MSW Its only been 2 weeks and I'm considering dropping out of my MSW program

PGM_777

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I want to be a therapist and work doing individual therapy in private practice (and perhaps in residential SUD treatment). Full stop.

I am very disillusioned with my MSW program. They told me I will learn many clinical skills, etc etc. They said I will be able to practice therapy. But it turns out that the "advanced" clinical classes don't teach therapy. In addition, the coursework so far is easier than undergraduate. Its weird.

I don't want to be a "social worker" or do case management - ever. I have done it before and I hate it. Most of my professors are LCSWs and they say I can be a therapist.

But they arent going to train me, as far as i can tell. The internship placements have been chaotic. They told me I could do PP first year, then I got stuck with a CMH spot which would be totally fine or preferred if it had anything to do with therapy. But it doesn't. They can't guarantee me a therapy placement second year but i will probably get one.

I'm thinking of dropping out and seeing if i can defer my Counseling masters application i turned in last year to next year. Or reapply.

This is nuts... they say I can be a therapist but can't guarantee me training. Why am I doing this??
 

R. Matey

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First, considering dropping out of graduate school while in graduate school is a completely normal experience. During my tenure, I was able to count on my annual existential crisis where I considered leaving and opening a taco stand/coffee bar on the north shore of Oahu *sighs dreamily*

More importantly, psychotherapy is an acquired skill that takes years to learn and practice and it is not the only goal of your MSW program. Your faculty's job is to train you to be a competent social worker in all facets of social work. This is important because the degree is flexible, which will allow you to work in a variety of settings. In contrast, LPC/LMFTs receive training almost exclusively in psychotherapy and their lobbies have a difficult time convincing people that they are qualified to do much past working in high volume settings doing exclusively the things they are trained to do.

I'm not a social worker, but I know many of them. I know many have received the bulk of their psychotherapy training past their MSW program and pre-licensure. The good therapists I've encountered did their licensing hours at the VA or in some kind of postgraduate training program. The mediocre or bad ones I've encountered did their licensing hours in a CMHC or something similar and never pursued any additional training outside of the minimum necessary for licensure or pursued some kind of pseudoscientific credential based on their own personal pet theories about change rather than what science says works in psychotherapy. The nice thing about being a social worker is that those opportunities are more open to you than they would be if you were an LPC/LMFT.

It's also worth mentioning that being a full time therapist requires some degree of case management. I was not prepared for this reality when I was training to be an LPC. My first job out of graduate school post-masters, pre-licensure was a mental health case manager at a program that worked directly with the state hospital. I was the only non-MSW on the team and learned a lot from my social work colleagues that I carried forward into nearly every setting I've worked in since.
 
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PGM_777

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Thanks for the reply. Helpful.

One thing that happened between applying and starting is that my focus shifted towards only therapy as i became more sure of myself. Now, these "options" SW has seem like negatives because I don't care to exercise any of them. I feel like an 18 year old freshman dead set on Sports Management walking into his first day of college algebra: What does this have to do with anything? I like social justice but doing assignments about systemic racism has literally nothing to do with my goals.

I'm not trying to connect people to services. I'm trying to save their lives.

I also have come to realize it may be that I am in a program teaching me stuff I don't want to learn or have a philosophical issue with - ex. systems theory, working with community organizations. I'm not enjoying the learning at all. The only thing i look forward to is getting this certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy through an elective across-programs in the counseling dept. They offer it to SW. I have no interest in working with animal therapy, but its literally the only way to get any training in therapy.

I do find it suspicious that only SWers have ever tried to convince me to do Social Work while all the LPC/LMHCs and counseling PhDs I have asked have been cool to let me figure it out and even sometimes suggest social work. Funnily enough, that makes me respect the approach of the LMHC/LPC more.
More importantly, psychotherapy is an acquired skill that takes years to learn and practice and it is not the only goal of your MSW program.
This seems like more reason to leave, as either way I'm wasting my time. I am trying to learn therapy now.

pseudoscientific credential

What like reiki?

The nice thing about being a social worker is that those opportunities are more open to you than they would be if you were an LPC/LMFT.
Would you be willing to clarify which opportunities?

It's also worth mentioning that being a full time therapist requires some degree of case management
It seems sensible to learn case management on the job after being schooled in therapy. It seems wild to me that the converse is true in social work.

Anyway, the only reason I haven't dropped out yet is due to the better licensing ease across states and the SW lobby. It just seems dishonest of both me (and the LCSWs in my program pushing the stuff) to have no interest in doing social work to continue learning/teaching this stuff out of duty. In my heart I'm a therapist, talker, listener, counselor, psychologist, etc but I am not a social worker. I could identify as a LCSW psychotherapist though, but it seems untrue to the profession of SW what i am doing and what i want.
 
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R. Matey

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I also have come to realize it may be that I am in a program teaching me stuff I don't want to learn or have a philosophical issue with - ex. systems theory, working with community organizations. I'm not enjoying the learning at all. The only thing i look forward to is getting this certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy through an elective across-programs in the counseling dept. They offer it to SW. I have no interest in working with animal therapy, but its literally the only way to get any training in therapy.
Animal Assisted Therapy is a good example of pseudoscientific treatment. While it's true that counseling coursework is focused on psychotherapy, if you peruse the threads here, you'll find a few testimonials from LPCs (myself included) stating that their coursework did not adequately prepare them to be good therapists. Counseling coursework is sufficient to teach you supportive listening and a few basics techniques from MI/CBT/ACT/DBT, but usually don't provide enough supervision in running full protocol treatments. Basically, you wind up a dilettante. When I realized this, I left the field.

Also important to say that you're not going to avoid SJ coursework in counseling and psychology. It's a prevalent aspect of all of the helping professions.

I'm not trying to connect people to services. I'm trying to save their lives.

Social workers do save lives. Getting people housing, food, and treatment is pretty important to human survival.

This seems like more reason to leave, as either way I'm wasting my time. I am trying to learn therapy now.

Do what you want with your own life, but I think being a counselor terrible career choice. I still have the license in one state, but I don't use it. Not only are LPCs paid less than social workers for doing similar types of work, but are also often kept out of positions that are desirable in terms of pay, benefits, and opportunities. In terms of pay, you honestly better off as a teacher.

Would you be willing to clarify which opportunities?

Sure, hospital and VAs usually favor social workers to counselors for psychotherapy positions. It's also easier for social workers to move into management than it is for counselors because social workers have policy coursework. My guess is that this will probably change in the future, but I can't say for sure.

Anyway, the only reason I haven't dropped out yet is due to the better licensing ease across states and the SW lobby. It just seems dishonest of both me (and the LCSWs in my program pushing the stuff) to have no interest in doing social work to continue learning/teaching this stuff out of duty. In my heart I'm a therapist, talker, listener, counselor, psychologist, etc but I am not a social worker. I could identify as a LCSW psychotherapist though, but it seems untrue to the profession of SW what i am doing and what i want.

Not really. You're just choosing to focus on one aspect of social work for your career. If you'd prefer to be a psychologist, you could always check out the psychology forums to find info about applying to or getting to clinically balanced Ph.D. programs or funded Psy.D. programs. It's a long time in school to just be a therapist, but you will get good training in therapy though you will also have to tolerate coursework that has nothing to do with therapy.
 

PGM_777

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Animal Assisted Therapy is a good example of pseudoscientific treatment.
What qualifies it as pseudoscience. I have no skin in the game but it does seem like theres some meta-analyses with good results.
their coursework did not adequately prepare them to be good therapists


I am thinking providing therapy would prepare to be a good therapist. Counseling programs can guarantee 1000 hours of that, plus the coursework. MSW programs say maybe you'll get 500, maybe not if there's not a PP or therapy place that can supervise. Its luck based. If you don't get that, you struggle to get a therapist position for experience.

What would prep them to be good therapists? You're saying do SW over counseling, but neither will allow me to be a good therapist?
Basically, you wind up a dilettante. When I realized this, I left the field.
What do you do now?
Social workers do save lives. Getting people housing, food, and treatment is pretty important to human survival.
I can accept your view on that, but I don't want to do just case management even if it pays better than therapy. Which, if its PP it surely doesn't.

but I think being a counselor terrible career choice
I am appreciating your help however it is sort of seeming like you're trying to argue against counseling due to some sort of resentment against the field.

but are also often kept out of positions that are desirable in terms of pay, benefits, and opportunities. In terms of pay, you honestly better off as a teacher.
I have heard the same thing in reverse as well. I have heard clinical dirs and program dirs getting the job because they have more psychotherapy experience vs LCSW. I also have not found a significant difference in pay between LCSW and LMHC/LPC for the same job description. A therapist position for a Liscensed MH Clinician accepting all master's level clinicians pays what it pays more or less, no?

And if it doesn't the difference in FL is 1.9% according to onetonline.com. The national difference is 2.8%. Even the national difference of the highest end according to that data is exactly 10%, which isn't chump change but is it worth 7k to do a job you dislike?

According to onetonline.com, the average pay for a MHC in FL is about 39k and a SW is 40k. A teacher makes 60k. I could go teach middle school but I, as with case management social work, don't have an interest in that. Compared to the teacher, neither seem to pay that good. However, if one does PP individual therapy one can easily make about 100k/year. But my point is that everyone says SWers make more which is only true from a certain point of view. A therapist role pays what it pays and seems to be more about experience, client base, and going rate.

LMHC Salaries, FL, 2020
SW Salaries, Florida, 2020
Middle School Teacher, FL, 2020
 
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R. Matey

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What qualifies it as pseudoscience. I have no skin in the game but it does seem like theres some meta-analyses with good results.

Let's see them.

I am thinking providing therapy would prepare to be a good therapist. Counseling programs can guarantee 1000 hours of that, plus the coursework. MSW programs say maybe you'll get 500, maybe not if there's not a PP or therapy place that can supervise. Its luck based. If you don't get that, you struggle to get a therapist position for experience.

What would prep them to be good therapists? You're saying do SW over counseling, but neither will allow me to be a good therapist?

Again, you can choose to do whatever you want with your own life. I really couldn't care less if you choose counseling over social work. I do feel a responsibility to you and anyone else reading to provide informed consent for the decisions they make. While it might be true that counseling programs offer a number of supervised hours, the quality of those supervised hours is highly variable. I suspect that many of those hours are case review where you simply report to a supervisor what happened in therapy. This is generally viewed as a lower quality form of supervision because your report is vulnerable to your bias. It has generally been my experience as someone who has taught and practiced counseling in a few states that case review is the primary form of supervision in counseling programs.

Honestly, it sounds like your mind's already made up and you're just looking for verification. But, regardless of whatever decision you make, be sure to seek out quality supervision experiences in your training. These include live supervision experiences. We had video supervision for both my master's degree and Ph.D., but I've only had live experiences as a part of my doctoral training. Hopefully, it's different for you.

I am appreciating your help however it is sort of seeming like you're trying to argue against counseling due to some sort of resentment against the field.
This is the ad hominem fallacy. It's fallacious in this situation because people who don't have my experiences share my view.

I have heard the same thing in reverse as well. I have heard clinical dirs and program dirs getting the job because they have more psychotherapy experience vs LCSW. I also have not found a significant difference in pay between LCSW and LMHC/LPC for the same job description. A therapist position for a Liscensed MH Clinician accepting all master's level clinicians pays what it pays more or less, no?

And if it doesn't the difference in FL is 1.9% according to onetonline.com. The national difference is 2.8%. Even the national difference of the highest end according to that data is exactly 10%, which isn't chump change but is it worth 7k to do a job you dislike?

According to onetonline.com, the average pay for a MHC in FL is about 39k and a SW is 40k. A teacher makes 60k. I could go teach middle school but I, as with case management social work, don't have an interest in that. Compared to the teacher, neither seem to pay that good. However, if one does PP individual therapy one can easily make about 100k/year. But my point is that everyone says SWers make more which is only true from a certain point of view. A therapist role pays what it pays and seems to be more about experience, client base, and going rate.

Like I said, this might be changing as more LPCs flood the master's level market. As far as PP, this is something the counseling folks like to throw around, but that figure is dependent on a number of factors such as market saturation, reimbursement rates of the insurance companies you are paneled with, etc. Based on the figures you have shared, an LMHC in FL can expect to make $39/yr after two additional years in graduate school and another two years to become licensed yet you believe that somehow you will be an outlier.
 
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PGM_777

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Again, you can choose to do whatever you want with your own life. I really couldn't care less if you choose counseling over social work. I do feel a responsibility to you and anyone else reading to provide informed consent for the decisions they make. While it might be true that counseling programs offer a number of supervised hours, the quality of those supervised hours is highly variable. I suspect that many of those hours are case review where you simply report to a supervisor what happened in therapy. This is generally viewed as a lower quality form of supervision because your report is vulnerable to your bias. It has generally been my experience as someone who has taught and practiced counseling in a few states that case review is the primary form of supervision in counseling programs.

Honestly, it sounds like your mind's already made up and you're just looking for verification. But, regardless of whatever decision you make, be sure to seek out quality supervision experiences in your training. These include live supervision experiences. We had video supervision for both my master's degree and Ph.D., but I've only had live experiences as a part of my doctoral training. Hopefully, it's different for you.
My mind is all but made up. Regardless of that in the course of the discussion we have established that at the master's level, it is more likely to get supervised experience and coursework going the counselor route over social work. But social work pays more - maybe. However, if i come at it based on my initial concern stating that I want to do therapy, it is pretty easy to look at the information presented (regardless of what you're expressing as the point you're trying to make) and see the information leading to a conclusion that both kinds master's level therapists aren't well trained at therapy. And no I am not trying to strawman you. You don't think it can come off that way?

I say I want to do therapy, might do counseling > you say do SW, not counseling > I mention that it may be hard or impossible to get hours in SW > you say yeah but the guaranteed hours in counseling might be garbage. Well, then the hours I might get in SW could also be garbage and there will be half of them.

It seems like an argument against counseling or even therapy at all at the master's level.

This is the ad hominem fallacy. It's fallacious in this situation because people who don't have my experiences share my view.
Well, I don't know your experiences and your profile is private. I would be happy to learn more about you, though. I know that you thought the training was inadequate as a master's level LPC and wen't for the PhD. As an aside, going for the counseling PhD is an upside of the counselor route versus the social work options. I'm generally inspired by people who get higher degrees because maybe I will be doing it one day. Its admirable to have to will to do such a thing.

Anyway, ad hominem on a bias isn't always fallacious. Where we aren't seeing eye to eye though I believe I never used ad hominem/bias to refute an argument, either way. And if it came off like that I apologize. Honestly I do think you have a bias, but I don't have reason to believe we have evidence to conclude any ad hominem:bias to be sound.
 

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I say I want to do therapy, might do counseling > you say do SW, not counseling > I mention that it may be hard or impossible to get hours in SW > you say yeah but the guaranteed hours in counseling might be garbage. Well, then the hours I might get in SW could also be garbage and there will be half of them.

SWs have, in my experience, better access to training opportunities because of their better lobby and these have, in my experience, occurred during postmaster's supervision, which is what I wrote to you before. SWs have better access to jobs because of their better access to training experiences that can lead to jobs. In contrast, counselors, in my experience, rely on their master's training, which can be of good quality, but is usually variable because of the lack of quality control. This is because counseling is the newest player in the helping professions and has had some difficulty establishing a national standard. It was only 12 years ago that counseling didn't even exist as a license in every state. Up until maybe five years ago, the credit load of what was necessary for a master's degree in counseling was variable depending on where you lived. CACREP is trying to be that standard, but there is really no great outcome research that suggests CACREP graduates fair better than non-CACREP graduates in any sort of meaningful outcome. You are inserting the argument that your SW hours will be garbage, I didn't say that. In that way, you are committing a straw man.

Anyway, ad hominem on a bias isn't always fallacious. Where we aren't seeing eye to eye though I believe I never used ad hominem/bias to refute an argument, either way. And if it came off like that I apologize. Honestly I do think you have a bias, but I don't have reason to believe we have evidence to conclude any ad hominem:bias to be sound.
I don't even know what this means. You're simultaneously doubling down on your ad hominem argument while also apologizing for it. Suppose I had my same experiences and I agreed with you, would I be biased? You calling me biased is a way to dismiss my argument because you can't refute it and you've already made up your mind. That is the ad hominem fallacy. Saying that you aren't committing a fallacy when you are is simply denying the antecedent. You also don't have to take my word for it, peruse this forum, Reddit, and anywhere else you like. I think if you'll find other folks in my camp. Are all of them biased also? Maybe only people who agree with you are unbiased.
 
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Sanman

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A few quick points:

1. If you want to be a therapist, there is no good path. Pick between all the imperfect ones because it is the system we have.

2. SWs are the only therapy mid levels that can bill medicare and the only ones qualified for the vast majority of federal VA jobs. This may be important in the future, especially in FL. I hear they have old people.

3. Many counseling folks have a hard time getting licensed as they are required to complete a certain number of therapy hours after they graduate and not many people want to hire/supervise unlicensed mid-level folks, so there is the danger of no jobs. SWs can do a case management gig while getting therapy hours.

4. Most SWs are not therapists so the salary numbers are likely low.
 
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PGM_777

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A few quick points:

1. If you want to be a therapist, there is no good path. Pick between all the imperfect ones because it is the system we have.

2. SWs are the only therapy mid levels that can bill medicare and the only ones qualified for the vast majority of federal VA jobs. This may be important in the future, especially in FL. I hear they have old people.

3. Many counseling folks have a hard time getting licensed as they are required to complete a certain number of therapy hours after they graduate and not many people want to hire/supervise unlicensed mid-level folks, so there is the danger of no jobs. SWs can do a case management gig while getting therapy hours.
I may have wrongly assumed I would enjoy graduate school. 🤯🙂 Its a hard pill to swallow...

4. Most SWs are not therapists so the salary numbers are likely low.
Haha but anyway could you elaborate? They're actually lower or actually higher?
 

Sanman

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I may have wrongly assumed I would enjoy graduate school. 🤯🙂 Its a hard pill to swallow...


Haha but anyway could you elaborate? They're actually lower or actually higher?

You won't get good psychotherapy training without a doctoral program from what I hear (counseling program grads seem to report a lot of supportive therapy training only) and you don't want to be stuck with that kind of debt if all you want to do is therapy. It's all a means to an end.

Case management, while not something you enjoy, opens up a lot of jobs for you at many larger institutions. This is good if you need benefits. I work with a number of social workers that have a SW job and private practice on the side. Something to think about.

My old company hired LCSW therapists (and only them as we billed medicare) starting at $55-60k. Dept of Veterans Affairs starts LCSWs in the 70k range going up. I know several LCSW therapist in the $100k range.
 
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Blizzard1mage

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You won't get good psychotherapy training without a doctoral program from what I hear (counseling program grads seem to report a lot of supportive therapy training only) and you don't want to be stuck with that kind of debt if all you want to do is therapy. It's all a means to an end.

Case management, while not something you enjoy, opens up a lot of jobs for you at many larger institutions. This is good if you need benefits. I work with a number of social workers that have a SW job and private practice on the side. Something to think about.

My old company hired LCSW therapists (and only them as we billed medicare) starting at $55-60k. Dept of Veterans Affairs starts LCSWs in the 70k range going up. I know several LCSW therapist in the $100k range.
Those ranges sound like what I've seen as well. $55k seems kind of low for an LCSW but I guess there's wide variation.

Average I've seen for newer LCSWs is in the 70k range.
 

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However, if i come at it based on my initial concern stating that I want to do therapy, it is pretty easy to look at the information presented (regardless of what you're expressing as the point you're trying to make) and see the information leading to a conclusion that both kinds master's level therapists aren't well trained at therapy.
2 years of training as a baker will probably have you baking pretty good loaves of bread because that process is very technical and scientific. If I were to look at my own growth as a therapist in 2 year increments, the difference is pretty major at each increment.

In many ways, a degree program is providing you the basics such as understanding the scope of your field/license and how to practice ethically while also providing some foundational hands-on training to get you started. I have a PhD and the single biggest improvements to my therapy skills were gained by attending very specific professional trainings and with follow-up consultation after I was already licensed. Of course, I had a foundation that was developed during grad school and some programs/degrees will provide better or worse foundations but every program is going to have limitations. If you want to become a kickass therapist, get a licensable degree, begin to practice and figure out your interests within the field of therapy, and then really focus on getting quality continuing education in those areas.
I may have wrongly assumed I would enjoy graduate school. 🤯🙂 Its a hard pill to swallow...
Sorry grad school isn't what you thought it would be. I majored in something with literally zero pathway to a career (philosophy) because that was my academic passion and while some parts of grad school were interesting, it was generally something that I trudged through/tolerated in order to receive the credential.
They told me I could do PP first year, then I got stuck with a CMH spot which would be totally fine or preferred if it had anything to do with therapy. But it doesn't. They can't guarantee me a therapy placement second year but i will probably get one.
That's a bummer and if you stay in the program, I hope that you can find an effective avenue for advocating for your needs next year.
I don't want to be a "social worker" or do case management - ever. I have done it before and I hate it.
You might be a poor fit for the SW field, which is fine. But if you're willing to make it work, you can definitely still use it to become a full-time therapist and as others have pointed out, there are some major career benefits to having a LCSW versus LPC or MFT degrees. Good luck and hope things work out for ya.
 
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