Adults and Healthy Aging

The Department of Adults and Healthy Aging is focused on enhancing the mental health and physical well-being of young adults to seniors.

Students in this department will study subject areas such as:

  • Mental health
  • Health and wellness
  • Substance abuse and recovery
  • Behavioral health care
  • Integrated care and the Affordable Care Act

Careers in the health and mental health fields of social work continue to grow each year. Explore the types of work settings and career opportunities available for our Adults and Healthy Aging students. Or review our department infographic or video.


Our curriculum focuses on the theories of human behavior, clinical practice and policy, emphasizing the role of neuroscience in the interacting systems of mind, brain and body with larger social systems of family, culture and community.

Students will learn how to use evidence-based research to inform clinical practices and interventions, while developing practice skills that prepare them for work in various health and mental health clinical settings. Classes also focus on student competency in critical thinking, integrating research into practice, and program and policy evaluation and analysis.

Course requirements include seven core classes, a choice of three electives and three semesters of field and integrative seminars. A snapshot of the curriculum details the recommended order of classes by semester.

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635 Research and Evaluation for Social Work with Adults and Older Adults
This course offers students the opportunity to further integrate research as an aspect of their professional identities by developing knowledge and skills in the critical analysis and application of various types of data, information and evidence in their work with adults and older adults.


638 Policy in Integrated Care


The course emphasizes how clinical social workers in mental health, health, behavioral health and integrated care settings can provide leadership in policy advocacy and participate in the policy-making process in organizational, community and legislative settings.


637 Wellness, Recovery and Integrated Care


This course exposes students to current knowledge in mental health and health, wellness and recovery, holistic health, primary prevention interventions, co-occurring behavioral and physical conditions, as well as evidence-based integrated care interventions to improve the well-being of vulnerable populations in a new era of health care reform.


644 Explanatory Theories of Health and Mental Health


This course integrates explanatory theories of health and mental health, building on content from the first semester human behavior course. This integration recognizes that emotional and physical well-being are inextricably connected and transect societal risk factors such as racism, prejudice, poverty, sexism and stress.
643 Social Work Practice in Integrated Care


647 Advanced Practice with Complex Social Work Cases


611 Leadership in the Social Work Profession and Organizations: Theory and Practice
This course exposes students to leadership and management theories and evidence-based models to enhance social work practice in health and human service settings serving adults and older adults. Students learn about sources of leadership, as well as evidence-based management practices to effectively respond to organizations’ challenges and opportunities.


Students may further customize their study by selecting one of the following options, which requires the completion of two additional courses.

Military Social Work 
Many 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 can also experience traumatic stress during deployments and reunions. The military social work curriculum prepares graduates to treat combat-related mental health issues, better understand military culture and improve the overall health and well-being of veterans, their families and communities.
640 Clinical Practice with the Military Family
641 Clinical Practice with Service Members and Veterans
Older Adults 
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, gerontological social work is one of the fastest growing occupations. Students learn about the aging process and its impact on the well-being of individuals and their families; theoretical concepts; practice skills for preventive, rehabilitative and supportive services; public policy; and personal and societal attitudes and values that can affect older adults. Graduates are prepared for direct service roles with older adults and their caregivers in geriatric health and mental health centers, hospitals and long-term-care facilities, multipurpose senior centers, welfare planning bodies and retirement communities.
653 Social Work with Older Adults (Fall)
This course provides an in-depth understanding of aging issues at individual and societal levels for effective social work practice with older adults and their families.
616 Clinical Practice with Older Adults (Spring)
This course provides an intensive examination of clinical practice with older adults using select evidenced-based interventions identified as national models. Drawing from an interdisciplinary research and practice base, students critically evaluate health and mental health conditions and challenges in diverse aging populations and settings.
Systems of Recovery from Mental Illness 
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), each year one in five Americans experiences a mental illness. Among the 10 million adults in the United States living with severe and persistent mental illness—or 4 percent of the population— approximately 70 percent report receiving mental health services since the implementation of health care reform. This has clear implications for social work practice, policy and leadership to ensure greater access to wellness and recovery services for adults and older adults with mental and /or substance use/abuse disorders.
618 Systems of Recovery from Mental Illness in Adults (Fall)
The course focuses on the multi-level impact of mental illness on adults and families. Evidence-based interventions promoting increased quality of life and stability are emphasized.
694 Group Psychotherapy in Mental Health Settings (Spring)
This course focuses on group therapy for clinical social workers as practiced in various mental health settings. The entire process of group development is examined.

Field Education

Working in the field with one of our many community partners gives students valuable hands-on practice experience that complements classroom learning. Read more about our field placement requirements and opportunities.

Faculty Research

Department faculty members are engaged in a wide variety of research that informs our curriculum and policy. Many are affiliated with one or more of the school’s research centers and research clusters. Sample research projects include:

  • Culturally sensitive interventions for Spanish-speaking Latino seniors with depression
  • Projection mapping technology to reduce risky behavior among crack cocaine users in Mexico City
  • Establishment of an academic center of excellence to build a workforce skilled in geriatrics
  • Mobile computing technology to help disabled seniors in Taiwan
  • Effectiveness of peer navigators helping people with mental illnesses take charge of their health
  • Risky HIV behavior and substance abuse following transition to permanent supportive housing
  • Value of community liaisons between low-income patients with depression and health care providers
  • Informed consent among Latinos with schizophrenia as a barrier to enrollment in clinical research

Work Settings 

Students interested in subject areas under Adults and Healthy Aging work with young adults, adults, seniors and military veterans. Types of workplace environments for internships and careers include:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Community service organizations
  • Treatment and recovery programs
  • Government agencies


The social work field is expected to grow by more than 700,000 from 2012-2021, a 19% growth rate that is faster than the average for all occupations.  Job titles in the area of Adults and Healthy Aging include:

  • Addiction specialist
  • Mental health counselor
  • Wellness coach
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Domestic violence counselor
  • Homeless support services specialist
  • LGBTQ program coordinator
  • Crisis counselor