*** Disclaimer- if this is a crisis situation or you are having active thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or someone else, please call 911, go to your nearest ER, Text Crisisline at “741741”, or call the Suicide Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255***
Considering therapy or counseling? It’s a difficult decision to come to. And can be even more challenging to follow through with it. We get it, on a professional level and personal level. Hopefully this information can make the process seem a little less daunting. If all of this is overwhelming: scroll down to “Even more lost?”
Licensed Clinical Social Workers: To start off, of course I am going to be biased as this is my profession. However I will try to keep that as minimal as possible;) LCSWs have achieved this License by no small feat. An LCSW has a Bachelor Degree, and a Master Degree. The Master Degree must be in Social Work aka (MSW) from a certified Graduate Degree Program (some also have a Bachelor in Social Work). So generally ~6 years plus of college and this does not include the expectations of lengthy & unpaid internships. Following this a new MSW graduate in Louisiana is required to take an exam to practice, but only under the Supervision of an LCSW. To achieve the LCSW license a MSW must do weekly Supervision for a minimum of 2 years (its much closer to 3) and work an extensive amount of hours in the “field.” Once these requirements are met the MSW can take the Clinical Exam, which is extremely challenging. And of course, pass it. Whew!
So what exactly do Clinical Social Workers do? A little bit of everything! We are trained advocates. We are trained to work “outside of the box.” You can find LCSWs in Management positions on the state and federal levels, in the Legal System, developing clinical research and grant writing, developing nonprofits, in Hospitals, in Schools, in Psychiatric care, Substance Abuse Clinics, in Private Practice, and so much more.
How will I know if someone is an LCSW? They will have a MSW Degree, and an active LCSW license in their state of practice. Currently LCSWs have to apply to work in more than one state. And each state has different requirements. This can make providing “teletherapy” (internet based therapy services) quite complicated as we are currently not allowed to work with clients out of the state, for extended periods. This is currently being advocated for on multiple levels.
Do LCSWs provide therapy? Yes! LCSWs can diagnose and treat most mental health conditions as noted in the DSM V (the “Book” for Mental Health Professionals). In fact we are the largest providers of Mental Healthcare in the US, at providing over 60% of current treatment (I have several links below explaining what MSWs do & the concerning gaps in Mental Healthcare Treatment).
How are LCSWs different from other counseling providers? The MSW educational training is not strictly in mental health (although it’s definitely apart of it). MSWs are trained to look beyond the individual and see the various systems that impact clients, such as their environment. And to advocate for where there are areas of weakness and strengths. The work towards Clinical Licensure brings extensive training post graduate in mental health treatment.
How do I find an LCSW ? It depends on your financial situation, where you live, and a their availability. One step is to consider your insurance or lack of. If you have insurance, you can call the number on the back of your card under Behavioral Health benefits. And they can assist you with finding a LCSW or give you a list of LCSW’s that are covered by your plan. So things to consider are recommendations from friends, family, or social media. Referrals from other clients or providers who know the LCSW is often the best way to go. However other options for finding a local LCSW is research through the website Psychology Today (will link below) or Social Media in General. As we know, Social Media is definitely a place to learn more about professionals. However not every provider is going to be active on Social Media, and that needs to be considered.
Even More Lost? Hope this streamlines it for you: Please consider reading Part 4 on LPCs: Okay, Okay. So if you are seeking traditional weekly counseling in a Outpatient Therapeutic (aka Behavioral Health/ Mental Health) environment then your choices are starting to look like an LCSW or an LPC (this does not include Substance Abuse Counselors). Therapy is so individual. It essentially comes down to what will help you. Each Profession has strengths and weaknesses. And with that aside, start seeing the person (Therapist) vs the letters behind their name. Hope that helps;) Considerations for a therapist? Make a list of traits that would make you feel most comfortable (its okay to admit that you want a therapist with specific requirements). You deserve a therapist that is competent in the areas that you need assistance with and someone that you feel comfortable talking to.
If you do not have health insurance: your State has local mental health clinics that provide Mental Health Care at no charge. For example in St . Tammany Parish, Louisiana, the “Florida Parishes Human Resources Department” has several clinics like this where you can receive free or low cost treatment. They even have walk in hours (meaning you can walk in when they are open). If you need help finding one call Vialink or 211. I have included direct links to some websites for free treatment.
I hope that you find this helpful and I will continue providing information on how to navigate mental health care. Thanks! Angie