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Master of Social Work Program

Department of Social Work


A commitment to serving a diverse population, to improving the social, economic, environmental, and health conditions of people, especially in Northeast Tennessee, through partnerships and collaboration, and to promoting the education and growth of professional practitioners are threads that run through the university statement and faculty used these threads to develop our mission statement as follows:

The East Tennessee State University Department of Social Work MSW Program is committed to excellence in evidence informed education and professional preparation of clinical social workers who treat all people with dignity and respect and who, utilizing a person-in-environment framework and global perspective, facilitate attainment of optimal social, economic, health, and environmental conditions for clients and their communities, especially in Southern Appalachia.


The Master of Social Work program, curriculum, goals, and course of study are designed to prepare students for advanced clinical professional practice consistent with the goals, course of study, and curriculum prescribed by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) for the master's level of social work education. The MSW program goals are as follows:

  • Goal 1: To prepare students with the knowledge, values, and skills of clinical practice. 
  • Goal 2: To prepare students to engage in competent and responsible clinical practice within public and private agencies
  • Goal 3: :To prepare students to develop and use ethical research in the advancement and enhancement of social work practice
  • Goal 4: To provide service at the university, local, state, regional, national, and global levels.
  • Goal 5: To increase the availability of skilled advanced practice social work professionals in this region.


Competency 1: Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior

Clinical social workers value the therapeutic relationship and the professional use of self in practice. They are aware of and adhere to ethical and legal guidelines for professional behavior. Clinical social workers are knowledgeable of ethical issues that commonly arise in practice and seek supervision/consultation to maintain ethical behavior. Clinical social workers apply ethical reasoning frameworks that allow them to cope effectively with ethical dilemmas. They understand and apply ethical standards and reasoning in the delivery of treatment modalities, including the ethical use of technology.

  • Identify ethical ambiguity and strategies to gain clarity.
  • Employ strategies of ethical reasoning to address the use of technology in clinical practice and its impact on clients’ rights.
  • Identify and use knowledge of relationship dynamics, including power differentials.
  • Recognize and manage personal biases, transference and counter-transference as they affect the therapeutic relationship in the service of the clients’ well-being.
Competency 2: Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice

Clinical social workers are knowledgeable and value many forms of diversity and difference. They are aware of how diversity and difference may influence the therapeutic relationship and clients’ presenting issues. Clinical social workers apply knowledge of intersectionality to realize differences in explanations of illness, help-seeking behaviors, and healing practices. Clinical social workers demonstrate cultural self-awareness and realize how clinical practice choices are culture-bound.

  • Apply culturally appropriate intervention skills in practice with diverse populations.
  • Identify and use practitioner/client differences from a strengths perspective
  • Recognize the extent to which a culture’s structures and values may oppress, marginalize, alienate or create or enhance privilege or power
  • Use and apply research knowledge of diverse populations to enhance client well-being.
 Competency 3: Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice

Clinical social workers understand the potentially challenging effects of economic, social, organizational, institutional and cultural factors in the lives of clients and client systems. They understand context as it relates to the origin, maintenance, expression, amelioration or prevention of psychological distress. Clinical social workers understand the stigma and shame associated with disorders, diagnoses, and help-seeking behaviors across diverse populations and use this to inform assessment and intervention. They value equality and strengths associated with diversity. Clinical social workers support the NASW Code of Ethics. Clinical social workers have knowledge and skills to employ strategies for advancing human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice in domestic and global contexts.

  • Use knowledge of the effects of oppression, discrimination, and historical trauma on client and client systems to guide assessment, treatment planning, and intervention
  • Advocate for elimination of structural barriers to rights that impede self-actualization
  • Engage in self-care to help reduce potential harmful affective effects of working with chronically and systematically oppressed people and groups.
  • Practice in a manner that reflects social work principles and values such as acknowledging worth of person, equality, inclusion in treatment planning and implementation.
Competency 4: Engage in Practice-Informed Research and Research-Informed Practice

Clinical social workers know about evidence-informed interventions and the evidence-informed research process in assessing and understanding best practices. This knowledge enables them to be aware of, and regulate, bias in selecting appropriate interventive strategies. Likewise, clinical social workers use the knowledge and skill gained through practice to inform the social work knowledge base. They employ principles and techniques of empirical research in their practice with client systems, up to and perhaps embracing carefully controlled experimental experience reflecting values of the social work profession. They use information about evidence-informed interventions in selecting treatment modalities.

  • Use evidence-informed practice processes in clinical assessment and intervention with clients
  • Routinely access and read current empirically based treatment literature to understand new treatment advances, protocols and skills.
  • Identify ethically sound research practices that inform clinical practice.
  • Use empirical research to temper affective reactions.
Competency 5: Engage in Policy Practice

Clinical social workers recognize the connection between clients, practice, and both public and organizational policy. Clinical social workers have knowledge of and recognize factors that influence the development of legislation, policies, program services, and funding at all system levels that profoundly affect the life circumstances of actual or potential clients. They know of and employ advocacy methods that contribute to effective policies that promote social and economic well-being.

  • Communicate to stakeholders the implication of policies and policy change in the lives of clients
  • Assess how policies impact the well-being of individuals, families, and communities and impact the delivery of services to clients within the organizational structure.
  • Advocate with and inform administrators and legislators to influence policies that impact clients and service.
Competency 6: Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Clinical social workers involve the dynamic, interactive, and reciprocal processes of therapeutic engagement based on social values. Clinical social workers have a theoretically informed knowledge base and skills so as to effectively engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. They understand and implement theories (models, metaperspectives, strategies, techniques, and approaches) when engaging with clients. Clinical social workers engage in self-reflection and self-regulation.

  • Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social, environment, person-in environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks to engage with clients and constituencies
  • Use empathy, reflection, the strengths perspective and interpersonal skills to effectively engage with diverse clients and constituencies
  • Develop a culturally responsive therapeutic relationship
  • Attend to the interpersonal dynamics and contextual factors that both strengthen and potentially harm the therapeutic alliance
  • Establish a relationally based process that encourages clients to be equal participants in the establishment of treatment goals and expected outcomes
Competency 7: Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Clinical social workers involve the dynamic, interactive, and reciprocal process of therapeutic multidimensional assessment at multiple levels. Clinical social workers have a theoretically informed knowledge and skill base so as to effectively perform multidimensional assessments.

They understand and implement theories (models, metaperspectives, strategies, techniques, and approaches) when assessing client situations. They have skill in recognizing and managing their own affective reactions through the assessment process. Clinical social workers have the knowledge base and know how to synthesize and differentially apply the theories of human behavior and the social environment (biological, developmental, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual). They are familiar with diagnostic classification systems used in the formulation of a comprehensive assessment. Clinical social workers also understand how sociocultural contexts influence definitions of psychopathology.

  • Use multidimensional bio-pyscho-social-spiritual assessment tools
  • Assess clients’ readiness for change
  • Select appropriate intervention strategies based on continuous clinical assessment
  • Use differential diagnoses in the process of assigning appropriate diagnosis
  • Use clinical evaluation measures to identify client strengths and skill set
Competency 8: Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Clinical social workers involve the dynamic, interactive, and reciprocal processes of clinical intervention based on social work values. They have a theoretical and ethically informed knowledge and skill base to effectively intervene with individuals, families, groups, and organizations. Clinical social workers understand and implement practice theories (models, metaperspectives, strategies, techniques, and approaches) during the intervention process with individuals, families, and groups. They practice self-awareness and self-regulation in the selection and delivery of appropriate treatment strategies and are attentive to issues of diversity and difference.

  • Collaborate with other professionals to coordinate treatment interventions
  • Critically evaluate, select, and apply best practices and evidence-informed interventions
  • Demonstrate the use of appropriate clinical techniques for a range of presenting concerns identified in the assessment, including crisis intervention strategies as needed
  • Practice in a manner that reflects social work ethics and values.
  • Recognize and attend to affective reactions exhibited and expressed by clients
Competency 9: Evaluate practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Clinical social workers involve the dynamic, interactive, and reciprocal processes of practice evaluation. They understand the ethical obligation to engage in practice evaluation and are knowledgeable of research methods used in evaluation. Clinical social workers continuously evaluate treatment outcomes and practice effectiveness. Clinical social workers use clinical evaluation of the process and/or outcomes to inform practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities, recognizing the interplay between individuals. Clinical social workers design evaluation methods that are sensitive to social work values recognizing social justice issues in evaluation. Social work values are used to guide choice of measures with respect to diverse populations. They share information from evaluation with clients and explain what it means.

  • Measure client treatment progress using single system designs and measurement tools.
  • Use clinical evaluation of the process and/or outcomes to develop best practice interventions for a range of bio-psycho-social-spiritual conditions
  • Use evaluation information to inform intervention strategies.
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