Alberta College of Social Workers

(1) Postgraduate Practice Level (MSW Level)

The MSW level provides a basic preparation for clinical social work practice. The typical MSW curriculum provides students with an overall orientation to the field of professional social work; a basic grounding in theories of social work practice and application of these theories to practice; an exposure to generic practice methods; and a foundation in the values and ethics of the profession.
    •  Expand the diversity of their clinical experiences
    •  Increase their knowledge of the legal and ethical parameters of practice
    •  Enhance their practice skills
    •  Learn to identify clients who are at risk and to intervene appropriately
    •  Augment their repertoire of practice theories and methods
    •  Mature in the professional use of self
    •  Increase their ability to differentiate clinical observations frm inferences
    •  Achieve integrity of their professional beliefs
    •  Increase confidence in their clinical judgment through self study of practice and clinical supervision.
    •  Define their professional stance vis-à-vis the reality of the practice environment
    •  Understand and accept their practice limitations
    •  Develop a concept and a plan for their future professional development 

(2) Autonomous Practice Level

Autonomous practice is practice that is not under clinical supervision—whether inside or outside an agency structure. This level of professional development reflects mastery of practice competencies. Autonomous practitioners are expected to be able to assume clinical responsibility for the diagnosis, assessment and treatment of their clients, deciding for themselves when consultation is necessary. Achievement of the following skills indicates that the practitioner has reached the autonomous practice level:
    •   Provides adequate clinical diagnoses and biopsychosocial assessments
    •   Performs short- and/or long-term interventions
    •   Establishes treatment plans with measurable goals
    •   Adapts interventions to maximize client responsiveness
    •   Demonstrates competence in clinical risk assessment and intervention
    •   Recognizes when personal issues affect clinical objectivity
    •   Recognizes and operates within own practice limitations
    •   Seeks consultation when needed
    •   Refers to sources of help when appropriate
    ••   Practices within established ethical and legal parameters


 (3) Advanced Practice Level

The advanced practice level required a five-year minimum of practice experience beyond graduation as an MSW, plus the achievement of the autonomous practice level. Advanced clinical social orkers are expected to have reached the full integration of a professional self and have affirmed their professional role and identity; to recognize that the relationship between theory and practice is often problematic and that theories of development and practice skills require constant emendation (Fook, Ryan and Hawkins, 1997). Advanced clinical social workers are expected to have mastered the skills required for autonomous practice with diverse populations, and may have also developed mastery of specialized areas of clinical practice. Additionally, advanced clinical social workers may have acquired the skills to supervise, consult, teach, and otherwise contribute to the professional development of colleagues. Advanced practitioners demonstrate the following:
    •   Increased depth and breadth of practice skills
    •   Independent competence with diverse diagnostic groups
    •   Ability to adapt core knowledge to unique needs of client and milieu
    •   Clear definition of limitations in level of expertise and scope of practice
    •   Continued participation in direct practice activities
    •   Ongoing motivation for learning from practice experience
    •  Commitment to and implementation of continuing professional education and development
    •  Maintenance of highest level of ethical standards for the profession
    •  Specialization in one or more areas of expertise