What does a Clinical Social Worker do?

The clinical social worker is a skilled and well-trained professional who can assist those who are in need in a variety of ways. Because jobs in this field can be so varied, it might be easier to ask what these professionals don’t do. However, in broad terms, these social workers can work in a variety of areas, such as identifying those who need extra help, diagnosing mental health issues that may exist, and possibly locating supportive services that can be used to help individuals or entire family systems recover.

It is much easier to explain the clinical social worker’s training requirements. The majority of these professionals have a master’s degree in social work and have completed at least two years of paid internship training. Social workers typically take exams at the end of their training and are awarded the title of licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). What is required for licensure in each region may differ.

A clinical social worker may choose to work in a variety of settings after receiving their license. Some go on to become medical social workers and work in hospitals, where they can help with inpatient and outpatient care, discharge planning, and identifying the need for additional care while in the hospital or after discharge. Private counseling, as well as families or patients, may be involved in this work.

Other social workers might work in different types of hospitals, such as drug treatment centers or mental institutions. They could play an important role in providing counseling to patients, assisting them in planning support after they leave the hospital, collaborating with family members as needed, and possibly facilitating group counseling. The role of the diagnostician may be particularly important in drug treatment facilities because substance abuse and mental illness are frequently linked. Some social workers in mental hospitals may perform diagnostic work, but this responsibility may be shared among a number of practitioners on staff.

Many agencies that serve families, such as child protective services or family mental health agencies, employ clinical social workers. Social workers in this position could assess families’ health and wellness needs, determine the need for intervention to protect children, and negotiate with other agencies that provide services to children and families in need. Similarly, social workers are sometimes employed organizations that protect or provide services to the elderly. This work may include determining who requires such services and working with individual clients.

A psychotherapist with this job may or may not have a private practice. In almost all cases, social workers with the LCSW designation can work as therapists. They may work with children, adults, couples, or families in this capacity, and while family systems therapy is often identified as the theoretical “therapy school” of LCSWs, the schools of thought that inform each clinical social worker’s practice vary greatly.