West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
701 Market Street, Concourse Level
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Direct Practice with Individuals and Families is an approach to social work grounded in human rights and social justice. Graduates of the West Chester University MSW program are trained to work with individuals and families using strengths-based, research-informed and community-oriented assessment, intervention and evaluation skills to enhance resiliency, support recovery, and build capacity with individuals and families.
The MSW is a 60-credit program with a concentration in direct practice with individuals and families. Qualified applicants who have earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree within the past seven years from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education may qualify for advanced standing and reduce their time of enrollment.
The first year of study focuses on foundation social work practice, and the second year focuses on advanced practice. Besides course work, students are placed in field practica in social service agencies concurrently with practice courses. Advanced study in working with individuals and families is augmented by nine hours of graduate-level electives taken in the department or throughout the University.
The MSW Program consists of 51 semester hours of core courses, plus nine additional hours of electives. Full-time students complete the program in two years and part-time students complete the program in three or four years. For full-time students, this is typically five courses per semester, one of which is the field placement. Daytime and evening sections are offered for each required course. Certain electives are also offered in the summer. The required courses are designed to be taken in a set sequence. Students are expected to follow this sequence; failure to do so jeopardizes timely completion of the program.
Full-time, two-year program
The full-time MSW program is designed to offer students the opportunity to complete the degree in two years. Students take a total of 20 courses, including two field placements (SWG 596, SWG 597, SWG 598, and SWG 599) over the course of four semesters.
- Year 1 fall: SWG 501, SWG 511, SWG 541, SWG 554, SWG 596
- Year 1 spring: SWG 502, SWG 533, SWG 555, SWG 564, SWG 597
- Year 2 fall: SWG 534, SWG 561, SWG 562, SWG 598, plus elective
- Year 2 spring: SWG 542, SWG 563, SWG 599, plus 2 electives
The part-time option is designed for completion within three or four years. Students take two or three designated courses per semester and have a field placement during the second and third years.
Part-time students must be aware that in their second and third years they are required to complete a specific number of field practicum hours: 16 hours per week in second year and 20 hours per week in the third year. In some cases, students with very inflexible schedules can negotiate to do 12 hours per week over a longer period of time. In all cases, students must accept the commitment to daytime hours for field. There may be some field hours in the evening, but these placements are limited because many agencies and field instructors do not offer evening hours.
Course sequence (three years)
- Year 1 fall: SWG 511, SWG 541
- Year 1 spring: SWG 533, SWG 555
- Year 2 fall: SWG 501, SWG 554, SWG 596
- Year 2 spring: SWG 502, SWG 564, SWG 597, plus elective
- Year 3 fall: SWG 561, SWG 562, SWG 534, SWG 598, plus elective
- Year 3 spring: SWG 542, SWG 563, SWG 599, plus elective
Course sequence (four years)
- Year 1 fall: SWG 511, SWG 541
- Year 1 spring: SWG 533, SWG 555
- Year 2 fall: SWG 501, SWG 554, SWG 596
- Year 2 spring: SWG 502, SWG 564, SWG 597
- Year 3 fall: SWG 561, SWG 562, SWG 598
- Year 3 spring: SWG 542, SWG 563, SWG 599
- Year 4 fall: SWG 534, plus elective
- Year 4 spring: two electives
Full-Time, Advanced Standing program
The MSW Advanced Standing program allows students who have received a Bachelor of Social Work degree from a CSWE-accredited undergraduate program within the past seven years to complete the MSW degree in one calendar year. To be eligible, students must meet the GPA requirements and have strong recommendations from their undergraduate program directors.
Advanced Standing students start in the summer with three "bridge" courses. After successfully completing the summer coursework, they enter the full-time Concentration curriculum in the fall.
Part-time, Advanced Standing program
Part-time Advanced Standing students start their first year with the same summer "bridge" courses as full-time Advanced Standing students. Part-time students may then take an additional two academic years to complete the Concentration-level course work. Field placements are in the fall and spring semesters of the first year, concurrent with the advanced practice courses, and immediately following the first summer session. There is no field placement in the second academic year of the program.
Summer before Year 1 (May – July):
Students who wish to explore social work before formally applying are invited to take up to two elective courses. Credit for these courses will be applied toward degree requirements upon matriculation. This opportunity may be particularly useful for career changers who wish to get a sense of the social work profession. Interested individuals should contact Program Director Dr. Page Buck about this option.
After completing 15 credit hours in foundation coursework (SWG 501, SWG 511, SWG 541, SWG 554, and SWG 596) and prior to enrolling in advanced courses, students are eligible and must apply for degree candidacy.
Students in the MSW Program must earn a B or better in all field practicum courses (SWG 596, SWG 597, SWG 598, and SWG 599). Any grade of B- or lower in a field practicum course must be repeated with remediation. Only one field practicum course may be remediated, and a grade of B or better is required before continuing on to the next field practicum course.
The foundation component of the WCU MSW Program consists of 10 courses taken during the first year for full-time students and during the first and second year for part-time students.
This course provides an introduction to professional social work practice, including its models, purposes, methods, values and ethics. It incorporates a problem-solving framework and the ecological or social systems perspective in working with individuals and families and stresses the influence of diversity on practice.
This course focuses on change theories, intervention strategies, and extended knowledge and skills for working with groups, organizations and communities in addition to work with individuals and families.
Within the context of a diverse and stratified society, this course examines the impact of discrimination and oppression on members of special groups, i.e., ethnic minorities, women, elderly, disabled, and gays and lesbians while considering the effects of diversity on human behavior and attitudes. It also considers the richness of human diversity.
This course provides students with a theoretical foundation in the methods of social work research. The characteristics of scientific inquiry, the structure of theories, problem and hypothesis formulation, models of research design, sampling, measurement, and the logic of causal inferences are taught.
This course emphasizes the historical, economic, political and philosophical foundations of American social welfare policy. It highlights the historical quest for social justice advanced by the social work profession.
This course uses a developmental perspective to explore the interaction of biological, psychological, and socio-cultural systems, and the influence of human diversity as determinants of human behavior at the various stages of the life cycle on a micro level.
Utilizing both critical and systems approaches, this mezzo/macro level course will focus on assessing the impact of diversity, culture, and oppression on organizational and community development. Multi-centric models of organizational and community behavior will be explored and implications for social work practice examined. Special emphasis will be on functioning within the bio-psycho-social-ecological context.
Using a bio-psycho-social-spiritual template for analysis, this course examines major childhood, adolescent, and adult psychiatric disorders. The impact of the medical model, the DSM-IV and managed care are evaluated in light of social work values and practice.
Concentration content consists of 10 courses taken during the second year of full-time study and the third and fourth years of part-time study. The advanced curriculum prepares students for evidence-based, direct practice with individuals and families in a variety of practice and organizational settings.
This advanced research methods course focuses on the exploration of the techniques, methods, and issues relevant to ethical practice in evaluation research. Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of social service agency programs will be discussed. Topics covered include history, philosophies and conceptual approaches in program evaluation; design and conducting needs assessment; the analysis and management of program data using computer software; and the measurement of program goals/objectives through process and outcome evaluations. Participation in hands-on individual and/or small-group projects to experience all phases of the evaluation process will be a central pedagogical approach.
This course addresses macro (community and policy) social work practice, particularly as this level of practice relates to enhancing resiliency and building capacity in communities -- from communities of affiliation to geographic communities to larger, societal system levels. Special attention is given to the values, ethics, and roles of the social work profession in the evolution of selected human service policy/programs designed to achieve social and economic justice. Models for policy analysis, strategies for social change, strategies for building capacity, and policy challenges presented by social and legal discrimination are examined.
Building on the collaborative approach learned in the foundation year, this course focuses on theory-driven practice. Particular attention is given to attachment /object relations, cognitive/behavioral and social constructionist theories. Attention will be given to short term and crisis oriented interventions with diverse individuals. In addition to in-class time, students are required to complete a web-based certificate course in Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).
This course builds on the collaborative approach learned in the foundation year and includes advanced knowledge and skills for work with families. Focus will be on three major theoretical approaches to working with families including family systems, eco-structural family therapy, and solution-focused family therapy. Students will also learn about child-centered play therapy approaches to working with children in the context of family. Attention will be given to short term and crisis oriented interventions with diverse families in urban and rural settings.
This course focuses on approaches to social change in communities including the social planning, community development and social action models of community organization. Emphasis will be placed on advocacy, empowerment and social justice with locale, identification and interest communities.
This course is a structured field experience at an approved agency for 224 hours for the semester. Students begin to develop the role of beginning professional social worker employing methods of social work practice utilizing the generalist model. [This course is taken concurrently with SWG 501: Social Work Practice I].
This course involves a structured field experience at an approved agency for 224 hours for the semester. Students continue developing the role of professional social worker and skill in using methods of social work practice while utilizing the generalist model. [This course is taken concurrently with SWG 502: Social Work Practice II.]
This course involves a structured field experience at an approved social agency for a total of 280 hours for the semester. Students incorporate advanced level assessment, intervention, and evaluations skills with individuals and families as they continue to develop as an advanced social work professional. [This course is taken concurrently with SWG 561: Advance Social Work Practice with Individuals, and SWG 562: Advanced Social Work Practice with Families.].
This course involves a structured field experience at an approved social agency for a total of 280 hours for the semester. The student's experience in field practice culminates through coordinating within the professional role: theory-integrated practice with individuals and families, knowledge of the impact of social policy, the role of research in practice, and the influence of diversity and oppression.
More detailed courses descriptions can also be found in the Graduate Catalog.
Students take three electives to round out their knowledge with courses that offer in-depth training in emerging practice areas. Electives are offered throughout the year in both semesters and condensed, week-long formats. Advanced electives are available for matriculated, concentration students only. Several electives are available to pre-matriculation students who may seek permission from the instructor under special circumstances.
The MSW Program typically offers these electives, pending sufficient enrollment:
This course reviews the major theoretical approaches to understanding chemical dependency and its impact on individuals, families, groups and communities. The pharmacology of drugs and alcohol and the nature of addiction are included, as are the influence of culture, ethnicity, gender, the peer group, and social deviance. The principles of self-help and therapeutic communities are applied.
This course reviews the status and position of older adults in society, the community, and the social service delivery system. There is a focus on social work assessment and intervention with elderly clients regarding issues of health, chronic illness, intellectual and emotional status, depression and dementia, relations with the family, care-giving, social networks, poverty, retirement, death, and bereavement.
This course introduces students to the core concepts (theory, knowledge, and skills) informing evidence-based, trauma-specific assessment, intervention and referral services for children, adolescents and families receiving services through the child welfare system. Trauma is broadly defined and includes exposure to traumatic events such as abuse, neglect and witnessing interpersonal crime (e.g. domestic violence), and/or community violence. The course will address the level of functioning of primary care-giving environments and assess the capacity of the community and the child welfare system to facilitate restorative processes.
This course is a joint offering by the WCU MSW Program and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster/American Red Cross, Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter on the many roles that social workers can play in disasters from mental health services to recovery for individuals, families, and communities through rebuilding. Upon successful completion of this course, students will become certified volunteers in Southeastern Pennsylvania Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (SEPA VOAD), a part of a national collaborative of diverse organizations and citizens trained to meet community needs in the wake of a large-scale disaster. Once the student graduates and becomes a licensed social worker in good standing with their state licensing board, the student may qualify for the American Red Cross, Disaster Mental Health Services Team.
This course explores the latest innovations in behavioral health and social services to Veterans and military family members including building resilience, trauma-informed assessment and intervention with individuals and families, prolonged exposure therapy, psychological first aid for military families, suicide risk assessment and prevention, assessment and treatment of military sexual trauma, assessment of family violence and child maltreatment in military families and other research informed assessment and intervention tools. Services for military family members including children, during and post-deployment will also be explored. The wide array of services available within the Veterans Health Administration and in the community will be discussed.
Loss is a formative aspect of human existence. From the moment of birth until the time of death, all humans experience a wide range of powerful, and often painful, losses. Where there is loss, grief frequently follows. Social workers, in diverse practice settings, are regularly asked to support individuals and families navigate the complexities of grieving. In this highly interactive class, students will develop an expert knowledge of contemporary models of grief theory, an understanding of the powerful intersection between professional and personal loss experiences, confidence in assessing the impact of loss on diverse individuals and families, and a toolbox full of creative clinical interventions to support clients grieving all kinds of losses.
This course will provide the theoretical, conceptual, and practical foundation for social workers to engage in a human rights-based approach to social work. Students will gain an understanding of how the international human rights principles can be applied to social work practice in domestic and international settings. A number of historical and current cases from a variety of countries will be used to examine how social workers can both advocate for and respect human rights in a manner that promotes recovery, resiliency, and capacity building.
This course focuses on the role of domestic animals in the lives of the individuals and families. It will examine four primary dimensions of human-animal interaction, including animal-assisted interventions, pet loss, animal hoarding, and animal cruelty. Social workers have recognized the importance the human-animal dynamic for many years. A strong bond can support resilience and recovery, while a lack of empathy towards animals can predict anti-social behaviors. In many cases, people make important decisions based on their relationship with pets, including their willingness to get inpatient care or seek out-of-home support. This course will provide students with a strong understanding of how the human-animal dynamic can enhance social work practice.
This course provides the theoretical underpinnings and practical techniques of Motivational Interviewing, an evidence-based and client-centered approach intensifying motivation and commitment to increase health-promoting behaviors. Developed by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick, Motivational Interviewing is highly compatible with social work values and operationalizes strategies for collaborating with people toward facilitating lasting and self-driven change. The approach has been linked to improved outcomes for individuals who live with co-occurring mental health, substance use, and medical disorders.
This course focuses on the role of social workers and the social work profession in varied health care settings. Particular attention given to examining social determinants of health, working within an interdisciplinary team, health policy/payer sources, ethical concerns, and ethno-cultural awareness and competency. This course also provides students with a framework to understand and apply appropriate theoretical models to individuals, families, and groups within the health care setting. The importance of evidence-based practice and self-care will also be explored.
Issues of illness, dying and the end of life are central to the human experience. Yet our society struggles to openly address the emotional impact of this complex process. Social workers, in every kind of agency, will work directly with clients struggling to make sense of the end of life. The purpose of this course is to familiarize students with the complex issues that confront individuals and families as they face life-threatening illness, dying, and death. We will explore current scholarly research, examine relevant historical perspectives, discuss the impact of culture on dying, and examine effective ways to clinically support families navigating an end-of-life journey. Students will leave this “hands-on” class with a broader understanding of the psychosocial impact of dying on families and the confidence to openly support these clients in a wide range of practice settings.
Students on the main campus also have the opportunity to take electives in other graduate programs within the College of Health Sciences, the College of Education, and the College of Business & Public Affairs. Electives taken outside the department must be at the graduate level and must be related to social work practice. Students must secure the permission of the program director and the faculty member from the other department before enrolling in the course.
Possible electives, pending available space and requisite permissions include: