What is a Clinical Social Worker?

Clinical Social WorkerWith a concentration on micro social work to address social problems affecting individuals, families, and/or small groups, a clinical social worker plays a supportive role by providing mental health services for the diagnosis and treatment of mental, behavioral, emotional, or problems. As licensed professionals who focus on social aspects of mental healthcare services, clinical social workers may work with individuals dealing with child abuse, addiction, homelessness, domestic conflict, depression, anxiety, mental illness, and more, according to the Princeton Review. If you are interested in helping enhance patients’ physical, social, emotional, and psychological wellness, read on to learn more about the in-demand role and how you can become a clinical social worker.

Clinical Social Worker Job Description

Within a clinical setting, clinical social workers use their high level of expertise to provide psychotherapy and counseling services to address individual, couple, family, and/or group problems. Also referred to as licensed clinical social workers, they are responsible for working with patients to develop techniques to change abnormal behaviors, cope with challenging circumstances, and overcome mental health obstacles. Clinical social workers often work with physicians, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals to establish treatment plans as well as make modifications based on patients’ progress. While many clinical social workers are employed in private practices, they may also find employment in hospitals, nursing homes, community mental health centers, schools, substance abuse clinics, military bases, and prisons.

Clinical vs. Non-Clinical Social Work

In order to decide if clinical social work is the right fit for you, it is important to know the significant differences that separate clinical from non-clinical social work. Whereas clinical social workers work at the micro level with individuals, families, and groups, non-clinical social workers often focus on the macro level to create broad service programs that impact whole organizations or communities. Rather than providing comprehensive mental health services, non-clinical social workers are often involved in social policy analysis, conflict resolution, mediation, and implementation of social services to address gaps in resources. Non-clinical social workers may also be involved in career counseling, rehabilitation services, case management, administration, or therapy services on a consulting basis.

Steps to Become a Clinical Social Worker

Although non-clinical social workers often can begin entry-level practice with a bachelor’s degree, it is required for clinical social workers to go the extra mile by obtaining a Master of Social Work degree to provide clinical mental health services. It is highly recommended that aspiring clinical social workers pursue one of the master’s degree programs accredited through the Council on Social Work Education, which will include one to three years of graduate studies based on prior educational experience. Upon graduation, individuals must then obtain a minimum of two years or 3,000 clock hours of supervised clinical experience in order to fulfill the requirements for state licensure. Graduates with experience must then pursue the credential of Licensed Clinical Social Worker to practice independently.

Related Resource: Social Worker Jobs

Overall, clinical social work involves the professional application of social work theories in clinical settings to diagnose and treat the presence of abnormal psychosocial dysfunctions. Since more people are seeking treatment for mental health concerns, clinical social workers can expect promising job growth at a faster than average rate of 23% before 2022. When you make the decision to become a clinical social worker, you will benefit from a rewarding career path working directly with individuals and groups struggling to cope with problems in their daily lives.