Master of Social Work student gets clinical experience through internship

Kristen Dingwall

Kristen Dingwall, a master’s student in the School of Social Work, is dedicated to helping families in crisis to rebuild their lives. Through an internship with SummitStone Health Partners, she has been able to practice the academic skills learned in the classroom and gain clinical experience beyond campus.

Functional Family Therapy

This summer, Dingwall made two trips to Long Beach, California, not for its world-famous waterfront, but to advance herself as a clinical social worker. There, she received training in Functional Family Therapy, a short-term, family-based therapeutic intervention program.

Therapists primarily practice FFT with 11 to 18-year-old youth who have been referred for behavioral or emotional challenges. Dingwall said FFT is a strengths-based model built on a foundation of acceptance and respect.

Dingwall with a group of people who attended the FFT training
Dingwall with a group of people who attended the FFT training.

“They (the trainers) call it matching,” Dingwall said. “They encourage us as therapists to match where the family is, instead of trying to change them. And based on that, help improve the family relationship.”

Social Work is a dynamic profession concerned with helping individuals, families, and communities to enhance their well-being. Therapy is one of the many important tools that social workers use to achieve the best possible results for their clients. Dingwall said she appreciates the rich examples and role-plays the FFT training involves, and she enjoys hearing from trainers who are still connected to the field and practicing FFT themselves.

Interning with SummitStone Health Partners

Career development opportunities are always valuable. But career development during an internship? That’s not very common. For Dingwall, this opportunity came as a sweet surprise.

“I just felt really lucky that, for my internship, they were sending me to actually be trained, and that they were willing to invest time and resources in me,” said Dingwall.

SummitStone Health Partners is a private non-profit mental health center in Colorado. It offers mental health and addiction services to nearly 10,000 people throughout Larimer County every year. Dingwall’s year-long internship with SummitStone is a vital part of her graduate studies, as such intensive hands-on experience is required to earn her Master of Social Work.

Since being trained in the FFT model this summer, Dingwall has already been working with three families under supervision. She said this internship provides an excellent opportunity for her to gain clinical experience within a large community-based health organization.

“I get to be really hands-on, and I have met a lot of really great supervisors,” Dingwall said. “The best part of my experience has been the opportunity to initially shadow family therapy sessions to learn from more experienced clinicians.”

Found her state at CSU

For Dingwall, attending CSU feels like coming home.

Dingwall is already an alumna of the College of Health and Human Sciences with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies (B.S., ’07). She started her career as a counselor working with adolescents in a residential setting. Later on, she became a caseworker for the Colorado Department of Human Services.

After serving the Fort Collins community for 12 years, Dingwall said she was craving new challenges and bigger platforms. “I hit a point in my career where I felt like I could get to the next level,” she said. “After talking with my mentors, it seemed like getting a Master of Social Work would allow for the most diversity and opportunities.” And that brought her back to CSU for its advanced generalist M.S.W program that would equip her with skills to work in a variety of settings, like mental health agencies, schools, and non-profit organizations.

When asked about plans after graduation, Dingwall said she is staying open. “I am just really enjoying this experience of being back in school and being challenged in all these different ways,” Dingwall said. “I am trying to keep my mind open, and hopefully, more doors will open.”


Since 1984, CSU’s Master of Social Work program has prepared students to work as versatile leaders for professional, ethical Advanced Generalist practice in complex, diverse, and dynamic contexts. Our full-time, part-time, and distance M.S.W. programs provide cutting-edge and experiential education, based upon scientific inquiry, which is responsive to evolving needs of local and global communities. Two-year students can also complete a graduate certificate concurrently with their M.S.W. degree program. The program is open for applications on October 1. 

The School of Social Work is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences

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