Social Work Practice: Mental Health

Applied Community Studies
Social Work
Course Code
SOWK 2363
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course introduces students to the fundamental information and skills necessary for the practice of social work in the field of mental health with a focus on illness recovery as a real and probable outcome. Students will be given an opportunity to review, discuss, and understand historical, contemporary, and emergent perspectives of mental illness etiology, treatment and support. Provincial mental health legislation, ethical and cultural issues and other relevant mental health and social work practice issues will be explored. Current models for the classification and treatment of illness from a medical and social work perspective will be addressed.
Course Content

Course content will be guided by research, empirical knowledge and best practice. The following values and principles, consistent with professional standards, inform course content.

  • Social work practice has specific and significant contributions that support recovery from mental illness.

  • Personal and social work values, attitudes, beliefs and practice influence our interactions with people with mental disorders.

  • Past and present social attitudes towards mental illness are problematic and the ability to challenge popular but incorrect beliefs regarding mental illness is an essential component of social work practice.

  • Individuals with mental disorders may perceive the world in different ways and should be given the opportunity to share their stories. Effective communication skills are necessary to facilitate the telling of personal stories and to hear what the personal needs are perceived to be.

  • Knowledge, although tentative and changing, assists in dispelling myths and changing attitudes. An understanding of current classifications and treatments for mental illness helps to develop values and attitudes necessary for effective social work practice.

  • Social networks promote wellness of those whose illness may separate them from others. To support individuals with mental illnesses living in the community, social work practice needs to help people access and use the resources available within a given community.

  • Enabling individuals, supporting their right to self-determination and assisting them to develop personal networks and linkages to access community resources empowers individuals to take increasing initiative for themselves.

  • Knowledge of provincial Mental Health Services and their relationship to other health and social services will facilitate the social worker being able to negotiate with and advocate for individuals needing their services.

  • While people’s lives may be besieged by debilitating problems, they also possess inherent capacity and resiliency that can be mobilized for change and recovery

Learning Activities

Small group discussion.

Means of Assessment

This course will conform to Douglas College policy regarding the number and weighting of evaluations. Typical means of assessment may include some or all of the following:


Written papers


Presentations (individual or group).

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of issues related to assessing the presence/absence of mental health/illness including a working knowledge of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association;

  2. Describe the key characteristics (symptoms and outcomes) of mental illness, the impact of mental illness on individuals, families and society as well as the historic, contemporary and emergent treatment approaches;

  3. Describe techniques for working with people with mental disorders including responding to clients who are acutely ill, have a history of acute illness or whose condition is considered chronic;

  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the bio psychosocial (medical, psychological, social, environmental) causes of mental illness and an appreciation for the resultant treatment approaches (biological, psychotherapeutic, preventative);

  5. Apply principles of cultural competency to practice examples and demonstrate an understanding of how this may enhance service delivery to historically underserved populations including Aboriginal peoples;

  6. Explain the system of mental health services in Canada and BC, and distinguish between forensic services, hospitals, emergency/crisis services, services for persons with developmental disability and community based psychosocial rehabilitation programs;

  7. Give examples of the roles of the various professionals who work in the mental health system;

  8. Describe the current mental health legislation in British Columbia.

Textbook Materials

Text(s) such as the following, the list to be updated periodically:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington: American Psychiatric Association.
Davis, S. (2006). Community mental health in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press.
Paris, J. (2013). The intelligent clinician’s guide to the DSM-5. New York: Oxford University Press.
Regehr,C., & Glancy, G. (2010). Mental health social work practice in Canada. Don Mills: Oxford University Press.



Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for SOWK 2363
Simon Fraser University (SFU) No credit
University of Victoria (UVIC) No credit

Course Offerings

Summer 2023