Direct Practice in Mental Health & Substance Misuse

What is the Direct Practice in Mental Health & Substance Misuse Specialty?

The Direct Practice in Mental Health & Substance Misuse specialty provides advanced social work students the opportunity to focus on assessment and intervention with those evidencing acute and chronic mental health problems and substance misuse disorders. Students are trained to diagnose, treat, collaborate on recovery, and advocate for social justice for persons across the life span who have mental health and substance misuse disorders. In addition, students are trained to deliver services in a variety of mental health and substance misuse treatment environments, and to support policies for prevention, intervention, and postvention. The Direct Practice in Mental Health & Substance Misuse specialty is offered 100% online, and in-person at the Arlington campus and at the downtown Fort Worth campus.

What do Mental Health & Substance Misuse Students Learn?

Students graduating from the Direct Practice in Mental Health & Substance Misuse specialty facilitate change for individuals and families within a clinical setting. They partner with individuals, families, and communities to improve lives by:

  • Empowering people for success using a bio-psycho-social risk and resilience perspective to deliver evidence-based services
  • Engaging in a recovery-oriented wellness framework to help people utilize their best strengths and resiliencies to achieve their personal goals
  • Advocating for socially-just treatment for underserved individuals and communities
  • Collaborating with multidisciplinary teams to provide optimal care for individuals served by complex systems of care
  • Promoting health, wellness, and disease prevention among individuals and communities

What to Know

If you are interested in joining the Direct Practice in Mental Health & Substance Misuse specialty, here are a few quick things to keep in mind:

  • Students can only start in the Fall if choosing the Fort Worth cohort; Online cohorts begin in Fall and Spring
  • Courses are offered In-Person, Online, and Hybrid
  • 12-Month and 16-Month Accelerated Cohorts are Available
  • Classes offered in-person at the Fort Worth campus

Have questions about signing up for Direct Practice in Mental Health & Substance Misuse courses? Schedule an appointment with your Academic Advisor today!

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What our Mental Health & Substance Misuse Students Say

The MHSM specialty has thoroughly prepared me for direct practice. From expanding my knowledge on theories and frameworks to practice in diagnostics and treatment plans, I feel equipped to apply these skills to real-life clinical use.

Emma Grindle

Mental Health & Substance Misuse Coursework

The basis for all Mental Health & Substance Misuse coursework is an emphasis on mental health promotion, treatment, and advocacy skills. Students will engage with demanding content as they advance through a series of mandatory courses, subsequently diversifying their learning experience by selecting from a variety of electives to enhance their understanding and proficiency in specific practice-oriented subjects.
A man speaking with a therapist in a green jacket.

Students are Required to Complete

  • Three Introductory Practice Courses
  • Two Integrated Theory and Practice Courses
  • One Elective Course for Traditional Standing Students / Two Elective Courses for Advanced Standing Students
  • One Specialty Policy Course
  • One Advanced Research or Program Evaluation Course
  • One Capstone Course (Unless Thesis Option is Selected)
  • Advanced Field Placement

View The Full Curriculum

Educational Objectives of Mental Health & Substance Misuse

By graduation, students specializing in Mental Health & Substance Misuse will achieve the foundation objectives and the following advanced specialization objectives:

  • Become proficient in assessment and intervention with those evidencing acute and chronic mental health problems and substance misuse.
  • Advance understanding of programs, treatment alternatives, and policies in mental health and substance misuse.
  • Advocate for equitable mental health and substance misuse practices and service delivery for underserved populations.
  • Understand modalities and interventions for promoting mental health and wellness.
  • Examine the influence of socioecological factors on mental health and substance misuse.

What are the types of Internship and Job Opportunities in Mental Health & Substance Misuse?

Mental Health & Substance Misuse students successfully find a variety of field placement and post-graduation jobs. Often students placed in leading organizations for their internship find job opportunities at the same organization after graduation. These organizations run from local to national, government to nonprofit, and much more.

  • Primary Care and Rehabilitation Programs
  • Hospitals and Community Health Centers
  • Community-Based Organizations Schools
  • Jails, Prisons, and Mental Health Courts
  • Outpatient and Inpatient Service Providers
  • At home through Telehealth or Home-Based Services
Learn About Field

Meet the Mental Health & Substance Misuse Specialization Faculty

Karla Arenas-Itotia, MA, MSSW, LMSW

Associate Professor of Practice

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

IPVE Taskforce Chair

Karla Arenas-Itotia

Research Interests: Social Work Education, online, interprofessional and experiential learning, school social work, student success and support services, education access, community outreach, interpersonal violence, trauma, mental health, social work direct practice, and issues of gender, family, race, and ethnicity.

Philip Baiden, PhD

Associate Professor

Personal Pronouns: He/Him

Philip Baiden

Research Interests: Suicide Prevention Research; Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs); Adolescent Substance Use Behaviors; Social Determinants of Health and Mental Health; Barriers to Health Service Utilization; International Social Work Research

Jandel Crutchfield, PhD , LCSW

Associate Professor

Jandel Crutchfield

Research Interests: Social work in traditional and charter schools, cultural competence of school social workers, colorism and social work practice.

Genevieve Graaf, PhD, MSW

Assistant Professor

Genevieve Graaf

Research Interests: Children's Mental Health Policy and Service Systems; Evidence-Based Practice in Community Settings; Implementation Science and Knowledge Translation in Social Work; Medicaid Home and Community-Based Service Policies; Medicaid and disparities in access to care

Kiva Harper, MSSW, LCSW

Associate Professor of Practice

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Kiva Harper

Research Interests: Military Social Work, Trauma Therapy (PTSD, Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Assault), Traumatic Grief

Jaclyn Kirsch, PhD, MSW, M.P.H.

Assistant Professor

Jaclyn Kirsch

Karen Magruder, LCSW-S

Assistant Professor of Practice

Karen Magruder

Research Interests: Aging, mental health, health promotion, long-term care, hospice, dementia, sustainability, environmental justice

Diane Mitschke, PhD, MSW

Associate Dean of Academic & Student Affairs

Associate Professor

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Diane Mitschke

Research Interests: Health and Mental Health of Vulnerable Populations; Refugee and Immigrant Health and wellness

Jennifer Murphy, PhD, MSW, MS

Assistant Professor

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Jennifer Murphy

Research Interests: Child and adolescent mental health, Mental health service utilization, School of social work practice, Interprofessional mental health practice in schools, and Adverse Childhood Experiences

Anne Nordberg, PhD, MSW

Associate Professor

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Anne Nordberg

Research Interests: Problem-Solving Courts, Forensic Social Work, Populations At-Risk for Criminal Justice Involvement, Structural Violence, Qualitative Methodologies, Innovative Approaches to Reduce Recidivism

De’An O. Roper, PhD, LCSW

Assistant Professor of Practice

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

De'An Roper

Research Interests: Sexual and gender minority health disparities, the intersection of behavior change and technology, health risk behaviors, substance abuse, mental health and criminal justice.

Regina T. Praetorius, PhD, LMSW-AP

Director of Graduate Programs


Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Regina Praetorius

Research Interests: Trauma, Suicide, Maternal Well-being, Suicide Bereavement, Qualitative Interpretive Meta-Synthesis (QIMS), and Social Work Education

Jessica Sánchez, PhD, LMSW, MED

Assistant Professor of Practice

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

 Jessica Sánchez

Research Interests: Sexual subjectivity, Latinas, and Women of Color and Pleasure after Violence

Allison Tomlinson, PhD, LCSW-S

Director of Undergraduate Programs

Assistant Professor of Practice

Allison Tomlinson

Research Interests: Maternal incarceration, stress theory and non-normative family stress, couple and marriage dynamics in African American families, and mental health.

Rachel Voth Schrag, PhD, LCSW

Associate Professor

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

IPVE Taskforce Development Subcommittee Chair

Rachel Voth Schrag

Research Interests: Violence Against Women, Trauma and Mental Health, Convergence of Poverty and Interpersonal Trauma, Violence Against Women in Diverse Educational Settings; Interpersonal Violence Prevention and Intervention

Micki Washburn, PhD, LMSW, MA, LPC-S

Assistant Professor

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Micki Washburn

Research Interests: Health disparities related to mental health and substance misuse in historically underserved communities, applications of technology in behavioral health assessment and treatment, mindfulness based clinical interventions for women with co-occurring mental health and substance use concerns, social policy related to SOGIE for child welfare involved youth and families.

Dianna Woods-Jones, EdD, MSW

Assistant Professor of Practice

Personal Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Dianna Woods-Jones

Research Interests: Social Welfare Policy; Educational Policy and Decision-Making in Education; Co-Occurring Disorders of Mental Health and Substance Use in Communities of Poverty

Debra Woody, PhD

Director, Center for Addiction and Recovery Studies (CARS) and Associate Professor

Debra Woody

Research Interests: Substance Abuse, School Based Social Work Services


Brianna Gibbs
Academic Recruiter
Primarily Graduate Admissions

Office:  SWSH 203O

Dolores Bevins
Admissions Counselor II
Phone: 817-272-1044
Office:  SWSH 203Q

Darlene Santee
Manager for Recruiting and Admissions
Office:  SWSH 203U

Antwan C. Williams, J.D.
Asst. Director of Communications, Marketing, Recruiting, Admissions,
and Community Outreach

Office:  SWSH 203S