Course Descriptions

The purpose of this course is to broaden and deepen participants’ mastery of several theories of development, personality, and behavior that have contributed to social work’s knowledge base across the decades and continue to inform clinical social work epistemology today. Drawing primarily from original sources, students will consider key assumptions, constructs, and propositions of each theory in terms of its congruence with social work’s principles, values, and mission and in relation to the profession’s person-in-environment perspective. The focus will be on the evolution of theories central to psychodynamic thought, from Freud’s early biological model of the mind, through various relational perspectives, to contemporary work in the fields of attachment and interpersonal neurobiology. This examination will constitute a case study of the manner in which theories are socially constructed and will lay the foundation for critical inquiry into the social and political biases inherent in the Western European intellectual tradition from which most theories of human behavior have emerged.

The purpose of this course is to develop participants’ capacities to deconstruct and critique theories through the understanding of underlying assumptions— particularly Western European assumptions—that underpin not only those theories but also current social work principles, practices and policies. Students will explore the political, economic, historical and cultural contexts of those assumptions. A multidisciplinary approach to examining theories and practice principles must take into account Western reliance on certain key premises, principally a historical attachment to individualism and scientism. A few anchoring frameworks, among them social constructionism and feminism, will aid us in examining ideas about the self, power and empowerment, the medicalization of human problems, the influence of contemporary therapeutic culture, and ideas about trauma and human suffering. A grounding in the principles of intersectionality will be critical for judging the comprehensiveness of social workers’ understanding of diversity. Course readings will be interdisciplinary in scope, drawing from psychology, anthropology, and sociology as well as social work.

This course is designed to teach the basics of social work practice research, with an emphasis on intervention research. A particular focus will be placed on understanding evidence based practice and how to use it in one’s own practice. The course will address building conceptual frameworks, research ethics, source credibility, formulating research questions and hypotheses, measurement and scale construction, sampling procedures, and research design. Importance will be placed on the development of designing ethical, feasible, and practical research studies to answer questions of importance to social work practice, particularly regarding social work interventions and the use of randomized designs. The course will demonstrate the importance and the means to developing conceptual frameworks for purposes of developing interventions, curriculum, research proposal writing, and ultimately for publications.

This doctoral level course will provide students with a hands-on introduction to qualitative, interpretive research methodology and design. The focus of the course is to explore the history, philosophy, and processes of qualitative research. In addition, students will discuss various qualitative techniques and apply a variety of strategies for analyzing and interpreting qualitative data (e.g. procedures such as data reduction, writing memos, coding, developing themes and patterns). The format of the class will provide opportunities for students to build their qualitative skills. Everyone will have the opportunity to contribute to the content of the course through discussions and activities.

This course is designed to provide students with a range of statistical methods and applications used for research in human services and clinical practice settings. Topics covered include types and measurement of variables, and basic concepts and techniques for exploring and categorizing data, for generalizing data from sample to population and tests of significance. An emphasis will be placed on the practical applications of data to address social work practice issues. Students will learn how to choose and apply statistical tools to data sources, when and how statistical tools can be used to analyze data, and how to interpret others’ quantitative studies. Students will gain hands-on experience of using window-based statistical software to manage and analyze quantitative data.

This course is designed to teach the basics of social work practice research, with an emphasis on intervention research. A particular focus will be placed on understanding evidence based practice and how to use it in one’s own practice. The course will address building conceptual frameworks, research ethics, source credibility, formulating research questions and hypotheses, measurement and scale construction, sampling procedures, and research design. Importance will be placed on the development of designing ethical, feasible, and practical research studies to answer questions of importance to social work practice, particularly regarding social work interventions and the use of randomized designs. The course will demonstrate the importance and the means to developing conceptual frameworks for purposes of developing interventions, curriculum, research proposal writing, and ultimately for publications.

This workshop is designed to prepare participants for dissertation proposal writing and defense. Each component of this workshop moves the student closer to the two culminating assignments: A concisely crafted, well-supported 15-25 page written draft dissertation proposal and a 15 minute presentation of the proposal.

This course will introduce the relational turn in theories of development and psychotherapy. Relational theory emerged in the epistemological shift to postmodernism and social constructionism, characterized by concepts of knowledge as perspectival, constructed and rooted in a particular cultural and historical setting. In this course, we will study relational psychoanalysis and its application to clinical social work, including concepts of the two-person perspective, the subjective nature of truth, the centrality of the therapeutic relationship and issues of enactment and therapist self-disclosure. We will also study relational cultural theory (RCT), focusing on concepts of mutuality, mutual empathy, authenticity, good conflict, relational images, disconnection and the power of connection. We will consider what these relational theories share in common with fundamental principles of social work practice, including the importance of empathy, professional use of self, starting where the client is, and respecting the client’s right to self-determination.The aim of this course is to identify the shared principles of relational theories and apply these principles to clinical social work practice. Students will critically evaluate and compare and contrast relational psychoanalysis with relational-cultural theory. Students will evaluate the viability of relational theory in the field of clinical social work and consider the application of relational theory beyond the therapy room to the supervisory, agency and teaching contexts. The focus on case studies as examples will be key to understanding the clinical applications of the various medications we will discuss.

The majority of clients who present to a wide variety of social services have been exposed to adversity and trauma, often beginning in childhood. As a result, the current standard of care requires that human service delivery systems of all kinds need to be “trauma-informed”. This course will explore what that actually means, since administering “trauma-specific treatment” alone is not sufficient to encompass the complexity of the multigenerational, widespread problems that confront us in the world around us. Based on an understanding that our organizations are living systems, students will draw parallels between the individual experience of trauma and the organizational aspects of trauma and loss. Using these parallel processes as a basis students will explore a trauma- informed, parallel process of organizational recovery called the “Sanctuary Model”.

 

This course will focus on an introduction to the provision of clinical intervention services to children, adolescents and their families. A major thrust of the course is interactional discussion, role-playing, clinical case presentation, and learning individual child, adolescent, and family systems intervention skills.  Students will be expected to provide commentary on videotaped case sessions of children, adolescents, and families where cultural dynamics are key factors in session outcomes. There may be occasion when role-playing scenarios are proposed to further a teaching moment and student participation is expected. The role plays are expected to help students reduce their anxiety in trying novel strategies and to help students receive “in-vivo” feedback from peers and the professor. In particular, students will skills in stress awareness, appraisal, reappraisal, and management during clinical and cultural interactions with clients and colleagues. Students will be expected to personally explore racial identity and family dynamics of family of origin that may influence both strengths and limitations in clinical intervention, discuss clinical case material that is presented by videotape, discuss the process and content of those sessions, and respond effectively to a case vignette of clinical issues with competent and professional intervention.  Students will receive feedback from the instructor on the accuracy, relevance, and utility of their case conceptualizations, role-playing engagement, and recommended intervention strategies in response to the cases presented.

This class will focus on classroom dynamics, class culture and instructor skills using an organismic model in which the class has a life of its own and is capable of growth and development.In addition students will learn underlying theories, research, practice wisdom, etc. that we need to communicate to our students. The course should be helpful in thinking about issues that are central to effective teaching regardless of the practice models you present to your students or the content of courses including policy, research, etc. Students will have an opportunity to share their current or past teaching with a particular emphasis on those difficult moments when they had second thoughts about classroom teaching as a career. Examples will be used to help illustrate the theoretical content and the readings and bring the ideas to life as they address the real day-to-day issues we all face in teaching.

The purpose of this course is two-fold: to continue to broaden and deepen participants’ mastery of theories of behavior as it relates to your clinical practice, specifically psychotherapy and at the same time to critically analyze existing approaches to how we conduct practice research. The course will draw on behavioral theory as well as clinical process and how that impacts the clinical encounter. Fundamentals of behavioral theory and its history will be reviewed to ground students firmly in a tradition that rose out of the academy and that has always emphasized measurement and evidence.  Students will consider key assumptions, constructs, and propositions of behavioral theory in terms of its congruence with social work’s principles, values, and mission and in relation to the profession’s person-in-environment perspective.

The first part of this course draws from systems, object relations and emotional regulation theories to create an integrated approach to couples work that emphasizes a relational perspective. Acknowledging that sexuality is an important part of the couples experience that is often neglected in clinical practice, the second part of the course focuses on sex therapy. Students will learn about assessment, diagnosis and treatment models for addressing various sexual dysfunctions. Male and female sexual dysfunction in diverse population will be addressed. Students will receive the basics of the use of the systemic sex therapy in assessing and treating sexual dysfunctions. Assessment, diagnosis and treatment interventions will be anchored in clinical practice, using class lecture, discussions, videotape presentations and role plays.

Supervision is foundational to social work practice. Indeed, it is the primary source of education and support in the profession’s practice as well as during the pursuit of the MSW degree.  While the profession holds up supervision as an essential component of ethical and effective practice there is little provided by way of training or education in social work practice.  This course will explore the structure, practice and barriers to providing supervision in an agency/organizational setting.  The course material explores the changing context of supervision in the social work field, explores supervision as a means to teaching clinical material, supporting supervisees impacted by organizational dynamics/challenges, and provides strategies for managing compassion fatigue, secondary trauma, and burnout in the context of social work practice.

Research on psychotherapy suggests that personality and relationship variables are consistently found to have more influence on treatment outcome than type of treatment.  This course conceptualizes personality differences as they have emerged from clinical experience and empirical research rather than according to the somewhat arbitrary, trait-based personality disorder categories in the DSM and other psychiatric classifications that have influenced contemporary paradigms for psychological treatment. It will emphasize subjective as well as objective means of appreciating patients’ individuality, including a disciplined attention to countertransference reactions, mutual enactments, cultural and subcultural differences, and context. Students will explore recent research and longstanding clinical writing relevant to personality differences that have important implications for social work practice. The focus will be on the practical value of understanding clients’ personalities in depth (whether or not a person’s personality itself is “disordered”), so that professionals can adapt to each person’s individual style of learning and changing as they address the problems that constitute the central focus of therapy or other intervention.

 

 

 

 

This course is designed to introduce a perspective for understanding the effects of early life traumatic experience on brain development. Drawn from The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) and trauma theory, the material will cover basic brain anatomy and physiology, neurodevelopmental processes, and the human stress response. Understanding how adaptive mechanisms function in response to adverse experiences provides a framework for decoding maladaptive or “symptomatic” behavior throughout the lifespan.  The overarching goal of this work is to advance the pursuit of enlightened and effective treatment of children, adults and families whose lives are marked by trauma. Students will work through one or more cases using this biologically informed and developmentally sensitive approach to clinical assessment and problem solving.

In this course, students will review the basic tenants of psychopharmacology. While the subject area is too vast to fully explain in this brief review, the basics will be presented.  Students will be expected to bring questions or case examples to the course to enliven the discussion. To begin, basic ideas in psychopharmacology including the history of psychopharmacology, and the politics of gaining an “approval” of medications in psychopharmacology as well as the limits of psychopharmacology will be presented.  Then, a review of the antipsychotic medications will be presented, with emphasis on the “newer” or “atypical” antipsychotic agents. The focus will be on medications for depression and anxiety disorders.  To begin, we will examine the wide array of antidepressant medications along with their uses, and side effects. The use of these medications for anxiety disorders will be discussed along with the other medications which can be used for anxiety including the benzodiazepines.

In the third week, an array of other topics in psychopharmacology will be presented. We will review medications for addictions.  In addition, medications for dementia will be reviewed, with emphasis on the limited usefulness of these medications.  Medications for other disorders including eating disorders and personality disorders will be presented as well.

The textbooks listed below will serve to amplify knowledge for the course. The “Manual of Clinical Psychopharmacology” should be available online through the Penn Library.  “Freepsychotherapybooks.org” offers a series of books available for a free download on a range of topics in psychotherapy. I have offered two texts there – one on geriatric psychiatry, “Exploring Elder Psychiatry”, and one stretching psychopharm a bit examining the role of infection, infectious agents, and inflammation in the etiology of psychiatric disorders.  This is a bit extracurricular, but interesting. Both are available as a free download on the site.

This course is designed to provide the student an overview of prevailing treatment modalities in substance abuse, current debates in the field and the topography of the treatment system in the U.S. This course is rooted in experiential, interactional and critical thinking pedagogy. Upon completion of the course, students will demonstrate an understanding of best practices in the field and be able to critically analyze substance abuse treatment processes.

Mental health care—which includes but is not limited to psychiatry, psychology, and clinical social work—is an especially ethically fraught subdiscipline of the larger medical enterprise. Issues range from garden-variety problems related to informed consent, patient capacity, and clinical professionalism to novel issues related to involuntary treatment, research on mentally ill persons, questions about free will and diagnostic categories. In this short course, we will examine philosophical and ethical issues in behavioral health care related to psychiatric nosology, capacity & coercion, and long-term care.

*Course topics may vary