The Institute for Clinical Social Work

Academic Curriculum

The curriculum is organized into three sequences — Clinical, Research, and Conceptual Foundations — and clinical and research practica designed to give students a broad theoretical and practical understanding in preparation for their clinical and research work. Student advisors are also an integral part of our academic program.

The Clinical Sequence

The Clinical Sequence provides a conceptually rigorous and comprehensive, psychodynamically informed clinical practice framework. Course subjects include six semesters of case-based seminars, three semesters of clinical process and technique, as well as diversity in clinical practice. Two semesters of adulthood disorders address neurotic, personality, and psychotic disorders, as well as current theories of trauma, social disorder, and neurobiology.

The Research Sequence

The Research Sequence prepares students to contribute to practice knowledge through research and to critique and incorporate research findings into clinical practice. Courses are specifically designed for clinicians with little to no research knowledge. Courses cover information gathering, standards of scholarly writing and research, qualitative and quantitative methodology, and seminars to support preparation of students’ dissertation proposals.

The Conceptual Foundations Sequence

The Conceptual Foundations Sequence promotes an informed, self-aware use of theory in clinical practice, research, consulting, and teaching. Six semesters of psychodynamic psychology provide a solid foundation in classical theory, object relations, self-psychology, and contemporary psychoanalytic theories. Four semesters of development offer a conceptual framework for understanding the developmental process across the domains of physical, cognitive, social/cultural, and emotional/psychological growth as it occurs in the context of family, community, and culture. Two courses on epistemology are central to the doctoral education and address the philosophical and historical underpinnings of the theories we use in research and practice.


Electives are offered each year, reflecting student interest, current issues and controversies, and new theoretical and clinical topics. Subjects may include interpretation of dreams, relational theory in practice, and others. Students take electives to enhance their specialized knowledge and skill as they complete the program.

The Clinical Practicum

The Clinical Practicum offers a rich, individualized learning experience that is designed to advance students’ clinical expertise.  Students complete 220 hours of consultation on cases drawn from the student’s own practice—allowing students to learn from their own cases.  Over 40 leading clinicians are part of ICSW’s faculty and are available to offer one on one consultation to students in meetings that are arranged according to the student and consultant’s availability.

The Clinical Practicum allows flexibility in clinical training while encouraging clinical work in depth. As students progress through the program, they develop clinical portfolios grow and travel with them. The portfolio consists of all case study write-ups and treatment summaries, along with an evolving learning plan. The following guidelines for the Clinical Practicum constitute a general plan, which may be changed when appropriate.

Development and Review

A plan for Clinical Practicum learning activities is to be developed by the student and the first clinical consultant (FCC) during the first semester of the program and examined and revised as needed at the beginning of each subsequent year.

Case Studies

Each student is required to complete six sets of two case studies. The case study may consist of a new case the student is working with or a case that has been in treatment for some time.

Treatment Cases

Each student is required to have four treatment consultations, with four different  members of ICSW’s faculty.  In each treatment consultation, the student may focus on one or more cases with the goal of creating an opportunity to learn to apply psychodynamic treatment principles to clinical work. To be considered as part of a Treatment Consultation, a case must be one in which the student meets the client at least once a week for a therapeutic purpose. One consultation will be continued for two years, the others will be approximately one year each. This arrangement may be modified to offer the best possible learning experience for the student.

The Research Practicum

Leading to and including the dissertation, the Research Practicum consists of independent studies with ICSW faculty. Independent studies usually consist of exploration of the literature, methodologies and theoretical issues relevant to the dissertation proposal. The dissertation committee and two readers accept the research proposal, guide the study, and give final approval of the dissertation document.

A range of topics have been explored by students using numerous research methods and based on a variety of epistemologies. We are very proud of the common threads that run through all the dissertations produced at ICSW: They are grounded in clinical practice and tend to be highly useful in furthering our understanding of human beings. Many scholarly papers, numerous presentations, and several books based on our students’ dissertations have been added to the corpus of clinical social work knowledge.

Student Advising

At ICSW, our advising system is based on our belief that supportive relationships facilitate learning. When entering our program, each student is assigned an academic advisor and a first clinical consultant. The advisor meets with the student each semester to review academic progress and is available to address questions or concerns that the student has regarding the academic program. The first clinical consultant (FCC) meets with the student each class session of the first semester to introduce and orient the student to the clinical practicum. If the student wishes, the FCC may continue on to work with the student to complete the first set of case studies and may also offer a treatment consultation. The FCC remains as an advisor to the student until the clinical practicum is completed. The FCC helps to monitor the student’s progress in the practicum by annually reviewing the student’s portfolio and revising the learning plan. Once the student begins the dissertation process and chooses a committee chair, that chair will be the student’s advisor on the research process until its completion.

Academic Curriculum

First Year Fall:
RM 601 – Traditions of Inquiry in the Social Sciences I
CF 611 – Psychodynamic Psychology I:  Psychodynamic Theories I
CF 621 – Developmental Theory I
CL 601 – Case Conference I: The Case Study
CL 611 – Clinical Process and Technique I:  The Therapeutic Situation
Clinical Practicum I

First Year Spring:
RM 602 – Traditions of Inquiry in the Social Sciences II
CF 612 – Psychodynamic Psychology I:  Psychodynamic Theories II
CF 622 – Developmental Theory II
CL 602 – Case Conference II:  The Case Study
CL 612 – Perspectives on Clinical Formulation

Second Year Fall:
RM 701 –Research Methods I
CF 711 – Psychodynamic Psychology III:  Freud
CL 721– Beyond 50 Minute Hour
CL 701 – Case Conference III
CL 711 – Clinical Process and Technique II:  The Therapeutic Attitude
Clinical Practicum II
Clinical Practicum III

Second Year Spring:
RM 702 –Research Methods II
CF 712 – Psychodynamic Psychology IV:  Object Relations
CF 721 –Psychoanalytic Social Theory
CL 702 – Case Conference IV
CL 712 – Perspectives on Human Suffering

Third Year Fall:
RM 801 – Research Methods III
CF 811 – Psychodynamic Psychology V:  Self Psychology
CL 821 –The Social Construction of Difference I:  Race, Racialization, and Social Class
CL 801 – Case Conference V
CL 811 – Clinical Process and Technique III: The Clinical Unconscious
Clinical Practicum IV
Clinical Practicum V

Third Year Spring:
RM 802 – Research Methods IV
CF 812 – Psychodynamic Psychology VI:  Relational Theory
CF 822 – The Social Construction of Difference II:  Gender and Sexuality
CL 802 – Case Conference VI: The Therapist’s Subjectivity
CL 803 – Case Conference VII

Fourth Year Fall:
RM 901 – Dissertation Seminar I
ESCF 101 – **
ESCL 101 – **
Clinical Practicum VI

Fourth Year Spring:
RM 902 –Dissertation Seminar II
ESCF 102 – **
ESCL 102 – **
CF 911 –Psychodynamic Psychology VII: Contemporary Controversies