Maybe Social Work as a career has appealed to you, but you have doubts if the field is a good fit because you want to be a therapist. The mental health field is riddled with different fields of study that lead to a career as a therapist. These disciplines often overlap but each one has their own strength to bring to the table when treating clients.
Can a social worker’s training prepare them to be a clinical therapist? The answer is yes! As a social worker, I admit bias, but there are many reasons being a social worker makes for a fantastic therapist.
- Social Workers are trained in a “person in the environment.” This means we recognize that individuals live within a family, a home, and a community. We will take all these factors into consideration when working with someone. For example, before my brother became a Licensed Counselor he was showing me his practice test for his exam. The practice test question asked what information the counselor should discover in order to diagnosis and serve the client best. I missed part of the question because I wanted to know information about the client’s environment. I wondered about the client’s social supports. The pretend client had presented with substance abuse and I had answered that among other queries I would ask about his job history. The correct answer was that his job situation wasn’t important to the current issue of substance abuse. As a social worker, I had trouble wrapping my mind around that. I thought, of course I want to know about his job. I want to know if he has lost jobs or had trouble at work due to drinking. I wondered if he kept one job for a long time or changes jobs often. All this information helps a social worker form their treatment of the client. As a therapist, in order to work best with my clients, I want the whole picture of their life.
- Social Workers are also trained in case management. In private practice, I may use cognitive therapy to help someone shift their faulty thinking but that isn’t my only intervention. I might refer them for additional services or walk them through some tasks that might be helpful to them. I might not say “go apply for social security” but might say “this is where you will go, this is what you will do. I can help you navigate if you need help.”
- Social Workers use a strengths-based approach. As a clinician, I assist individuals with figuring out their strengths and using them to improve their quality of life and to work through their struggles.
- Social Workers are able to receive clinical training at the Masters level. Different therapy perspectives, diagnosing, clinical theory, and internships are all part of the Master Level Clinical Training. Although there is some variance by states, generally, after a student graduates with their master’s degree, they are supervised by someone who is already a licensed clinician to teach and guide them in their clinical choices. This is usually, minimally, the equivalent of two-year full-time client work before a person can sit for their Clinical License. With a clinical license in social work, dependent on state requirements, you can hang out a shingle and accept clients. This generally means you don’t have anyone supervising you, and you are able to accept insurance payments for services.
- Social Work has a clear-cut code of ethics and value system. The values, as listed by NASW, for social work:
- Social Justice
- Dignity and worth of the person
- Importance of human relationships
As a social worker, I live these values as a therapist. These values enrich my partnership with clients.
The Code of Ethics is a guide to effective, ethical practice. If you are thinking about social work review and think about the Code of Ethics. See if this is something you can embody in your practice.
Social Work Code of Ethics can be found here – Social Work Code of Ethics.
Social Work is a viable option if you are looking to be a therapist in your career. If Social Work resonates with you, don’t let your desire to be a therapist steer you away. Embrace a career in Social Work.