Mission and Objectives
Our clinical curriculum is unlike any traditional post-graduate institute or clinical PhD program. We designed it this way. Why? Social work clinicians are often involved in the most complicated cases and social environments; client circumstances don’t always fit neatly into a fifty-minute hour and consultation room. In part, this complexity explains why social work clinicians are often attracted to family therapy institutes, addiction training programs, trauma certificate programs, cognitive-behavioral programs, or psychodynamic institutes, among many others. Post-graduate training programs drill down into the clinical skills and theories of a single modality and provide supervision of cases. And these are the type of skills that social workers need to address serious and multi-layered biopsychosocial problems. Thus, institute and post-graduate (MSW) training programs in general are necessary given the breadth and depth of skills and knowledge that quality clinical work requires. Post-MSW training programs, however, do not have curricular content for developing the student’s scholarship skills. Moreover, such programs do not create a learning environment (curriculum) that fosters a broad intellectual discussion about how the human mind develops and works in relationship to complex environments; instead they typically focus on the assumptions of the particular modality that the institute or training program has historically and currently adopted. In short, most teach one modality and it’s rare that they encourage meta-theoretical and analytical skills. Our DSW addresses this latter gap.
Second, clinical PhD programs by definition have a curricular focus and responsibility to primarily teach research methods. No surprise given the research mission and objectives of such programs. Most PhD programs either reduced clinical theory and skills to a course or two, or they teach both research and practice; there are only a couple of the latter and they fulfill an important niche in social work doctoral education.
We intentionally designed this practice doctorate to not combine traditional research methods with practice courses. Our decision was not informed by an anti-research sentiment, but instead a vision that case study knowledge production is a legitimate form of research. In addition, the field lacks quality contemporary case studies that reflect the diverse environments we practice within. We strongly believe that producing case studies helps experienced practitioners learn how to integrate their theory and skills through the process of reading, writing, translating, and disseminating clinical knowledge. The DSW centers the clinical case study as its central knowledge production component.