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MSW AND Masters in Counseling Psych?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by titanz7, Apr 22, 2012.

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  1. titanz7

    titanz7

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    Hello all!

    I am in a split pathway for my graduate school/career path. My ultimate goal (for now) is to become a counselor/therapist. I know that MSW (LCSW) and LCP both lead to what I want, but they both have different perspectives/approaches in therapy. I am very interested in psychology and that is one of the biggest compelling reason for me to go for Masters in Counseling psychology, since MSW seems to have less emphasis on psychology and/or less coursework on psychology. However, I am quite a bit interested in the social aspects and what social workers do outside of therapy.

    I was wondering if trying to get both masters in social work (clinical emphasis) and counseling psychology would be a good idea, or would it be a redundant task?
  2. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Moderator Emeritus

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    Redundant. You can do one and then pursue additional training/knowledge via seminars, CEs, etc.
  3. Vasa Lisa

    Vasa Lisa

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    Agreed - redundant - time consuming, expensive.

    All things being equal (and they won't be) finding a program that delights in you, supports you (with TA/GA in addition to all the other ways it helps to be supported), wants you, has faculty who work in areas that interest you (and you know what those are because you have done the leg work), has grads that are pleased (as much as is reasonable) with their experience, and who are placed for field work, and who get JOBS that lead to licensure, those are the things I would be sorting through.

    And do you mean LPC (licensed professional counselor?) or LCP - which in some settings means licensed clinical psychologist. I think you mean LPC. If that's what you are thinking - join the counsgrads listserv and lurk and then ask questions there. The LPCs, counseling students and others can guide you.

    I imagine there is something similar for MSW/LCSW through the NASW - but I don't know much about that path.

    Being a therapist is about developing your "self" and the path to that can be through lots of different trainings, professions, and credentials.

    Keep asking questions - keep refining...
  4. BlackSkirtTetra

    BlackSkirtTetra

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    Unless you are 100% sure that you want to do counseling in a clinical setting for the rest of your life (or the rest of your career), and nothing else, I'd pursue the MSW. The MSW is much more flexible and can allow you to do many other jobs, such as administration, advocacy, supervision/management and policy-making in ways that the LPC can't.

    It's good to have flexibility in today's world and I know a couple LPCs who say they wish they'd gone the MSW route, but no MSWs who wish they'd gone the LPC route.

    To be clear, the LPC is not a "bad" choice if it's right for you. It's just more limited, overall.
  5. wigflip

    wigflip

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    Well, it could be argued that the LPC is limited in terms of employability, but only if one wants to do that type of work.

    It could also be argued that the MSW is limited: in terms of providing the same breadth and depth of counseling training that MFT and LPC students receive.
  6. Qwerk

    Qwerk Forensic LMSW

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    Not always true. Depends on the program. I hear this claim a lot, but a good clinical M.S.W. program will give you the right tools. Not that the degrees aren't different in other ways, but I wouldn't make a blanket statement about all M.S.W. programs.

    I would argue that the LPC is limited in terms of employability even in counseling settings. This isn't fair, but it's the reality right now -- plenty of employers just want to tick the "M.S.W." box. Anyone considering a counseling/MFT/social work program should be aware of this. I have several mental health counselor friends who are finding it impossible to find a job here in New York.
  7. Vasa Lisa

    Vasa Lisa

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    I took 3.5 years to complete a 3 year program. There is a seasoning that happens once we start doing clinical work - and the clinical work with great supervision while still in the university setting was strong preparation for being in a small private practice setting post masters. I savored that part of my graduate education and soaked up as many direct hours and as many placements as I could.

    Since private practice is where I want to be - I don't feel the CMHC degree (LPC) is at all limiting.

    I think some of the rhetoric about which degree is "better" is outdated and not that helpful.

    And in my experience - private pay clients don't really care. There are fine clinicians in my town who are LCSWs and fine clinicians in my town that are LPCs.

    Clients choose among the providers for lots of reasons - mostly fit between the therapist's approach and the "person" of the therapist - not their degree or training.

    Of course my reply is oriented toward people who want to be in private practice. Consultancy, management, agency work, hospital work, etc. has a different reality - and definitely a different pecking order than private practice.
  8. wigflip

    wigflip

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    I said "it could be argued," not "X is always true." Far from a "blanket statement." :rolleyes:

    That said, I attended a well-regarded clinical MSW program, as did my friend. The people I know who who were elated with the curriculum were folks with no background in psych. It could be argued that they didn't know what they were missing.

    And I'm not just talking about "too much policy work"--that was actually the best part.
  9. jdawgg

    jdawgg

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    Important to note that preference for LPCs vs LCSWs is regionally dependent. I work in Colorado at a psych hospital and our clinical director and psychiatrists strongly prefer counselors vs. social workers -- almost all of the clinical staff are counselors.
  10. BlackSkirtTetra

    BlackSkirtTetra

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    Do you know that that's a regionally-dependent and not just hospital-dependent situation?
  11. Isadora

    Isadora

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    There is a big need for therapists in a lot of rural areas. In the county I grew up in, there were no private practice therapists whatsoever (My family did a stint in case management - heh, aren't we mental health pros often tortured :D). Large cities are saturated with therapists because the idea is that you make more money in a larger city. You likely do, but stuff is more expensive. Or so goes everything I have heard from professors and people out in the field.

    As for credentials, consider the climate of where you want to live and your tolerance for the graduate programs you're looking at. There is tension between LPC's and and everyone else in my state to a degree, but I've noticed a lot of employers suck it up and hire whoever has the experience they're looking for. Pick a need and be prepared to fulfill that need, and you will find work. Get as much experience as possible prior to graduate school, during graduate school, and in your internship. I managed to get a decent mental health job prior to graduate school. Agencies and individual therapists recognize my name and have heard of my work through word of mouth. It's been very helpful.

    I decided on LPC because it fit my ideals on prevention, education, and treatment. The social work programs in my area had a lot of vague-sounding classes on social policy. Your experience was based primarily on your internship. No nearby agency in their right mind would let a student whose therapy training only included two substance abuse classes, a group dynamics class, and a psychopathology class practice therapy. Graduate school by no means teaches you enough for a whole career, but I wanted more knowledge and preparation for being a therapist than what I would have gotten had I went the MSW route.

    Like it's been said, though, different programs are going to have different requirements (as will different states), some more extensive than others. Look at the programs and see what classes you find interesting. What therapeutic interests do the faculty have? How much is tuition? What experience can I get in this program?

    I'd reconsider a master's in psychology. Not a lot of states allow master's level psychologists to practice therapy. If you find yourself moving (you really don't know what life is going to be like in fifteen years, for example), you might not be able to practice without doing a whole new degree.

    All mental health professions engage in social justice work, by the way. Access to health care, poverty, reaching out to veterans with PTSD, and discrimination are just a few of the topics that come up in social work, counseling, psychology, and psychiatry conferences. If that is what you are referring to as "things outside of social work" anyway. Mental health is what you make it, you know?

    Good luck! I hope you find a program you like.
  12. wigflip

    wigflip

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    This is a great piece of advice--but only relevant if you ever actually get to work with or for the tenured/tenure-track faculty. Some schools may farm out much of the MSW teaching to adjuncts, in which case it may be harder to research.
  13. Neuro4

    Neuro4

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    I am in a similar situation. I was on the med-school path when I decided last minute that it's not for me. Now I'm about to graduate with a BS in neuroscience. Ultimately, I would like to do some type of counseling/therapy with people with substance abuse problems. I don't know which path to take (MS in some sort of psych or MSW)? I really want to do counseling, but don't want to be limited because my degree is so narrow. I have a friend currently in a MSW program who says she wants to do counseling and the program seems to broad. Any advice? Sorry if I sound ridiculous, but I just changed my whole career path a few weeks ago and have no idea what to do!
  14. FreudianSlipper

    FreudianSlipper

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    MSW does give you a lot of options. Some programs are more clinically oriented than others, but you will learn a lot in your placements and on the job, and there will be plenty of time to receive more specialized training throughout, especially in substance use work.
  15. Vasa Lisa

    Vasa Lisa

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    Neuro4 -

    This had been discussed a lot on this board - LPC, LCSW, psychiatric NP, etc. My friends who are MSW/LCSWs LOVE their work and their programs and all of them make more money than I do. They work in the school systems, nursing homes, VA clinics, our local hospital and two have been in private practice for over 20 years.

    That said - I chose Clinical Mental Health counseling because of the in depth training in counseling theories and techniques. I was vastly more prepared to do therapy during my practica, internships, and residencies than any of the recent MSW grads. AND they are more employable because in my area - agencies want people to do discharge planning and make connections between clients and local resources.

    When I compare my coursework - there were only two classes out of 60 credits (20 classes) that were painfully boring for me - an Assessment class that was poorly taught and left me unprepared for the NCMHCE and my Career Counseling class which should have been fascinating - but we used an ancient textbook and had closed book, closed notes tests. All the rest of my classes involved some sort of hands on counseling training. Every single one... that's a lot of training.

    YMMV

    Vasa Lisa
  16. Qwerk

    Qwerk Forensic LMSW

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    Hard to say without knowing where you are. In general, an M.S.W. will give you better job prospects. However, different states have (a) different job markets, (b) different scopes of practice for social workers vs. counseling/MFT/psych, and (c) different school options. I'd say that if you're in a state that favors social workers and you can't find a clinical M.S.W. program with the focus you're looking for, you'll have to make the tough decision whether to attend a generalist program and pay for extra training, or get a counseling degree and brave the economy. A good clinical social work program will give you as much training in therapy as a counseling program, but they're not always easy to find (or cheap, in many places).

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