Social Work Student Learning Experiences of Family Therapy: Improving Competency in Pedagogy Through Qualitative Research


Social Work

Date of this version


Document Type



family therapy, experiential learning, social work curriculum, qualitative research, family therapy training




The purpose of this qualitative study is to evaluate graduate social work student experiences of pedagogy intended to improve competency in family therapy practice. Students from two classes (N = 37) completed open-ended surveys assessing: perceptions of most helpful pedagogical practices; understanding of needed competencies; and perceived opportunities offered to them during their graduate training for learning about work with couples and families. Results, analyzed using grounded theory methodology, revealed that students: (1) believed that experiential activities were especially critical for learning how to do clinical practice with couples and families; (2) understood important competencies related to professional development, therapeutic engagement with the family, and how to approach family practice; and (3) believed they were ‘somewhat prepared’ for practice. Implications include improving understanding of abstract skills in practice with couples and families, and emphasizing relationship dynamics more in graduate social work education and training.



Published in

Australian & New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy

Citation/Other Information

Peterson, L., Jones, E., & Salscheider, K. (2016). Social work student learning experiences of family therapy: Improving competency in pedagogy through qualitative research. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 37, 301-316. https://doi.org/10.1002/anzf.1157