DP Mental Health Certificate

Student with client

Social work practice in mental health services, or what used to be referred to as "psychiatric social work," is a long-standing area of practice in the profession. Social workers today are the primary providers of services to clients with mental health needs, particularly in resource poor areas. The DP-Mental Health Certificate is designed to prepare MSW Program graduates in the Direct Practice specialization for professional practice with individuals, families, and/or small groups with mental/behavioral health challenges. 

This certificate is only to students currently enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work’s MSW Program at either the Oakland campus or the Pitt-Johnstown campus. Students in the MSW Program complete a series of required and elective courses as well as a specialization field experience leading to the DP-Mental Health Certificate within the normal MSW requirements and need not exceed the length of the degree program. As a University of Pittsburgh-recognized certificate program, receipt of the DP-Mental Health Certificate appears on graduates’ MSW diplomas.

DP-Mental Health Certificate Curriculum

Required Courses

Students pursuing the DP-Mental Health Certificate must fulfill all MSW Program and Direct Practice specialization requirements as well as complete specific courses that support the certificate. Therefore, in addition to taking Models of Intervention (SWINT 2082), an Advanced Direct Practice course (SWINT 2031 or SWINT 2032 or SWINT 2033), a second-level Research course (SWRES 2033 or SWRES 2045 or SWRES 2047 or SWRES 2051), and two electives, students seeking the DP-Mental Health Certificate must complete the following second-level Human Behavior and second-level Social Welfare courses:

SWBEH 2065             Human Behavior: Mental Health (second-level HBSE)

SWWEL 2057             Mental Health and Public Policy (second-level Policy)

In addition, students in the certificate program also must complete two Direct Practice skill elective courses relevant to working with those facing mental/behavioral health challenges from the following list of approved courses: 

SWINT 2018               Clinical Skills in Social Work Practice for Mental Health Recovery

SWINT 2007               Introduction to Psychopharmacology in Social Work Practice

SWINT 2011               Social Work Practice with Families

SWINT 2042               Social Work with Substance Abuse and Other Addictive Disorders

SWINT 2046               Planned Short Term Treatment

SWINT 2049               Direct Practice with Children and Adolescents

SWINT 2053               Social Work Practice with Groups

SWINT 2072               Social Work and Traumatic Stress

SWINT 2031               Advanced Direct Practice: Cognitive-Behavioral – completed in addition to the required Advanced Direct Practice class

SWINT 2032               Advanced Direct Practice: Social Systems – completed in addition to required Advanced Direct Practice class

SWINT 2033               Advanced Direct Practice: Psychodynamic – completed in addition to required Advanced Direct Practice class

Review sample course of study models for the DP-Mental Health Certificate

Required Field Work

DP-Mental Health Certificate students must have their specialization field placements (SWINT 2099; 12 credits – 720 clock hours) in a mental/behavioral health setting working with individuals, families and/or small groups who face challenges associated with mental health or other behavioral health-related issues. This placement may be completed at a public agency or a private provider agency, excluding private practice type settings.

Certificate Declaration of Intent Form

If not already declared as part of the admission application, an MSW student should submit a Certificate Declaration of Intent Form as soon as possible after beginning the MSW Program to affirm their interest in pursuing the DP-Mental Health Certificate as part of their MSW studies.

Financial Aid

Students pursuing the DP-Mental Health Certificate are eligible for the same financial aid and loan options available to all MSW students. In addition, students completing the DP-Mental Health Certificate also may be eligible for:

  • The Behavioral Health Scholars Program offers students the opportunity to become an expert in interprofessional prevention and treatment services for children, adolescents, and transitional-aged youth with behavioral health needs. This program provides a $10,000 stipend during the specialization field placement year. 

Career Opportunities

Federal data indicate that social workers compose the largest group of direct services mental health professionals in the country, more than the combined totals of the other core mental health professions of psychiatry, psychology, and psychiatric nursing. Recent National Association of Social Workers (NASW) surveys have revealed that mental health is the leading area of practice for NASW members; more than 25% of all MSW students nationally identify mental health as their area of specialization and approximately 26% of MSW field placements are in mental and behavioral health organizations. Direct practice social workers in mental health services have a wide array of employment opportunities across a range of public and private providers including psychiatric inpatient services, outpatient psychotherapy services, child and family services, partial hospitalization and case management services, addiction services, and private practice.

The School's Resources

Mental health practice courses are taught by both full-time and part-time faculty, who bring cutting edge, evidence-informed practice knowledge and expertise to their classes. Most of our part-time faculty are actively in practice and bring their experience of current trends and challenges in the field into the classroom. Many of our full-time faculty are involved in practice-related research and can help students learn about the important connections between mental health-related research and practice. Students interested in behavioral health with specific populations (for instance, older adults or children, adolescents, and families) have access to coursework relating to these populations. The School of Social Work is connected with an extensive network of mental/behavioral health providers in both rural and urban settings in western Pennsylvania to offer a broad array of field placement opportunities.

For more information

For information about the DP-Mental Health Certificate program, please contact:

Dr. Travis Labrum
DP-Mental Health Certificate Coordinator

Interested in learning how to apply for admission to the MSW Program?