History of the Sanville Institute

The Sanville Institute, formerly The California Institute for Clinical Social Work, offered an innovative doctoral program in clinical work from the mid 1970s through 2018.

It was a statewide program, with learning centers in northern and southern California, designed for mid-career professionals seeking to further their clinical and theoretical education beyond the master’s degree required for licensure.

Jean Sanville, one of the founders, published an article in 1977 about the unique educational model; Rosemary Lukton and Ruth Bro published another article describing the school’s first ten years.



Informal Planning Period


Signing of the State Charter founding the Institute for Clinical Social Work

The Institute for Clinical Social Work was incorporated in October 1974, by a small group of experienced practitioners with a vision of post-master’s professional education that would permit students to continue their clinical practice while earning a doctoral degree.

The founders were members of the California Society for Clinical Social Work, a California professional association, which sponsored the foundation of the Institute.

1975 - 1976

Formal Planning Year

Following incorporation in 1974, the founding Board of Trustees began a series of meetings to develop the philosophy and direction of the program. After nearly a year of regular meetings, in September 1975, the trustees invited a group of highly esteemed clinical social workers from different areas of the state to participate in planning. In March 1976, this planning group was further expanded to include prominent social work educators, administrators, consultants, and practitioners.

Committees [the term “colloquium” was used instead of “committee”] collected and reviewed literature on existing doctoral programs in social work, on other innovative educational programs offering advanced degrees, and from the World Health Organization, which had delineated model programs in professional education. Other committees formulated standards for selecting faculty and students and studied the requirements of the California State Department of Education, Office of Private Post-secondary Education for granting a doctoral degree.

These studies culminated in the establishment of a nine-month program to test the tentative format and to further develop educational philosophy, curriculum, and modus operandi. In 1979 the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education granted approval for the institute to award the PhD to qualified students.

1976 - 1977

Experimental Year

Forty-three highly qualified students were admitted for the experimental academic year of 1976/77. Five colloquia were established, each led by an “animateur,” a faculty member who served as facilitator. Each colloquium was charged with the further development of an aspect of the emerging program.

1977 - 1978

First Operational Year of the Institute

The school opened for new students in the fall of 1977. Until its closure in 2018, the school maintained its essential colloquium structure combined with individualized study, based on the core curriculum developed during its planning years


Change of Name to California Institute for Clinical Social Work

In the spring of 1984, the institute’s board of trustees voted to change the name of the institute to the California Institute for Clinical Social Work in order to differentiate it from another similarly named school that was established in Chicago.


Admission of Marriage & Family Therapists

In 1992 the Institute expanded its admission policies to include marriage and family therapists who demonstrate a commitment to the principles underlying clinical social work.


Admission of Master’s-Level Mental Health Professionals

In 2004, the Institute expanded its admission criteria to include a master’s degree in a field that leads to licensure as a mental health professional, sufficient practice to support clinical learning, and malpractice insurance.


Change of Name to The Sanville Institute & Inauguration of Sanville-Smith Collaboration

In January 2005, a new name for the Institute was inaugurated: The Sanville Institute.

Dr. Jean Sanville initiated discussions about a collaboration with Dean Carolyn Jacobs of The Smith College School for Social Work in Massachusetts, Dr. Sanville’s alma mater and one of the few academic institutions also offering a PhD in clinical social work.

The goal of the ongoing collaboration, which was funded by Dr. Sanviile, was to encourage cross-fertilization between the two programs. Students and faculty members from each school participated in an exchange: during the summer term several students and faculty members participated in Smith’s program, and in January several students and faculty members from Smith participated in The Sanville Institute’s winter convocation.

During each exchange, selected students presented case integration papers to the whole community. In addition Sanville faculty taught courses on Attachment Theory and Neurobiology and Clinical Theory in Cultural Context to Smith doctoral students and Smith faculty presented papers on a variety of topics at Sanville convocations in Los Angeles each January.


Establishment of Two-year Certificate Program

The two-year psychotherapy certificate program, The Integration of Theory and Practice in Cultural Context, launched in the fall of 2007. Certificate students joined with Sanville’s doctoral students in “The Colloquium”, a core seminar integrating basic psychodynamic theories with clinical material.

The certificate program provided an introduction to The Sanville Institute’s innovative doctoral program; certificate students received continuing education credits. Some transitioned into the PhD program after completing the certificate program, receiving full credit for their colloquium participation.

2015 - 2018

Application to WASC in Process

The California legislature established a new requirement that post graduate schools must be accredited by an officially recognized accreditation body other than the State of California, essentially phasing out the institute’s existing state approval status.

The Sanville Institute sought and achieved eligibility to apply for WASC accreditation and spent three years creating the procedures and documentation to successfully demonstrate that its doctoral program met WASC’s academic criteria. Since the school was so small and the program so unconventional, this was no mean feat!

While The Sanville Institute was recognized during multiple paper- and on-site reviews for the excellence of its academic and clinical curriculum, the school was not able to meet WASC’s criteria for sustaining long term financial viability and was forced to implement plans for closure of the school.

Through a negotiated teach-out agreement with the Chicago Institute for Clinical Social Work, the 13 remaining students were accepted into its PhD program (though one person decided to transfer to Smith College School of Social Work instead). The Sanville Institute closed its doctoral program in December 2018.

2019 - Present

Transition from Degree-Granting School to institute Promoting Professional Education and Development

The Sanville Institute retained its identity as a non-profit corporation and beneficiary of the Jean Sanville Foundation. The Board of Trustees has continued to meet regularly, initially to meet the teach-out plan’s financial obligations to pay a tuition differential for its former students, and then to consider, together with former faculty members, options for the institute’s future.

The Sanville Institute’s mission remains close to that of the school: to promote ongoing professional development that serves a culturally and racially diverse community of mental health providers.

Sanville provides continuing education programs for licensed clinicians and is currently developing a scholarship program to support doctoral candidates in their socioculturally relevant scholarly research.

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