Licensed clinical social workers help those with mental health, domestic, child-protective and social service issues. Their focus is on improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable portions of the population. Social workers provide services that include psychotherapy, counseling, and assistance with housing and employment. A social worker who is licensed not only has a master's degree in social work (MSW), but has been certified as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) after completing a course of supervised field experience and successfully passing a clinical examination. A social worker may, through training and experience, specialize in a particular area, such as working with adolescents or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Employment Settings for Licensed Clinical Social Workers
Licensed clinical social workers are employed in many government agencies, and healthcare and nonprofit organizations. They may also work professionally in private practice. Settings considered appropriate for social work services include:
- Hospitals or clinics
- Nursing homes
- Public or private schools
- Veteran's organizations
- Group home agencies
- Community centers
- Senior citizen agencies
- Facilities authorized to provide psychotherapeutic services
Services Provided by Licensed Clinical Social Workers
Licensed clinical social workers provide direct therapy and case management in the following areas:
Individual and Group Therapy
Licensed social workers provide treatment, both inpatient and outpatient, for people with mental health and substance abuse issues, and physical infirmities or disabilities. Such people are often also burdened by financial difficulties. The social worker's goal is to help clients become, or become once again, integrated comfortably into the social network, receiving the assistance they need to live productive lives.
Navigating Government Agencies to Receive Necessary Assistance
For those struggling with one or more of the problems discussed above, seeking help from government agencies can be difficult or impossible. Social workers help clients to arrange for inexpensive and/or supportive living accommodations, including long-term facilities for people with disabling chronic illnesses, and to find appropriate treatment programs for clients requiring clinical settings for mental health or substance abuse issues.
Evaluation of Living Situations
Social workers are employed by government or nonprofit agencies to investigate claims or suspicions of spousal, child or elder abuse.
Social workers help to make arrangements for the well-being of clients being discharged from hospitals, day-treatment programs, substance-abuse-treatment facilities and prisons.
Social workers are called upon to evaluate whether individuals require continuing, additional or different treatment programs, or are ready for discharge from various programs and institutions.
Requirements for Certification of Licensed Clinical Social Workers
Licensed clinical social workers are certified by the states in which they work. Although requirements for certification may differ, most states require the following:
- Adherence to a high ethical standard
- Age of 21 years
- At least three years of post-MSW supervised experience
- Demonstrable skills for clinical intervention
- Meeting of clinical examination requirements
- Training or complete coursework in identifying child abuse
- Specialized knowledge of mental health/substance abuse care
- Understanding of diverse and at-risk populations
- Ability to make appropriate referrals
- Accessibility to clients during emergency and nonemergency situations
- Safeguarding of client privacy and confidentiality
- Maintenance of professional offices and procedures
- Ongoing documentation of treatment