Utica College Introduces New Master of Social Work Degree
First-of-its-Kind Program Puts Focus on Recovery as Need for Mental Health Providers Increases Dramatically
Utica College has added a master of social work (MSW) degree to its online offerings, at a time when the need for mental health professionals is growing dramatically. But unlike other MSW programs, this curriculum centers on recovery values, and is designed to provide a focused and rigorous training for aspiring clinical social workers, preparing them for direct clinical practice with individuals, families and groups.
Utica College's online MSW degree is ideal for those who are passionate about supporting others through the promotion and treatment of mental health. The program's innovative design bridges traditional and recovery-oriented care and integrates these orientations throughout the curriculum. Utica's approach strengthens students' ability to engage and support the empowerment of diverse and often marginalized populations using evidence-based, recovery-oriented, and social justice lenses.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2018 documented disparities in the distribution of mental health professionals across urban and rural regions of the U.S.; the need for social workers - especially those trained in assessment and interventions for mental health - will only be increasing in the wake of the pandemic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 41.4 percent of Americans reported symptoms of a depressive or anxiety disorder in late October, 2020, and for young adults between the ages of 18 and 29, nearly 60 percent reported symptoms of depression or anxiety. According to a survey conducted in 130 countries, the World Health Organization reports that the international toll of COVID-19 has been that 67 percent of nations have observed reductions in the availability of psychotherapy.
The MSW degree includes a four-hour personal counseling requirement, which is designed to encourage appreciation of the value the role that self-awareness plays in clinical social work and helps students understand what it is like to be in the client's seat. When it comes to field education, faculty in the online MSW program will work with students to identify and secure agency placements that provide them with practical, relevant experience.
According to program director and professor of practice Ethan Haymovitz, "As far as I know, UC's MSW in recovery-oriented clinical social work is the first of its kind in the nation. I am not aware of any other program that draws inspiration from recovery values, approaches and tools in the education of clinical social workers. We want to promote mental health and well-being for every single person and we believe recovery approaches are the best way to achieve that."
"All of our coursework - including research and policy courses - is designed to improve skills as a mental health service provider and understanding of mental health issues,” Haymovitz said. Students take courses on trauma-informed practice, recovery theory, mental health assessment and mental health advocacy in their preliminary sequence of courses, and specialize in direct practice with individuals, families, and groups in their specialization practice sequence.
In addition, instructors in clinical practice and field work have years of experience in recovery services and in clinical social work. As such, all practical courses are designed to synthesize recovery theory with traditional clinical social work theories, preparing social workers to provide mental health services that preserve dignity, autonomy, and promote well-being for diverse populations.
Field course developer Jeremy Reuling said, "Recovery assumes that individuals struggling with issues related to their mental health, regardless of the severity of those challenges, not only have the potential to live a full life, but have a high probability of doing so with the right support. This is consistent with social work’s ‘strengths perspective,’ which proposes that each and every person has their own unique strengths that can be used as a foundation for personal growth and achievement."
The MSW program is designed to be flexible for working professionals. The online program has no residency requirements - it can be completed 100 percent online in as few as eight semesters.
The program will offer two different tracks, an advanced option for students with a bachelor’s in the field, and one for students without a bachelors in social work. Both programs will offer courses focusing on social work and include clinical practice and fieldwork as well. The advanced program will require 34 credits, and the regular will require 60.