College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

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MSW - Trauma-Informed Specialization


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Forging ahead with trauma-informed social work practice


If you are seeking a career where you can create social change, fight injustice, and address the wide-ranging effects of individual and systemic trauma, then the University of Northern Iowa MSW program is the place for you. Since 2014, our program has provided a trauma-informed care specialization which is based on decades of research on how people are affected by stress, adversity, and oppression. You'll work with scholars and experts in the field of trauma and mental health, gain experience in the field, and will learn innovative approaches to address the complex problems facing our world.


Our program offers one of the few trauma-informed care specialization MSW programs in the Midwest, and the only one in the state of Iowa.



Program Options


The UNI MSW Program has multiple programs to fit your schedule. Please click below for more information.


Important Application Deadlines


Please visit our MSW Admissions page for detailed information on program admission and application requirements.


In-Person Foundation Program (full-time, two-year)

  • Note: We are temporarily discontinuing our in-person foundation program. We are still offering our fully online distance education foundation program. 

In-Person Advanced Standing Program (full-time, one-year)

  • Next cohort begins summer 2022 - Application deadline, December 20, 2021 at 4:30pm

Distance Education Program - Foundation Program (part-time, 10 semesters)

  • Next cohort begins spring 2023 - Accepting applications summer 2022

Distance Education Program - Advanced Standing (part-time, 9 semesters)

  • Next cohort begins spring 2022 - Applications deadline, September 1st, 2021 at 4:30pm. 


Our Trauma-Informed Specialization


The formal mission of the UNI MSW program is to provide students with a foundation in trauma-informed care (TIC) that prepares them to identify, evaluate, and address the personal, social, and systemic conditions that perpetuate individual, family, organizational and community-based trauma using evidence-informed interventions.

What is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma-informed care is an approach that recognizes the pervasiveness of trauma in the general population and views it as a driving force behind many psychological conditions, physical health ailments, behavioral disorders, public health issues, and systemic racism/oppression. Based on this understanding, the aim of TIC is to reduce the effects of stress, adversity, trauma in individuals (both clients and staff), families, organizations, and broader systems of practice. It does this by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into all aspects of services and trains staff to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma to help minimize the potential for harm and re-traumatization.

Examples of TIC approaches include (but are not limited to) changing organizational policies, procedures and practices to minimize potential barriers to service, teaching staff and clients de-escalation protocols, stabilization skills, and stress reduction techniques, conducting screening and assessment that identify exposure to trauma and adversity, and when appropriate, providing trauma-specific interventions to effectively resolve the negative impact of trauma.

In recent years, the U.S has seen a dramatic increase in both state and federal legislation requiring trauma-informed practices to be implemented across a broad range of service environments. Our TIC specialization prepares students to answer this call by providing them the tools needed to implement trauma-informed practices safely and effectively.  

Program Highlights


The trauma-informed specialization prepares students to effectively address the multi-faceted effects of trauma on individuals, families, organizations, and communities. Students are provided a strong clinical foundation that is based on traditional forms of psychotherapy, along with holistic and integrated body-based approaches to the treatment of traumatic stress and trauma. Additional coursework includes content that emphasizes how to promote trauma-informed systems within organizations and communities, enhance inherent strength and resiliency across systems of practice, and identify and challenge racial, social, and economic injustice in all its forms. The program is also working toward providing students trauma-informed best-practices in addressing pandemic-related social issues.

Additional program features include:

  • Faculty with extensive experience working in a variety of clinical and agency settings and who are actively conducting research in the areas of mental health, trauma, and other fields.
  • A wide range of internships opportunities at local, state, national, and international sites.
  • A School Social Work Endorsement that allows MSW graduates to hold the position of the School Social Worker with the Iowa Area Education Agencies.
  • Affordable tuition, whether you live in state or out of state


The UNI MSW program has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) since 2002.


Useful Links for MSW Students

MSW Student Handbook

Academic Advisement Report and Student Request Training

Social Work Licensing

2019 Orientation PowerPoints


Dr. Matthew Vasquez, MSW Program Director