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MSW vs. MFT vs. MHC Again

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by ITALA, Apr 9, 2008.

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  1. ITALA

    ITALA

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    Hello,

    I am new to this forum and have searched through and read a lot of relevant posts, but I am still confused about a couple of things, and hoping to hear your opinions.

    I am in my mid 30's and interested in becoming a psychotherapist. I am specifically interested in applying Humanistic Psychology and Mindfulness in treatment of depression.

    PhD sounds fascinating, but, unfortunately, I have neither time nor money to do it. :( So I began looking at Master level options, and found quite a variety of choices. Namely there seemed to be at least three programs at the University I am at right now - MHC, housed in College of Education; MHC and MFT, housed in Arts and Sciences (Rehabilitation Department); and of course MSW at the School of Social Work.

    I am having hard time finding any good information on the differences between the three programs, and their academic advisers are of no help. The only information I have been able to find was through some community boards and on this forum. And from what I can see majority of people (or maybe MSWs are just more outspoken) tend to favor the MSW. However, a lot of things get hinted at, but no one really comes out and says EXACTLY why it is better.

    Here is some information I was able to guess, perhaps, incorrectly, and would really appreciate it if someone could correct me:

    1. MSWs have more employment options than just straight forward counseling. (This would not really be that important to me, since counseling is all I want to do)
    2. Insurances are more willing to reimburse MSW vs. MFT or MHC?
    3. Some gov't agencies and insurances only accept MSW (and not MFT and MHC)?
    4. Gov't insurance only pays for MSW counseling (not that of MFT or MHC)?
    5. There are less hours of supervised work for MSW than for MFT and MHC before they can get licensed?
    6. The salaries are higher for MSWs vs MFT or MHC?
    7. In some states MFT and MHC are not recognized and it is easier to move around the country with MSW?
    Anything else that might be pertinent?

    In advance - I am very grateful for your responses.
  2. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    To distinguish between the MHCs, I'd look at the curriculum to see what the core requirements are. I'd also look to see whether there's any mention of which license (if any) their students are prepared to work toward after graduation.

    What?? :confused: Social workers? Outspoken?? :eek: :confused: Get out of town! ;) :cool:

    Um, I certainly favor the MSW, but I'm a tad biased. I'm not sure anyone here has ever said one degree is better than the others, though. They're just all different. I would be willing to say on record that as far as versatility, I'd probably rank them MSW > MHC > MFT.

    See my comment regarding versatility. And since you're in your 30s, which means this is not the first field you've been in and goals have changed, keep your mind open that your goals could change again as you get into a career in mental health. So yes- I would consider versatility quite important.
    The masters-level degrees are treated equally by most insurance companies. Do a search at www.ubhprovider.com to see an example of a national company which separates into psychiatrists, doctoral-level, and masters-level. That's pretty typical.
    I'm not clear on your differentiation of "gov't agencies and insurances" and "govt insurance" in these two questions. State-funded insurances (Medicaid, TennCare, MediCal, Public Aid, etc etc) will vary on reimbursement policies by state. Medicare, the federal insurance, will reimburse psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. To be specific, they will reimburse LICENSED professionals in these fields, not unlicensed or those working toward licensure. The National Board of Certified Counselors has been lobbying for inclusion of LMHCs/LPCs on Medicare's panel for several years. The last I heard, they have not yet been successful. I haven't looked into it recently.
    Licensure requirements are fairly similar between the three fields. There may be some minor discrepancies, but the general standards are at least 3,000 hours of supervision over 24-48 months by a qualified supervisor as defined by the state rules and regulations.
    They're about the same.
    I don't know specifically about the MFT, but from anecdotal evidence, I would agree that the MSW is more universally known and accepted. These days, most MSW programs are accredited by the CSWE, so they all have the same core requirements, then different electives. So you kind of know what you're getting on some level when you know someone has a degree from an accredited program. On the flip of that, I have friends who have MEd Counseling, MA Counseling, MA MFT, etc etc who all sit for the same license. So there's not as much consistency, which creates problems sometimes. A few have tried to work in a bordering state and were required to take additional masters-level courses to meet licensure requirements. Moving to non-neighboring states seems to be even worse since the familiarity with our state's rules/regs isn't as well known. I've yet to see this be a problem with my MSW friends. Not to say it couldn't happen, of course.
  3. ITALA

    ITALA

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    First of all THANK YOU SO MUCH for taking the time to write your replies. They were all very helpful!

    Quote:

    To distinguish between the MHCs, I'd look at the curriculum to see what the core requirements are. I'd also look to see whether there's any mention of which license (if any) their students are prepared to work toward after graduation.


    I did this and it looks like there is not much difference except that one (housed in Education School) has some coursework on School Counseling and the other (housed in Rehabilitation department of ArtSci) has some Rehabilitation work course. And of course MSW has some Social Work coursework which is not directly related to counseling. I guess none of these differences are material, so the main question would be what I can actually do with a degree and license in MHC or MFT vs MSW, but you already addressed these questions below. :)
    Quote:

    What?? Social workers? Outspoken?? Get out of town! Um, I certainly favor the MSW, but I'm a tad biased. I'm not sure anyone here has ever said one degree is better than the others, though. They're just all different. I would be willing to say on record that as far as versatility, I'd probably rank them MSW > MHC > MFT.


    I actually got most of my information on the subject from tribe.net and it might be that social workers are more outspoken there. :) But what I read there were a couple of people mentioning that they know people who after receiving MHC had to go back to school and get MSW, which I think is quite disastrous, considering how much time and money one would waste doing that. And then I found this forum and found someone else saying the same thing. So it really made me wonder…
    Quote:

    See my comment regarding versatility. And since you're in your 30s, which means this is not the first field you've been in and goals have changed, keep your mind open that your goals could change again as you get into a career in mental health. So yes- I would consider versatility quite important.

    You are very wise! :)


    Quote:

    The masters-level degrees are treated equally by most insurance companies. Do a search at www.ubhprovider.com to see an example of a national company which separates into psychiatrists, doctoral-level, and masters-level. That's pretty typical.


    I checked my insurance, United Healthcare, and found that they reimburse for all three licenses. So I was not sure why I was founding articles written by MFT’s who were very upset about the discrimination against their profession. And it made me wonder how this discrimination is expressed…

    Quote:

    I'm not clear on your differentiation of "gov't agencies and insurances" and "govt insurance" in these two questions. State-funded insurances (Medicaid, TennCare, MediCal, Public Aid, etc etc) will vary on reimbursement policies by state. Medicare, the federal insurance, will reimburse psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. To be specific, they will reimburse LICENSED professionals in these fields, not unlicensed or those working toward licensure. The National Board of Certified Counselors has been lobbying for inclusion of LMHCs/LPCs on Medicare's panel for several years. The last I heard, they have not yet been successful. I haven't looked into it recently.


    Maybe this was it.

    Quote:

    Licensure requirements are fairly similar between the three fields. There may be some minor discrepancies, but the general standards are at least 3,000 hours of supervision over 24-48 months by a qualified supervisor as defined by the state rules and regulations.


    Got it. Thanks. I read something about this on tribe.net as well. It was an MFT or MHC who was complaining that they have to work under supervision for two years after graduation and for some reason MSWs are able to practice independently almost right out of school, because of some regulation loop holes. I will double check with the academic advisor here when I get to see her (I am having really hard time trying to get her to return my calls L )

    Quote:

    The salaries are higher for MSWs vs MFT or MHC? They're about the same.


    Well according to this MFT/MHC are making more money. It is all very confusion. :)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_health_professional#Comparison_of_mental_health_professionals

    Quote:

    I don't know specifically about the MFT, but from anecdotal evidence, I would agree that the MSW is more universally known and accepted. These days, most MSW programs are accredited by the CSWE, so they all have the same core requirements, then different electives. So you kind of know what you're getting on some level when you know someone has a degree from an accredited program. On the flip of that, I have friends who have MEd Counseling, MA Counseling, MA MFT, etc etc who all sit for the same license. So there's not as much consistency, which creates problems sometimes. A few have tried to work in a bordering state and were required to take additional masters-level courses to meet licensure requirements. Moving to non-neighboring states seems to be even worse since the familiarity with our state's rules/regs isn't as well known. I've yet to see this be a problem with my MSW friends. Not to say it couldn't happen, of course.

    Got it. Thank you very much again for all your help. I will continue to investigate on the local level now! :)
  4. danxthexman

    danxthexman

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    Thanks for the great information pingouin!

    I'm from California.

    1. What is the difference between an LMHC and an LPC?

    Theres so many acronyms, I'm getting soo confused.

    2. What do you think about LCSW vs LPC? In terms of flexibility, salary, etc?

    3. I'm also confused with the difference between MA in Clinical Psych and MA in Counseling. Do they both require the same license to practice?

    4. It seems to me that al lot of these MAs and Licenses overlap each other. How do I make the right choice??

    Thanks for your time and effort!!! It will help me and hopefully others too.:thumbup:
  5. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    Social workers DO tend to be more outspoken, but mostly because it's part of our profession's core roles- social worker as a social change agent. Advocacy is huge- whether it's for our clients, our profession, or even ourselves.. it's a big part of what we do, and it is one of the things that sets social workers apart from counselors and psychologists.

    I, too, can name a few people who in retrospect wish they would have gotten the MSW rather than the MA Counseling (or MEd, or whatever it is they have.. they're LPCs). It has mostly to do with flexibility within profession/versatility of degree/license. However, they're good at what they do and are quite established, so I can't imagine they'll return to school. For one thing, it's kind of redundant...

    Yes, UBH is owned by UHC, so I just linked you to your own insurance's website by happy accident. :) The only thing that strikes me about the MFT thing is that I heard a while back- and this makes some sense, but if anyone can confirm, please do- that their training is almost ALL couples/marital/family training, and very little individual therapy. If that is the case, then an argument could be made that they do not have expertise in individual therapy and that technically it might fall outside the scope of their license. Since so many people seek individual treatment, if you used that logic I could see how there might be some perceived discrimination, since LPCs and LCSWs who can see individuals, couples, AND families would be more useful to the insurance companies.

    Ummm.. hmm. I don't know of any state which allows independent practice without a license, and most licenses take at least 2 years of supervised practice to get. Feel free to link me to what you're seeing, but those statements don't make sense to me. The only exceptions I can think of are the folks who were grandfathered in without supervision, licensing test, etc., but most of the grandfathering periods were over by the mid-90s when things were becoming much more regulated in these professions. I know of a BSSW who had enough experience to qualify for his LCSW without having ever received a MSW. (He never practiced independently and is no longer working in the field.)

    Yes, well, that chart also lists occupational therapists as mental health professionals. :D

    I didn't take a close look at it, but I'd wonder if they included BSSWs in that tally for the SW salary to be so much lower than the others.

    When it comes to actually getting a job right out of MSW or MA Counseling school, the majority of jobs you're looking at will say "MSW/MA" or (after licensure) "LCSW/LPC". They're going to pay the same no matter what the degree- to many agencies, they're effectively interchangeable. And again, if you look at the insurance companies' reimbursements, they are typically divided into 3 tiers- physician (psychiatrist), doctoral-level (psychologist), and masters-level (LPC, LCSW, LMFT). Sometimes there's a fourth level for psychiatric nurse practitioners. So there certainly will be a discrepancy between our salaries and psychologists' salaries, but I get the same as a LPC does from the same company.

    LMHC= licensed mental health counselor
    LPC= licensed professional counselor
    LCSW= licensed clinical social worker
    LMFT= licensed marriage and family therapist

    To my knowledge, the LMHC and LPC designations are effectively the same thing, it's just that the nomenclature varies between states. Again, and for the rest of your questions, I'm going to plead "not a LPC" and answer as best as I can, but I think someone like PsyKardinal is much more qualified to help you.

    See above. Most employers use LCSWs and LPCs interchangably. Exceptions I can think of are the Medicare issue (as discussed above) and that some hospital positions are required to be given to social workers due to certain credentialing requirements.

    Um... I think they sit for the same license? I'll defer that one to the LPCs/LMHCs on the board.

    I would agree that there is some overlap in all of the fields. The major difference is probably in the philosophy of how one goes about helping people effect change in their lives. For example, psychology and counseling is going to focus more on the individual. Social work will tend to place more emphasis on the social and environmental factors that contribute to the client's life- the "person in environment" philosophy.

    My best advice is to try to seek out employment (or even shadowing?) opportunities that allow you to see practitioners in each of the fields in action, and see if one fits you better than the other. Talk with admissions directors of the programs you're interested in, and ask them what their field is about to get some sense of where you fit. Trust me- these are people who LOVE to talk about their profession. (Have you noticed how long my posts are? :laugh: )

    It's my pleasure. :)

    If anyone has any MSW-specific questions, feel free to use the stickied thread at the top of this forum so that we can try to keep everything together. :)
  6. ITALA

    ITALA

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    Dear Pingouin,

    Thank you so much for your replies. You have no idea how much it helped! The next step for me is to find some local psychotherapist in private practice and ask them what is happening in the local market with these various licenses - MFT, MHC, MSW.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to approach people in private practice? I am having hard time coming up with the ideas... :confused:
  7. PsyKardinal

    PsyKardinal

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    Italia

    Hi, my name is Jeff I am the PsyKardinal that Pingouin referred to in her post. I am an LPC with an MA in Counseling. As to the difference between LMHC or LPC there is none. It is the same thing the differance is what state you are in. Some states like my home of Texas use LPC, others I believe like Mass. use the LMHC. The key is knowning what the acronyms means. LMHC - Licensed Mental Health Counselor, LPC - Licensed Professional Counselor.

    My practical experience the difference between LPCs and LCSWs is very small and mostly academic. Insurance typically pays the same regardless of degree they just look at it as a masters level provider. To shadow and talk to private practioners, I would really suggest just giving a few a phone call. To find a few go to psychologytoday.com and search for therapists. You may not be able to shadow a session with a client due to privacy/patient comfort issues, but I am sure you will find a few that will talk to you.

    jeff
  8. ITALA

    ITALA

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    Got it! Thank you very much for your help! :)
  9. danxthexman

    danxthexman

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    Thanks for the great info PsyKardinal and Pingouin and ITALA for posting good questions.
  10. MyTherapist

    MyTherapist

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    It does seem all very fractured and weird this whole psychology/counseling/social work masters v Phd v Psy D and such. It would be nice if the states would just come up with something like Masters Level Mental Health Clinician and Doctoral Level Mental Health Clinician and do away with the 15 different protected titles.

    As far as the topic at hand, in my experience social workers seem to be preferred in the job market, at least in New York. Go to something like idealist.org or craigslist and type in LCSW, LMSW, MSW and see what comes up. Then do the same for LMHC and LMFT. What REALLY gets me are the listings that say "Seeking MSW/Phd/PsyD", as if those three things are identical. Oh, and "Seeking Psychiatric Social Worker". Arrrgh.

    It boils down to this: Masters Level people tend to have 2 years of grad school and 2 years of supervision, and Doctoral Level people tend to have much more coursework, and much more supervision. (Though I, too have a friend who finished his MSW in 1 year.)

    As far as which one reimburses, etc- it's not about dollar amount that insurance companies pay- that tends to be the same for masters level licenses- but it IS about actually getting on panels. Depending on your state, you may not be able to get on a panel as an LPC, LMHC or LMFT but you may have better luck if you are a LCSW.




    (Full disclosure- LMHC, LMFt in New York, LPC in Missouri and MS in Psychology emphasis in Marriage and Family therapy, PhD in Clinical Sexology)
  11. nicelydone

    nicelydone

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    hi, im new to this forum and im new to the education system in US as well. Im from an asian country and im currently going into my last year in school, so will be taking gre soon and applying to schools. but im still confused over which program and school i should apply to!!

    ill like to further my studies (MA or MS) in either MFT, MSW or counseling psych. actually i am also interested in clinical psych but i cant seem to find a good program that offers terminal masters degree. do any of you have any recommendations? also im also not sure which schools offers a strong program in MFT, MSW and counseling psych, anyone have any idea? Im still not sure if i want to do a PhD in future but most probably not. my interest lies in couples, family and adolescents in the multicultural context.

    also, are there any associations that i should be checking out other than apa and aamft sites?

    pls help!! and thanks!!
  12. thepsychgeek

    thepsychgeek

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    For clinical psych, you need to use the APA site, because they're the organization through which CP programs are accredited. And I don't think there is a terminal masters for clinical (anybody who knows otherwise, please correct me). But why do you want the degree? If you just want to work with people, MFT or MSW should be sufficient.
  13. nicelydone

    nicelydone

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    hey thepsychgeek, thanks for ur suggestion! if i put clinical psych out of the picture, im still not sure if i should choose MSW or MFT or counseling psych. and im not sure which schools offer good programs for these 3 fields too. do you know any sites that i can get more information about this?
  14. NY Counselor

    NY Counselor

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    I would suggest to you that you do not get a master's degree in Mental Health Counseling. I graduated from a 60 credit Mental Health Counseling program in Florida. After graduation I moved back to New York with the anticipation that I would be able to locate a job with supervised hours so I could work towards my License. It's been almost 2 years and haven't been able to find meaningful work. I am presently doing some fee for service therapy with a health agency, however, it is not supplyinng me with any hours and it's only part-time. I didn't realize that New York nonprofit employers do not recognize my degree. I send resumes and cover letters out constantly and do not get any responses. There are not many job posts for a mental health clinician, only for MSW's. If you do decide to get the MHC degree, obtain it from a University where you plan to live. It will be easier for you to find work since the college will assign you a practicum spot and you may be able to continue working there for your 3000 required hours for licensure.
    If someone out there has any suggestions for ME it would be greatly appreciated. Should I go for a different degree, maybe social work. I don't want to move out of New York and I don't foresee New York Employers getting the message that MHC's are highly qualified professionals any time soon. Is there a MSW "fast Track" degree for someone who already has a MHC degree? Any response would be helpful. Thanks.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
  15. ITALA

    ITALA

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    I am sorry you are struggling. Can you explain what you mean when you say NY non-profits do not recognize your FL degree? Is it because of CACREP accreditation (or lack of it)? Thanks.
  16. NY Counselor

    NY Counselor

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    I'm sorry I wasn't clear in my statement. What I meant to say was that New York nonprofits do not recognize Mental Health Counseling as a viable profession. There are so many job postings with my qualifications until you get to the bottom of the page where it says, quote: " MSW required"
    I've tried applying to these positions with an explanation of my degree and qualifications and get no response. My Florida Degree has only held me back in the sense that if I had gotten a degree in New York I would have had support from my professors and colleagues, or by networking while doing my practicum, as I did in florida. I made the mistake of leaving Florida before I did my 3000 hours and obtained my license. Now that I am in New York, I don't know anyone willing to help me out.
  17. NY Counselor

    NY Counselor

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    One thing I forgot to mention. New York only recently began licensing Mental Health Counselors. Someone told me that the Social Worker organizations have a very strong lobby in New York and since Social Workers are more readily recognized, they are more in demand than a profession that was just recently accredited.
  18. ITALA

    ITALA

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    You know, come to think of it, I heard the same thing about NY and how strong SW lobbying is there. I am in the same boat with you, as I am getting my MHC in FL, but was hoping to move back north after I graduate... One thing I can recommend, and this is something that our program strongly suggests, is joining a local MHC organization. There must be one for NY state and for your local chapter. Find out who they are, pay the dues, and come to every single seminar/meeting they hold. You can meet people and begin networking and finding out where the positions are. Good luck. :)
  19. BaruchNatan

    BaruchNatan

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    I was curious if you were able to get the 3000 hours necessary for your MHC license. I am choosing between going for an MSW and MMHC and was curious if you still feel that it's best to get an MSW. I am also in New York.

    This for NY Counselor that moved from Florida to New York.

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