Field Education Program

Welcome – Dr. Denise Lucombe, MSW Program Field Education Director

The Master of Social Work Office of Field Education (OFE) is excited to work with each of you as you continue this educational process as a graduate student. Our partnerships with community agencies allow students to have the opportunity to apply knowledge, skills, values, and effective cognitive process to work with individuals, groups, families, communities, and organizations.

As an MSW student the integration of classroom and practical work in an agency will enhance your competence in cultural diversity, trauma-informed care, and trauma-informed responses. The nine competencies developed by the Council on Social Work Education form the curriculum and assessment framework for student learning in both their classroom courses and their field internship(s). Welcome to the learning adventure at Virginia State University.

CSWE Educational Policy 2.2—Signature Pedagogy: Field Education

“Signature pedagogies are elements of instruction and of socialization that teach future practitioners the fundamental dimensions of professional work in their discipline—to think, to perform, and to act ethically and with integrity. Field is the signature pedagogy for social work. The intent of field education is to integrate the theoretical and conceptual contribution of the classroom with the practical world of the practice setting. It is a basic precept of social work education that the two interrelated components of curriculum—classroom and field—are of equal importance within the curriculum, and each contributes to the development of the requisite competencies of professional practice. Field education is systematically designed, supervised, coordinated, and evaluated based on criteria by which students demonstrate the Social Work Competencies. Field education may integrate forms of technology as a
component of the program (CSWE, EPAS 2015).

The specialization in trauma informed practice enhances and extends the nine social work competencies. Each of the competencies and the dimensions (knowledge, skills, values, and cognitive and affective processes) that comprise the competencies in trauma informed practice are described below:
Competency 1: Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior
Trauma-informed social workers recognize and demonstrate the key characteristics of trauma-informed practice. They adhere to the ethical responsibility to represent themselves as competent only within the boundaries of their education, training, supervised experience, or other relevant professional experience. They are knowledgeable about the impact of personal and collective, secondary, and vicarious exposure to trauma. Trauma informed social workers recognize the importance of attending to organizational dynamics that contribute to traumatic stress. They demonstrate ethical behavior by developing and maintaining professional development activities at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. They engage in ethical decision making that addresses the potential risk for harm and retraumatization in the helping relationship. Trauma-informed social workers understand their own trauma-related history, client experience of trauma, and their positionality as it relates to issues of diversity. They recognize the impact of historical, collective, global, secondary, and vicarious exposure to trauma and the resulting cognitive shift in worldview. Trauma informed social workers research, study, and implement current evidence-informed approaches and technologies for working with individuals, families, organizations, and communities who have suffered violence, victimization, systematic oppression, abuse, and other personal and collective traumatic experiences while addressing complex ethical issues that may emerge within and from studying and implementing evidence-in-formed approaches.
Competency 2: Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice
Trauma-informed social workers know that trauma occurs in a socio-political-cultural context, crating variable risk for trauma. They understand the intersectionality of diverse factors specified in 2015 EPAS (EP 3.0 on diversity that result in disproportionate trauma exposure, access to services, and social support resources. They engage in trauma work grounded in values of cultural humility, respecting all individuals as experts of their own experiences. They understand the ideals of inclusive excellence, the complex history and impact of structural oppression, and the effects of intergenerational and historical trauma on an individual’s, family’s or community’s ability to thrive. Trauma-informed social workers uphold policies and protection for vulnerable people and marginalized populations in practice and research, advocating for trauma-informed interventions and inquiry. They draw on their professional values and use the tools of self-reflection and critical thinking to increase their self-awareness, mediating the impact of their own experiences, cognitive processes, and personal affective responses to trauma. They promote inclusivity and the rights of survivors and communities to be treated with dignity and respect and the need for responsive assessment and intervention services. Clients are valued from a strength perspective as individuals inherently capable of healing, resiliency, and wellness.
Competency 3: Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice
Trauma-informed social workers recognize that trauma adaptation and growth are most attainable when fundamental human rights of individuals, families, communities, and populations are upheld and restored. They are knowledgeable about how traumatic events do not occur evenly across societal groups and understand that the contextual realities of trauma survivors often affect their ability to recover and thrive in ongoing and posttraumatic circumstances. In their work, trauma informed social workers engage with others in ways that reflect how trauma is experienced in many ways, individually, relationally, and structurally, and requires multilevel and inter-professional response strategies. Furthermore, they advocate for policies and services to transform the social, economic, and environmental conditions that limit human rights and the quality of life, thus, promoting resilience and growth.
Competency 4: Engage in Practice-informed Research and Research-informed Practice
Trauma-informed social workers understand the role of theory and its relationship to evidence-based trauma intervention. They can apply the neurobiological research on the impact of trauma experiences, including epigenetic changes and transgenerational transmission, to explain the bio-psycho-social and cultural factors related to trauma. They examine the effects trauma has on diverse populations and commit to strategies that advocate for research-in-formed practice. Trauma-informed social workers understand the varying effectiveness of trauma treatment models or approaches for healing or mitigating the effects of trauma across cultures and can apply the appropriate treatment modalities. They also carefully document challenging trauma cases to inform ongoing and future research, conduct trauma-informed research, and actively collaborate with trauma researchers to ensure clinically relevant interventions. Trauma-informed social workers understand the important role of interdisciplinary research in trauma practice and collaborate inter-professionally with all stakeholders, including client systems and practitioners, to improve outcomes. Trauma-informed social workers use empirically informed strategies to regulate their cognitive and affective responses. They use trauma research to advocate for policies and systemic changes to ensure that all agencies, organizations, and systems that work with people who have histories of trauma become trauma informed.
Competency 5: Engage in Policy Practice
Social workers engage in trauma-informed policy practice with a framework guided by principles of safety; trustworthiness and transparency; peer support; collaboration and mutuality; empowerment, voice, and choice; and cultural, historical, and gender issues. Trauma-informed social workers understand that policy affects an agency’s capacity to provide trauma-informed services. They use a trauma-focused lens to approach policy practice at local, state, national, and global levels and across fields of practice to prevent retraumatization by and within systems. Trauma-informed social workers use critical thinking to analyze the impact of social policy on domains of trauma and resilience across the lifespan and identify methods to improve such policies. They engage coalitions and formulate arguments in support of culturally informed evidence-based policy making to advance key policy issues related to trauma. Trauma-informed social workers seek to advance policy that recognizes and builds on resilience of trauma-affected systems: individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations, including the workforce, through policy analysis and advocacy.
Competency 6: Engage with [Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and or Communities selected by the program and relevant to the specialization]
Trauma-informed social workers recognize that individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities affected by trauma may have experienced a variety of emotional and psychological disturbances. Therefore, the process of engagement models a restorative and trusting relationship focused on pacing, empathic responding, mirroring, attending, and awareness of nonverbal behavior, including the use of empirically informed engagement and outreach strategies. The collaborative alliance with the client and or client systems formed during the engagement process provides safety for the client and acknowledges that disclosure of trauma occurs at the client’s pace. The trauma-in-formed social worker provides genuineness, sensitivity, and respect and pays particular attention to triggering stimuli and responses for themselves and the client. The trauma-informed practitioner is cognizant of the interplay of culture and belief systems in the engagement process. Practitioners recognize that institutions and their practices and policies may exacerbate trauma and thereby negatively affect the engagement process. Trauma-informed social workers demonstrate a heightened awareness of the conscious use of self and the ability to critically self-reflect. Social workers demonstrate an ability to engage with different cultures, understand the interpersonal dynamics of client systems in a regional and global context affected by trauma, attend to personal reactions, and use supervision.
Competency 7: Assess [Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and or Communities selected by the program and relevant to the specialization]
Social workers assess for the impact of trauma by using a range of behavioral, cognitive, affective, spiritual, and neurological indicators and a review of risk factors, protective factors, strengths, and resilience. They assess organizational and systemic factors that influence trauma-informed agency and organizational policies and procedures to promote effective care. Social workers collect and apply assessment data to inform the development of interprofessional, interorganizational, and collaborative systems for trauma-informed care and use data to assess the impact of compassion fatigue and vicarious and secondary trauma on staff and organizations. Social workers respect clients’ willingness to disclose trauma at their own pace, and they encourage the disclosure of historical events and explore with the client the meanings and the impact attached to those experiences. Presenting problems are assessed, through the lens of trauma, as adaptive skills that can be channeled to increase healthy functioning. Social workers use principles of developmental and ecological theory in trauma-focused assessments at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Social workers value the ethical responsibilities of consent and confidentiality in a trauma-informed assessment process and balance respect for privacy and the need to intervene to prevent harm to the client or others. Social workers use empirically sound trauma assessment tools that are culturally and developmentally relevant for the client to ensure that clients are physically and emotionally safe. Social workers engage in self-assessment and reflection to recognize and address the impact of secondary trauma that can occur as a result of assessing and providing services for clients who experience trauma and they practice effective self-care strategies including appropriate use of supervision, consultation, and peer support.
Competency 8: Intervene with [Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and or Communities selected by the program and relevant to the specialization]
Social workers addressing trauma strive to create trauma-informed systems of care that recognize and respond effectively to signs of traumatic distress in human beings across their lifespan and throughout the various service settings that client’s access. They bring a compassionate and nonjudgmental stance to their work and build relationships with clients based on safety, support, respect, and trust. They work to increase psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual safety in individuals, families, communities, and organizations. They help clients develop flexible and increasingly adaptive responses to trauma effects, managing emotional dysregulation and developing maximally adaptive personal narratives in the wake of traumatic experiences. They are mindful of the effect they can have on their clients and of the effect their clients’ trauma histories can have on them. They increase resilience by helping clients develop ways of managing future exposure to potentially traumatic events while maintaining a positive sense of the future that allows maximal engagement with life opportunities. Social workers are knowledgeable about the theoretical and empirical foundations of trauma-informed evidence-based practice and apply that knowledge to identify and developmentally and culturally appropriate trauma-focused interventions.
Trauma social workers facilitate healing with client systems by processing trauma experiences within somatic, affective, cognitive, and spiritual domains in a phase-based approach that attends to safety and meaning making. Trauma social workers value strength-based and empowerment-oriented approaches to practice that recognize promotive and protective factors, resiliency, and opportunities for posttraumatic growth in individuals, families, organizations, and communities. Trauma social workers build practice-based evidence to determine how to intervene in the absence of research-based adaptations are needed for cultural or contextual reasons.
Trauma-informed organizations proactively promote self-care, supervision, and training in evidence-based interventions to support professional development and to address risks of vicarious traumatization. Trauma social workers advocate for social justice because they understand that systematic and structural inequality and oppression increase risk factors for and exacerbate the adverse consequences of exposure to trauma, including historical trauma. They advocate for expanding access to trauma-informed care and culturally appropriate evidence-based trauma treatments, particularly for those most vulnerable and marginalized in or society.
Competency 9: Evaluate Practice with [Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and or Communities selected by the program and relevant to the specialization]
Trauma-informed practitioners understand the impact of current and historical trauma on individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities, and they critically evaluate and apply this knowledge in evaluating process and outcomes and use the information to inform practice decisions and quality assurance to strengthen systems of care. Evaluation of practice is collaborative and strength-based, and it seeks to empower client systems, which upholds the social contract that often has been breached in trauma survivors’ experience. Qualitative and quantitative methods, including standardized measures and culturally responsive methods, are used systematically to gather data about current and historical trauma, responses to trauma, secondary traumatic stress (STS), evidence-informed trauma-specific interventions, and self-care strategies for social workers, students, educators, researchers, organizations, and communities, in order to evaluate processes and outcomes and increase and engage in personal and professional strategies to minimize these effects and increase the effectiveness of the services they provide.

Students specializing in trauma informed clinical practice are required to complete five practice method courses: SOWK 720 – Trauma & Resiliency in Social Work Practice; SOWK 725 – DSM-5: Differential Assessment & Diagnosis in Clinical Social Work; SOWK 726 – Neuroscience & Social Work Practice; SOWK 727 – Trauma Informed Clinical Social Work Practice with Families, and SOWK 736- Trauma-Informed Clinical Social Work with Groups. Collectively, these five courses provide content in the application of theory, assessment, and treatment interventions for application in clinical settings. Each course provides content and exercises to develop critical thinking skills for work with complex trauma cases. These course are also designed to refine student knowledge of diversity issues and oppression as these relate to problem determination and resolution. Students will also be required to take two theory courses, SOWK 615 - Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Poverty, Oppression and Trauma II and SOWK 735 – Trauma and Attachment Theory. Students will also take SOWK 737 – Trauma Focused Research and SOWK Diversity and Cultural Competency in Social Welfare Policy & Practice All students specializing in trauma informed macro practice are required to complete the five practice method courses, the advanced theory and research courses, in addition to a restricted macro practice methods course, which must be from a list of restricted elective courses: SOWK 644 – Social Work in the Social Service Environment; SOWK 646 – Trauma-Informed Care in Organizational Settings; SOWK 749 – Administration & Supervision in Trauma Informed Systems of Care, and SOWK 750 – Trauma-Informed Leadership: Advocacy and Policy.

The student may make an individual appointment with the Office of Field Education (OPE) staff to discuss his/her needs, interests, and preferences. These appointments can be in person or via phone or videoconference depending on the location of the student. Based on the student’s Field Education application and, if relevant, the meeting with the Field Education Staff, the student is given a Field Education placement assignment. The OFE is responsible to the student for conveying specific information regarding an agency’s expectations, university’s expectations, manner of supervision, and style of practice.
After the OFE contacts the agency to discuss the placement and determines the agency meets the criteria, the student contacts the agency Field Supervisor to arrange for an on-site interview. The student is responsible for scheduling the interview. Refusal to do so will be interpreted as the student deciding not to enter field placement at this time. Most agencies require a face-to-face interview with the student before confirming the placement. The student will receive confirmation of the Field Education placement from the OFE and possibly directly from the agency. Most students will interview at one agency and find a comfortable fit with the Field Supervisor and agency practice. Others require an additional interview.
The OFE staff will refer students to a maximum of three (3) agencies. If a student does not find a fit after three interviews or three agencies turn the student down because they decide the student will not be a fit, a Level 3 may be conducted to assess the situation and create a plan of action consistent with the policy outline in the student handbook. A placement confirmation approved by all parties is based on the mutual agreement that the student will remain in that placement for the two-course sequence. If, during the time before the Field Education placement is scheduled to begin, the student or agency experiences a change that will affect the placement, they must immediately contact the Field Education staff.

Have an updated professional resume. Record/write down the agency name and the agency contact information. Follow the instructions for contacting the agency (email or telephone call). Research the agency so that you are able to fully engage in your interview. Prepare your professional attire. Research the driving route, local transportation, and parking ahead of time. Arrive at least 10 minutes before your actual interview time. Bring an extra copy of your resume with you on the day of the interview. Be self-aware – practice articulating your strengths and challenges.