Department of Graduate Social Work

College of Education and Social Work

Reynolds Hall
650 Reynolds Alley
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
Department of Graduate Social Work
Dr. Chiarelli-Helminiak, Chairperson and M.S.W. Program Director
Dr. Metz, Assistant Chairperson and Graduate Coordinator
Dr. Lavery, Graduate Coordinator - Certificate in Gerontology
Ms. Allen, Director of Field Education - West Chester Campus
Ms. Sullivan, Director of Field Education - Philadelphia Campus

Programs of Study

The Department of Graduate Social Work is approved to offer the M.S.W. by West Chester University and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

The M.S.W. is a 60-credit program with a concentration in direct practice with individuals, families, and communities. The program can be completed in two academic years of full-time study and three or four years of part time. However, qualified applicants who have earned a B.S.W. within the past seven years from a CSWE-accredited program may qualify for advanced standing and reduce their time of enrollment.

The first year of study focuses on foundations of social work practice, and the second year focuses on advanced practice. Besides course work, students are placed in field practica in social service agencies concurrently with practice courses. Advanced study in working with individuals, families, and communities is augmented by nine hours of graduate-level electives taken in the department or throughout the University.

Philadelphia Campus

Currently, the M.S.W. in Social Work (advanced and regular standing, part-time) is also offered at the Philadelphia campus.

Curriculums for programs offered at the alternative PASSHE Center City satellite campus in Philadelphia are equivalent to those found on WCU’s main campus. With state-of-the-art classrooms, the Center City location serves the needs of degree completers and/or adult learners who are balancing work and family obligations.

Master's Program in Social Work

Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate

All applicants to one of West Chester University’s graduate programs will be held to the graduate admissions requirements. When applicable, additional requirements for admission into specific department program(s) may be listed below.

All Applicants

Students applying to the program should meet the following criteria:

  • GPA of 3.00 (students who do not meet this requirement may be considered for provisional status). The Department of Graduate Social Work does not give credit for life experience or previous work experience.
  • For admission, competency is required in the following areas: humanities, English composition, social sciences (such as sociology, psychology, and women's studies) and mathematics/science (preferably human biology and statistics, but other mathematics and science courses will be considered). Competency can be verified by completed course work, CLEP examination, or comprehensive examination. Applications without these core liberal arts requirements will be reviewed; however, applicants will be required to submit proof of competency prior to beginning field practicum.
  • TOEFL score if applicant is not a native English speaker
  • Appropriate visa for international students. International students should follow the admissions requirements outlined on the University's International Studies website.
  • Students applying to the program who have completed work in other accredited M.S.W. programs should make an appointment with the director to review official transcripts of previously completed work. Courses for transfer credit will be evaluated for compatibility with the West Chester University M.S.W. curriculum on the basis of similarity in course objectives, textbooks, assignments, and required readings. Only practice and policy courses from CSWE-accredited programs will be considered for transfer into the practice and policy sequences (see M.S.W. policies).

Advanced Standing Applicants

A limited number of advanced-standing slots are open to students holding a B.S.W. from a program accredited by the CSWE. This optional form of program admittance allows the student to enter the program during the summer, enroll in three "bridge" courses, and move directly into the concentration year. Those with advanced-standing status can complete the program in one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study. To qualify for this level of enrollment, applicants must meet the minimum criteria as follows:

  • B.S.W. from a CSWE-accredited program within the last seven years
  • A GPA of 3.25 (based on a 4.0 scale) in the social work major
  • An overall cumulative GPA of 3.0 (based on a 4.0 scale)
  • An advanced standing recommendation completed by the director of the B.S.W. program that granted their degree
  • All requirements set for regular admission to the M.S.W. program (see above)
  • No grades lower than a B in the following undergraduate courses: two courses in practice, two courses in policy, two courses in human behavior in the social environment, one course in research methods, one course in statistics, a field experience of at least 400 clock hours supervised by an M.S.W. field instructor

Because the number of admission slots for advanced standing is limited, students who do not meet the criteria or are not admitted to this status because it is already filled automatically will be reviewed for regular admission.

All graduate students are held to the academic policies and procedures outlined in the graduate catalog. Students are encouraged to review departmental handbooks for program tips, suggested course sequences, and explanations of procedures. When applicable, additional policies for specific department programs may be listed below.

Degree Candidacy Requirements

After completing foundation coursework and prior to enrolling in advanced coursework, students are eligible and must apply for degree candidacy. 

  1. Students must have achieved a grade of B or better in all Foundation Courses (SWG 501, SWG 502, SWG 511, SWG 533, SWG 541, SWG 554, SWG 555, SWG 560, SWG 596, SWG 597) at the point the application is submitted.

  2. Faculty members are asked to share each semester any concerns with the student’s professional behaviors.

Undergraduate Courses for Graduate Credit

M.S.W. student may request permission to take one of the 400-level courses below for elective credit. Permission must be gained in writing from the Department Chair. The course must be taken while matriculated as a graduate student. No 400-level credit hours taken as an undergraduate student will count toward the M.S.W. degree.

SWO 423Child Welfare Practice And Policy3
SWO 490Topical Seminar In Social Work3

Field Practicum Policy

Students in the M.S.W. Program must earn a B or better in all field practicum courses (see below ). Any grade of B- or lower in a field practicum course must be repeated with remediation. Only one field practicum course may be remediated and a grade of B or better is required before continuing on to the next field practicum course.

SWG 596Field Practicum I3
SWG 597Field Practicum II3
SWG 598Field Practicum III3
SWG 599Field Practicum IV3
Total Credits12

Field Placement Policy

If an M.S.W. student is referred to three field placements and not accepted, due to unprofessionalism, the Field Office reserves the right to suspend the placement process. The student may reapply for field placement in the next academic year.

Field Dismissal Policy

Students who are dismissed from field by their placement agency for violations of Academic Integrity may immediately receive an F for the course, be removed from field and dismissed from the Graduate Social Work Program.

Transfer Credit

Students wishing to transfer credits taken in programs other than social work may petition to have courses in human behavior, research, and elective areas considered. The same criteria referred to above will apply to these requests.

Transfer requests forms can be found on the Office of Graduate Studies website and require supportive documentation – transcript and course syllabi. Transfer credit is limited to courses in which a grade of A or B was attained. No credit is given for prior life or employment experiences.


Stacie Metz (2005)

Graduate Coordinator, Graduate Social Work

Assistant Chairperson, Graduate Social Work

B.A., Bloomsburg University; M.A., Towson University; M.P.H., M.S.W., Ph.D., Saint Louis University

Gwenelle S. O'neal (1998)

B.A., Spelman College; M.S.W., New York University; D.S.W., Columbia University

Associate Professors

Pablo Arriaza (2016)

B.S. Florida State University; M.S.W. Florida State University; Ph.D. University of Alabama

Nadine M. Bean (1998)

B.A., M.S.S.A., Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University

Page W. Buck (2008)

B.A., Middlebury College; M.S.S., Ph.D., Bryn Mawr College

Wan-Yi Chen (2011)

B.A., Tunghai University; M.S.W., University of Pennsylvania; M.A., Ph.D., Columbia University

Linda Ello (1999)

B.A., Pennsylvania State University; M.S., University of Iowa; Ph.D., Rutgers - The State University

Assistant Professors

Ginneh Akbar (2016)

B.S., University of Maryland Baltimore County; M.S.W., Temple University; D.S.W., University of Pennsylvania

Christina M. Chiarelli-Helminiak (2014)

Chairperson, Graduate Social Work

B.A., Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania; M.S.W., Marywood University; Ph.D., University of Connecticut

Amber M. Holbrook (2013)

B.A., Hampshire College; M.S.W., University of New England; Ph.D., Bryn Mawr College

Angela Lavery (2016)

Graduate Coordinator, Graduate Social Work

B.S., Pennsylvania State University; M.S.W., University of Wyoming; Ph.D., University of Denver

Terrence O. Lewis (2014)

B.A., Catholic University; M.S.W., University of Kentucky; Ph.D., Boston University

Mia Ocean (2016)

A.A., Palm Beach State College; B.A., University of West Florida; M.S.W., University of Michigan; Ph.D., Boston University

Julie Anne Tennille (2013)

B.S., York College; M.S., Temple University; Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania


SWG 501. Social Work Practice I. 3 Credits.

This course provides an introduction to generalist social work practice including its models, purpose, method, values, and ethics. It incorporates a problem-solving framework and ecological systems perspective and stresses the influence of diversity on practice.
Typically offered in Fall.

SWG 502. Social Work Practice II. 3 Credits.

This course focuses on change theories, intervention strategies, and extended knowledge and skills for working with individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations.
Typically offered in Spring.

SWG 503. Integrative Bridge Course. 3 Credits.

This course, required of all advanced-standing students, provides preparation for entry into the second year concentration in direct practice with individuals and families. It integrates foundation values, knowledge, and skills from the content areas of social work practice, the dialectic of oppression and liberation, social welfare policy, and social work research. It also sets the stage for framework of the curriculum: recovery, resiliency, and capacity building, grounded in human rights and social and economic justice.
Pre / Co requisites: SWG 503 prerequisite - Advanced Standing MSW students only.
Typically offered in Summer.

SWG 511. The Dialectic of Oppression and Liberation. 3 Credits.

Within the context of a diverse and stratified society, this course examines the impact of discrimination and oppression on members of special groups, i.e., ethnic minorities, women, elderly, disabled, gays, and lesbians while considering the effects of diversity on human behavior and attitudes. It also considers the richness of human diversity.
Typically offered in Fall.

SWG 533. Methods of Social Work Research. 3 Credits.

This course provides students with a theoretical foundation in the method of social work research. The characteristics of scientific inquiry, the structure of theories, problem and hypothesis formulation, models of research design, sampling, measurement, and the logic of casual inferences are taught.
Typically offered in Spring.

SWG 534. Advanced Research Methods: Program Evaluation. 3 Credits.

This advanced research methods course focuses on the exploration of the techniques, methods, and issues relevant to ethical practice in evaluation research. Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of social service agency programs will be discussed. Topics covered include history, philosophies and conceptual approaches in program evaluation; design and conducting needs assessment; the analysis and management of program data using computer software; and the measurement of program goals/objectives through process and outcome evaluations. Participation in hands-on individual and/or small-group projects to experience all phases of the evaluation process will be a central pedagogical approach.
Typically offered in Fall & Summer.

SWG 541. Social Welfare Policies and Services. 3 Credits.

This course emphasizes the historical, economic, political, and philosophical foundations of American social welfare policy.
Typically offered in Fall.

SWG 542. Advanced Policy and Community Practice. 3 Credits.

This course emphasizes advanced level critical and comparative analysis of social policy. Theories of social and organizational change, administration, and legislative advocacy also are reviewed and applied to policy implementation.
Typically offered in Spring.

SWG 554. Human Development across the Lifespan. 3 Credits.

This course uses a developmental and ecological perspective to explore the interaction of biological, psychological, and sociocultural systems, and the influence of human diversity and economics as determinants of human behavior of individuals and families.
Distance education offering may be available.
Typically offered in Fall.

SWG 555. Human Behavior in Organizations and Communities. 3 Credits.

Utilizing both critical and systems approaches, this mezzo/macro level course focuses on assessing the impact of diversity, culture, and oppression on group, organizational, and community development. Multicentric models of group, organizational, and community behavior will be explored and implications for social work practice examined.
Typically offered in Spring.

SWG 560. Mental Health: A Recovery Approach. 3 Credits.

Using a bio-psycho-social-cultural-spiritual and recovery/resiliency/capacity building template for analysis; this course examines major childhood, adolescent and adult mental health disorders. The impact of the medical model, the DSM 5, managed care and the recovery movement is evaluated in light of social work values, ethics and practice, particularly human rights and social and economic justice.
Typically offered in Spring & Summer.

SWG 561. Advanced Practice I: Individuals. 3 Credits.

Building on the strengths-based, collaborative model of social work practice covered in SWG 501 and 502 (or 503 for Advanced Standing students), this course focuses on theory driven and evidence-based practice with individuals with particular attention to enhancing recovery and building resiliency. Theories and models of practice to be covered in this course include attachment theory, object relations theory, cognitive-behavioral theory, humanistic/feminist theories, relational theory, social constructivist theory (which underlies the narrative approach) and the crisis intervention model.
Typically offered in Fall.

SWG 562. Advanced Social Work Practice With Families. 3 Credits.

This course will explore advanced theories, models, and skills for social work practice with families (including families with children and older adults). The strengths and needs of diverse family cultures and structures will be explored. Regardless of the theoretical perspective utilized in assessing family strengths and needs, the students in this class will be required to consider the family a full partner in assessment and intervention, thereby empowering the family for lasting and constructive change to work toward recovery and build resiliency, while mitigating the effects of trauma. The role of social workers in permanency planning, family preservation and family support services across the lifespan will be explored. Practical assessment and intervention tools arising from the major theoretical approaches will be learned experientially.
Typically offered in Fall.

SWG 563. Advanced Practice II: Integrative Seminar. 3 Credits.

Building on the strengths-based, collaborative model of social work practice covered in foundation practice courses and the theories and models of advanced practice in SWG 561: Advanced Practice I - Individuals and SWG 562: Advanced Social Work Practice with Families; this seminar focuses on a number evidence-based and theory driven practice models with individuals and/or families. In the true spirit of a graduate seminar; the approach will be one of collegial and critical examination and reflection on the material, with application in the field of paramount concern. The seminar is organized to into three main areas of learning that will help advance student competencies in advanced practice skills, knowledge and values: 1) the impact of complex trauma and the strength and resiliency of individuals and families within the context of a recovery model; 2) Acceptance and Commitment Therapy; and 3) mind/body integrative health approaches including mindfulness and other meditative techniques with emphasis on the use of these techniques in self-care. Special attention will be paid to the social determinants of health and the crucial role of the social work perspective. The latest findings in neuro-science research will be emphasized. The DSM 5/ICD 10 and the pros and cons of the latest diagnostic schema in that manual will be examined and critiqued.
Typically offered in Spring.

SWG 570. Substance Use Disorders: Assessment and Intervention. 3 Credits.

This course reviews the major theoretical approaches to understanding substance use disorders and to assessment and treatment with individuals, families, groups and communities. The pharmacology of drugs and alcohol and the nature of addiction are included, as are the influence of culture, ethnicity, gender, the peer group, and mental health disorders. The principles of self-help and therapeutic communities are applied.
Typically offered in Fall, Spring & Summer.

SWG 571. Social Work With Older Adults. 3 Credits.

This course reviews theoretical and biopsychosocial elements of culturally responsive social work practice with older adults, their caregivers and families. The course examines the status and position of older adults in society, the community, and the interdisciplinary support service delivery system. This class includes information on assessments and interventions with diverse older adult clients regarding health and wellness, chronic illness, social networks, poverty, disability, end of life care and bereavement.
Typically offered in Fall.

SWG 576. Child Welfare: A Resilience and Trauma-informed Approach. 3 Credits.

This course will introduce students to the core concepts (theory, knowledge, and skills) informing evidence-based assessment and intervention for traumatized children and adolescents who are in the child welfare system. Trauma is broadly defined and includes children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events including abuse, neglect and witnessing interpersonal crime (e.g. domestic violence), community violence and other traumatic events who have come into contact with the child welfare system. The course will highlight the role of development, culture and empirical evidence in trauma-specific assessment, referral, and interventions with children, adolescents and their families within a child welfare context. It will address the level of functioning of primary care-giving environments and assess the capacity of the community and the child welfare system to facilitate restorative processes. It examines issues and builds practice skills related to assessing risk to safety in families, child maltreatment, family preservation services, substitute care including kinship care, foster care, and residential treatment facilities, and permanency planning including adoption. The connections between child maltreatment and family violence, substance abuse and mental illness will be studied and discussed. As child welfare practice is inextricably linked to the legislative and judicial systems in this country, this course will also explore the latest state and federal policies as they relate to making decisions about families served.
Pre / Co requisites: SWG 576 requires prerequisite of SWG 501 or SWG 503 or permission of instructor.
Typically offered in Spring.

SWG 577. Social Work in Disasters: From Initial Response to Recovery through Rebuilding. 3 Credits.

The course focuses on the characteristics, strengths, and service needs of individuals, families, and communities that have experienced a disaster (whether natural or manmade) with resultant mass trauma, deaths, and extensive loss of housing and other material possessions. The framework from which this course is taught is one of recovery, resiliency/risk, and capacity building. This course considers individual and family events within their ecological context (including, of course, the global context) and works to build sensitivity to and competence in work with various family forms, community alliances, and cultural patterns. This course will cover all aspects of disaster relief work. Topics covered include introduction to disaster relief work, shelter operations, family services, disaster mental health services including the theoretical bases for these services, psychological first aid, critical incident stress management, community recovery and rebuilding, and policy development for disaster preparedness and community rebuilding. Students will learn both how to offer disaster mental health services to those people directly affected by the disaster and to first responders (police, fire, rescue, and other relief workers). Careful attention will be paid to how to take care of one's self, both during and after providing disaster services.
Pre / Co requisites: SWG 577 requires a prerequisite of SWG 501 or SWG 503 or permission of instructor.
Consent: Permission of the Department required to add.
Typically offered in Summer.

SWG 578. Social Work w/ Veterans & Military Families: A Resilience and Trauma-informed Approach. 3 Credits.

This course will explore the latest innovations in behavioral health and social services to Veterans and military family members including: building resiliency, trauma-informed assessment and intervention with individuals and families, cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, psychological first aid for military families, suicide risk assessment and prevention, assessment and treatment of military sexual trauma, assessment of family violence and child maltreatment in military families and other research informed assessment and intervention tools. Services for military family members including children, during and post-deployment will also be explored. The wide array of services available within the Veterans Administration and in the community will be discussed. The course is a hybrid course; about 15% of the course is web-based training. Each student will be required to complete an online training and certificate in Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure Therapy.
Pre / Co requisites: SWG 578 requires prerequisite: SWG 501 or SWG 503 or permission of instructor.
Consent: Permission of the Department required to add.
Typically offered in Summer.

SWG 579. Social Work in Health Care. 3 Credits.

This course focuses on the role of social workers and the social work profession in varied health care settings. Particular attention is given to examining social determinants of health, working within an interdisciplinary team, health policy/payer sources, ethical concerns, and ethno-cultural awareness and competency. This course also provides students with a framework to understand and apply appropriate theoretical models to work with individuals, families, and groups within the health care settings. The importance of evidence-based practice, evaluation, and self-care will also be explored.
Pre / Co requisites: SWG 579 requires a prerequisite of SWG 501 or SWG 503.
Typically offered in Summer.

SWG 580. Social Work in End of Life Care. 3 Credits.

This course examines the issues of death, dying, grief and loss. The field of end of life and palliative care will be reviewed. The course will discuss attitudes towards death and dying and additional top-ics such as death with dignity acts within the U.S. The course will also introduce students to dying and grief loss stages, models and theories; coping with dying and loss; self-care: grief and loss during different developmental stages; and cultural responsiveness during end of life and bereavement care.
Typically offered in Summer.

SWG 581. Loss and Grief Through A Life Cycle. 3 Credits.

This course will explore the latest innovations in behavioral health and social services to individuals and families facing losses of all kinds. Together we will explore: contemporary grief theory, assessment and intervention with grieving individuals and families, differences between living and death related losses, building resilience, and creative healing techniques.
Typically offered in Spring & Summer.

SWG 583. The Human-Animal Dynamic. 3 Credits.

This course focuses on the role of domestic animals in the lives of the individuals and families, with a focus on four primary dimensions of the human-animal dynamic: animal-assisted interventions, pet loss, animal hoarding and animal cruelty. Social workers have long recognized the importance of human-animal interactions. A strong bond can support resilience and recovery, while a lack of empathy towards animals is associated with anti-social behaviors. Domestic animals play an important role in the lives of many people, to the extent that some make important decisions based on their relationship with pets. This may include their willingness to get inpatient care or seek out-of-home support. Animal-assisted therapies (AAT) are rapidly becoming mainstream in medical and therapeutic settings. This course will provide students with the history and evidence behind AATs, as well as hands-on experiences.
Typically offered in Summer.

SWG 585. Community-based Prevention Services. 3 Credits.

This course examines the role of prevention in community socialization regarding individual, family, and community health and mental health. It reviews prevention research and funding, the use of prevention and community based services; and offers a project based learning activity. The ecological perspective framework and systems theory are used to examine current statistics on community areas of need and the provision of services that inform educational performance, health and mental health, family development and aging. Students will operate from a framework of theory, multicultural resources, advocacy, and collaboration to develop community education for capacity building. Working through consultation with our Field Director, groups will select a prevention area and prepare an educational curriculum that may be presented at a local agency.
Consent: Permission of the Department required to add.
Typically offered in Summer.

SWG 586. Motivational Interviewing. 3 Credits.

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based counseling/communication method designed for evoking intrinsic motivation for positive behavior change. Originally developed in the drug and alcohol field, MI is now empirically supported to be delivered in a variety of settings, including social services, health care, mental health, public health, and criminal justice. This course will immerse students in theories, principles, and skills of MI and focus primarily on the use of MI by social workers using role and real-plays to learn and demonstrate practice skills. Following the Eight Stages of Learning MI (Moyers Miller, 2006) students will be guided through a sequence of experiential learning activities to develop and refine their skills of MI. Students will also develop beginning proficiency in identifying and coding MI skills using the MITI 3.1.
Typically offered in Fall & Spring.

SWG 590. Seminar in Social Work. 3 Credits.

In-depth topics in social work offered to complement the program's concentration and not offered in required courses.
Typically offered in Fall, Spring & Summer.
Repeatable for Credit.

SWG 591. Independent Study in Social Work. 1-3 Credits.

An independent project developed by a student under the guidance of a specific faculty member.
Typically offered in Fall, Spring & Summer.
Repeatable for Credit.

SWG 593. Green Social Work and Environmental Justice. 3 Credits.

This course emphasizes a framework of environmental justice for exploring the connection between environmental impact and social, political, and economic structures. An environmental psychology perspective is utilized to understand how attitudes and behaviors related to the natural environment and sustainability are shaped, reinforced, and changed. Students will learn about a broad range of topics related to conservation of the natural environment, analyze the impact on communities, and practice skills relevant to behavioral change, community engagement, and advocacy.
Typically offered in Spring & Summer.

SWG 596. Field Practicum I. 3 Credits.

This course is a structured field experience at an approved social agency for 224 hours during the semester. Students learn the beginning application of the generalist model of practice and professional social work roles.
Pre / Co requisites: SWG 596 requires a co-requisite of SWG 501.
Typically offered in Fall.

SWG 597. Field Practicum II. 3 Credits.

This course is a structured field experience at an approved social agency for 224 hours during the semester. Students learn the beginning application of the generalist model of practice and professional social work roles.
Pre / Co requisites: SWG 597 requires a co-requisite of SWG 502.
Typically offered in Spring.

SWG 598. Field Practicum III. 3 Credits.

This course involves a structured field experience at an approved social agency for a total of 252 hours for the semester. Students incorporate advanced-level intervention into their professional roles.
Pre / Co requisites: SWG 598 requires co-requisites of SWG 561 and SWG 562.
Typically offered in Fall.

SWG 599. Field Practicum IV. 3 Credits.

This course involves a structured field experience at an approved social agency for a total of 252 hours during the semester. The student's experience in field practice culminates through coordination within the professional role: integration of theory to practice with individuals, families, and communities; knowledge of the impact of social policy; the role of research in practice; and the influence of diversity and oppression.
Pre / Co requisites: SWG 599 requires a co-requisite of SWG 563.
Typically offered in Spring.