Loyola University Chicago

School of Social Work

Graduate Courses

SOWK 731: Social Work Practice with Refugees and Immigrants

Credit Hours



This is an advanced clinical social work elective that builds on foundation social work courses.  The content of the course will be the identification and application of clinical social work assessment and intervention of the major migrant groups, to prepare students to provide advanced clinical services to individuals and families who are currently living in the U.S. The course will build a knowledge base necessary to effectively work with immigrant and refugee populations, in general, and with immigrants who have suffered violence and trauma in particular. Experiences of the migrants and the group and individual characteristics relevant to immigration will be explored and discussed.  The general topics for the course have been chosen specifically to cover the arenas of immigration: (1) the migration experience; (2) the characteristics of immigrants who are currently relocating in the U.S., including an analysis of the Western perspective ; (3) the process of acculturation and assimilation, including the controversies embedded in these concepts; (4) the interface of migration, violence and trauma; and (5) the multi-theoretical, multi-systemic ecological process of assessment and intervention with a greater awareness and understanding of  non-Western perspectives on mental health and healing among the various immigrant and refugee populations.

Theoretical orientations based upon a bio-psycho-social assessment (e.g., ecological, feminist, family systems, psychosocial, cognitive-behavioral), as well as developmental theories, and life cycle stages will form the foundation for social work practice. All issues and topics are considered within an historical and contemporary socio-cultural and socio-political context.  Sexism, racism, ageism and the stereotyping of various ethnic, racial, and cultural groups will be identified and discussed as they form and influence the context of individual and family life in a new host country.

The efficacy of different models and modalities of practice will be discussed, including theoretical integration. The relevance of culture specific practice versus effective practice for the presenting problem will be discussed and analyzed  in class.

Relevant research will be reviewed as it informs social work practice and will be assessed for biases.  Students are expected to become aware of their own biases and the potential impact on their practice.  The course will examine the social construction of violence and the socio-cultural maintenance of violence as it informs assessment and intervention.    

In addition, practitioners who commonly work with immigrants to the U.S., and who then are witnesses to some of the horrors that immigrants experience, are more likely to experience vicarious traumatization or secondary trauma.  Efforts of self-care and self-awareness for the practitioner will be considered and discussed.

Books that are particularly relevant to the course are included.  In addition, since often the stories of the immigrants themselves are more powerful and enlightening than any text, a list of biographies, autobiographies, and biographical fiction will be posted on Sakai. Articles, chapters and additional books are included in the Supplemental Bibliography.  Please avail yourself to this literature

Sample Syllabus