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MSSW with a Psychosocial Oncology Specialization

Forty-one percent of Americans can expect to be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime.1 The high rates of cancer on local, national, and global levels and the potential shortage of oncology social workers are creating the demand for skilled practitioners. The psychosocial oncology specialization at the Kent School of Social Work meets the growing need for professionals in psychosocial oncology care. This program  prepares social work students with the knowledge and competencies for addressing the psychosocial health needs of persons with cancer. They will learn how to apply clinical skills such as psycho-social assessments, counseling, leading family meetings, setting goals of care and making treatment decisions across the cancer continuum.

This specialization offers:

  • A one-year practicum in a cancer care setting or health care organization
  • Additional integrative seminar
  • Courses in psychosocial practice in oncology social work
  • Opportunity to participate in iCOPE, an interdisciplinary oncology palliative care curriculum
  • Distance-learning Courses
  • Certificate in Psychosocial Oncology
  • Assistance in securing a job after graduation

Program Specialization Requirements:

  • SW647: Psychosocial Practice in Oncology I:  Interpersonal Practice
  • SW648:  Psychosocial practice in Oncology II:  Community Approaches to Promote Health Equity
  • One elective course from the following:

SW633: Social Work and Human Sexuality
SW636: Death and Grief
SW684: Spirituality and Social Work
PHEP601: Introduction to Epidemiology

Other course of interest—to be approved by chair

  • 2-day per week field practicum in a cancer care setting
  • SW649 & 650:  Psychosocial Specialization Integrative Seminar I and II


  • Submit a 2-3 page (double-spaced) essay discussing your interest in psychosocial oncology and how the specialization will further your educational goals.  Application for Specializations
  • Must be in good standing with Kent School MSSW Program and completed foundation MSSW curriculum requirements
  • Must submit an updated resumé
Students must apply to specializations by January 30th during the January before their Advanced (final) year of study.

For more information, contact:

Karen Kayser, MSW, Ph.D.
Dr. Renato LaRocca Endowed Chair of Oncology Social Work
Kent School of Social Work
Oppenheimer Hall
Louisville, KY 40292
Phone: 502-852-1946
E-mail Dr. Kayser

“Cancer care today often provides state-of-the-science bio-medical treatment, but fails to address the psychological and social (psychosocial) problems associated with the illness.” -(Institute of Medicine, 2008)

1Reis, L.D. et al. (2007) Seer cancer statistics review, 1975-2004. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute.