Looking into Social Work Licensure

If you are considering getting your license to become a clinical social worker, there are a few additional steps that you’ll need to take beyond getting your MSW degree. First of all, it is important to note that each state has its own list of requirements, so it is in your best interest to look into what you will need to do to obtain your license in your state.  States will require that you pass the ASWB licensing exam and obtain a certain number of field hours with documented clinical supervision.  In most instances you will need to complete 2 years of supervised hours.  You should check with your state social work board.

In order to become licensed, you must have a degree in Social Work; other related disciplines will not qualify.  There are options for becoming licensed on the Bachelor’s level, which requires a BSW, and on the Master’s level, requiring an MSW degree.  These degrees must be from an accredited school.

It is important to know which exam you will be taking and gather the appropriate materials that you will need to study for the exam. Because there are different levels of the ASWB exam, it is imperative that you register and prepare for the Clinical Level ASWB exam if your goal is to practice clinical social work, i.e., to do therapy.  The questions on this exam are different from those on the other levels of the exam and are geared more toward actual scenarios that you may face in clinical practice. There are great study tools and resources available to help you prepare for the ASWB licensing exam at www.SocialWorkGuide.com. Here you will find three different products to meet your needs including a comprehensive study guide, a workshop style-book that focuses on test taking strategies for the ASWB exam, and an interactive online practice exam.  They can be purchased as a 3 product combination package and are also sold individually. These tools will give you all of the information that you need to feel comfortable and confident in your ability to be successful on the ASWB licensing exam.

If you have any additional questions about the different levels of exam or what you need to do to become licensed, check out www.SocialWorkGuide.com.

 

Licensed Clinical Social Workers vs Clinical Psychologists

By, Roxy Simons

Many individuals who want to enter into the mental health field find themselves challenged with the question of whether to pursue a career as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) or a clinical psychologist. Both options share many common factors, but primarily differ from one another. Whether you are looking to pursue one of these careers or if you are deciding the type of therapist would best suit you, knowing the similarities and differences can help you make an informed decision.

Here are some similarities:

  • The ability to diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders
  • Conducts therapy with individuals, couples, families, and groups
  • Can conduct therapy in a private practice
  • Provide their patients with emotional support, confidentiality, and professionalism
  • Employment location can include hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, substance abuse clinics, or private practice
  • Requires the following skills: effective communication, being personable, problem solving abilities, empathy, dependability, and the ability to interpret clients’ behavior and body language
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for both professions will grow within the next decade, especially within the mental health and substance abuse fields

Differences:

 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  • Generally requires a Master’s (or sometimes only a Bachelor’s) in social work, in addition to licensure
  • Performs initial screening of client inventory to determine all aspects of the client’s personal and professional life
  • Helps clients brainstorm tangible steps or long-term plans to improve their welfare
  • Determines which services to connect their client and make referrals, usually to other mental health professionals and support groups
  • Collaborates with a team of health-care professionals to determine the best plan of action for the client
  • Relies on a strengths-based social work approach by helping the client discover their natural skills and talents to overcome life’s challenges and obstacles
  • Can earn a salary ranging from $40,050 to $55,000, depending on area of expertise, practice setting and geographic location

Clinical Psychologist

  • Must acquire a doctorate level degree in psychology, in addition to licensure or certification in most states
  • Can administer the following: diagnostic testing for mental/emotional disorders, psychological testing, psychotherapy, personality/intelligence/performance tests
  • Can only prescribe medication in Louisiana and New Mexico
  • More commonly self employed
  • Primarily focuses on research and scientific methods when treating their clients
  • Earns an Average salary of $73,000 depending on area of expertise, practice setting and geographic location


Regardless of which route you choose, whether licensed clinical social worker or clinical psychologists, you will find your career to be both fulfilling and challenging. Both options allow you to make a positive impact on society, to collaborate with other mental health professionals, and to form strong relationships. Likewise, whether a clinical psychologist or LCSW better suits your needs when seeking therapy, know that asking for help will only ever benefit your wellbeing.

 

 

 

 

 

Re-taking the ASWB Exam

Retaking the ASWB exam may feel a bit intimidating, but it is possible to improve your performance and score.  Don’t be discouraged if you didn’t get the score that you wanted; focus your energy on figuring out what you struggled with and work on mastering these areas.  Everyone is unique and takes tests differently. It may be helpful for you to think about how your personal test taking habits can help or hinder you from passing the ASWB exam. The following tips may help you determine what strategies you may need to employ to pass the social work licensing exam.

 

Set aside enough time to adequately prepare for the exam

 

It is not uncommon for ASWB test takers to underestimate the time that they will need to spend studying and preparing for the exam. Many of the individuals taking the ASWB test are working full time and may not feel that they have much extra time to devote to studying. They may not be able to commit to blocking off a few hours each day to study for the exam. It is important to know how much time you will be able to spend preparing for the test and adjust your plan accordingly. Most people find that they need at least one month of solid study time to sufficiently prepare for the exam. You may need even more time if you can’t commit to studying every day for a substantial amount of time. It’s much better to give yourself the time you need to study and be able to take the exam with confidence than to jump in and take it without ample preparation.

 

Make sure you are reviewing the right material

 

It won’t help you very much to spend time studying material that won’t be on the actual ASWB exam. The first step in determining what you need to study is to find out what topic areas will be included on the exam. The ASWB provides this information on its website. Go to www.aswb.org to find an outline of these topics.

 

It is also important to get a good study guide to help you prepare for the ASWB test. Comprehensive study guides like The Complete Guide to Social Work contain the information that you need to study along with practice test questions that can help you build your test taking skills while refreshing your knowledge about the topic.  You can also use the feedback that was provided to you after taking the test to find out what areas you may need to focus on. Concentrate on practicing the types of questions that gave you trouble in the past. This may be the key to mastering the exam in the future.

 

Set a timer

 

If you ran out of time during the test, it may be helpful to time yourself when you are practicing for the exam. In order to finish the exam within the allotted timeframe, you can spend up to 1.5 minutes on each question. Obviously some questions are going to take you longer than others, but keeping the 1.5 minute average rule in mind can help you keep your pace when you are struggling with tough questions.

 

Maybe you ran out of time because you got distracted. Most people will agree that 4 hours is a long time to sit still while doing anything much less taking a test.  Just like extended exercising builds up your physical endurance, timed studying can help train your body and your mind to stay focused for longer periods of time. Although you may not be able to spend the full 4 hours studying every day, be sure to do as many full length practice sessions as possible in order to increase the endurance of your focus.

 

Whatever you do, don’t panic

 

Having to retake the exam may make you feel a little anxious. This is a completely normal response. It can be scary to retry things that you’ve struggled with in the past. However, your past experiences can also work to your advantage. First of all, you’ve already taken the test! You already know what to expect. This is a wonderful advantage to have because it can help you to feel more comfortable with the test questions and the test setting. Another thing to remember is that you have the opportunity to be better prepared this time around. You now know what areas you need to work on and how much time it will take you to properly study for the exam. Have confidence that you have the tools, resources, and knowledge that you need to go into the exam well prepared and ready to succeed.

 

 

 

Clinical v. Direct Social Work

Clinical vs Direct Service Social Work

When you made the decision to become a social worker, you most likely did so with the goal of helping people. Once you start studying towards a degree in social work, you realize that there are dozens of fields and specialties within this particular career path. Social work is the general term than includes all kinds of professionals who serve those in need. A social worker’s clients can range from a private individual to a student body to an entire government organization.

According to SocialWorkLicensure.org, there are two distinct categories of social work: direct service and clinical or licensed social work. Clinical social workers perform therapy exclusively and usually work with clients with psychiatric conditions, emotional issues, mental health disorders, or struggles with substance abuse. Direct service social workers work with clients to determine what further services or programs their client may benefit from. They may perform counseling or mediation to help their clients consider their options or with decision making, but they cannot diagnose or provide any professional treatment.

 Clinical Social Work

Clinical social workers include psychiatrists or advanced practice psychiatric nurses. Clinical social workers can find employment at government agencies, residential care facilities, psychiatric hospitals, or a private practice. They have the qualifications to perform psychotherapy and diagnose their clients. Clinical social workers often work with a team of colleagues, including other social workers, doctors, and nurses. They will discuss patient care with their team to ensure their client receives the best possible service.

Direct Service Social Work

Direct service social workers will perform intake and initial screening to determine what services their client should be connected to. A direct service social worker’s responsibilities often vary from case to case. Some of their responsibilities include making referrals, performing case management, determining program eligibility, counseling, and mediation. Direct service social workers can include the following specialties:

  • Child, Family, and School Social Work

This can include anything from child welfare, helping families through illnesses, or counseling students with school related stressors.

  • Community Social Work

Social workers specializing in a community help with organization, making referrals, and planning programs. They help a community run smoothly.

  • Military and Veterans Affairs Social Work

These social workers provide counseling to the families of veterans or those who are currently deployed. They also provide support to veterans and troops suffering loss, trauma, substance abuse, or any other needs that may arise.

  • Gerontological Social Work

Responsibilities include connecting their elderly clients with the necessary resources, examining the needs of the client, working with expenses of their required services, and paperwork.

  • Palliative and Hospice Social Work

These social workers assist clients and the families of clients who are either living with chronic illness or who are nearing the end of their life. They may help with everything from paperwork to emotional and physical comfort.

  • Medical and Health Social Work

Responsibilities include providing support for the ramifications of medical conditions, such as emotional and financial needs. These social workers can serve as care managers, patient navigators, or counselors.

Re-taking the ASWB Exam

Retaking the ASWB exam may feel a bit intimidating, but it is possible to improve your performance and score.  Don’t be discouraged if you didn’t get the score that you wanted; focus your energy on figuring out what you struggled with and work on mastering these areas.  Everyone is unique and takes tests differently. It may be helpful for you to think about how your personal test taking habits can help or hinder you from passing the ASWB exam. The following tips may help you determine what strategies you may need to employ to pass the social work licensing exam.

Set aside enough time to adequately prepare for the exam

It is not uncommon for ASWB test takers to underestimate the time that they will need to spend studying and preparing for the exam. Many of the individuals taking the ASWB test are working full time and may not feel that they have much extra time to devote to studying. They may not be able to commit to blocking off a few hours each day to study for the exam. It is important to know how much time you will be able to spend preparing for the test and adjust your plan accordingly. Most people find that they need at least one month of solid study time to sufficiently prepare for the exam. You may need even more time if you can’t commit to studying every day for a substantial amount of time. It’s much better to give yourself the time you need to study and be able to take the exam with confidence than to jump in and take it without ample preparation.

Make sure you are reviewing the right material

It won’t help you very much to spend time studying material that won’t be on the actual ASWB exam. The first step in determining what you need to study is to find out what topic areas will be included on the exam. The ASWB provides this information on its website. Go to www.aswb.org to find an outline of these topics.

It is also important to get a good study guide to help you prepare for the ASWB test. Comprehensive study guides like The Complete Guide to Social Work contain the information that you need to study along with practice test questions that can help you build your test taking skills while refreshing your knowledge about the topic.  You can also use the feedback that was provided to you after taking the test to find out what areas you may need to focus on. Concentrate on practicing the types of questions that gave you trouble in the past. This may be the key to mastering the exam in the future.

Set a timer

If you ran out of time during the test, it may be helpful to time yourself when you are practicing for the exam. In order to finish the exam within the allotted time frame, you can spend up to 1.5 minutes on each question. Obviously some questions are going to take you longer than others, but keeping the 1.5 minute average rule in mind can help you keep your pace when you are struggling with tough questions.

Maybe you ran out of time because you got distracted. Most people will agree that 4 hours is a long time to sit still while doing anything much less taking a test.  Just like extended exercising builds up your physical endurance, timed studying can help train your body and your mind to stay focused for longer periods of time. Although you may not be able to spend the full 4 hours studying every day, be sure to do as many full length practice sessions as possible in order to increase the endurance of your focus.

Whatever you do, don’t panic

Having to retake the exam may make you feel a little anxious. This is a completely normal response. It can be scary to retry things that you’ve struggled with in the past. However, your past experiences can also work to your advantage. First of all, you’ve already taken the test! You already know what to expect. This is a wonderful advantage to have because it can help you to feel more comfortable with the test questions and the test setting. Another thing to remember is that you have the opportunity to be better prepared this time around. You now know what areas you need to work on and how much time it will take you to properly study for the exam. Have confidence that you have the tools, resources, and knowledge that you need to go into the exam well prepared and ready to succeed.

 

Finding time to study for the social work license exam

It is easy to pick a date and register for the test, but it can be challenging to plan time to study and do the prep work needed to feel confident about doing well on the ASWB exam. We all have other obligations in life. In addition to managing a full time job, many of us also have families to attend to and other social obligations within our community. It is important to develop a balanced approach that will allow you to adhere to your daily personal commitments while still making time to prepare and study for the ASWB exam.

The first step in finding time to prepare is to assess your personal needs in terms of studying and preparing for the exam. Some people may need more time than others depending on their individual study methods, how long they have been out of school, and many other factors. In general, the best way for most individuals to succeed is to devote a few hours each day for about a month to studying for the ASWB exam. Some of you may be able to commit to this while it may not work for others. Once you have decided how much time you will need, try to come up with a schedule for studying and stick to it. Even if you can only devote 30 minutes a day to studying, committing to consistency will help you achieve your goals.

It is also helpful to figure out when you may have some additional study time hidden in your day. Some individuals like to study during their lunch break. Instead of leaving for lunch, pack a lunch and bring your study guide with you to work. This hour break in your day may be the perfect time to go ahead and get your studying out of the way. If this doesn’t work for you there are many hidden hours at home that you can discover. If you have kids, it is a great idea to model healthy afternoon habits by setting a “homework hour” or a “reading hour” where everyone in the house has to find something to quietly read or study for an hour. You can use this time to study for the ASWB exam while still feeling like you are spending time with your family.

After you have figured out how much time you’re going to need and have an idea of how you can incorporate it into your daily schedule, it’s a good idea to talk with the people around you and let them know how they can best support you. If you have a family you may want to ask them to help you out with some of the household chores and cooking. This also applies to roommate situations. If you live with a roommate this may be a great time to start a scheduled routine for the house. It may be helpful to plan meals ahead of time and pick a day to do a lot of the prep work so that cooking will be less time consuming during the week. Devoting a day to cleaning and prepping meals can actually be fun with the right attitude and a great music playlist.

The final step in finding time to prepare for the ASWB exam is to make sure that you have the all of the materials that you need to get the most out of your allotted study time. Post it notes are a great tool for marking your place in books so that you don’t have to waste time searching for where you left off. It is also imperative that you get a good study guide like The Complete Guide to Social Work. This study guide provides all of the information that you need to know for the test so you won’t waste your time studying the wrong thing.

Now that you have an idea of what it it’s going to take you can make the best decision about when it is best for you to register for the exam. Developing a consistent study routine, organizing your household tasks and getting a great study guide will make this journey a lot easier and will give you the confidence you need to succeed!

To more information about the exam and study materials, go to www.socialworkguide.com

Misconceptions and Benefits of Therapy

By, Roxy Simons

One of the many fields of social work is that of the mental health therapist which is often a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). According to NASW, an LCSW is “a specialty practice area of social work which focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness, emotional” and other behavioral issues. In other words, licensed clinical social workers practice therapy exclusively. LCSWs practice a form of counseling that is based on discovering the patients’ skills and strengths and using them to work through any issues or grievances. Though common misconceptions often prevent us from reaching out for help, therapy helps about 80 million Americans strive to live their best life.

Common Therapy Misconceptions

People often equate therapy to paying a friend to listen to and care about your problems without providing any sort of feedback or guidance. You might imagine cold, silent academic-types in straight-backed leather chairs looking down on their out of sorts, incapable patients. Even worse, you could assume all therapists use the same judgmental, aggressive tactics as seen on shows like Dr. Phil. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Therapists are educated, trained and licensed to help you work through your problems. According to a 2004 poll, about 27 per cent of US adults employ some kind of mental health treatment. Seeking out a therapist does not mean you’re insane or a victim or helpless. Seeking a therapist means you’re willing to better yourself and the quality of your life. Chances are you have multiple friends and family members who are already in therapy. If you’re unsure about finding a LCSW, ask someone who meets with a therapist regularly for advice. You can also search various online forums.

If you’re worried about the cost, be sure to check with your insurance provider regarding their policies on the matter. If the cost is still deterring you, think of the financial consequences of not seeing a therapist. Your issues could affect your job performance, drive, and capability.

When to Consider Therapy

Each patient has their own reasons for seeking a therapist. In a lifetime, everyone will face obstacles that would benefit from professional counseling. Here are a few possible reasons why you should seek therapy:

  • You’ve just experienced a traumatic situation
  • You are depressed and it is affecting your lifestyle, work performance, and personal relationships
  • Upsetting occurrences or traumatic events from your past are always on your mind
  • You’re not sure how to cope with life’s everyday stressors
  • Your friends and family have expressed concern about your behavior or disposition
  • You often feel extreme anger, sadness, or depression that you can’t control
  • You are suffering an addiction or substance abuse
  • You aren’t interested in anything anymore, including old hobbies and passions
  • Your personal relationships are suffering

Benefits of Therapy

When you see a therapist, you are actively searching for the tools and mechanisms that will help improve your lifestyle. You will learn how to cope with everyday stressors, your difficult past, and future issues that you haven’t even considered yet. Though you might not necessarily find clear solutions to all of life’s difficulties, your therapist can help you break down a problem and guide you in the steps necessary to move forward.

No one can force you to see a therapist; if you truly don’t want to be in therapy or resist the help of a therapist, you will never benefit from these sessions. The only way to truly benefit from therapy is to be open to it. Talking through your problems with a therapist will remind you that you’re not alone and help you better understand other people’s perspectives. You will learn how to better express yourself, stand up for yourself, and love yourself.

 

 

Social Worker Burn Out

Social Work is a rewarding profession, but it is also very demanding.  By nature, however, it is arduous and emotionally challenging.  This can create a lot of stress which could lead to burn out. Social Workers help those in need on a day-to-day basis –  a tall task for anyone to tackle without even mentioning the demands placed on a social worker from clients, families, supervisors, and agencies.  It is important to recognize the differences between stress and burnout and to recognize the signs of each so that you can get the help you need.

Stress occurs when a person feels like they are thrown too much at one time, whether that be emotional stress, professional stress, or physical stress. A person who experiences stress often describes it as not being able to take much more or not being able to handle anything else.  Generally, once a person gets that stressful situation under control, s/he starts to feel better.

Burnout, on the other hand, is not feeling too much and more about feeling nothing.  A person experiencing burn out often describe it as feeling empty and not caring at all.  A person who is burned out doesn’t believe the situation will ever get better which leaves them feeling hopeless and helpless. A person who is burned out generally feels overworked and underappreciated.  Physically this person may feel exhausted and drained.  They may experience a change in appetite or sleep and may experience frequent pain like headaches and body aches. All of this can lead a person to shut down.

Like most things in life, prevention is the key.  Getting a good night’s rest is a great start in addition to eating balanced meals.  Try meditating in the evenings and again in the morning to clear your mind for positive thoughts and energy.  Exercise is also really important and it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise for when you ae already feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.  Start a walking group with friends to help motivate you. Talking with your friends can be therapeutic, but do not hesitate to find a support group or therapist to assist you. There are also a bunch of great self-help books that can help.

Taking care of yourself is a pre-requisite to taking care of others.

 

Taking the ASWB Exam After Graduation

Graduation is a time for new beginnings. As a graduating social work student, there are probably a bunch of fun, exciting, but anxiety provoking decisions to make that will have an impact on your new beginning, like where to live and where to work.  Most social work-soon-to-be-graduates are beginning to look into how to become licensed because, let’s face it, it helps to be licensed to get a job.   Before you go off and sign up for the exam, however, there are some things to consider when deciding when to register for and take the ASWB licensing exam.

It may work to your advantage to take the exam immediately after graduation; you have just finished taking hours of social work classes and the material is still fresh on your mind. You may still feel that you are in “school-mode” and this might make it easier to sit down and study for the exam. You are already in the habit of cranking out papers and studying for lengthy tests. Taking the exam fresh after graduation can also help you to feel like you are taking steps towards your professional future. Employers like to see this kind of ambition and it may pay off by helping you get a job. And, the good news is even if you don’t know where you want to live, the ASWB exam is a nationwide exam and scores are transferable state to state.

Although there are many reasons to take the exam right after graduation, it is important to weigh all of the factors before deciding when it is best for you. The Clinical Level ASWB test is designed to test the knowledge of those who have been practicing clinical social work for two years. While you may have done well in your social work classes, there is a lot to be said about the knowledge you gain from exposure in the field. There may be material on the test that you simply have not experienced right after graduation. You may also want to consider the cost and commitment that is involved in taking the Clinical Level ASWB Exam. You want to make sure that you have the time, energy and resources needed to adequately prepare for and pass the exam to avoid having to retake the test in the future.

Ultimately, the decision of when you should take the Clinical Level ASWB exam is a personal choice and there is no right or wrong time. Some students may want to go ahead and get it out of the way while others may choose to gain some experience in the field before taking the exam. It is extremely important however that you check in with your state social work board. Some states will not allow you to start counting your clinical hours until after you have passed the exam. This information could heavily influence your decision. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to make an informed decision; think through all of the pros and cons to find out what time frame works best for you.

For more information about the exam or for study preparation materials, contact us at www.socialworkguide.com.

Congratulations on your graduation!

 

 

Starting a Social Work Private Practice

By, SocialWorkGuide.com

For many social workers, the goal is to work in private practice.  As in any career choice, there are pros and cons to doing so. The pros are flexibility, being your own boss, and having control over your practice.  There could also be a financial benefit to working in private practice versus working as an employee or contractor to an agency.  That being said, keep in mind that you will have overhead expenses for office space, equipment, insurance and possibility administrative and billing support, all of which are included if you work for an agency.  There is a lot of administration required for payment and insurance reimbursement.  Aside from that, you will need to find clients through referrals and marketing and it could take time to fill your schedule.  Also, if you are a solo practitioner, you may not have the benefit of bouncing ideas off other co-workers. At the end of the day, whether private practice is a good choice for you is an individual decision.

If you decide to choose this road, we have put together some initial steps to consider:

Education and Experience – To become a social worker, you will need a degree in social work. Other related disciplines will not be accepted. You will need a  minimum of 2 year of supervised experience. You should check with your state board to see their requirements.

Supervision and Consultation – Speaking of supervision, it is a good idea to continue supervision and to seek consultation with another social worker while you are starting your practice.  This person can help guide you and give you the professional insight that you need.

License – you will need to be licensed.  This requires making application to your state license board and passing the national ASWB exam.  Every state requires you to pass the ASWB licensing exam.  After you receive approval from your state board, you can schedule your exam through ASWB. You will want to give yourself ample time to prepare for the exam.

Incorporating – each state has different types of corporations and companies that may be advantageous from a tax and liability perspective.  You should check with your accountant and legal advisor for the best option for you. Also, because you will be running a business, it would be a good idea to enroll in a small business course and learn a finance system like quick books.

Tax ID number – you will want to apply for a Tax ID Number.  You can think of this as the social security number for your company.

Insurance – you will want to be insured.  Contact your insurance broker.  It would be wise to get at least 2 quotes for comparison.

Marketing – lastly you will want to think about how you will market your new practice.

NASW has Guidelines on the Private Practice of Clinical Social Work.  In addition, there are some great books that may be helpful and worth reading.