Social Work Practice Fellows (SWPF)

Credit Option
Non credit
Program Type
Garden City

This post-graduate certificate program provides intensive training on social work supervision of direct practice across the life course.

Skilled supervisors strengthen the workforce

Supervisors play pivotal roles in the quality of services delivered by the teams they support. In their roles as teacher and manager, they are the first to whom line workers turn for guidance in their direct practice with challenging clients. Social workers are key players in the health and mental health services provided to individuals and their families. Quality delivery of the vital services they provide depends upon the support and mentoring of skilled and knowledgeable supervisors. Successful supervisory leadership is crucial to effective service delivery, staff retention and the success of our service organizations—especially nonprofit health, mental health, and human service agencies.

Supervisors benefit from enhancing their skills and joining a peer network

There is little information or training on supervision offered to social work students, yet early-career social workers are often promoted to supervisory roles in the organizations in which they practice. There are few continuing education programs addressing social work supervision. Many social work supervisors report feeling isolated in their professional roles. These challenges illustrate a clear need for supervision-focused education, professional development, and networking.

Social Work Practice Fellows was created as an innovative effort to fill this gap in an intensive interactive setting. This sophisticated continuing education program for social work supervisors capitalizes on a distinct conceptual framework for confronting the problems of population-focused and setting-specific silos of social work practice. Social Work Practice Fellows is unique in both its curriculum and content while building upon previously established models of effective educational approaches.

Creating Partnerships with Schools of Social Work committed to enriching their CE offerings and filling an educational gap

Social Work Practice Fellows is a model training program for social work supervisors from a broad range of local community organizations. Partnering in this approach with Adelphi University are the continuing education departments of Schools of Social Work which maintain relationships with the vast communities of practice in their regions and understand the unique strengths and needs of local providers.

In 2018, Social Work Practice Fellows was established adapting the educational model for supervisory training developed in previous programs. It was further adapted for virtual delivery during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and was as positively reviewed by participants as earlier in-person programs. With grant funding from the Florence V. Burden Foundation and the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York, ten cohorts totaling 184 MSW supervisors have received training at the three partner institutions and have joined a growing alumni network.

Partner schools work to identify the best local social work supervision experts and faculty scholars to lead the program’s workshops. Instructors design their workshops upon a framework of common learning objectives and are provided additional centralized support and curricular materials from the Social Work Practice Fellows team. Additional educational offerings and networking opportunities are available to the program’s growing alumni network.

Educational Model

The educational model is based on tested theories of adult learning and small group instruction and other proven educational approaches. The program calls for face-to-face interactive workshops taught by academic and practice-based experts utilizing brief didactic presentations, group learning activities, discussions of cases and supervision experiences, and the provision of extensive educational materials.

With a curriculum based on supervisory best practices, the SWPF program is delivered through face-to-face training workshops scheduled bi-weekly over the course of three months. The program utilizes interactive group learning tasks and expert instruction through our partnership with designated universities, accepting cohorts of 20-25 licensed social work supervisors from the sites’ local practice communities. This model has previously been implemented and tested, demonstrating significant and enduring practice changes among participating supervisors.

The program addresses specialized supervision practices, including health, mental health, families, trauma and substance use. Nonetheless, all social work settings include a diverse clientele across the lifespan who experience challenges and complexities beyond any one scope of expertise. Such issues are tackled in the SWPF program as well, in order to advance the skillset of supervisors and to broaden their supervision abilities.

Workshop Topics

This workshop teaches new supervisors and updates those who are experienced about the range of skills involved in individual and group supervision in an array of service contexts. Supervisors are guided in structuring regularly scheduled supervisory sessions in accordance with the learning styles of supervisees and the appropriate use of individual versus group meetings. Emphasis is placed on supporting staff in self-assessment with careful attention to diversity, inclusion, and equity issues within the service context.

This workshop offers the supervisor a multi-dimensional framework for teaching the practice skills required in work with individuals and families of all ages through the assessment and planning phases. Included are a review of the core content areas that need to be addressed in assessing the client/family situation including both strengths and challenges; the critical thinking required in collecting client data; and the ability to organize, interpret, and summarize these data. Supervisors will be encouraged to use interactive training techniques to teach the interviewing and communication skills that engage the client and family in assessment and planning. The special skills involved in working with the family as a social system will be discussed, as will the influence of the worker’s own cultural background on assessment and planning.

This workshop focuses on trauma-informed supervision through a social justice lens, an approach to supervision that begins with the personal and extends to the professional. Personal histories, identities, characteristics and psychological experiences of supervisors, as well as structural and environmental conditions of the organization, are considered in supervision. This perspective promotes the role of the supervisor as a leader in establishing a culture within their team that is responsive to and inclusive of the positionalities and unique experiences of clients and colleagues. Supervisors are encouraged to remain vigilant in their commitment to social justice by leading their teams and organizations in achieving truly inclusive diversity.

This workshop helps supervisors to support social service staff in using evidence-informed approaches to common illness-related challenges that confront individuals and families across the life course. Included are supervisory considerations for supporting social service workers in helping clients with care transitions, acute health crises, management of chronic conditions, navigating health and long-term care systems, and the intersections of these issues with cultural diversity. Supervisors explore techniques for supporting teams in service planning, health education, and health advocacy.

This workshop teaches supervisors how to support staff in planning to meet the needs of clients with mental illnesses and substance use across the life course. Included are supervisory considerations for supporting social service workers in the ongoing assessment of mental disorder symptoms and their potential impacts on clients and their families, building understanding of effective practice models as supported by research evidence, appreciating the complex nature of self-determination, and the intersections of these issues with cultural diversity.

This workshop highlights challenges supervisors may face including supervisees’ performance problems, organizational challenges, and ethical dilemmas in practice. Supervisors will collaborate in exploring strategies for addressing these challenges and promoting worker self-care to strengthen worker wellness and retention. Participants will seek to integrate lessons learned throughout the program.

Leadership Team

  • Daniel B. Kaplan, PhD, Director
  • Barbara Silverstone, PhD, Co-Director

Our Past Funders

  • The Health Foundation of Western and Central New York
  • The Florence V. Burden Foundation

Current Partner Schools

Social Work Practice Fellows partners with universities to deliver the program to social work supervisors serving their local communities.

  • Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University
  • Adelphi University
  • University of Connecticut
Phone Number
More Info
Social Work Building, 240
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