for the delivery of social services, its accreditation standards, like those for the discipline of psychiatry, can be assumed to be psychosocial in their orientation. Less certain is the extent to which these accreditation standards facilitate the preparation of social workers in the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to address psychosocial needs when dealing with individuals with complex medical conditions such as cancer. CSWE’s accreditation standards do not evidence substantial attention to psychosocial needs in the presence of illness. For example, a previous IOM report (IOM, 2006) documented that most schools of social work fail to provide students with basic knowledge of alcohol- and drug-use issues, and that a significant factor contributing to this situation is that accreditation standards do not mandate that curricula contain substance-use content (Straussner and Senreich, 2002).


The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) develops and maintains four categories of social work licensure examinations—at the bachelor’s, master’s, advanced generalist, and clinical levels. Approximately 14 percent of questions on the bachelor’s-level exam are assigned to “human development and behavior in the environment,” with one of its six dimensions addressing “impact of crises and changes.” Eleven percent of the master’s-level examination addresses “assessment, diagnosis, and intervention planning,” of which “biopsychosocial history and collateral data” is one of five dimensions (ASWB, 2006a).

Specialization and Continuing Education

Additionally, many social workers specialize in a particular area of practice, and a variety of organizations issue voluntary credentials and specialty certifications for those individuals who have a bachelor of social work (BSW) degree or an MSW. For example, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) issues many specialty certifications, including the Certified Social Worker in Health Care (C-SWHC). Social workers who hold the C-SWHC have a current NASW membership; an MSW degree from an institution accredited by CSWE; 2 years and 3,000 hours of paid, supervised, post-MSW health care social work experience; an evaluation from an approved supervisor and a reference from an MSW colleague; and an Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW) or Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) credential and/or a current state MSW-level license or a passing score on an ASWB MSW-level exam. They also must agree to adhere to the NASW Code of Ethics and the NASW Standards for Continuing Professional Education, and are subject to the NASW adjudication process (NASW, 2007a).

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