Do you want to explore health and wellness from either a traditional or holistic/complementary perspective? Interested in shaping health care programs and policies or helping to improve the health and wellness of individuals and communities? A master’s degree in social work with a specialization in Health & Wellness will prepare you to be a practitioner in a variety of traditional and medical-based sites, integrated health clinics and integrative wellness centers. Hospitals, federally qualified health centers (FQHC’s), primary care clinics, dialysis centers, hospice and palliative care programs, long-term care centers, rehabilitation centers and wilderness/nature based programs are all typical environments where a social worker with this well-being focus would be a solid fit.
Our curriculum presents health and wellness from a social justice perspective, illuminating barriers to health equity and the social determinants of health while preparing social workers to impact health and well-being at micro, mezzo and macro levels. You’ll learn a variety of culturally responsive practice skills, theories and evidence-based modalities to prepare for social work in comprehensive and specialized health care centers where whole-person care is provided across the lifespan. An interdisciplinary approach is the model used for care of individuals with an emphasis on new paradigms for exploring and understanding health, illness and wellness.
This specialization prepares students for leadership and advocacy in clinical practice, public health and policy settings. Many students also consider the Master of Social Work (MSW)/Master of Public Health (MPH) dual-degree program.
The Health & Wellness Pathway includes focus areas such as:
- Medical Focus: Prepare for a career as a medical social worker, dialysis social worker, hospice social worker, case manager, LCSW social worker or behavioral health treatment therapist, for example.
- Integrated Health Care Focus: Apply your knowledge in an integrated setting as a behavioral health provider or consultant, mental health clinician or LCSW/LSW social worker, for example.
- Wellness Promotion Focus: Prepare to work as a wellness or behavioral health coach, health navigator, prevention specialist or program director, for example.
Your Career Options
Health care and medical social work positions are projected to grow by 20% through 2026. With an MSW specialty in Health & Wellness, your social work career could include:
- Identifying how race and the social determinants of health contribute to health disparities and how to approach these complex issues to focus on health equity
- Advocating for policy reform across systems as you gain a better understanding of the complex health care delivery system and its systemic barriers
- Conducting comprehensive assessments and brief psychosocial interventions in all health settings
- Incorporating holistic and whole-person care within any health practice setting
- Completing program and community wellness assessments
- Developing health promotion programs
- Working in integrated behavioral health settings—particularly primary care and specialty care centers such as oncology, pediatrics and integrative wellness centers.
Evolving Perspectives & Trends in Health & Wellness | SOWK 4325
This course provides an overview of the frameworks that inform social work practice in health and wellness. The broad concept of health is examined for its understanding and meaning in communities and cultures along with the historical and conceptual bases of public health. There is a focus on understanding racism in health and the impact of health inequities for historically marginalized and oppressed communities. There is a focus on health equity, the social determinants of health, prevention, wellness and complementary and alternative practices with an emphasis on social workers roles as change agents working toward solutions and promoting equity.
Wellness Promotion & Intervention Across the Lifespan | SOWK 4501
This course will help you build your skills and strategies to enhance wellness for individuals, organizations and communities. You will explore differences and beliefs related to health and wellness in both their internal/personal experience and in social work practice. Course topics include soul- and nature-based human development models, Eastern and Indigenous medicine models, and traditional or evidence-based wellness frameworks. You will create a wellness promotion plan to address gaps found in data for private, public, tribal health systems and community health and in organizational and public policies. The course emphasizes interdisciplinary knowledge and skills, professional ethics and values and the role of social workers as change agents in creating solutions for public health issues at micro, mezzo and macro levels.
Integrated Health Care | SOWK 4401
This course provides an overview of the knowledge, skills and theory of integrated health care social work practice, where physical and behavioral health services are most often provided in a primary care medical environment. You will learn the roles/functions of the behavioral health professional as a member of the collaborative care team. Incorporating knowledge of evidence-based practice models of care and behavior change theory, you will increase your practice abilities to effectively work at an advanced level of skill as an integrated care behavioral health provider. You will learn strategies and skills in patient engagement, motivational enhancement and advocacy through case studies and group activities; cultural competency and effective care planning in an integrated health care environment will be emphasized.
Substance Use Interventions | SOWK 4430
Substance use is one of America’s most pressing social problems. Social workers increasingly find themselves attempting to help individuals and families resolve substance use problems, as well as directly or indirectly related issues. This course will introduce you to current and emerging substance use treatment approaches so you can conduct your practice from an informed perspective.
Mind–Body Connections in Social Work Practice | SOWK 4725
This course teaches skills for implementing mind–body techniques, models for wellness assessments, and evidence-based mind–body strategies for intervention in client and community problems. An evidence-based approach creates a foundation for understanding the mind–body connection that influences an individual’s and community’s physical, emotional and social well-being. You will learn about the most efficacious methods for mind–body social work practice.
Disability Studies | SOWK 4742
This course will facilitate your exploration of your own perceptions, biases and belief systems about disability. A values perspective encourages students to reflect on their personal, professional, cultural and political perceptions of the epistemology of the notion of disability. This course explores the social construction of concepts of ableism and identity and engages in historical analysis of disability (both domestically and internationally). You will learn definitions of disability, become familiar with legislation/policies that impact persons with disability (PWD), learn about the spectrum of disability and use critical theoretical perspectives. You will engage in critical dialogue around the representation of PWD in our culture. Using a person-in-environment perspective, you also will examine the Social Work Code of Ethics as it relates to PWD and explore various facets of self-determination, independent living, relationships and sexuality, and the role of family, power and privilege in the lives of persons with disabilities.
Alexandria Forte, MSW ’16, FACES for the Future Program Manager, At-Risk Intervention and Mentoring Social Worker, Denver Health Medical Center Read More
I am not in a traditional hospital social worker position, but the knowledge I gained in the concentration gave me a better understanding of the importance of health in all settings. I have even incorporated some of the wellness techniques and resources I learned in classes with my students.
Featured Health Faculty
Featured Wellness Faculty
Explore some of our field education locations with a focus on Health & Wellness
Aurora Mental Health Center, Health and Wellness Clinic
The purpose of the Health and Wellness Clinic is to improve the health of people with mental illness and addictions by increasing access to primary care services; improving prevention, early identification and intervention of physical diseases, including chronic illness; and integrating physical and behavioral health care services. Interns offer behavioral health provider services for adults with serious mental illness and chronic physical disease, such as diabetes and chronic pain.
Berkley Palliative Care and Hospice
Berkley Palliative Care and Hospice provides comfort and dignity to patients through their end-of-life journey. Berkley concentrates on patient- and family-centered goals with a focus on the medical, mental and spiritual needs of patients and families. Interns assess new patients, develop care goals and plans, make bereavement calls and assist with grief support group facilitation.
Brent Eley Foundation, Brent’s Place
Brent’s Place provides safe and clean housing and improves the quality of life for children and families living with cancer and other immunocompromising conditions. Interns work with a wide variety of client populations under the health care umbrella and learn program management and development, informal use of clinical skills to create a supportive environment for families, volunteer management and more.
Centura Health, St. Anthony North Health Campus, Integrated Care Team
The Integrated Care Team uses an integrated model of patient care that combines mental and physical health in a family medicine clinic. Behavioral health provider interns meet patients during their medical visits. They also provide clinical interventions to patients who are in mild to acute emotional distress and need complex social work interventions and case management.
Salud Family Health Centers
Salud is a comprehensive primary health care system that provides affordable, quality, integrated health care services to more than 70,000 patients each year, improving community health and lowering health care costs. Interns apply clinical skills through the implementation of evidence-based mental health screenings; consult with medical providers to determine the course of treatment; schedule therapy appointments for individuals, couples and families; and facilitate shared medical appointments for obstetrics and diabetes care.
Upcoming Regular Application Deadline: Summer & Fall 2024 Denver Campus & Denver Campus Advanced-Standing MSW Program
Denver Campus Info Sessions
We offer 1-hour, virtual and 3-hour, in-person information sessions for our Denver Campus MSW programs. During these sessions, we will discuss the MSW program, admissions process and financial aid options. There will also be a Q&A where you can chat with current students about their experience at GSSW.
The in-person information sessions include a tour of GSSW and the surrounding University of Denver campus. After the tour, prospective students and guests will receive tickets for a complimentary lunch at DU's Community Commons.