What is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker

If you are thinking about becoming a social worker and exploring social work careers, you may be wondering what it takes to be a licensed clinical social worker. What is a licensed clinical social worker and what does he or she do? Most clinical social workers work in the medical and public health fields; some work in the field of mental health and substance abuse to provide psychotherapy and counseling services. What sets these social workers apart from non-clinical social workers is the level of training they have received. Licensed clinical social workers have been trained in psychotherapy to provide counseling services to clients and help them cope with problems affecting their quality of life.

What Does a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Do?

A licensed clinical social worker is highly-trained in the field of psychotherapy and psychology. They spend most of their educational careers studying human behavior, research methods, mental health theory and practice, and human growth and development. Almost all clinical social workers must have a master's degree and will complete field studies to gain firsthand experience in the field. Some choose to specialize in a certain area, such as marriage and family therapy, or teen counseling. They work directly with clients to provide healthy coping methods in difficult situations, and address any addictions or behaviors that are limiting the person's growth or affecting their own or their family's well-being.

In order to become licensed, the social worker must pass the Licensed Clinical Social Worker Exam administered by their state. Every state's licensing and registration requirements vary, but most require the candidate to pay a fee and pass an exam in their specific area. For example, the social worker may take an exam in the field of just clinical social work, mental health counseling, or marriage and family therapy.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker Requirements

Most social workers need to meet some strict licensure requirements as outlined by their state's Department of Health. The basic requirements typically include having a master's degree in social work (MSW) from a school that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Some states require the candidate to have completed at least 24 semester hours of studies in the field of human behavior and practice methods, and courses in psychopathology. Since most master's degree programs include a supervised field placement, the candidate has the chance to provide proof of providing clinical services directly to clients.

Some states require candidates to also have completed at least two years of post-master's supervised experience which might include psychotherapy hours in a face to face setting with clients. Some may also be required to have passed the national clinical level examination that is developed by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).

Other requirements typically include:

  • Completing a two-hour prevention of medical errors course from a board-approved provider
  • Completing an HIV/AIDS course and a two-hour domestic violence course
  • Completing a laws and rules course from a board-approved provider

Licensing requirements for marriage and health counselors, and for mental health counselors also vary by state and typically require at least a master's degree or higher in the field.