Course Catalog 2023-2024

100 Program Overview

100.1 Educational Objectives

The Smith College School for Social Work Ph.D. program is committed to recruiting, teaching, mentoring, and graduating students with a strong commitment to advancing professional knowledge, awareness, values, and skills of clinical social work practice and research with an anti-racism lens. The aim of the SSW Ph.D. Program is consistent with the Quality guidelines of Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE). The broad goal of the program is to educate practitioner-scholars through the development of knowledge, values, and skills to inform and transform clinical social work research, education, and practice. SSW is committed to continuously developing resources to ensure that the PhD program recruits a culturally diverse community of scholars, is nationally competitive, and contributes to leadership in the social work profession.

By completing the SSW Ph.D. program, students will be able to:

  1. Create new knowledge through research and practice at the culmination of their training and education
  2. Discuss and appraise the history of the social work profession, current issues and debates within the profession
  3. Critically analyze theories, practices, policies, and research
  4. Demonstrate advanced levels of competence as clinicians, supervisors, educators and researchers
  5. Infuse an anti-racism perspective and social work values of social justice into all areas of their professional work
  6. Articulate a detailed research agenda that addresses issues relevant to clinical social work and/or the social work profession
  7. Develop research and funding proposals both independently and in collaboration with others
  8. Conceptualize, design, and implement advanced research on issues related to clinical social work practice
  9. Disseminate knowledge that contributes to the advancement of social work research, practice, and policy
  10. Demonstrate their teaching philosophy through courses that they teach as social work educators

100.2 Program Structure: Residency & Post-Residency

Residency (the Block Plan)

During the residency period, students engage in 3 summers of academic coursework on the Smith campus and two intervening 8-month periods of clinical practice and research in the field. Each Session must be successfully completed before enrollment in the next subsequent Session, except under special circumstances.

  • Session I: the first academic session
    (10 weeks on Smith campus, June to mid-August)
  • Session 2: the first clinical internship period
    (32 weeks in the agency, September through April)
  • Session 3: the second academic session
    (10 weeks on Smith campus, June to mid-August)
  • Session 4: the second clinical internship period
    (32 weeks in the agency, September through April)
  • Session 5: the third academic session
    (10 weeks on Smith Campus, June to mid-August)


Upon satisfactory completion of Sessions I through V, students enter the period of Post-Residency during which the dissertation is developed. The School has established a 5-year limit for completion of the dissertation.

In the case that students have not completed the doctoral requirements within 5 years after coursework, students may petition for a 1-year extension. Students may petition for a total of three 1-year extensions. The Ph.D. director may approve these extensions based on the student’s progress in the program. Students who do not complete the program requirements within the stated timeframe may be terminated from the program.

Students pay an annual advising fee during this Post-Residency period.

100.3 – Degree Requirements

For students entering the program in Summer 2022 and after, the requisites for obtaining the Ph.D. include the successful completion of the following:

Three 10-week periods (Sessions I, III and VI) of on-campus academic studies over three successive summers.
Clinical Internship
Two 32-week periods (Sessions II & IV) of approved clinical internship in which a minimum of 3 days each week is devoted to clinical training.
Research Internship
Equivalent to a half-day per week to be completed during one of the two clinical internship sessions.
Comprehensive Examination
A written paper to be developed during the 2nd year of clinical internship, which integrates students' learning. It consists of a final publication-quality manuscript based on original work.
Ph.D. students are strongly encouraged to engage in some form of teaching. This may be in the form of classroom teaching or clinical supervision/consulting.
An independent, defensible, scholarly research project relevant to clinical social work. The final dissertation manuscript must be accepted by the faculty within 5 years following completion of the final academic session (Session V).