Clinical Social Work

Social work students can choose to major in clinical practice (CP) to prepare to work directly with children, youth, and adults individually, in families, and in groups. Students develop competencies in engagement, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, evaluation, and prevention for a variety of emotional and behavioral problems. Numerous social work skills, human behavior theories (including those focused on the impact of trauma on development and interpersonal relationships), and evidence-based and evidence-informed practices are taught to inform student learning.

Ecological systems theories over the lifespan form the primary knowledge base for the curriculum because they emphasize the layered reciprocity among individuals and their environments as well as the resources available at the individual, family, group, and community levels, as well as reciprocity between people and their environments. Students study four frameworks for differential assessment and intervention: cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic/attachment, and family systems.

Clinical practitioners learn how to use their professional relationship to engage in meaningful and purposeful dialogue, along with planned therapeutic activities, with clients and to mobilize resources in the environment. In addition to training in individual intervention skills, students learn clinical practice approaches with families and groups as key parts of clinical practice, in order to link social work with individuals and small or large systems within a social justice lens.

Guiding principles for trauma-responsive antiracist clinical social work practice presume the worth and dignity of all people, a strengths perspective, the need for client confidentiality, and client empowerment and self-determination in decision-making. Students learn to practice with an understanding of social policy and macro systems and consider how these policies and systems impact clients and worker practices. Clinical internships provide opportunities for the application of classroom learning to individual, group, and family situations in the field. Additionally, internships promote reflective supervision that encourages students and supervisors to examine their positionality in the clinical relationship and overall thoughts and feelings that impact practice with clients.

Clinical social workers are employed in a wide variety of fields that include but are not limited to mental health, child welfare and children’s services, home-based interventions, health clinics and hospitals, family service and substance-use treatment settings, school social work, services for older adults, and housing agencies.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate ethical and professional behavior in appearance, self-reflection, and self-regulation; engage actively in supervision; and communicate clearly and professionally in a timely manner.
  • Engage diversity and difference that employs cultural humility to shape the intern-client relationship, assessment, goals, and intervention.
  • Advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice and advocate for increased access to clinical and social services to ensure protection of human rights.
  • Engage practice-informed research and research-informed practice to identify and apply multidisciplinary sources to evaluate clinical intervention effectiveness and/or outcomes.
  • Engage policy practice by applying critical thinking to analyze, formulate, and advocate for social policies that advance human rights in clinical practice.
  • Engage children, youth, and adults individually, in families, and in groups effectively and as collaborative partners using empathy and self-reflection to develop relationships that are professional, purposeful, and differential and that are characterized by clear boundaries.
  • Assess children, youth, and adults individually, in families, and in groups using a range of methods to ensure comprehensive assessment and recognize the implications of the larger practice context in the assessment process.
  • Intervene with children, youth, and adults individually, in families, and in groups that use methods of identifying, analyzing, and implementing evidence-based and evidence-informed interventions to achieve client goals.
  • Evaluate practice with children, youth, and adults individually, in families, and in groups to advance practice, policy, and service delivery effectiveness that includes understanding qualitative and quantitative methods for evaluating outcomes and practice effectiveness.


Clinical Social Work course offerings include a foundation course required of all students in their first-year field placement:

  • SSW CP 759 Introduction to Clinical Social Work Practice

Following this course, clinical concentrators are required to take the following courses:

  • SSW CP 770 Clinical Practice with Individuals
  • SSW CP 771 Clinical Practice with Groups
  • SSW CP 772 Clinical Practice with Families

Several advanced clinical practice electives are offered, including:

  • SSW CP 762 Advanced Group Work
  • SSW CP 764 Group Dynamics
  • SSW CP 782 Stress and Trauma in the Early Years: Interventions with Infants, Young Children, and Families
  • SSW CP 785 Family Therapy
  • SSW CP 787 Clinical Practice with Couples
  • SSW CP 791 Family Seminar
  • SSW CP 794 Clinical Practice with Children
  • SSW CP 795 Cognitive and Behavioral Treatment
  • SSW CP 798 Psychodynamic Practice with Adults
  • SSW CP 799 Brief and Time-Effective Treatment
  • SSW CP 803 Clinical Practice with Adult Trauma
  • SSW CP 804 Clinical Practice with Childhood Trauma
  • SSW CP 806 Theory and Practice with LGBT Populations
  • SSW CP 807 Clinical Practice with Older Adults
  • SSW CP 809 Substance Use Disorders: Assessment and Intervention
  • SSW CP 814 Advanced Trauma Seminar

Students concentrating in clinical practice can also complete specializations in the following practice fields: Children, Youth, and Families; Behavioral Health; Aging; and Trauma and Violence. In addition, dual degrees with the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, School of Public Health, and School of Theology enable students to enrich their knowledge and skills in specialized areas of clinical practice.