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Herzing University

Jessica Dickenson

Measuring the Positive Impact of MSW Programs on Mental Health Care

As a profession, social workers have a firm understanding of the barriers, gaps, and needs of those experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

According to 2022 data from Mental Health America, around 50 million American adults are experiencing some form of mental illness. That is approximately 20% percent or one in every five adults in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being and it affects how we think, feel and act. The reality is that mental health is unique to each person but taking care of your mental health is important for everyone.

As a profession, social workers have a firm understanding of the barriers, gaps, and needs of those experiencing a behavioral health crisis. At Herzing University, the Master of Social Work (MSW) Mental Health specialization builds on a generalist practice foundation. Throughout their time in the MSW program, students will learn to understand the role of proper mental health diagnoses as well as how to assess and intervene with individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations within the mental health service delivery system.  

How Does Herzing’s MSW for Mental Health Prepare Future Social Workers?

Mental Health specialization courses are curated with the mental health social work clinician in mind. To prepare future social work professionals for a long career of providing high-quality care, the courses explore clinical assessment and diagnosis, causes for mental health problems, the impact of trauma, addictions and culturally informed evidence-based interventions.

The role of a clinical social worker will be explored with an emphasis on research about common issues in mental health treatment. Students will connect their classroom knowledge to the work of optimizing clinical processes and outcomes with clients in the students’ field placements. Students will also gain hands-on experience working with clients in mental health settings during their required 500-hour field practicum in their own community.

As a part of the well-rounded course training, students will learn policies and laws specifically related to working within mental health systems. They will develop a familiarity with the service delivery structure of public and private mental health facilities including professional social work practice. Some of these tasks will include documentation, ethical use of technology (e.g., telehealth), effective use of supervision and self-care.  

Some possible careers in this rewarding field include clinical social workers working as children and adolescent therapists, trauma therapists, substance use therapists, forensic social workers and crisis response social workers.*

*Individuals considering the Master of Social Work program should be aware that state certification/ licensure requirements and eligibility to apply for certification/licensure vary from state to state. While certification/licensure is not a requirement for certain types of jobs, in some states, it may be required for any positions titled ‘Social Worker’ and to refer to yourself as a Social Worker in professional settings. 

Understanding the Crisis Response Social Worker

Crisis intervention social workers support people experiencing trauma, keeping them from harming themselves and others. They provide crisis intervention, and counseling after traumatic events including crimes, experiencing abuse, traumatic accidents, and disasters.

A crisis social worker is a mental health professional specializing in providing counseling and support services to individuals under emotional distress often caused by exposure to trauma and may include:

  • Aiding law enforcement and medical personnel in the assessment of individuals in crisis and being considered for emergency detention or making referrals to community resources.
  • Assessing patients for dangerousness to self or others, psychosis, and urgency for treatment.
  • Collaborating with the on-call psychiatrist and ER doctor to evaluate patient stability.
  • Necessitating excellent active listening skills for hotline clients and shelter residents.
  • Participating in hospice and community programs and presentations to promote professional growth and understanding of hospice care, and increasing public awareness.
  • Tracking and documenting all contacts and activities throughout the program to ensure compliance with grant requirements and FEMA.
  • Providing consultation in problematic case situations and providing resource information regarding DMH mental health services.

They often work in interdisciplinary settings, including community crisis teams, mental health settings, medical facilities, or other service providers. Some crisis social workers work crisis hotlines where they answer phone calls from clients, remain calm and rational during conversations, and ensure client safety by providing crisis intervention and connecting them to additional support agencies. Crisis response social workers are vital across many healthcare and organization systems, and often involve working with people of all ages.

Social Work Children and Adolescent Therapists

Therapists are a beneficial resource for people in all stages of life. 

Adolescence is the period that extends from age 10 to age 19. Clinical social workers are trained in interventions that help improve the lives of adolescent clients that may experience a whole range of life challenges including family and/or peer relationship issues, trauma, substance abuse/addiction, troubles at school, learning delays, mental health diagnoses, foster placement, mental health, and court advocacy, to name a few. Since working with adolescent clients is so complex, social workers are trained to work on, and often lead, community care teams.  

Therapists who are working with adolescents can be found in a variety of settings including Licensed Clinical Social Workers in private practice, school social work, community mental health, and adolescent residential treatment facilities. A common thread among all settings is that working with adolescents often requires the therapist to work on teams that - depending on the age and family situation - may require working with families. This need to collaborate on client goals, service delivery, and individualized treatment is a key element of working with children and adolescents. Like any therapist, an adolescent therapist wears many hats, and those hats often depend on the setting in which they work:

  • In some instances, an adolescent therapist might specialize in working with adolescents that have a specific issue.
  • For example, they might work exclusively with adolescents that have ADHD to help them develop strategies for staying on task during class and ways to organize their schoolwork.
  • Another prime example is an adolescent therapist who might work with a student with an autism spectrum disorder to help them develop the social and emotional skills they need to have positive interactions with others.

What’s Next?

With a master’s degree in social work, you can make a real difference in the lives of those you help. Discover how Herzing University can prepare you for a successful career in helping others with its comprehensive Master of Social Work program. Get started today!

Learn More About Our MSW Program


* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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