clinical social work
Become an advanced social work practitioner and educator without interrupting your career.
The Doctorate in Clinical Social Work (DSW) Program allows ambitious, MSW-prepared social workers to advance their education in just three years—without putting their careers on hold. Become a clinical expert, inspired educator, and real-world scholar through a convenient blend of online evening classes and on-campus immersion experiences.
The SP2 Difference
The nation’s first social work doctorate focused exclusively on practice
A hybrid format designed for busy working professionals
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The opportunity to conduct dissertation research on a pressing clinical social work issue under guidance from world-class faculty
The Penn DSW curriculum is designed to engage students in high-level learning that challenges them to think methodically, critically, and creatively about social work theory, practice, pedagogy, and research.
The program begins with a two-semester foundation that spans clinical theory and research and ends with a core course on trauma-informed interventions. Concurrent with their coursework, students complete a dissertation workshop that guides them through the first stages of their dissertation. Near the end of the year, students are matched with a dissertation chair who shepherds them through the remainder of the dissertation process.
- Clinical Theory I: Psychodynamic, Relational, Attachment, and Neurobiology Theories
- Clinical Theory II: Behavioral and Cognitive Behavioral Theories and Integrative Practices
- Research Methods I: Research Design and Quantitative Inquiry
- Research Methods II: Qualitative Inquiry
- Applied Social Statistics
- Trauma-Informed Theory and Interventions
- Dissertation Workshop I
Year 2 curriculum continues with specialized, applied courses that cover clinical content and teaching preparation. This second and final year of coursework culminates in two electives selected by the student cohort completed as a group. Students also continue their dissertation work under the direction of their dissertation committee.show more
- Teaching Social Work Practice
- Relational Theories and Social Work Practice
- Family and Couples Therapy
- Social Construction and Social Work Practice: Transforming Dialogues
- Race, Culture, and Identity
- Substance Use Interventions
- Dissertation Workshop II
- Elective 1
- Elective 2
Sample DSW elective options:
- The Neurobiology of Trauma
- Mindfulness and Psychotherapy
- Introduction to Sex Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Clinical Practice with Adolescents and Young Adults
- Trauma-informed Supervision
- Ethics in Mental Health Care
- Leadership for Change
During the third and final year of the program, students complete, defend, and deposit their dissertation. There is no formal coursework during this year, but students participate in a dissertation seminar that provides structure and support and keeps them moving steadily toward their defense. Note that some students are able to complete the dissertation in as little as two years.
Paul Starling, DSW’11
“The DSW cohort model created lasting relationships, many of which are still intact today. My dissertation research has motivated me to investigate the development of a nature counseling model involving passive experiences in nature for people struggling with life issues.”
In collaboration with dissertation mentors and later, with the dissertation committee, students begin developing a dissertation topic during their first semester of the program. Through close mentoring and a tightly structured process, students complete an original work of scholarship that contributes to the clinical social work literature and knowledge base. The dissertation engages students in deep study and positions them as knowledge experts in their content area.
The Finished Product
The Doctorate in Clinical Social Work (DSW) Program is offered by the University of Pennsylvania, an institution of higher education authorized to confer degrees and certificates conferring academic credit under applicable laws of the United States. Students who are interested in participating in the program from countries other than the United States are advised that each jurisdiction may have its own laws and regulations governing online educational programs, and some jurisdictions may not recognize course credit or an online degree awarded by the University as satisfying local requirements for professional licensure, employment qualification, or other purposes. Before enrolling in this program, prospective students should investigate their jurisdiction’s treatment of foreign online programs to ensure that participation in this program will meet their objectives.
Ready to join the DSW community?
Faculty & Research
SP2 students and faculty research prevalence of depression among low-income women
The importance of addressing depression among low-income women in multiple contexts is a theme of recent research by April Ivey, GRS’22, Professor Jacqueline Corcoran, and others at Penn’s School of […]
Who, What, Why: Tyra Moore on her commitment to mental health care for Black Americans
The doctoral student in the School of Social Policy & Practice received the Joy Award from the Boris L. Henson Foundation and is writing a dissertation on teen parenting within […]
Faculty & Research
SP2 Professor Dr. Jacqueline Corcoran Speaks on Evidence-Based Application
Recently, SP2 Professor Jacqueline Corcoran, PhD, had a conversation with SP2 Board Member Elisabeth Joy Lamotte, LICSW, about the importance and methods for evidence-based application published in the NASW Private Practice edition. […]
Administrative Coordinator, DSW Program
215 573 7133