Master of Social Work (MSW)

Coping with trauma, living with a mental illness or struggling with substance abuse can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life. Do you want to help people to heal? A master’s degree in social work with a concentration in Mental Health will prepare you to work as a behavioral health clinician or psychiatric social worker.

In the Mental Health concentration, you’ll learn about clinical interventions, advanced theory and research related to mental health, substance use and trauma. You also will learn about mental health assessment from a cultural framework that considers cultural bias and bigotry when developing and assigning diagnoses, the cultural relativity of mental illness, and cultural contributions to mental illness, such as poverty, discrimination and crime. Core topics include the assessment of mental health, substance use and suicide risk assessment; mental health and substance use intervention policy; and clinical interventions and skills. You’ll graduate ready for a clinical social work career applying substance use and mental health interventions from psychotherapy theoretical perspectives such as solution-focused, trauma-informed and strengths/empowerment.

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student in class

Your Career Options

With an MSW concentration in Mental Health, your social work career could include:

  • Conducting clinical assessments and assigning diagnoses, using the DSM-5, for children, adolescents and adults
  • Assessing suicide risk, collaboratively developing safety plans and using a wide variety of interventions for people at risk for suicide
  • Providing counseling, psychotherapy and other clinical social work services to people with mental health challenges, including mental illness, substance use or trauma
  • Applying social justice concepts of power, privilege and oppression to mental health assessment, diagnosis and treatment
  • Providing trauma-informed mental health care in settings including mental health, integrated behavioral health, substance use treatment or emergency services
  • Analyzing existing policies and developing new policies relevant to people with trauma, substance use and other mental health challenges

An education that emphasized both micro and macro approaches supported me in enhancing my clinical skills while teaching me how to apply them in community, interpersonal and leadership capacities. This gave me a strong foundation to build upon as I stepped into program development and clinical leadership positions.

Kristin Canan, Alumni

Learn more about the Mental Health curriculum.


Explore some of our field education locations with a focus on Mental Health

  • Behavioral Treatment Services

    Behavioral Treatment Services offers mental health and substance abuse therapy to adults in the criminal justice system. Interns function as a dual-diagnosis therapist within community corrections, outpatient or jail sites. They work with criminal justice clients, conducting clinical dual-diagnosis assessments with reports, referrals, individual psychotherapy and group therapy.

  • Pennock Center for Counseling

    The nonprofit Pennock Center for Counseling provides accessible, affordable professional counseling to Brighton and surrounding communities. It offers counseling to individuals, couples, children, adolescents and families with such problems as depression, marriage/relationship issues, anxiety and PTSD/trauma. Interns provide individual, couple, family or group psychotherapy to all populations.

  • University of Colorado Hospital, Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic

    The Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic is part of the University of Colorado Hospital Behavioral Health Service Line. The clinic instills and restores hope through integrated, recovery-oriented, evidence-based behavioral health care, learning and discovery. Clinical interns assess and treat patients with moderate to severe mental illness, which often is accompanied by severe psychosocial stressors.

  • Maria Droste Counseling Center

    The Maria Droste Counseling Center bridges the gap in available psychotherapy and counseling services for underserved populations in the Denver area. The center offers therapy for adults, children, teens, couples and families in Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish and English. Spanish-speaking interns provide counseling to children and their families in a school-based setting.

  • Mount St. Vincent Home

    Mount Saint Vincent Home partners with families and children to strengthen their ability to participate — emotionally and socially — in their community. It offers a wide variety of therapies, including animal-assisted therapy. Interns learn how to effectively help children recover from trauma, mental health issues, and social, emotional and behavioral issues.

Key Faculty

Stacey Freedenthal

Stacey Freedenthal

Associate Professor, Coordinator, Mental Health Concentration

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Johnny Kim

Johnny Kim

Associate Professor

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Anthony Fulginiti

Anthony Fulginiti

Assistant Professor

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William Cloud

William Cloud


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Application Information

2020 Denver Campus MSW Program Early Application Deadline