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Online Master of Social Work

Online MSW Program Outcomes

Prepare for Practice as a Clinical Social Worker

The online Master of Social Work (MSW) program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota is designed to prepare you for clinical work with individuals, couples, families, and groups in direct practice. Earning your MSW results in a higher degree of authority and autonomy in your practice. You’re able to diagnose and treat your clients while collaborating with other healthcare professionals, mental healthcare practitioners, and community advocates to ensure your patients are getting the best care.

“The online MSW program allowed me to format a study and assignment schedule that works with my work and life activities while still delivering a quality and educational experience.”
– Jessica Horstmann, Saint Mary’s MSW online student

Achieving the License You Need

Saint Mary’s Master of Social Work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Commission on Accreditation. CSWE is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States. With a curriculum aligned to CSWE standards, the MSW program prepares students for state licensure eligibility. Applicants for social work licensure must also meet additional requirements in every state and U.S. territory, including but not limited to additional training,  supervised clinical experiences, and national licensure examination. For more information about the MSW program and social work licensure, visit State-by-State Guide to Social Work Licensing Requirements.

Social Work Competencies

The following outcomes and indicators outline Saint Mary's Master of Social Work competencies. These outcomes follow national social work generalist practice competencies and the clinical competencies that extend into a clinical specialization. Generalist level indicators (G) primarily outline the learning focus for the program's first 30 credits; the Clinical (C) level indicators focus the learning for the final 30 credits. Upon completion of the program, graduates are expected to be able to do the following:

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  • Social workers demonstrate the following foundational knowledge and skills (G):

    • Make ethical decisions by applying the standards of the National Association of Social Workers (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 the context
    • Use reflection and self-regulation to examine personal assumptions and values and to identify professional strengths, limitations, and challenges
    • Articulate a clear identity as social work professionals
    • Develop and maintain therapeutic, culturally responsive client relationships within the person-in-environment and strengths perspectives
    • Maintain a professional demeanor through oral and written communication
    • Use technology ethically and appropriately to facilitate practice outcomes
    • Use supervision and consultation to guide professional decision-making

    Advanced practitioners in clinical social work demonstrate the following specialized knowledge and skills (C):

    • Apply a 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
    • Apply ethical decision-making skills to issues specific to clinical social work
    • 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

  • Social workers demonstrate the following foundational knowledge and skills (G):

    • Apply an authentic appreciation of diversity and difference to systematically cultivate a current knowledge base about many forms of diversity
    • Apply a strengths perspective to communicate the relevance and value of diversity and difference in practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels
    • Apply an intersectional understanding of diversity and difference in practice with clients and constituencies
    • Present themselves as learners and engage clients and constituencies as experts on their own experiences
    • Apply self-awareness and self-regulation to minimize the influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse clients and constituencies
    • Recognize misapplication of culturally bound practice knowledge, models, and structures at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of practice
    • Engage respectfully with others’ ideas, behaviors, and beliefs

    Advanced practitioners in clinical social work demonstrate the following specialized knowledge and skills (C):

    • Apply an intersectional understanding of diversity and difference in practice with clients and constituencies
    • Apply diverse frames of reference to generate and evaluate practice decisions and actions
    • Recognize and act to correct misapplication of culturally bound practice knowledge, models, and structures at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of practice

  • Social workers demonstrate the following foundational knowledge and skills (G):

    • Develop a critical understanding of potentially challenging effects of economic, social, racial, and cultural factors in the lives of clients and client systems
    • Critically assess individual and institutional social work practices in terms of their effectiveness in advancing human rights and furthering social, economic, and environmental justice
    • Advocate for human rights and social justice — including mental health parity and the reduction of health disparities — at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of practice

    Advanced practitioners in clinical social work demonstrate the following specialized knowledge and skills (C):

    • Use knowledge of the effects of oppression, discrimination, and historical trauma or injustice on clients and client systems to guide treatment planning, intervention, and delivery of services
    • Use knowledge of the effects of oppression, discrimination, and historical trauma on clients and client systems to guide treatment planning and intervention
    • Advocate at multiple levels for mental health parity and the reduction of health disparities for diverse populations

  • Social workers demonstrate the following foundational knowledge and skills (G):

    • Frame vital questions clearly in both the creation and consumption of research
    • Utilize foundational knowledge of research practice and methodologies to critically assess the inherent strengths, limitations, and cultural inclusivity of existing research and practice phenomena
    • Utilize practice experience and wisdom (praxis) to understand the continuum of inquiry
    • Apply scientific inquiry and research — including evidence-based practices — in the process of assessment and in determining appropriate interventions

    Advanced practitioners in clinical social work demonstrate the following specialized knowledge and skills (C):

    • Contribute to the generation of new research by engaging in critical assessment, reflection, and research of one’s own social work practice
    • Use research methodology to evaluate clinical practice effectiveness and outcomes
    • 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 outcomes

  • Social workers demonstrate the following foundational knowledge and skills (G):

    • Develop awareness of human rights-related practice and policy development at the national and international levels
    • Assess and communicate evidence-based knowledge about how organizational, community, state, and federal policies related to social, economic, and environmental welfare impact delivery of and access to social services
    • Prioritize advocacy strategies that include and are accountable to affected clients and constituencies
    • Advance the synergistic relationship between practice-informed policy and policy-informed practice

    Advanced practitioners in clinical social work demonstrate the following specialized knowledge and skills (C):

    • Apply critical thinking to analyze, formulate, and advocate for policies that advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice with sensitivity to diverse cultural contexts
    • Anticipate how policy change at organizational, community, state, and federal levels is likely to impact client and constituency well-being, service delivery, and access to social services
    • Communicate to stakeholders the implication 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 impacting clients and services

  • Social workers demonstrate the following foundational knowledge and skills (G):

    • Build awareness of the impact of positional and personal power on the dynamics of the therapeutic relationships (right to self-determination)
    • Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks to engage with clients and constituencies
    • Use empathy, reflection, and interpersonal skills to effectively engage diverse clients and constituencies to develop a culturally responsive change alliance
    • Communicate with clarity and coherence
    • Attend to the interpersonal dynamics and contextual factors that both strengthen and potentially threaten the therapeutic alliance

    Advanced practitioners in clinical social work demonstrate the following specialized knowledge and skills (C):

    • 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

  • Social workers demonstrate the following foundational knowledge and skills (G):

    • Apply critical thinking to collected, organized data to interpret information from clients and constituencies
    • Evaluate relevant information and its sources
    • Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks to produce a strengths-oriented, culturally responsive analysis of assessment data from clients and constituencies
    • Develop and continuously renew mutually agreed-upon intervention goals and objectives, based on the ongoing critical assessment of strengths, needs, and challenges within clients and constituencies
    • Maximize opportunities for clients to exercise self-determination and self-advocacy

    Advanced practitioners in clinical social work demonstrate the following specialized knowledge and skills (C):

    • Establish fluency in the DSM-5 to create diagnostic and clinical formulations and critically reflect on the social-cultural context of its use
    • Use multidimensional bio-psycho-social-spiritual assessment tools
    • Assess clients’ readiness for change
    • Assess client coping strategies to reinforce and improve adaptation to life situations, circumstances, and events
    • Select and modify appropriate intervention strategies based on continuous clinical assessment
    • Utilize research-supported diagnostic protocols, the DSM-5, and current research in psychopathology in identifying differential diagnoses and constructing clinical formulations

  • Social workers demonstrate the following foundational knowledge and skills (G):

    • Implement appropriate and mutually agreed-upon intervention strategies based on assessment, research knowledge, application of experience, values, and preferences to enhance the capacities of clients and constituencies
    • Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other culturally responsive multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks in interventions with clients and constituencies
    • Use interprofessional collaboration as appropriate to achieve beneficial mutually agreed-upon and culturally responsive outcomes
    • Negotiate, mediate, and advocate with and on behalf of diverse clients and constituencies
    • Facilitate effective transitions and endings that advance mutually agreed-upon goals

    Advanced practitioners in clinical social work demonstrate the following specialized knowledge and skills (C):

    • Use appropriate clinical techniques for a range of presenting concerns identified in the assessment, including crisis intervention strategies as needed
    • Build awareness of the skill sets and competencies comprising a scope of practice
    • Critically evaluate, select, and apply best practices and evidence-based interventions
    • Collaborate with other professionals to coordinate treatment interventions

  • Social workers demonstrate the following foundational knowledge and skills (G):

    • Select and use appropriate culturally responsive methodologies and methods for the evaluation of outcomes
    • Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other culturally responsive multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks in the evaluation of outcomes
    • Critically analyze, monitor, and evaluate intervention and program processes and outcomes
    • Apply evaluation findings to improve practice effectiveness at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels

    Advanced practitioners in clinical social work demonstrate the following specialized knowledge and skills (C):

    • Evaluate effectiveness in research and practice, including how therapeutic outcomes are defined, measured, and communicated
    • Contribute to the theoretical knowledge base of the social work profession through practice-based research
    • Use clinical evaluation of the process and outcomes to develop best practice interventions for a range of bio-psycho-social-spiritual conditions

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