What Does it Take to Become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?

When entering into the field of social work, there are plenty of different specialties and options for professionals to choose from. Working with the public can provide ample opportunities for people that enjoy helping others and want to lend a helping hand in the improvement of society. One popular set of credentials that social work professionals seek out is the LCSW distinction.

LCSW: What is a Clinical Social Work?

Licensed Clinical Social Workers are able to work in a large variety of fields that provide diverse services to people in need. Clinical social work may seem like a broad and incomprehensive field, but there are actually a lot of specific job responsibilities tied to this career role.

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Some of the responsibilities of LCSWs include interviews with clients to determine what problems or ailments are present within their lives, gathering information about the client's environment, evaluate the seriousness of the client's issues, creating a treatment plan, and implementing the right type of therapy or referral service when necessary. LCSWs can work with people that are suffering from mental illness, substance abuse, or common lifestyle difficulties. LCSWs can also work in a wide range of settings, including state and government agencies, local community health agencies, healthcare, or even the court system.

LCSW vs. Psychologist vs. MSW

There are many professionals that lay claim to the improvement of emotional health for people from varying backgrounds. Psychologists are primarily employed to help people that are dealing with mental illness, emotional troubles, or difficulties coping with normal or abnormal life circumstances. These professionals are training in mental ailments primarily, as well as the treatment of them. In order to become a Psychologist, students are required to complete a minimum of a master's degree and obtain licensure, just like with the LCSW. However, there are differences between the 2 fields.

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Models for Mental Illness Treatment

In terms of practice, both can work to help people coping with mental illness. LCSWs typically use a strength-based model for treatment with their clients, which includes the use of the client’s environment as a primary source of encouragement. LCSWs may also practice in other career fields, such as healthcare and social services, while Psychologists are more bound to the area of mental health as a primary source of employment. The MSW degree is also a popular option for people that are concerned with social work.

MSW Degree Graduates Advantage

MSW degree holders are about to provide assistance to people throughout society that are dealing with mental illness and difficulties functioning in society. However, MSW graduates may also be able to provide assessment and treatment services to their clients, but may have a more specific set of clients and limited scope of service. The LCSW distinction is more often sought after from employers that are providing diagnostic services to the public.

Coursework Distinctions

When seeking the LCSW license, most states require that specific courses are taken throughout MSW programs, which is not a requirement to obtaining licensure as a MSW. These courses can include Child Abuse Assessment and Reporting, Spousal Abuse, Alcoholism, and Long Term Care. The LCSW distinction provides graduates with a more clinically-driven outcome than MSW earners. If you are interested in providing clinical services to people in the widest range of settings, the LCSW is definitely the best option for you.

What is the MSW?

The Master’s in Social Work (MSW, also available as an Online MSW) is a degree program that is solely focused on connecting people within society with the resources provided to them by their environments. The MSW degree program takes into consideration the influence of different fields on an individual’s health, such as sociology, psychology, biology, finance, politics, and religion.

Using expertise within each of these specific fields, MSW graduates have the capacity to guide people to better methods of coping with the diverse expectations of society and finding the path to a better lifestyle. MSW graduates must also obtain licensure once they have completed their degree programs. Licensure allows professionals within this field to provide assessments and direct care to people that need their assistance. These professionals can work in settings that provide social services to the public, government-related programs and agencies, school systems, and even private practice. MSW degree earners are among some of the most popular graduates currently in a college setting.

What is a LCSW?

Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) are the primary source of psychosocial support for communities throughout the country. If you are interested in obtaining this distinction for practice, there are a few requirements you should be made aware of before setting off on your journey.

Becoming a LCSW

CSWE Accredited MSW Program
In order to become a LCSW, students must first enroll in an appropriate MSW program that is accredited by the CSWE. Obtaining this level of degree can provide learners with an understanding of the psychological, social, economic, and and medical influences that can take a toll on a person’s ability to live normally.

Clinical Work Experience
Once this is complete, graduates will typically be required to engage in supervised work experiences in a clinical setting. It is this experience that gives learners the knowledge of how people are cared for in a clinical setting, which is vital to the work that may be conducted in the future.

State LCSW Licensing
The LCSW distinction is typically designed for MSW graduates that have completely all of the necessary supervised work experiences and successfully completed their state’s licensing examination in clinical social work. The LCSW can provide more diverse and independent work opportunities than just the MSW distinction.

What is a MFT?

A Marriage and Family Therapist is the leading source of support to couples and families that seek guidance through normal and abnormal struggles. There are several different reasons that people seek the expertise of the Marriage and Family Therapist. Some of those reasons include avoiding a potential divorce for married couples, coping through tragedies such as illness or death, or finding support when dealing with familial separation, abuse, or arguments.

When people seek out marriage or family therapy, they are often met by caring individuals that interview them, talk to them about their struggles, and work hard to implement change within their lives. This can sometimes involve individual or group therapy and even in-home interventions. The services provided by MFTs can help families grow closer, find more helpful solutions to everyday problems, or potential salvage marriages that lack proper communication. MFTs can be found in a variety of settings, with most finding careers working for local therapeutic service agencies or private practice. It is not uncommon to find these professionals also working alongside local and community government agencies as well as through the courts.

LCSW Licensing Requirements

In order to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, it is important for you to understand your state’s requirements for becoming licensed to practice. While some states can have some specific variations from the norm, there are some common requirements that you can expect to see regardless of where you reside. The most prominent requirement for LCSWs is the acquisition of a CSWE-accredited Master’s degree in Social Work. Some states require that these degree programs consist of particular amounts of clinical coursework and a specific set of classes.

You may see requirements that state you must engage in a minimum of 12-15 hours of clinical experience, while others state that you must take courses that focus on mental health and therapeutic intervention. These requirements are increasingly important to review before choosing a degree program in social work. Most universities offering social work degree programs at the master’s level may specify whether or not their program is in line with their state requirements. If you are unsure about the college you have chosen, we encourage you to contact an enrollment specialist to get more information before investing your time into the program. After completing a degree program, most states also want you to register for and pass a state law exam.

This exam is required for practitioners within any branch of service throughout the state, and some states require that it be completed prior to taking the clinical examination. The clinical examination for master’s earners is also a common requirement for each state. This exam is administered by your state and consists of information gained throughout education programs and clinical practice. Once these requirements have been completed, your state may also require that you take part in individual training programs prior to being able to work one-on-one with the public. The section below will provide a few examples of individual state requirements for the LCSW.

Sample State LCSW Licensing Requirements

Since each state can have its own minimum supervised clinical hour requirement or application process, it is important to take a deep look into the educational programs you are planning to enroll in compared to your state’s requirements. This can be an overwhelming task if you have different colleges in mind, but it is definitely worth the effort to ensure that you can become licensed after your degree program. The LCSW licensure process involves gathering a lot of different documents and taking part in large-scale, difficult examinations. The examinations required by each state are designed to include information learned through CSWE-accredited degree programs as well as what you can learn while engaging in supervised clinical work experience. While there are plenty more states to consider for this section, our team of experts looked at 2 of the most popular states for social work professionals and provided some detailed information on how you can become licensed within each one.

California LCSW Licensing Requirements

According to the California Board of Behavioral Services, the first step in becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in California is earning a Master’s degree in Social Work from an accredited university and registering as an Associate Clinical Social Worker (ASW). California implements this requirement in an effort to keep track of all training practitioners within their state and monitor their progress throughout their supervised work experience requirement. In order for supervised clinical hours to count towards the licensure, all applicants must be registered as an ASW prior to starting work with any organization. The state requires that students complete 3,200 hours of supervised experience at a minimum of 104 weeks. The supervision requirement must be conducted under the direct supervision of a licensed clinical social worker in an agency that provides LCSW-relevant services to the public or other specified group. Once these requirements are met, students can sit for the California Law and Ethics Examination and then the ASWB Clinical Examination.

Texas LCSW Licensing Requirements

The state of Texas has a list of required documents that must be submitted when applying for LCSW licensure throughout their state. In addition to the general application and $111 fee, students must provide official college transcripts showing the proper CSWE-accreditation of their Master’s degree in Social Work. All states require that students complete degree programs that are accredited by the CSWE, so that there is a general consensus about what course work is required to be a part of this field. There are many online and in-person LCSW educational programs that do not have the right type of accreditation for licensure. You should be sure to review this accreditation prior to choosing a particular college. Students must also take part in a state law examination and provide proof of successful completion to the state at the time of application. Texas also requires that students provide proof of completion of 3,000 supervised clinical hours prior to being approved for the clinical licensing examination. Once these requirements have been met, applicants should be free to become licensed as a LCSW in Texas.