Military Social Work
Many war veterans suffer serious mental health disorders ranging from post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression, which can lead to substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and suicide. Military spouses and children also experience traumatic stresses during pre-deployment, deployment and reunion phases. The Military Social Work sub-concentration prepares students to care for service members, veterans and their families, helping them cope with the stresses of military life. In addition, students learn how to help community-based agencies identify and serve military populations in their community.
The military sub-concentration — which can be integrated with any of the concentration areas offered through the Virtual Academic Center — provides a range of placement options for students interested in working with military populations. Students will complete 550 clock hours of an internship in various approved settings. Practicum sites are based on the availability of the agency to accept a student and a field instructor to provide supervision; therefore, no guarantees are extended to students on a specific type of agency that would be arranged. Please note that only students residing on base are candidates for placement on base.
If a placement site does not serve a military population, the field experience will be supplemented with a mandatory Virtual Clinical Experience (VCE) in the online classroom. With VCE, students meet in small groups with a faculty member to work through simulated cases with military clients (played by actors). Students are supervised and given immediate feedback as they engage with the client.
Students in a non-military field practicum will also participate in an Internship with a Military Lens (IML). Supervised by a field instructor, students identify underserved military populations in their community and build capacity at their agency to provide services. With less than 50 percent of service members and their families served by the Veterans Health Administration, IML offers students a great opportunity to build unique and important services in their community.
Teaching Clinical Skills Virtually
To help prepare students to interact with real clients, the school’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families, in partnership with the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, has developed two virtual teaching tools using avatars that help students practice counseling techniques with veterans, service members and their families. Available soon in the Virtual Academic Center, the role-playing simulation programs – the Virtual Patient and Motivational Interviewing Learning Environment and Simulation (MILES) – use voice recognition technology and human voice recordings to emulate the symptoms of a number of a clinical conditions, including depression and post-traumatic stress, enabling the avatars to respond to a student’s open-ended questions that might be used in therapy. The realistic role-playing allows students to hone their clinical skills.