A Master of Social Work degree prepares graduates to become professional social workers, applying their skills in a variety of service settings with a diverse client populations. Attaining an MSW is a major milestone in a social worker’s lifelong commitment to learning. As social workers embark on their careers in human services, many choose to continue their education beyond the MSW in order to deepen their knowledge and strengthen their skills.
There are a number of online and in-person trainings, workshops, certificate programs, and seminars that can enhance social workers’ skills in a particular area of practice. These advanced clinical training opportunities serve a variety of professional needs. Some educational opportunities focus on a specific therapeutic technique, enabling social workers to learn and apply it in their practice. Others aim to build upon and deepen social workers’ knowledge and effectiveness in a particular therapeutic approach or orientation. A third category of trainings centers around working more effectively with particular populations.
If you’re interested in learning a new therapeutic technique, deepening your knowledge in a particular therapeutic approach, or learning to work with a new population, advanced clinical trainings are one avenue to enhancing your practice. The following are examples of advanced clinical training opportunities that are suited toward and might be of interest to social workers.
Learn a New Technique
Specific therapeutic techniques have been developed through research and practice to address specific problems. These techniques can complement many different therapeutic orientations, and be applied in a variety of settings. Social workers should always seek competency in a therapeutic technique before practicing it with clients, and these opportunities provide the training needed to learn and apply a number of different evidence-based techniques in social work practice:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – According to the EMDR Institute, this technique is an empirically-validated approach to working with people who have experienced trauma. EMDR is carried out over several sessions, and focuses on healing traumatic memories. The EMDR Institute offers basic and advanced training options to learn this unique psychotherapeutic technique. The training is “is designed for licensed mental health practitioners who treat adults and children in a clinical setting.”
Integrated Movement Therapy – Integrated Movement Therapy (IMT) is a copyrighted approach to combining yoga movements with therapy. As the website for this approach describes, “IMT uses yoga’s philosophical, physical and spiritual framework in conjunction with conventional neurophysiological perspectives to address the challenges of being human, from depression and anxiety to degenerative conditions and life-threatening illness.” A continuum of trainings meant to be “helpful for a broad range of people working in a variety of fields” are offered, with a certification option.
Motivational Interviewing – Motivational interviewing is a skill often addressed in MSW curricula, but training opportunities are available to strengthen social workers’ skills in this technique. The non-profit organization, Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers, provides an extensive list of training opportunities.
Deepen your Knowledge of a Particular Therapeutic Approach or Orientation
If you’re interested in improving your skills and strengthening your knowledge of a therapeutic orientation or approach that resonates with you and your work, there is likely an advanced clinical training opportunity to meet your needs. These are a few examples:
Narrative therapy – Narrative therapy is a non-pathologizing approach to working with people focused on storytelling. Perhaps you learned a bit about narrative therapy in your MSW program, and would like to enhance your ability to apply it in your work. The Evanston Family Therapy Centre in Illinois offers a number of trainings and workshops.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – According to the Beck Institute, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is “a time-sensitive, structured, present-oriented psychotherapy directed toward solving current problems and teaching clients skills to modify dysfunctional thinking and behavior.” The basics of CBT are usually taught in MSW programs, but there is much more to learn. The Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy is one option for trainings in CBT, in-person or online.
Art Therapy – While graduate degrees are available in art therapy for those who want to strictly train in this approach, social workers can also learn to incorporate elements of art therapy into a more generalist or eclectic practice. A variety of options are available to learn the basics of art therapy. The Expressive Art Workshops website provides an extensive list.
Learn to Work more Effectively with Special Populations
Additional training opportunities are available for social workers who have begun working with a new population, or who feel they need to increase their cultural competence with or knowledge of a particular population. Some trainings can enhance your skills working with people who have a common presenting problem, while others can strengthen your skills working with people of a certain age group or ethnic background. These are a few examples.
Traumatic Stress – The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies offers advanced trainings and a certificate program for practitioners interested in strengthening their ability to work with clients who have experienced traumatic stress:
Trauma and Natural Disaster – The Green Cross Academy of Traumatology offers trainings and certification for practitioners to gain the skills they need to work with people who have experienced the trauma of natural disasters.
Cultural Competence – Online trainings are available to support social workers in increasing their cultural competence in order to work with many different diverse populations.
The MSW is an important achievement in your social work education, and trainings like these offer social work professionals the opportunity to continue learning beyond the MSW degree. Advanced clinical trainings allow social workers to better serve clients by strengthening their skills and enhancing their knowledge across a number of different areas relevant to the human services professions.