Like the master's program, the doctoral curriculum operates on a block plan of instruction in which periods of classroom study alternate with periods of clinical and research study in the field. The Ph.D. program includes two and one-half summers of on-campus intensive study and two intervening eight-month clinical practice internships. Academic courses are taken at Smith College between June and August.
The required and elective courses advance knowledge about:
- clinical theory and practice with individuals, families, and small groups;
- social work research, including both qualitative and quantitative methods and advanced statistics, psychodynamic and social theories;
- the philosophical foundations of contemporary social work practice;
- social work education; and
- social policy as related to clinical practice and mental health.
All courses are offered on a full-time enrollment basis only.
All students receive specialized courses in teaching philosophy and methods to help them prepare for academic careers. The program also encourages all fellows not already employed in social work education to engage in some form of clinical teaching—in the classroom, in the agency, as a supervisor, or as a consultant—as part of the course of study, typically during the second internship or the final summer of on-campus study. This, too, involves mentoring by an adviser or by individual faculty members. Finally, as in all Ph.D. programs, an individual doctoral dissertation is required. Dissertation topics may address any topic relevant to clinical social work, and are selected by the fellow in consultation with the research Adviser. Dissertations vary in design and research methods, but all involve a new, independent contribution to the social work literature. The dissertation marks a key transition from fellow to scholar.