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.
Want to learn more about the mental health concentration?
Your Career Options
With an MSW concentration in Mental Health, your social work career could include:
- Conduct clinical assessments and diagnose mental health and substance use disorders
- Assess suicide risk and use interventions for people at risk for suicide
- Provide counseling, psychotherapy and other clinical social work services
- Provide trauma-informed mental health care
- Analyze existing policies and develop new policies relevant to people with trauma, substance use and other mental health challenges
Kristin Canan, Alumni, MSW ’14, National Clinical Outreach Director, Recovery Campus Read More
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.
Suicide Assessment and Interventions
About this Course
This course builds students' competencies in assessing suicide risk, planning for safety, and providing counseling to individuals who are thinking about suicide or have made a suicide attempt. This class examines theories of suicide causation, methods of suicide risk assessment, and models of techniques for intervention. Students will learn practices for eliciting sensitive information about troubling thoughts, assessing and documenting a client's level of suicide risk, and using cognitive-behavioral and other methods to help reduce suicide risk.
Intersections of Mental Health, Substance Use and Trauma
About this Course
This course is an advanced theory for practice course with builds upon foundation courses in HUman Behavior in the Social Environment (HBSE) and clinical theories, and covers conceptualization, dynamics of, and interventions in mental health, substance use, and trauma. The course examines the independent and intersecting theory bases of mental health, trauma and substance use approaches. It also explores recent evidence about individual and environmental risks associated with these conditions and evidence about both specific therapeutic interventions and the importance of common relational factors. Social workers make up one of the largest professional groups working with clients living with mental health concerns, and bring a unique person-in-environment and strengths perspective to that work, which fits well with a recovery philosophy. Clinical frameworks and interventions common across these fields, such as harm reduction, motivational interviewing, self-determination theory, and the transtheoretical model of changes are presented, and students are introduced to integrative approaches that show promise in responding to client conditions.
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy
About this Course
This course is a methods/skills course that provides students with the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills in the contextual stance and core interventions of the evidence-based approach, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). Students gain an understanding of how this approach works, and the ability to use this approach in a variety of settings including with clients struggling with chronic mental illness, trauma, and substance misuse, as well as with children and adolescents, couples and families, in community development, and supervision. This course addresses competencies and practice behaviors in advanced clinical settings including Families, Child Welfare, Children and Youth, Mental Health and Health.
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.
2020 Denver Campus MSW Program Extended Application Deadline