The School of Social Work Offers a Highly Specialized M.S.W. Clinical Field Education Placement
The University of British Columbia’s Interprofessional Clinic is a training and research clinic that provides graduate-level field education opportunities for masters-level social work and doctoral-level psychology students. The clinic is a modern facility equipped with high definition video cameras that both record the sessions and allow supervisors and other students to observe what is occurring in sessions in real time.
In the Social Work division of the Interprofessional Clinic, M.S.W. students conduct ongoing assessments, treatment planning, interventions, and provide family support and education, as well as community case-management under the close supervision of senior clinicians. The supervisors are mental health clinicians registered with the BC College of Social Work. Dr. Edward Taylor, Ph.D., RCSW is the head of the Social Work division of the Interprofessional Clinic who oversees all clinical operations of the Clinic. Dr. Taylor has an international reputation in the treatment and research of schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.
The Clients and Services of the Social Work Clinic
The School of Social Work’s division of the Interprofessional Clinic, termed the Social Work Mental Health Clinic, provides long-term treatment for children, adolescents, and families facing moderate to severe neurobiological mental disorders. The clinic engages each youth and family in individualized evidence-based treatment methods, psychosocial-education, and planned parenting support, as well as community case-management and care-coordination. Given the severity of the issues with which the youth and families present, it is not unusual for clients to be offered services in the clinic for two or more years.
Diagnoses or Major Symptoms of Children Treated By Social Work Students in the Clinic:
- Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder (also known as Conversion Disorder)
- Obsessive compulsive symptoms
- Self-injury and suicide
- Bipolar II (Hypomania and Bipolar Depression)
- Generalized Anxiety
- Major Depression
A Field Education Placement at UBC’s Social Work Mental Health Clinic
A field education placement in the Social Work Mental Health Clinic is different than placements in other community mental health clinics in a number of ways. In most community mental health clinics, field education students become part of the treatment team. However, students in the Clinic, along with a senior supervisor, are the entire treatment team. Student clinicians are responsible for recruiting, assessing, treating, and terminating with all clients. Nevertheless, the experience gained in the Clinic goes far beyond providing one-dimensional psychotherapy and parent education. Students plan and conduct case management interventions, help parents adjust to the emotional ups and downs in caring for a special needs child or adolescent, provide information sessions for agencies, work collaboratively with schools and other helping professionals, and connect families to important community resources.
The pace of learning in the Clinic is gradual and may feel slower than placements in other agencies. New students joining the Clinic start by observing as many clinical sessions as possible. With time, they progress into having more clinical responsibilities leading to working with clients directly. This gradual structure of learning allows students the time to review the scientific literature on evidence-based practices with children and families, engage in self-directed learning activities, and with time, develop critical thinking and clinical skills. More information about self-directed learning is provided below.
Because this is a student-run clinic, a field placement in the Clinic is also longer than most other community field placements. Students are required to complete one field placement per year of their program. Typical placements in a community agency occur over one academic term. By contrast, students in the Clinic are expected to spend a minimum of two consecutive academic terms per one field placement. This increases student learning, enhances the supervisory experience, and ensures better continuity of care for clients. Therefore, prospective student clinicians must agree to an extended field education placement opportunity that runs simultaneously with their academic classes.
Related to that, the weekly schedule of clinic students is different from that of students completing their placements in the community. First, while a typical field education placement in the community requires students to attend the agency during the Winter Term 2 (January-April) or Summer Term 1-2 (May-August), Monday thru Thursday, normally within regular business hours. Clinic students often complete relatively fewer hours per week and have more time flexibility. In addition, because of the nature of working with children and families, the clinic is open several nights a week until 8pm so students are typically expected to stay at the clinic one evening a week.
The Supervision Model
The intensity of supervision the Social Work Clinic offers makes it a unique learning opportunity.
For each family, the entire team assigned to the family meets for a 30-min pre-session meeting in which clinicians receive feedback and guidance on their plan for the session. The supervisor and student team listen and often make suggestions as needed. This allows the team to ensure that the treatment goals and methods are understood, and for the students to take an ever-increasing role in the clinical planning process. During the session, the supervisor and other student clinicians observe the session live via our camera system. At the end of each session, the team meets again for a 30-min post-session debrief meeting, in which feedback on clinician performance is provided, both by the supervisor as well as other peer clinicians who observed the session. The team engages in discussion around what went well in the session and what can be done differently in the future. Supervisors may also offer some guidance in planning future sessions. This supervision model provides ample opportunity for growth in providing and receiving constructive feedback in a positive atmosphere.
In addition to group supervision, student clinicians meet with one of the Clinic supervisors on a regular and individual basis. The objectives of the individual meetings are three-fold: (1) to discuss the students’ challenges with specific clinical tasks or situations, (2) to receive personalized feedback on their growth as clinicians, and (3) to revisit and discuss the student’s personalized learning goals.
While the Clinic has all the potential for becoming a meaningful learning opportunity, the time students invest in their learning is a crucial factor in the success of their placement. Students are expected to engage in many self-directed learning activities and to gain knowledge and skills in assessing and treating children with mental disorders. These include meeting with peers to plan and discuss issues around clients, reaching out to the different supervisors for additional consultation, viewing and critically analyzing one’s video recordings, and role playing newly-learned skills. Additionally, students are required to complete clinical assessments, treatment plans, and client weekly and quarterly progress reports using the Clinic’s specially designed software.
Weekly Training Seminar
The Clinic students are also required to attend a 3-hour weekly seminar. The overarching objective of the weekly seminar is to increase the students’ understanding of mental health and mental disorders, using the DSM-5 as a guiding framework, and increase the students’ competency in assessing and treating children and youth with mental health issues. The seminar includes a skill-building component that requires students to engage in role plays around engagement and interaction with children/youth and parents. The training seminar is also an opportunity for students to develop their presentation and leadership skills, as they are expected to periodically lead the training by conducting case analysis presentations.
In sum, a field education placement at the Clinic requires long-term dedication and places a high-level of responsibility on the students. Its supervision model, diversity of experiences, and weekly training seminar make it a clinical education and training opportunity that is both demanding and rewarding. Students leave our Clinic with evidence-based clinical social work practice skills, and prepared to start their mental health career. In addition, Clinic students create close collaborative relationships with their peers as they share this unique educational opportunity.
Is UBC’s Mental Health Clinic a Good Fit for You?
The Clinic is an excellent learning opportunity, but does not fit the needs and lifestyle of every student. If you answer ‘yes’ to all, or most, of the following questions, then the Clinic may be a positive experience from which you may benefit:
- Are you passionate about working with children/youth who have moderate to severe mental disorders and their families?
- Are you able to work in a team and contribute sometimes as a team leader and other times as a team member?
- Can you accept and learn from open verbal positive and critical supervision?
- Can you accept and learn from open verbal positive and critical insights from other student team members?
- Can you handle completing your practicum at the Clinic and attend classes without jeopardizing your economic, family, or personal obligations?
- Do you have good study habits and time management skills that will allow you to maximize your class preparation time?
- Have you in past academic work been successful in writing term papers within expected time periods?
- Do you feel academically ready for graduate education?
- Can you work as a team member, provide team leadership, but also productively accept team decisions that differ from your personal perspective?
- Can you manage the stress that comes from having multiple academic and clinic responsibilities occurring simultaneously?
When considering the Clinic, please be self-reflective. The Clinic will be a negative experience for individuals who need to work and earn money a significant part of each week, or for those who have significant family obligations that cannot be shared with other people. However, Clinic students have been able to hold part-time employment that is flexible and limited in hours. This is however, not a good placement for students who find writing term papers and taking exams extremely difficult. Unlike most other M.S.W. students, during the first academic term (September to December) you may be attending classes and concurrently taking part in the Clinic. Therefore, students who do not feel confident and competent academically, or who have important unchangeable personal obligations should consider not applying for a field education placement in the Clinic.
Although each year many students express great interest in a Clinic placement, the Clinic experience can only be provided for a limited number of M.S.W. students. Therefore, if you are interested, please indicate so on your Field Education Application Form. If you are uncertain if it’s the right fit for you, we encourage you to express your interest and allow the interview process to help guide your decision.