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School for Social Work

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HBSE Sequence

SSW professor Pegg O'Neill and three Smith MSW students, looking at a laptop computer

Ora Nakash (Chair) Christy Tronnier (SOCW 514/516 Coordinator) Kris Evans (SOCW 615 Coordinator) Seth Dunn (SOCW 520 Coordinator) Mamta Dadlani (SOCW 522 Coordinator) Reihonna Frost-Calhoun (SOCW 525 Coordinator) Rory Crath (SOCW 618 Coordinator)

The psychosocial perspective serves as the primary guide in shaping the human behavior in the social environment (HBSE) curriculum.

Courses focus on bodies of knowledge and theory that help to explain the intimate and extended contexts that shape human development and experience, that help explore the inner lives and psychological functioning of children and adults, and that help to explain the complex interactions between person and context.

Content on individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, culture, social structure and political and economic forces—as well as on the relationships among various groupings—is all an integral part of the HBSE curriculum.

Elective Courses

The course numbers listed are effective beginning Summer 2019. Former course number equivalencies can be found here.

Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer
 
Introduces students to information, concepts, and controversies critical to understanding the impact of massive violence on individuals and groups of people. Throughout the course understanding the impact of such violence will be coupled with the question of what people, and cultures, need to recover. Widespread violence threatens the constituent elements of individual and community life, especially when the violence is between communitities and targets civilians, as in Rwanda or Bosnia. Each individual caught in such violence has to begin a new life which in some way incorporates the destruction and violation which have occurred, and communities also have to reestablish, or even create, conditions for resuming viable community life. During the course we will consider what enables recovery as we look at mass violence in a number of ways. We will consider the changing nature of warfare, and detail the impact of intercommunal violence (including specific ways women and children are affected). We will consider the role of group identity in the generation of mass violence, and the ways in which violence and the terror it generates affect the subsequent group identities of conflictants (for example, the impact of the 1994 genocide on ethnic identity in Rwanda; the impact of September 11 on the national identities of US citizens). We will look at ongoing impact, through issues such as intergenerational transmission, and group memory of horror. We will look in detail at the controversies surrounding the use by the humanitarian field of concepts such as trauma and PTSD to delineate the effects of mass violence, and consider other frameworks. We will look in depth at some of the ways people and communities get caught in cycles of revenge and violence, and then look at the stages which individuals and communities go through in moving toward peaceful coexistence. We will consider (particularly at the start of the course and again at the end) the impact of working with the issue of mass violence (confronting the brutal facts, working with those involved, etc) upon ourselves as students, workers, and human beings.
 
Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer
 
Synthesizes contemporary literature that demonstrates the increasing relevance of neurobiology findings on clinical practice, with a range of vulnerable populations. Using aspects of child development theory, contemporary attachment theory, trauma theory, cognitive neuroscience, and clinical theory, the course focuses on the adaptive functions of positive early relationships for the achievement of key developmental capacities. A central hypothesis of the course is there is no such thing as a “single brain” and that one’s social brain is fundamentally shaped in interaction with other people. The healing benefits of a therapeutic relationship are explicitly demonstrated. We will explore the central role of affect regulation, mentalization, and implicit relational knowing in adult psychotherapy. We also will explore the outcomes of disrupted attachment and trauma on brain development; in so doing, we will explore clinical implications and treatment strategies for a range of biopsychosocial disorders. Classroom methods will include lecture, small group discussion, videotapes and case presentations.
 

Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer

Provides the opportunity to learn about social class from a variety of perspectives – theoretical, sociological, cultural, and personal – while considering its relevance to the field of social work. Though class is the primary focus of the course, we will contextualize our understanding in relationship to race, gender, and sexuality. Since this course combines both personal and intellectual discussions of class, it is critical we maintain an environment where people can share their experiences honestly and talk critically and thoughtfully about social class regardless of their background, personal goals, and political orientations. All students who enroll should be prepared to engage in rigorous and concentrated study of this important facet of our lives.

Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer
 
Concepts and theories of sexuality, desire and pleasure get practiced in the clinical encounter. Rather than taking these concepts as self-evident, we subject them to critical scrutiny: how do we understand categories of sex and sexuality? What is at stake for clinical social work practice when we claim the basis of desire as psychological, genetic, cultural, biological, pornographic, or social? How do normative discourses about desire, race, gender and ability filter into our clinical understandings and practice models? As clinicians how are we grappling with the new roles that pharmacological and social media technological developments are playing in contemporary sexual/relational lives? Importantly, we ask: How might re-thinking sex and desire as a social and ethical practice assist us in our clinical work with clients? Our point of entry for deliberating on how theory meets clinical practice in different settings (rural/urban, liberal, conservative) and with clients identifying across socially marked differences is multidirectional: theoretical readings (drawn from psychoanalytic traditions, sexology, queer of colour critique, trans theory, disability studies), fiction writing, film, class discussion and importantly, clinical case studies.
Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer
 
All of us will acquire the status of elderhood if we are fortunate to live long enough. But where does that line begin? What are the sociocultural dynamics involved in that determination? The discourses of aging, how we understand when “elderhood” begins, what it should look like, how it should be understood and experienced, are cultural directives which are profoundly gendered, classed, raced and enmeshed in social discourses about the body. Phrases such as “graceful aging” and “dying with dignity” can be seen as efforts to challenge harmful practices and stereotypes about growing older and reaching the end of life in an ableist culture. What are the effects of such dynamics on the well-being of older adults, as well as those of us who can imagine ourselves in this status in our own futures? This course will address how a deep appreciation of the sociocultural context of aging can enrich clinical dialogues and social interventions in social work practice.
 
Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer
 
Provides an introduction to personality disorders and their treatment. The course begins with an examination of theoretical constructs of personality disorder, and some of the controversy that has developed around these constructs. We will then, using a “common factors” model, explore the etiologies, presentations, and treatments of various personality disorders, with a special focus on DSM-5 Cluster B disorders – Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Disorder. We will study both classical and contemporary psychoanalytic papers on the topic, as well as contemporary models rooted in psychodynamic and trauma-focused thinking (e.g. Transference-Focused Psychotherapy, Mentalization-Based Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy). We will also invite guest lecturers with particular expertise on different populations and treatments to share their insights and answer questions on theory and practice.
 
Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer
 
Introduces students to social work with persons with disabilities and their families. We will consider the history, social construction, cultural perspectives, and demographics of physical, emotional, sensory, and cognitive disability. Major national disability policies and programs are studied and critiqued, along with individual and collective strategies that foster empowerment and social justice. Individual experiences of people with various types of disabilities and families are explored, followed by a discussion of issues of discrimination, equal access, universal design, and social integration. After gaining a sense of the personal experiences and social status of people with disabilities, implications for social work practice are addressed.
 
Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer
 
Addresses some of the major policy and service delivery issues in the field of mental health that affect the lives of individuals with chronic mental illness and their families. Particular attention will be given to individuals suffering from major mental illnesses, including Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorders, Major Depressive Disorder, and Psychological Trauma. Course readings and case material will also address issues in the treatment of adults dually diagnosed with major mental illnesses and Substance Related Disorders. Advocacy efforts from clients and their families will be discussed. Students' class presentations of their own clinical work with mentally ill adults will provide opportunities for discussing treatment questions and ethical dilemmas that arise in working with these individuals and their families.
 
Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Third Year Only
 
Addresses: (a) how socialization of race and ethnicity may influence client’s subjective presenting concerns, transference, defenses and resistance, as well as the therapist’s own subjective countertransference, defenses, and resistance in the clinical encounter and therapeutic relationship, and (b) the therapist’s unique multicultural challenges in mobilizing a working alliance with her or his given client. Contemporary relational and intersubjective psychodynamic concepts will be critically examined with racially and culturally marginalized client populations. Assessment, subjective and intersubjective transference/counter-transference, defense system, resistance/impasses, and the use of self within the therapeutic working alliance will be emphasized.
 
Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer
 
Situates contemporary trans identities, experiences, communities and movements in their historical and social contexts and explores implications for social work practice. Drawing on literatures from psychology, sociology, cultural studies, LGB studies and queer theory, as well as trans community sources, we’ll examine how categories like trans and transgender have been shaped by medical, psychological, and cultural/community-based discourses and how these discourses continue to play out. Using a range of theoretical lenses, community perspectives and clinical case studies, we’ll compare and critique current treatment protocols, diagnostic criteria, and “best practices.” Assignments will focus on exploring social workers’ overlapping and sometimes contradictory roles as clinicians, advocates and gatekeepers, and identifying/developing ethical approaches to these contradictions in order to support trans individuals and communities to live and thrive with self-determination and dignity.
 
Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer
 
Focuses on the therapeutic alliance and the complex relational dynamics that emerge in clinical social work through an in-depth study of transference and countertransference. Through a careful reading of both current and historical literature and an emphasis on relational and intersubjective theories, students will be exposed to a range of approaches for recognizing and reflecting on the transference/countertransference field. Students will learn to think critically about both the interpersonal and structural factors that influence how therapeutic alliances form with particular attention to intersectional identities and use of self in clinical practice. Students will explore applications of course material through experiential exercises, shared case material, and engagement with the relational dynamics that emerge in class. This course seeks to establish a learning environment where students can freely engage with some of the most challenging affective and relational aspects of clinical work through a learning stance characterized by curiosity, openness to perspectives with which they may disagree, and commitment to mutual support in the learning process.
 

Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer
  Using multiple theoretical frameworks, this course will focus on the assessment and treatment of people diagnosed with substance use disorders and mental illness. Students will learn how to complete thorough biopsychosocial assessments, with special attention given to the co-occurrence of addiction and mood disorders, psychological trauma, psychotic disorders, and ADD/ADHD. A range of therapeutic interventions will be introduced and applied through case analysis, these include: psychopharmacology, psychodynamic approaches, motivational enhancement treatment and the stages of change, individual, group, and family therapy modalities, relapse prevention, and the use of mutual support programs. Discourse will include choosing priorities in treatment, the challenges of providing integrated treatment, and systemic pitfalls faced by those working in the field and those trying to access services. Understanding that those who are dually diagnosed experience greater risk factors for being part of oppressed and vulnerable populations will be incorporated within the ongoing class discussions. Classroom methods will include lecture, small group interaction, videotapes and case presentations.

Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: Human Behavior
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Third Year Summer
 
The objective of this course is to develop in students a fluency of knowledge around trauma theory which will enable them to apply themselves effectively in clinical contexts. Building on the premise that theory is an essential tool in assessment, diagnosis and intervention, a significant proportion of the course will be dedicated to building a foundation of knowledge around the seminal writings on trauma, both historical and contemporary. A core objective of the course is to identify trauma as being central to multiple areas of psychic functioning, and to link it to other bodies of knowledge such as attachment and personality theory as well as to psychoanalytic neurobiology. The course will apply theory to practice in looking through a biopsychosocial lens at the assessment and diagnosis of traumatized individuals. The notion of therapist as witness to an unfolding narrative will provide the fabric to exploring the range of interventions available. These models of intervention will be interrogated, they will be located in the relevant body of theory, and their mechanisms of action will be explored. Finally, the course will visit the concept of trauma as a crisis of meaning, and at the potential for transformation, forgiveness and healing once trauma has been re-membered, repeated and worked through. Teaching methods will include lecture, small group discussions, class presentations and media input.
 
Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: HBSE
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Second or Third Year Summer

Topics not included in the regular curriculum, but within the HBSE sequence. Specific title and description information will be posted in the registration portal for the term offered. 
Quarter Hours: 2
Coordinating Sequence: HBSE
Fulfills: Human Behavior Elective
Eligibility: Third Year Summer

Topics not included in the regular curriculum, but within the HBSE sequence. Specific title and description information will be posted in the registration portal for the term offered.