychological disorders as described in the DSM-IV-TR. They survey a spectrum of psychotropic medications and their use in the treatment of mental, behavioral, and addictive disorders. Students also explore factors that increase the likelihood for a person, community, or group to be at risk for psychoactive substance use disorders. Through this course, students gain an understanding of the basic classifications, indications, and contraindications of commonly prescribed medications so that they make appropriate referrals within treatment teams. (Prerequisite(s): SOCW 6090 and SOCW 6111.)

(5 cr.)

Child and Family

The Child and Family focus area may be a good fit if you want to work in community social welfare agencies, child welfare agencies, or the juvenile justice system. Through these courses, you’ll learn to:

  • Address the social service needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged children, youth, and families in social work settings.
  • Integrate social work best practices when choosing appropriate interventions for these populations.
  • Distinguish between the practices and policies applicable to publicly funded and nonprofit agency settings that serve children and families.
  • Evaluate legal and ethical issues pertaining to working with these groups in social work settings.

Courses

Course Code Title Credits
Choose two of the courses below to create a focus area for your program—or take three of the four courses to earn an embedded Graduate Certificate in Social Work: Child and Family.
SOCW 6215
Advanced Social Work Practice With Children and Family Services

This is an advanced practice course designed to provide students with opportunities to examine social work practice with diverse child and family systems, using an ecological-developmental framework. Through case studies, videos, and interactive media, students learn to apply social work skills of collaboration, assessment, child and family therapy, and multilevel interventions designed to build on strengths that exist within individuals and in the social contexts (e.g., family, school, work, neighborhoods, and communities) where children and families live. Students learn how to foster child and family success in their social environments, especially those challenged by stress, poverty, violence, disorganization, and/or oppression. Additionally, students critically evaluate legal and ethical issues related to working in this specialization. (Prerequisite(s): SOCW 6090 and SOCW 6111.)

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6446
Social Work Practice With Children and Adolescents

In this course, students examine empirically supported theories and techniques for working with children and adolescents in the counseling process. Students work toward enhancing their theoretical and practical understanding of the systemic interplay among children, adolescents, families, and the stakeholders in their lives. They engage in coursework and readings focused on a family-systems view of intervention, and they devote special attention to developmental, cognitive, behavioral, educational, multicultural, and environmental issues. Students assess a distinct group of empirically supported interventions aimed at improving individual and family functioning. They also explore legal and ethical issues related to counseling children and adolescents. (Prerequisite(s): SOCW 6090 and SOCW 6111.)

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6456
Social Work Practice With Couples and Family Systems

The focus of this course is on gaining an advanced understanding of theories and techniques for working with couples, married individuals, and families, as well as to acquire skills for theory integration and theory-based treatment. Through video demonstrations and other topical materials, students witness and examine empirically supported treatments and techniques in prevention, intervention, development, and promoting the well-being of marriages, couples, and families. They explore systemic implications for conceptualization, assessment, treatment planning, and interventions. Students also learn how to assess procedures for critically evaluating relevant research and how to apply these findings to their counseling practices. Additionally, they explore methods of adapting models to meet the needs of a diverse society and the legal and ethical issues related to working in this specialty area. (Prerequisite(s): SOCW 6090 and SOCW 6111.)

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6362
Human Sexuality

Students are provided with a framework for understanding human sexuality in the context of couples, marriage, and family counseling in this course. Students explore empirically supported counseling approaches related to sexual functioning, intimacy, gender, and sexual orientation. They use a systemic framework for understanding the role and impact of sexuality on couples, marriages, and families. Students also explore and discuss specific topics related to issues of sexual diversity and gender identity.

(5 cr.)

Healthcare

Certain patient populations and their families face a unique array of challenges in accessing and receiving medical services. In this focus area, you’ll learn to:

  • Address the special social service needs of patients with chronic illnesses and/or their families in the healthcare setting.
  • Perform advanced social work skills with multidisciplinary teams in the healthcare setting.
  • Develop appropriate interventions using current theory for healthcare practice.
  • Apply social work best practices in working with clients and their families in the healthcare environment.

Courses

Course Code Title Credits
Choose two of the courses below to create a focus area for your program—or take all three courses to earn an embedded Graduate Certificate in Social Work: Healthcare.
SOCW 6204
Medical Social Work I

This course is designed to provide students with an advanced understanding of the roles and competencies of social workers in medical settings. Students' knowledge of medical terminology, crisis intervention, medical aftercare and discharge planning, mental health evaluations and chemical dependency evaluations, community resources, and medical treatment teams is enhanced. At the end of this course, students will also understand ethical practice with regard to medical social work. (Prerequisite(s): SOCW 6090 and SOCW 6111.)

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6205
Medical Social Work II

In this course, students are provided with knowledge and skills for supporting vulnerable populations, including individuals and families dealing with acute, chronic, and terminal illness, disability, or the challenges of aging. Students extend their knowledge of support and resources for those dealing with organ transplants; psychosocial aspects of illness and health, grief and loss, and end-of-life decision making. Students enhance their knowledge of ethical group and individual interventions for these vulnerable populations. (Prerequisite(s): SOCW 6090, SOCW 6111, and SOCW 6204.)

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6206
Interprofessional Healthcare Practice

[Under development]

(5 cr.)

Military

The Military focus area prepares you to address the specific needs of active military personnel, veterans, and their families. In these courses, you’ll learn to:

  • Help military personnel and their families navigate challenges that arise before, during, and after deployment.
  • Evaluate the impact of military service commitment on the social services needs of military members and their families.
  • Integrate social work best practices to develop appropriate interventions for members of the armed forces, veterans, and their families.

Courses

Course Code Title Credits
Choose two of the courses below to create a focus area for your program—or take all three courses to earn an embedded Graduate Certificate in Social Work: Military.
SOCW 6212
Social Work Practice With Military Populations

This is an advanced practice course designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills to apply clinical social work services when working with military members, military families, and veterans. Students in this course will concentrate on the application of evidence-based practice theories and group work models consistent with empowerment and ecological perspectives. The particular focus of this course is on military groups from diverse cultural backgrounds. Students will demonstrate clinical practice skills in the assessment, intervention, and evaluation of military systems and groups. Students in this course will focus on the influence of social work professional values in practice in working with military members, their families, and veterans. Students will learn to use the problem-solving process to develop mutually agreed goals and objectives, mediate, and facilitate the treatment process. (Prerequisite(s): SOCW 6090 and SOCW 6111.)

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6410
Military Culture for Social Workers

This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of military culture. The focus of this course is on understanding the world of work for military personnel; the sociocultural identity development of military personnel; the experience of military families; support for military personnel and their families; and socioeconomic and other lifestyle challenges for military personnel. As a result of this course, students will be more informed about the mental health and social support needs of these populations. (Prerequisite(s): SOCW 6090 and SOCW 6111.)

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6411
Social Work in Trauma, Crisis, and Stress With Military Personnel

The specific focus of this course is on the wartime and post-war and combat trauma, crisis, and stress experiences and responses of military personnel. Students in this course will develop an understanding of the short-term and long-term impact of post-traumatic stress and vicarious trauma. In addition to understanding how combat and war-time experiences impact individual military personnel, students will also focus on these individuals' families. As a result of learning in this course, students will be better prepared to provide services and mental health support to trauma, crisis, and stress of military personnel. (Prerequisite(s): SOCW 6090 and SOCW 6111.)

(5 cr.)

Trauma

Working with individuals who have faced trauma can be challenging for even the most experienced social worker. In this focus area, you’ll learn to:

  • Address the unique needs of patients who present following a traumatic event.
  • Demonstrate the ability to perform advanced social work skills in assessing and planning treatment options for these clients.
  • Evaluate interventions utilizing trauma-informed theory.
  • Apply best practices in working with clients across all system levels.

Courses

Course Code Title Credits
Choose two of the courses below to create a focus area for your program—or take all three courses to earn an embedded Graduate Certificate in Social Work: Trauma.
SOCW 6333
Vicarious Trauma and Compassion Fatigue

To gain an understanding and awareness of vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue for trauma-response-helping professionals, students examine intervention strategies and models for treating and preventing vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue through the lens of counselor educators, supervisors, and clinicians. Applying course concepts, students gain hands-on practice conducting a needs assessment and examining the use of standardized instruments. They also recommend social change related to vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue to inform and better prepare trauma-response-helping professionals. Students engage in course assignments that emphasize the ethical, legal, multicultural, and spiritual implications for wellness and self-care, including personal, professional, and organizational elements. As a final project, students interview a trauma-response-helping professional and develop an organizational wellness plan for their setting.

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6336
Crisis, Trauma, and Disaster Response

Students in this course gain an understanding of the personal and systemic impact of crises, disasters, and other trauma-causing events on individuals, couples, families, and communities. Students examine theories and response models as they relate to sexual trauma, crisis in individuals and families, crisis in the community, and crisis in the nation and in the world. They explore and discuss topics related to counselor competencies, vicarious trauma and countertransference, specific diagnoses, and advocacy. Students also engage in assignments designed to provide practical application of crisis assessment. Through contemporary articles and case studies, they consider and discuss cultural, legal, and ethical issues related to crisis, trauma, and disaster events and response.

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6337
Trauma-Informed Practice, Neurobiology of Trauma

[Under development]

(5 cr.)

Other Elective Courses

Course Code Title Credits
SOCW 6145
Crisis Management

By studying the fundamentals of crisis management and crisis leadership, students develop an understanding of the theories and models related to crises, disasters, and other trauma-causing events. Students also explore ethical, legal, and diversity considerations in crisis and trauma response. At the end of the course, students will understand models for training and supporting other counselors in the areas of crisis response applicable to community, national, and international crises. Furthermore, students develop a crisis management plan for their own community.

(5 cr.)
SOCW 6446
Social Work Practice With Children and Adolescents

In this course, students examine empirically supported theories and techniques for working with children and adolescents in the counseling process. Students work toward enhancing their theoretical and practical understanding of the systemic interplay among children, adolescents, families, and the stakeholders in their lives. They engage in coursework and readings focused on a family-systems view of intervention, and they devote special attention to developmental, cognitive, behavioral, educational, multicultural, and environmental issues. Students assess a distinct group of empirically supported interventions aimed at improving individual and family functioning. They also explore legal and ethical issues related to counseling children and adolescents. (Prerequisite(s): SOCW 6090 and SOCW 6111.)

(5 cr.)
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