Course Descriptions

A. Philosophy of Science. Differences over epistemology – the nature of knowledge and how we come to possess it – are part and parcel of debates over clinical theory and research methodology, whether it is the claimed superiority of behaviorism based on positivist views or the claimed superiority of relational psychodynamic approaches based on constructivist accounts of knowledge. This course will consider selected topics and controversies in philosophy of science and their application to debates over the nature of clinical theory and research.

B. Every clinical theory presupposes an account of the nature of the mind. Moreover, clinical theory continues to grapple with the philosophical conundrum of the mind-body relationship. The course will review selected topics in the philosophy of mind and the explanation of human action, and their application to theoretical debates within the clinical literature.

This course will examine how professional social work knowledge evolves in the context of broader intellectual currents in philosophy and the social sciences, including debates in epistemology, ontology, as well as political and moral philosophy. Postmodern perspectives such as relational theories, narrative, culture and race, second wave feminist theories, queer theories, and social constructivism will be examined in relation to clinical practice with vulnerable populations traditionally served by social workers. Emphasis will be placed on the critical review of each of these theories, particularly in relation to each other and their clinical utility and limitations when applied to at-risk populations.


This course will address a broad range of research methods, including quantitative and qualitative research designs as they relate to clinical practice. The content will be organized by reading studies considered “landmarks” in the study of clinical social work practice from the beginnings of the profession in the Progressive Era (“scientific charity”). These studies will be examined both for their findings and also for their methods of study (research designs). Since all MSW programs require the study of research, students will be refreshed in this knowledge by reading and critiquing these “exemplars” of such forms of study as the case study method, survey research, experiments and quasi-experiments, qualitative studies, single-system designs, and (currently) systematic reviews. There will be a module on statistical reasoning that precedes or is included in the course. Students will be able to demonstrate the ability to read and critique published research and will also learn about the nature of and findings from research on clinical social work practice, identifying areas promising for future study.

This course will examine the major premises of behavior and change that have informed clinical social work practice. The values, assumptions, methods and research evidence for each practice theory will be examined. The focus of this class will be on theories that were prominent during the early and mid-twentieth century, through selections of original contributions from the analytic, object relations, self-psychology, family systems, behavioral and cognitive theorists.


This course will cover the history of social work in the United States and social policies that affect it, with an emphasis on clinical social work (direct practice), licensing and practice regulations. It will also cover the emergence of the institutions, organizations, and systems of care that address mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance use/abuse. Both traditional and Foucauldian perspectives will be offered. Current policy issues affecting clinical social work practice and the financing of clinical social work services will be emphasized.


This course will continue to examine the major premises of behavior change that have informed contemporary clinical social work practice since the 1980's. The values, assumptions, methods and research evidence for each theory will be examined. Readings representing the interpersonal, intersubjective, emotionally-focused and behavioral health approaches will be critically examined.

This workshop will provide students with the necessary information in order to write a publishable paper, including the selection of a topic, target audience, and appropriate journal, as well as the importance of the organization of content and the review process. Emphasis will be placed on the development of a literature review in one’s area of expertise and a publishable article based on it.


This course will examine how evidence-based and evidence-informed practices are determined, give an overview of key evidence-based and evidence-informed practices, and consider their impact on clinical social work practice. Within the context of a growing emphasis on accountability and effectiveness in the behavioral health services, the course will explore the assumptions and values of evidence-based practice and how research is utilized to inform direct practice. The course also will examine the implementation of evidence-based and evidence-informed practices in real life settings examining the role of organizational climate, workforce competencies, policies and procedures, financing and community factors. Quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods and participatory research will be presented to demonstrate how these methods can inform different aspects of implementation. The course will use different implementation examples from behavioral health services to discuss issues of tailoring and fidelity in practice settings. Recent developments in implementation science and current health care policies will also be considered to understand the broader context for the implementation of evidence-based and evidence-informed practices.

This course will consider established and emerging theories of human development and well-being, with particular attention to attachment and trauma. The course will also consider the historical separation of psyche and soma, and more recent efforts to integrate the mind and body through neuroscience research and behavioral health. Students will develop an awareness of competing paradigms and theoretical shifts that impact practice models.

This workshop will continue students’ work on publishable papers. If work is still ongoing in regard to getting the literature review published, that will be discussed in class (e.g., dealing with editorial feedback). Each student will also be required to start or complete a second paper that expands on work done for a course or that is drawn from some aspect of the student’s practice (e.g., a traditional case study or a single system design study).

Promoting social justice is a core value commitment of the social work profession, and public defense of services to those in need of help often involves the ability to articulate considerations of justice. Globally, human rights become an increasingly salient part of social justice for social workers. Yet, the nature of justice itself and its specific relationship to clinical intervention in social work and the mental health professions remain controversial. This course will introduce the student to a variety of selected currently debated theories of human rights and social justice and explore the relationship of these to mental health and to clinical intervention as practiced by social workers. The course will also touch on the challenge of global justice across cultures and national boundaries, including the nature of universal human rights, in the context of respect for alternative value systems.

Trauma-Informed Treatment will  provide an overview of trauma, including responses to trauma, the neuroscience of trauma, assessment, and the types of traumatic events such as natural and man-made disasters, sexual and physical abuse, and adult-onset trauma. Relevant theoretical and evidence-supported treatment models will be discussed in relation to specific types of trauma. The importance of clinician responses to direct and indirect exposure will be discussed, including secondary and shared trauma responses. Case material will be used to illustrate core components of trauma-informed care, application of specific models, and the impact of trauma on client-clinician interactions.

Treatment of the Addictions examines the use and abuse of substances and addiction to alcohol and other drugs, as well as behavioral addictions such as gambling, are pervasive among social work clients. This will provide an overview of the scope of addictive problems, their impact on individuals, families and communities, the various etiological formulations, including the role of neurobiology, family and social factors, and become familiar with the latest in evidence-based interventions that can be utilized by social workers in clinical settings.

This course will support DSW students in human services organizations to build the knowledge and skills to be effective leaders in directing staff and programs as well as overall organizational management. In order to adapt to the continued challenges posed by changing social policies and accountability to communities, leaders need to be adept at assuming a vast array of responsibilities.

People learn in various ways: visual, auditory, and experiential. This course addresses the various models of adult learning and cognitive development, especially in regard to fostering students’ critical thinking and problem-solving strategies. Students will learn the components necessary to the development of their teaching philosophy and portfolio as it pertains to teaching the integration of theory and practice of social work. This course should be taken concurrently with the teaching internship.


A choice of one of these internships will be required and will be taken concurrently with the teaching or supervision class respectively. Current teaching at a CSWE accredited graduate or undergraduate program is acceptable, as is current supervisory work in an agency-based setting. Individualized learning plans will be developed for each internship and students will be evaluated on the achievement of these learning goals and their ability to reflect upon the internship experience productively for their continuing professional development.

This course will focus on continuing work on papers for publication and the beginning processes of compiling the final portfolio needed for graduation. Work will focus on the status of students’ scholarship and effective strategies that need to be taken to ensure publication in their respective areas of expertise. Students will also learn about the importance of disseminating one’s work to a professional audience, and the steps that need to be taken to present professionally, including identification of a professional venue, abstract preparation and submission, and organizing of material for presentation.


During the capstone course, students will present their completed portfolios to their committees. The scheduled presentations of the work with questions asked about it will be open to all of the Program’s students and faculty. In addition to successfully presenting and defending their own work, each student will be required to attend at least three other “defenses” and to write a brief evaluation of each presentation they attend. In addition to providing a forum for evaluating individual work, this capstone course will prepare students for conference presentations and for participating in other peer review processes.

  1. Students will learn about the steps involved in successfully presenting and defending one’s work in a peer-reviewed venue.
  2. Students will have the opportunity to practice critical thinking skills in the evaluation of one’s and other’s presented work.
  3. Students will learn about the process of effective public speaking, and arguing one’s point based on in-depth knowledge of the professional area.