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This course explores the impact of substance use disorders and addictive behaviors on the behavioral and mental health of individuals, families, and groups. Students gain a historical perspective on trends, attitudes, criminalization, and treatment of individuals struggling with addiction. Special emphasis is given to the impact of systemic poverty, racism, and oppression in understanding the prevalence and maintenance of addiction within specific marginalized communities.

At an individual level, students gain insight into the correlation between the experience of trauma and the development of addiction. Recovery models—both harm-reduction and abstinence-based—include a broad range of interventions, such as psychological, behavioral, pharmacological, spiritual, and self-help programs.

Upon completion of this course, students are expected to be able to do the following:

  1. Identify the presence of unjust biases related to discrimination and oppression in existing clinical models and interventions and work toward eliminating such injustices on all levels of social work practice. (G2f)
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the roles oppression, discrimination, trauma, and injustice play in the development of addictive behaviors and utilize these insights in selecting appropriate interventions and treatment targets. (C3a)
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the strengths and limitations of evidence-based practices relative to cultural responsiveness and oppression. (G4e) (G4b)
  4. Exhibit social work values of human dignity and respect by advocating for clients who experience injustice or discrimination in participating in societal structures, the judicial system, and accessing appropriate mental and physical health services. (C5a; C5d)
  5. Identify potential impact of policy on clients facing addiction and advocate for those who lack the opportunity to advocate for themselves. (C5c)
  6. Exhibit an awareness of the impact of positional power on the therapeutic alliance when working with involuntary clients by maximizing opportunities for client self-determination. (G6e)
  7. Articulate an understanding of the neuroscience of addiction, including the ways that negative early childhood experiences and developmental traumas contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to addictive behavior. (C7a; C7f; C8c)
  8. Identify the neuropathways impacted by addictive substances and behaviors along with effective coping strategies proven to interrupt addictive patterns within these pathways. (C7e; C8c)
  9. Demonstrate the necessity of collaboration between professionals and shareholders involved in a client’s continuum of care in order to provide effective treatment. (C8d; G1e)

Prerequisite or Co-requisite: MSW 650 Clinical Methods I with Individuals

Learn more about the coursework in the Advanced Standing and Traditional tracks of the online Master of Social Work from Saint Mary's. Call 877-308-9954 to speak with an enrollment counselor or request more information.