Online Mental Health and Trauma Concentration 

Redefine what it means to live with mental illness, addiction and/or trauma. Become a social work leader prepared to practice in a variety of settings that support mental wellness and recovery by earning a Master of Social Work (MSW) online with a concentration in Mental Health and Trauma. 

As a student in the MSW@Denver program, you will learn theory and develop skills to support clinical decision-making processes that are anti oppressive and trauma informed. This includes curriculum specific to differential diagnosis and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that challenges pathology by reframing “symptoms” as responses. 

If you are applying to the September 2023 start term or any future start dates, your curriculum has been restructured in order to provide more flexibility and customization of your MSW pathway. This differs from students who start in the March or June 2023 terms, however course offerings will remain similar for all students in the MSW program. 

As an Online MSW student, you will take 81 credit hours. During the first half of your program, you’ll focus on the foundation curriculum, developing a generalist perspective and basic skills for working with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations. In your second half, you’ll customize your Advanced Social Work Practice concentration to match your interests and career goals.

As an Online Advanced-Standing MSW student, you will take 54 credit hours and can customize your Advanced Social Work Practice concentration to match your interest and career goals. Your first four courses are rooted in social justice.

Please note that not all classes offered on the on-campus MSW program will be offered in the online MSW@DEN program. For additional details and information, please reach out to your Admissions Counselor or After reviewing the new curriculum, if you are interested in applying to the online MSW@DEN program, please start your application here.

Why Specialize in Mental Health and Trauma?  

Mental health, substance use and trauma are public health concerns that intersect and have no boundaries regarding age, gender, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or ability. These concerns must be addressed both locally and globally to improve access to behavioral health care that is equitable, inclusive and effective.

Social workers empower individuals, families and communities impacted and marginalized by mental illness, addiction and/or trauma. They examine and challenge the systems that may lead to disparities in treatment and provide a bridge to necessary resources and services to promote dignity and respect in the healing and recovery process. 

Mental Health and Trauma Concentration Courses   

As a student in the Mental Health and Trauma concentration, you will complete the following courses in which content is specific to both mental health and culturally responsive practices:

  • Intersections of Mental Health, Substance
    Use and Trauma
  • Assessment of Mental Health Across
    the Lifespan
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapies
  • Mental Health and Health Care Policy
  • Methods for Evaluating Practice/Programs
  • Leadership and Supervision Skills
  • Applied Practice Evaluation Research
  • Trauma-Informed Assessment and Intervention
  • Integrated Health Care: Models and Practice
  • Disproportionality and Disparity Across Systems
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Micro- and Macro-level Perspectives in Mental Health and Trauma

In the Mental Health and Trauma concentration, you will have the opportunity to choose courses that focus on the goal of promoting social justice to communities impacted by mental illness and trauma at both micro and macro levels. Our micro-level courses focus on helping affected populations through one-on-one guidance and support, while macro-level courses seek to understand the systemic causes for these public health concerns and develop interventions that address them.

Micro-level Course Spotlight:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapies

Examine major cognitive approaches to social work practice, including methods focused on clients’ problem-solving abilities, clients’ strengths, thought patterns that impede clients from reaching goals, and assessing outcomes in terms of changes in thinking and behavior.

Macro-level Course Spotlight:

Intersections of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Trauma

This advanced theory for practice course covers conceptualization, dynamics and interventions related to the intersection of mental health, substance use and trauma. It also explores recent evidence about individual and environmental risks associated with these conditions.

Field Internships

Field internships will complement your learning, bridging theory and skill with applied practice and supervision.

Most important, field internships and supervision will create opportunities for you to develop your professional voice, and manage personal and professional biases while navigating interdisciplinary teams

For example, an intern in a correctional facility could:

  • provide counseling services
  • support community awareness regarding the criminalization of mental illness
  • discuss stereotyped perceptions about addiction 

Demand for Mental Health and Trauma Professionals

The demand for mental health and substance abuse social workers is projected to grow 19 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the national average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One driving force behind the growth of mental health careers is due to systems, such as corrections and child welfare, implementing practices and approaches that are trauma informed and strengths based. Social workers are helping to lead these efforts.

Careers in Mental Health and Trauma

We encourage you to explore the unique career paths available to social workers. After completing the Mental Health and Trauma concentration, you may be prepared to:

  • pursue post-graduate training to become licensed as a clinical social worker
  • support humane and inclusive practices as a library social worker
  • provide counseling to justice-involved youth
  • assess risk for suicide via texts on a 24/7 crisis line
  • champion lifesaving, harm reduction programming, such as supervised consumption facilities

No matter which career path you choose, you will be ready to lead with knowledge, integrity and awareness. Our MSW alumni have assumed roles such as:

  • Mental health and substance use/disorder counselor/practitioner
  • Behavioral health clinician/specialist
  • Social policy specialist/analyst/consultant
  • Integrated/medical social worker
  • Social case worker

After completing the Mental Health and Trauma concentration, you will be prepared to obtain licensure to work as a mental health/substance use counselor, a behavioral health clinician or a psychiatric social worker, providing therapeutic interventions that are culturally responsive, growth oriented and client centered. 

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