The Doctoral Program

Grounded in the recognition that direct practice and scholarly inquiry are complementary, Simmons's Ph.D. in Social Work prepares advanced clinical scholars for careers that significantly impact the direction of our profession. The Doctoral Program builds on our school's mission to contribute to the development of the social work profession in a multicultural society, to enhance the human service delivery system, and to work toward the goal of social justice.

Tamara Cadet


Our curriculum prepares clinicians for advanced careers that significantly impact the direction of our profession, particularly in research and higher education. coursework focuses on the philosophy of science and models of clinical social work practice, advanced research methods, the analysis of policy and practice trends and issues, and the conceptualization of clinical social work excellence. students graduate leaders, equipped with the comprehensive and cutting-edge knowledge that's required for solving complex social problems across a variety of professional venues.

Ph.D. Courses

SW 610-1 Theoretical Approaches to Understanding Human Behavior, Development, and Change

This course emphasizes the larger social systems in which human behavior develops. readings will be drawn from recent developments in social psychological thinking.

SW 630-2 Advanced Clinical Practice

This course examines and integrates clinical theory, research, and practice wisdom in social work practice. it addresses selected concepts fundamental to practice, with respect to the common critical factors, process of change, and practice models. The context of "best practices" and critiques of current evidence on intervention concepts, models, and practice approaches/effectiveness are explored. issues of diversity, culture, difference, power/privilege, social justice, etc., in the clinical practice literature are investigated as well as the necessary and sufficient conditions for change to occur.

SW 631-1 Ways of Knowing in Clinical Practice

in this course, a philosophical framework for social work theory and practice is developed through a study of social constructionism and a comparison of modernist and post-modern ways of thinking about knowledge. These orientations to knowledge are then used to examine contemporary debates in practice in relation to ethics, power, gender, sexual orientation, and race.

SW 650-1 A Research Framework for Viewing Clinical Practice

This course serves as an introduction to social work research methods in the Doctoral Program. objectives of the course include examination of the research process, as applied to the specialized needs of social work practitioners. Emphasis is placed on formulation of researchable practice questions of interest to seminar participants, and examination of quantitative and qualitative research methods and strategies appropriate to these questions.

SW 651-1 Introduction to Statistics and Data Analysis

This course examines fundamental statistics and data analysis techniques appropriate for social work research. Emphasis is on the application of elementary statistical techniques to the research examination process; the steps needed in the process of data analysis; how computers can be used; and in what areas conclusions can be drawn.

SW 652-2 Advanced Research and Statistics

This course builds on material presented in prior research and statistics courses in the Doctoral Program, offering students opportunities to acquire more advanced data analysis skills. Two multivariate analysis techniques are emphasized — analysis of variance and multiple regression. with both analytic techniques, the interpretation of findings and the development of conclusions in the areas of practice, policy, and further research are stressed.

SW 653-1 Dissertation Proposal Seminar

This seminar integrates two distinct and complementary functions of the doctoral dissertation: 1) The culmination of the doctoral education process demonstrating a capacity for independent research; 2) a launching pad for the creation of a consistent and sustained scholarly agenda. The student will apply sound research principles and practices in the development of a clear and substantive dissertation proposal. we will also situate this process of developing a single specific research endeavor in the larger context of knowledge development and social work practice.

SW 654-2 Qualitative Research Methods

This one-semester course is designed to introduce students to basic elements of the qualitative research process. we will explore the philosophical assumptions guiding qualitative inquiry; the basic elements of qualitative research design; issues of researcher reflexivity; ethical concerns; data collection, and data analysis strategies; quality control; and the presentation of research findings. students will have the opportunity to conduct a mini research project using qualitative methods.

SW 670-2 Social Welfare Policy and Human Systems

The purpose of this course is to understand the relationship of social welfare policy to the human service system. federal and state policies are analyzed and viewed as shaped by history, values, economics, and the political climate. attention is given to areas of needed policy change, and an effort is made to expand one's thinking beyond existing policies, in order to consider policy alternatives and future directions for the social welfare system.

SW 671-2 Learning and Teaching in Social Work

This course is meant for doctoral students considering teaching as part of their career, and for social work educators who seek an opportunity for disciplined reflection on their teaching. considerable attention is paid to developmental and stylistic issues, teaching methods, and course planning.

Sample Electives

SW 556-2 International Perspectives on Families in Migration

This course focuses on the experiences of immigrant families and families undergoing cultural transitions in different countries.

SW 600 Surveys for Practice and Policy

The course is designed to prepare social work professionals and researchers with an introduction to theory and practice in the design and conduct of surveys. students will work individually and collectively to prepare for and conduct a survey that will be pilot tested during the course.

SW 622-2 Program Evaluation

The major focus of this course is the development of program evaluation skills, including the technical, procedural, and political knowledge necessary to collect, analyze, and use multiple sources of information to answer basic questions about service programs.

SW 638 Advanced Research Design & Methods

This course will cover advanced technical and applied issues of designing and implementing quantitative and qualitative research designs and methods. specific issues relating to research with hard to reach and marginalized populations will be discussed. Participatory action research and translation of researching findings will be discussed within the context of particular research designs.

Current PhD Students

Detailed information is available to current PhD students in a dedicated section of our website.

A Rich and Varied Body of Knowledge

SSW doctoral candidates conduct thorough, thoughtful research, generating powerful dissertations. Some recent topics include:

  • Reclaiming and Constructing Identities: The Journey Out of Homelessness for Persons With Mental Illness
  • Self-perceived Unpopularity in Children and Adolescents: Its Antecedents, Characteristics, and Relationship to Later Maladjustment
  • To Hear and to Respond: The Influence of Zen Buddhist Meditation on the Practice of Clinical Social Work
  • Helpful and Unhelpful Interactions Between Professionals and Parents of Children with Cognitive Challenges: A Developmental Perspective
  • Adaptation and Transformation: The Transition to Adoptive Parenthood for Gay Male Couples
  • Young, Urban, Unwed Fathers: Depressive Symptoms, Problem Behaviors, and Psychosocial Correlates
  • El Sufimiento de los Colombianos en Nueva Inglatera: Como Salen Adelante (Suffering of Colombians in New England: How They Cope)