Social Work

University of Mississippi

MSW Program Mission

To prepare competent and ethical clinical social workers, for scientific inquiry, who are leaders committed to diversity, social and economic justice, and the enrichment of the quality of life, with systems of all sizes, at every level of society.

Goals:

  1. Prepare professional clinical social workers, who are able to develop knowledge for competent, effective, and ethical autonomous social work practice and the development of service delivery systems.
  2. Prepare students for professional clinical social work practice through the study of its history, purposes, philosophy, and theoretical and practice frameworks.
  3. Prepare students who will provide leadership in the effective and ethical clinical social work practice with diverse populations and systems of all sizes, to alleviate poverty and oppression, and to provide social and economic justice for all citizens at the local, national, and global levels.
  4. Provide students with content about the social contexts of clinical social work practice, the changing nature of those contexts, the behaviors found in systems, and the dynamics of change.
  5. Prepare students who will demonstrate a commitment to continue life-long learning and professional growth.

Core Foundation Competencies and Practice Behaviors

Educational Policy 2.1—Core Competencies

Competency-based education is an outcome performance approach to curriculum design. Competencies are measurable practice behaviors that are comprised of knowledge, values, and skills. The goal of the outcome approach is to demonstrate the integration and application of the competencies in practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The nine core competencies are listed below (Competency 1-9), followed by a description of characteristic knowledge, values, skills, and the resulting practice behaviors that may be used to operationalize the curriculum and assessment methods.

Competency 1: Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior

Social workers understand the value base of the profession and its ethical standards, as well as relevant laws and regulations that may impact practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Social workers understand frameworks of ethical decision-making and how to apply principles of critical thinking to those frameworks in practice, research, and policy arenas. Social workers recognize personal values and the distinction between personal and professional values. They also understand how their personal experiences and affective reactions influence their professional judgment and behavior. Social workers understand the profession’s history, its mission, and the roles and responsibilities of the profession. Social Workers also understand the role of other professions when engaged in inter-professional teams. Social workers recognize the importance of life-long learning and are committed to continually updating their skills to ensure they are relevant and effective. Social workers also understand emerging forms of technology and the ethical use of technology in social work practice. Social workers:

  • make ethical decisions by applying the standards of the NASW Code of Ethics, relevant laws and regulations, models for ethical decision-making, ethical conduct of research, and additional codes of ethics as appropriate to context;
  • use reflection and self-regulation to manage personal values and maintain professionalism in practice situations;
  • demonstrate professional demeanor in behavior; appearance; and oral, written, and electronic communication;
  • use technology ethically and appropriately to facilitate practice outcomes; and
  • use supervision and consultation to guide professional judgment and behavior.

Competency 2: Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice

Social workers understand how diversity and difference characterize and shape the human experience and are critical to the formation of identity. The dimensions of diversity are understood as the intersectionality of multiple factors including but not limited to age, class, color, culture, disability and ability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, immigration status, marital status, political ideology, race, religion/spirituality, sex, sexual orientation, and tribal sovereign status. Social workers understand that, as a consequence of difference, a person’s life experiences may include oppression, poverty, marginalization, and alienation as well as privilege, power, and acclaim. Social workers also understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and recognize the extent to which a culture’s structures and values, including social, economic, political, and cultural exclusions, may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create privilege and power. Social workers:

  • apply and communicate understanding of the importance of diversity and difference in shaping life experiences in practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels;
  • present themselves as learners and engage clients and constituencies as experts of their own experiences; and
  • apply self-awareness and self-regulation to manage the influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse clients and constituencies.

Competency 3: Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice

Social workers understand that every person regardless of position in society has fundamental human rights such as freedom, safety, privacy, an adequate standard of living, health care, and education. Social workers understand the global interconnections of oppression and human rights violations, and are knowledgeable about theories of human need and social justice and strategies to promote social and economic justice and human rights. Social workers understand strategies designed to eliminate oppressive structural barriers to ensure that social goods, rights, and responsibilities are distributed equitably and that civil, political, environmental, economic, social, and cultural human rights are protected. Social workers:

  • apply their understanding of social, economic, and environmental justice to advocate for human rights at the individual and system levels; and
  • engage in practices that advance social, economic, and environmental justice.

Competency 4: Engage In Practice-informed Research and Research-informed Practice

Social workers understand quantitative and qualitative research methods and their respective roles in advancing a science of social work and in evaluating their practice. Social workers know the principles of logic, scientific inquiry, and culturally informed and ethical approaches to building knowledge. Social workers understand that evidence that informs practice derives from multi-disciplinary sources and multiple ways of knowing. They also understand the processes for translating research findings into effective practice. Social workers:

  • use practice experience and theory to inform scientific inquiry and research;
  • apply critical thinking to engage in analysis of quantitative and qualitative research methods and research findings; and
  • use and translate research evidence to inform and improve practice, policy, and service delivery.

Competency 5: Engage in Policy Practice

Social workers understand that human rights and social justice, as well as social welfare and services, are mediated by policy and its implementation at the federal, state, and local levels. Social workers understand the history and current structures of social policies and services, the role of policy in service delivery, and the role of practice in policy development. Social workers understand their role in policy development and implementation within their practice settings at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels and they actively engage in policy practice to effect change within those settings. Social workers recognize and understand the historical, social, cultural, economic, organizational, environmental, and global influences that affect social policy. They are also knowledgeable about policy formulation, analysis, implementation, and evaluation. Social workers:

  • identify social policy at the local, state, and federal level that impacts well-being, service delivery, and access to social services;
  • assess how social welfare and economic policies impact the delivery of and access to social services;
  • apply critical thinking to analyze, formulate, and advocate for policies that advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice.

Competency 6: Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Social workers understand that engagement is an ongoing component of the dynamic and interactive process of social work practice with, and on behalf of, diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers value the importance of human relationships. Social workers understand theories of human behavior and the social environment, and critically evaluate and apply this knowledge to facilitate engagement with clients and constituencies, including individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers understand strategies to engage diverse clients and constituencies to advance practice effectiveness. Social workers understand how their personal experiences and affective reactions may impact their ability to effectively engage with diverse clients and constituencies. Social workers value principles of relationship-building and inter-professional collaboration to facilitate engagement with clients, constituencies, and other professionals as appropriate. Social workers:

  • apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks to engage with clients and constituencies; and
  • use empathy, reflection, and interpersonal skills to effectively engage diverse clients and constituencies.

Competency 7: Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Social workers understand that assessment is an ongoing component of the dynamic and interactive process of social work practice with, and on behalf of, diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers understand theories of human behavior and the social environment, and critically evaluate and apply this knowledge in the assessment of diverse clients and constituencies, including individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers understand methods of assessment with diverse clients and constituencies to advance practice effectiveness. Social workers recognize the implications of the larger practice context in the assessment process and value the importance of inter-professional collaboration in this process. Social workers understand how their personal experiences and affective reactions may affect their assessment and decision-making. Social workers:

  • collect and organize data, and apply critical thinking to interpret information from clients and constituencies;
  • apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks in the analysis of assessment data from clients and constituencies;
  • develop mutually agreed-on intervention goals and objectives based on the critical assessment of strengths, needs, and challenges within clients and constituencies; and
  • select appropriate intervention strategies based on the assessment, research knowledge, and values and preferences of clients and constituencies.

Competency 8: Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Social workers understand that intervention is an ongoing component of the dynamic and interactive process of social work practice with, and on behalf of, diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers are knowledgeable about evidence-informed interventions to achieve the goals of clients and constituencies, including individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers understand theories of human behavior and the social environment, and critically evaluate and apply this knowledge to effectively intervene with clients and constituencies. Social workers understand methods of identifying, analyzing and implementing evidence-informed interventions to achieve client and constituency goals. Social workers value the importance of inter-professional teamwork and communication in interventions, recognizing that beneficial outcomes may require interdisciplinary, inter-professional, and inter-organizational collaboration. Social workers:

  • critically choose and implement interventions to achieve practice goals and enhance capacities of clients and constituencies;
  • apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks in interventions with clients and constituencies;
  • use inter-professional collaboration as appropriate to achieve beneficial practice outcomes;
  • negotiate, mediate, and advocate with and on behalf of diverse clients and constituencies; and
  • facilitate effective transitions and endings that advance mutually agreed-on goals.

Competency 9: Evaluate Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Social workers understand that evaluation is an ongoing component of the dynamic and interactive process of social work practice with, and on behalf of, diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities. Social workers recognize the importance of evaluating processes and outcomes to advance practice, policy, and service delivery effectiveness. Social workers understand theories of human behavior and the social environment, and critically evaluate and apply this knowledge in evaluating outcomes. Social workers understand qualitative and quantitative methods for evaluating outcomes and practice effectiveness. Social workers:

  • select and use appropriate methods for evaluation of outcomes;
  • apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks in the evaluation of outcomes;
  • critically analyze, monitor, and evaluate intervention and program processes and outcomes; and
  • apply evaluation findings to improve practice effectiveness at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels.

Core Competencies with Clinical Knowledge and Practice Behaviors

  1. EP 2.1.1 Identify as a professional social worker and conduct oneself accordingly. Clinical Knowledge
    • Recognize the importance of the therapeutic relationship, the person-in-environment and strengths perspectives, the professional and strengths perspectives, the professional use of self with clients, and adherence to ethical guidelines of professional behavior.

    Clinical Practice Behaviors

    • Readily identify as social work professionals
    • Demonstrate professional use of self with clients
    • Understand and identify professional strengths, limitations, and challenges
    • Develop, manage, and maintain therapeutic relationships with clients within the person-in environment and strengths perspectives.
  2. EP 2.1.2 Apply social work ethical principles to guide professional practice. Clinical Knowledge
    • Know about ethical issues, legal parameters, and shifting societal mores that affect the therapeutic relationship.

    Clinical Practice Behaviors

    • Apply ethical decision-making to issues specific to clinical social work.
    • Employ strategies of ethical reasoning to address the use of technology in clinical practice and its impact on client rights.
    • Identify and use knowledge of relationship dynamics, including power differentials.
    • Recognize and manage personal biases as they affect the therapeutic relationship in the service of the clients’ well-being.
  3. EP 2.1.3 Apply critical thinking to inform and communicate professional judgment. Clinical Knowledge
    • Understand and differentiate the strengths and limitations of multiple practice theories and methods, clinical processes, and technical tools, including differential diagnosis.
    • Deconstruct theories and methods to evaluate how they relate to clients and client systems within their environmental contexts.

    Clinical Practice Behaviors

    • Engage in reflective practice.
    • Identify and articulate clients’ strengths and vulnerabilities.
    • Evaluate, select, and implement appropriate multidimensional assessment, diagnostic, intervention, and practice evaluation tools.
    • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of multiple theoretical perspectives and differentially apply them to client situations.
    • Communicate professional judgment to other social workers and to professionals from other disciplines, in both verbal and written formats.
  4. EP 2.1.4 Engage diversity and difference in practice. Clinical Knowledge
    • Know about many forms of diversity and difference and how these influence the therapeutic relationship and clients’ presenting issues.
    • Know about the ways in which various dimensions of diversity affect (a) explanations of illness, (b) help-seeking behaviors, and (c) healing practices.
    • Advanced practitioners are cultural beings and understand how clinical practice choices can be culture-bound.

    Clinical Practice Behaviors

    • Research and apply knowledge of diverse populations to enhance client well-being
    • Work effectively with diverse populations
    • Identify and use practitioner/client differences from a strengths perspective.
  5. EP 2.1.5 Advance human rights and social and economic justice. Clinical Knowledge
    • Understand the potentially challenging effects of economic, social, and cultural factors in the lives of clients and client systems.
    • Understand the stigma and shame associated with disorders, diagnoses, and help-seeking behaviors across diverse populations.
    • Understand strategies for advancing human rights and social and economic justice in domestic and global contexts.

    Clinical Practice Behaviors

    • Use knowledge of the effects of oppression, discrimination, and historical trauma on client and client systems to guide treatment planning and intervention.
    • Advocate at multiple levels for mental health parity and reduction of health disparities for diverse populations.
  6. EP 2.1.6 Engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research. Clinical Knowledge
    • Know about evidence-based interventions, best practices, and the evidence-based research process.

    Clinical Practice Behaviors

    • Use the evidence-based practice process in clinical assessment and intervention with clients.
    • Participate in the generation of new clinical knowledge, through research and practice.
    • Use research methodology to evaluate clinical practice effectiveness and/or outcomes.
  7. EP 2.1.7 Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment. Clinical Knowledge
    • Understand how to synthesize and differentially apply the theories of human behavior and the social environment (biological, developmental, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual).
    • Familiar with diagnosis classification systems used in the formulation of comprehensive assessment.
    • Understand how sociocultural contexts influence definitions of psychopathology.
    • Have a working knowledge of psychotropic medications that are typically used in the treatment of mental health disorders, including expected results and side effects.

    Clinical Practice Behaviors

    • Synthesize and differentially apply theories of human behavior and the social environment to guide clinical practice.
    • Use bio-psycho-social-spiritual theories and multiaxial diagnostic classification systems in formulation of comprehensive assessments.
    • Consult with medical professionals, as needed, to confirm diagnosis and/or to monitor medication in the treatment process.
  8. EP 2.1.8 Engage in policy practice to advance social and economic well-being and to deliver effective social work services. Clinical Knowledge
    • Recognize the connection between clients, practice, and both public and organizational policy.
    • Know about factors that influence the development of legislation, policies, program services, and funding at all system levels.
    • Know of advocacy methods that contribute to effective policies that promote social and economic well-being.

    Clinical Practice Behaviors

    • Communicate to stakeholders in the implications of policies and policy change in the lives of clients.
    • Use evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence in advocacy for policies that advance social and economic well-being.
    • Advocate with and inform administrators and legislators to influence policies that affect clients and service.
  9. EP 2.1.9 Respond to contexts that shape practice. Clinical Knowledge
    • Know how relational, organizational, and community systems may impact clients.
    • Anticipate and react to evolving cultural, technological, geographical, political, legal, economic, and environmental contexts.
    • Encourage clients to effect changes within these contexts.

    Clinical Practice Behaviors

    • Assess the quality of clients’ interactions within their social contexts.
    • Develop intervention plans to accomplish systemic change.
    • Work collaboratively with others to effect systemic change that is sustainable.
  10. EP 2.1.10 (a)-(d) Engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Clinical Knowledge
    • Involve the dynamic, interactive, and reciprocal processes of therapeutic engagement, multidimensional assessment, clinical intervention, and practice evaluation at multiple levels.
    • Have a theoretically informed knowledge base so as to effectively practice with individuals, families, and groups.
    • Understand and implement practice theories (models, metaperspectives, strategies, techniques, and approaches).
    • Evaluate treatment outcomes and practice effectiveness.

    Clinical Practice Behaviors

    • Engagement
      • Develop a culturally responsive therapeutic relationship.
      • Attend to the interpersonal dynamics and contextual factors that both strengthen and potentially threaten the therapeutic alliance.
      • Establish a relationally based process that encourages clients to be equal participants in the establishment of treatment goals and expected outcomes.
    • Assessment
      • Use multidimensional bio-psycho-social-spiritual assessment tools.
      • Assess clients’ readiness for change.
      • Assess clients’ coping strategies to reinforce and improve adaptation to life situations, circumstances, and events.
      • Select and modify appropriate intervention strategies based on continuous clinical assessment.
      • Use differential and multiaxial diagnoses.
    • Intervention
      • Critically evaluate, select, and apply best practices and evidence-based interventions.
      • Demonstrate the use of appropriate clinical techniques for a range of presenting concerns identified in the assessment, including crisis intervention strategies as needed.
      • Collaborate with other professionals to coordinate treatment interventions.
    • Evaluation
      • Contribute to the theoretical knowledge base of the social work profession through practice-based research.
      • Use clinical evaluation of the process and/or outcomes to develop best practice interventions for a range of bio-psycho-social-spiritual conditions.