The UH Graduate College of Social Work offers four specializations designed to enable students to develop specialized skills and knowledge in defined areas of social work practice. Three of these specializations: Health and Behavioral Health, Social Work Practice with Latinos, and Political Social Work offer students the opportunity to focus their advanced studies in substantive areas of social work in which the GCSW has built a national reputation for expertise. These specializations directly respond to pressing needs of vulnerable populations in the Houston community, and enable students to benefit from the GCSW’s long-standing relationships with community agencies engaged in practice in these areas. The fourth specialization, Individualized Specialization, offers students the opportunity to develop advanced knowledge and skills in a substantive area of social work of interest to them.
To receive a specialization, all students must 1) submit and receive approval for a plan for completing their chosen specialization, 2) successfully complete a minimum of nine credit hours in the substantive area, all with a minimum of a “B” average, and 3) successfully complete an approved field requirement in their specialized area. We encourage students to participate in additional activities to enhance their advanced knowledge and skills in their interest area by attending workshops and trainings, volunteering in the community, pursuing mentorship in their area of specialization, and tailoring their class assignments to their areas of interest.
*Students who entered the GCSW prior to Fall 2014 will be able to continue pursuing your current specialization. Please see your Academic Advisor for more information.
Houston is home to the world’s largest medical center and is one of the country’s most diverse cities and as a result, provides an excellent training ground for students interested in health equity for poor and vulnerable populations. Social workers increasingly serve clients across the lifespan with multiple, complex presenting problems who access medical settings for mental health services. The Health and Behavioral Health Specialization positions students to benefit from the cutting-edge behavioral health programs within Houston, as well as the strong and innovative health and behavioral health research, teaching, and practice expertise that our College faculty possess. Behavioral health social workers promote well-being through prevention and interventions in mental illness and substance abuse or other addictions (NASW, 2014).
Students completing the Health and Behavioral Health Specialization are prepared with the advanced skills and knowledge necessary to work in integrated health systems. Integrated health provides mental health alongside medical services and is increasingly part of the U.S. health care system. Clinical students are trained to work in mental health and/or substance abuse prevention and intervention service delivery settings through advanced coursework in evidence-based behavioral health assessment and treatment and field practica in agencies that offer mental health and/or substance abuse services. Macro students receive advanced training in understanding and assessing the social determinants of health disparities, as well as in analyzing the policies and funding streams that affect the delivery of behavioral health services.
Within this specialization, students may choose to focus their studies on how health and behavioral health impact specific populations or areas of practice. Elective courses and field placements allow students to further focus in the following areas:
- Health Equity
- Behavioral Health with Children and Families
The Social Work Practice with Latinos Specialization aims to prepare social workers to work with Hispanic/Latino/Latina populations in clinical, community, and social service settings. In the Greater Houston area, a professional with a Master’s degree in Social Work will interact with diverse populations that include Latinos/as from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States and one of the most diverse. The Latino population is the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., expected to increase from 17% currently to 30% by the year 2050. Designated a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2012, the University of Houston is ripe with opportunities for networking with various Hispanic/Latino cultures on campus.
The Social Work Practice with Latinos Specialization creates unique learning opportunities for students to gain effective advanced social work skills for engaging the Latino family and community in social service interventions from a cultural perspective. Through the focused coursework taken in the specialization, a required field component, optional study abroad opportunities, and active exchanges with faculty who teach in the specialization, students benefit from innovative opportunities for increasing professional cultural awareness and understanding of the historical, political, economic, community, social and cultural contexts of Hispanics/Latinos/Latinas.
The Political Social Work specialization builds off of the GCSW’s historical tradition as a national leader in political social work and our innovative and unique programming in this area. This includes the Austin Legislative Internship Program and our status as the only social work program in the world with a Nobel Peace Laureate on its faculty. Students enrolled in this specialization benefit from the research, teaching, and practice expertise of our College faculty in areas of local, national and global advocacy, policy, and civic engagement.
Students completing the Political Social Work Specialization possess advanced skills that prepare them to assume leadership positions as community organizers, policy advocates, policy analysts, and legislative staff. Students are able to integrate political advocacy skills into all levels of social work practice in order to promote social, economic, and political justice on behalf of vulnerable populations. Alumni who have graduated with this specialization hold positions in both clinical and macro settings.
The Individualized Specialization builds on the GCSW’s mission to advocate for innovative methods that promote social, economic and political justice and its commitment to offer flexibility to students where possible. Students identify and explore a specific substantive area of interest of their choice that is related to social work and not already covered under another specialization, and create a specialization that fits this interest. Students enrolled in this specialization must focus on a specific population, social issue, or area of practice. Students can shape their specialization by selecting courses from the GCSW as well as courses from other disciplines.