5 Things Mental Health Social Workers Have Learned Over the Years

There are important things that mental health social workers have learned over the years. Some of these involve academic standards, career choices, social problems and much needed policy reforms. Below introduces some of the most important things that mental health social workers should know before they start their careers.

Education Matters

The traditional academic requirement for most entry-level positions in this field is a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work (BSW). Today’s employers will most likely only allow graduates who have a BSW to work as social service and mental health assistants. This standard degree will teach students about human behavior, cultural competency and social welfare policies. Most employers now reserve job positions with supervisory duties and direct client contact to those who have a master’s degree. This is the standard degree required by schools, hospitals and child welfare agencies. The Master of Social Work degree (MSW) takes about two years to complete.

Mental Health Requirements

Mental health social workers may be required to gain additional training and certification in their field. The Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) certification is the standard for requirement for social workers with a master’s degree. However, some states and employers may require the mental health social workers to additionally gain a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) certification. These two certifications generally require graduate-level training in counseling and post-graduate supervised experience. These two certifications will enable the holder to be involved in therapy with patients in private practice.

Industry Standards

The things that mental health social workers have learned over the years gradually evolve. There have been many tools and concepts that have come and gone among mental health professionals. Currently, one of the most popular methods of mental health therapy is the strength-based approach. This concept requires the mental health social worker to directly collaborate with clients to assess personal situations, such as internal beliefs and individual backgrounds, as well as external factors, such as careers and socio-economic statuses. Together, they will create a list of perceived strengths, obstacles and weaknesses that will be used to establish a holistic mental health therapy plan.

Interdisciplinary Expansion

Some of the things that mental health social workers have learned over the years concern career specializations and expanded duties. Many mental health social workers may either work directly work with or assume responsibility for different social work activities. For example, they may work as a corporate social worker who works with employees whose personal issues, interpersonal problems and substance abuse issues cause trouble on the job. Some may be employed as school social workers who specialize in helping students deal with academic and home problems. A gerontology social worker will provide services targeted at the elderly who need customized help.

Fieldwork and Licensure

Most students who want to become clinical social workers will need to attain licensure. The requirements for social worker licensure will vary from state to state. This initial credentialing and supervision is important, such as passing the licensing exam of the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) and completing the standard 3,000 hours of clinical experience under the direct supervision of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). However, continuing professional development is equally important. Many social workers simply earn the minimum number of continuing education credits to maintain licensure. It’s much better to actually pursue a second master’s degree in an appropriate field like psychology or counseling.

The things that mental health social workers have learned over the years also include accelerated degree plans. These are reserved for exemplary students who already have a bachelor’s degree in social work. All of these degrees should be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online Social Work Degree Programs